Founding of York Curling Club

The following article by Shirley Wilson is re-printed from the Southern Ontario Ladies' Curling Association Memories of 75 Years.

One learns a great deal reading through musty old minute books and newspaper clippings, and a lot of myths and beliefs can be blown up with a loud bang. Most of our present members, the writer included, assumed that our curling club was the very first to be situated in the Town of Newmarket. Wrong! The first, known simply as The Newmarket Curling Club was in operation from 1895 until 1919. The archives of the local paper give no indication why the original club closed up shop, and the sport is not mentioned again until February, 1957 when York Curling Club (Newmarket) Limited was officially opened.

Ice ShedYork was founded by a group of local businessmen and was originally slated to be built in the Town of Aurora, but during the summer of 1956 an old army drill hall situated in the Newmarket Fairgrounds became available at the price of $20,000., so Aurora was out and Newmarket in.

Minutes of June 1956 state the building to be of suitable size to accommodate four sheets of ice and would – "handle a membership of about 300 men and 75 ladies". By March 1957 York boasted 92 lady members and the directors 'closed' the ladies' membership.

With the location decided, a campaign for members and money was launched and the transformation from drill hall to curling rink began. A raised sand base ice surface was installed; a member's lounge was set up in the basement and a viewing lounge for guests was created on the main floor. The iceman from Toronto Granite Club was hired to assist in the installation of the ice and York was officially opened on February 9th, 1957.

The first rock was thrown by the Late Major "Lex" MacKenzie, M.P.P. for York North. The first game was between the councils of Aurora and Newmarket, with Aurora taking its revenge by winning 6-0.

Newmarket Era articleThe Newmarket Era of February 14, 1957 quotes Major MacKenzie as saying "I just can't believe my eyes. I never thought it possible to convert this building into this fine rink. It rivals the Granite Club set-up in Toronto".

Apparently not upset by this comparison, the ladies from Toronto Granite came and gave instruction in the fine art of curling to York ladies. One of our members claims she never did get to play second or vice -- she had curled for a year before moving to Newmarket and knew the difference between the rock and the broom, an in-turn from an out-turn and was immediately promoted to skip.

YCC LadiesOver the next three years our ladies launched themselves into the sport with gusto. They entered competitions and held bonspiels, besides finding the time and energy to arrange luncheons, dinners and socials in order to raise funds for the betterment for the club.

In 1960, trouble with a capital "T" raised its ugly head. To be precise, frost raised the already raised ice surface and caused extensive structural damage and the building was condemned. Undaunted, the members banded together and a new building was erected and ready to go by November 1960. Funds for the rebuilding were derived in part by loans from the membership and a decision by the Board of Director that ladies should now be allowed to buy shares and the ceiling on ladies membership be lifted to allow for a maximum of 150.

York reached the 'age of majority' in 1963 and was granted a liquor licence. Prior to this, big event banquet licences had to be purchased and if for some reason one was not granted there is a distinct impression that the art of 'brown-bagging' was discreetly practised. When the bar was opened the price list was brief – 1 ¼ oz. of liquor - $ .50; beer-$0.35. This must have been the good old days we hear so much about. Club records indicate some were not too pleased with this turn of events. Working on the no names, no lawsuit theory, a letter sent to the Directors requested that moderation should be practised by 'certain' members, and that signs be posted warning of the danger of over-indulgence.

Since joining S.O.L.C.A. in 1957, York Ladies have participated in competitions at all levels and have hosted zone and district playdowns on several occasions. We have also provided two District Representatives. The first was Emma Broadbent in 1970-71. Emma was one of the hard working "originals" and is still an active member. Pat Thomas acted as District Rep in 1984 & 85 and will become Southern Ontario Ladies' Curling Association President in 1988-89.

Marilyn DarteIn April 1986 the York Curling Club was asked by the Town of Newmarket to assist with the Newmarket Canadian Curling Match being held at the New Community Centre. This featured the Canadian Ladies' Champion, Marilyn Darte against the Canadian Men's Champion, Ed Lukowich.

SkinsThe facilities and hospitality provided must have impressed someone favourably for in December of the same year, Ed Werenich, Ed Lukowich, Rick Folk and Al Hackner returned to play a "Skins Game Match" and once again York members gave freely of their time and effort to support their town and their game.

Over the years people have come and gone, but the original co-operation attitude of York members still prevails, as does the warm friendly atmosphere that has drawn newcomers to the club over its 30 years.

Like all clubs, we have had our ups and downs and even a few minor disasters, but the club spirit created by our founders, the lasting friendships and love of the game itself, has sustained the membership through periods of tribulation and hopefully will continue to do so for many years to come.

S.O.L.C.A Memories of 75 Years,
Southern Ontario Ladies' Curling Association, Seniors Committee
Alger Press Limited, Oshawa, Ontario


220 Muriel Street
Newmarket, Ontario
L3Y 3N3

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