History of Curling in Deep River

Deep River Curling Club Ltd was established as a shareholder-owned club by Letters Patent granted in 1950. At that time AECL owned virtually all the property in Deep River and opportunities for recreation, other than making babies, were very limited. The curling ice was set up in a drafty one-story U-shaped wooden building located behind the telephone exchange (where the Huron street apartments are today). Two sheets of ice were installed in each wing of the building, while the bottom of the “U” housed a lounge, a bar, lockers and washrooms. The first refrigeration plant was undersized for making ice in the fall, and a second refrigeration unit was added in 1961. The ice area was uninsulated and unheated for the first ten years, which made curling a sport for the hardy. Nevertheless the ice was always busy with about 200 men using it at night and on weekends, and with their wives using it on weekdays.

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DRCSC Club Executive 1950 to 1951: Fred Gilbert, Fred Bainbridge, Tom Bailey, Ed Denke, Pat Bainbridge, Lil Greenway, Mary D’Aoust, Chris Gilbert

Between 1957 and 1963 there were two major attempts made to amalgamate the curling and golf clubs and to build new curling facilities adjacent to the golf clubhouse. Amalgamation was rejected by the golfers, however, and the curlers decided to build a new clubhouse on their own. AECL offered them a new site behind the arena in exchange for the old site and an offer by AECL to relocate the refrigeration plant free of charge. The new building cost $80,000 and opened in 1964. About $70,000 of its cost was raised by selling 6.5% interest bonds to be redeemed over a 20-year period. One further attempt to amalgamate the clubs was made in 1970. The executive of both clubs agreed that the first step would be to convert the legal structure of both clubs from shareholder ownership to member ownership. This was done over the next three years but no further steps were taken towards amalgamation.

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Deep River Curling, Dr David Keyes circa 1950’s

The refrigeration plant has undergone many changes over the years. These changes were made to simplify the plant, to reduce operating problems, and to minimize costs. Major work was done in 1989 when the 39-year-old steel pipes under the rink floor were replaced with plastic pipes. Insulation was installed under the pipes at that time, but this has not been successful in eliminating ice heaving that occurred with the original installation. Further work needs to be done on the rink floor, and will be done soon if we get a Trillium grant.

Deep River now has many other recreational facilities that compete with curling. The curling membership is much older and much smaller than in the good old days. Having a club with lots of senior members has some advantages, however. The seniors are available and volunteer to tackle most of the jobs that used to be done by hired help. This has helped to keep membership fees at reasonable levels.


Start-up of the Squash Club

In the late 60’s and early 70’s, there was no squash in Deep River, yet a number of players had experienced the game, largely in the U.K. Play was possible at the Petawawa army base, at the modest cost of $10 per year. So on one of these trips, while relaxing at the bar, the idea of building in Deep River was raised once again. Two earlier attempts had failed. However, it was agreed that a third attempt be tried, since Wintario matching grants were available, but possibly not for much longer. Ian Glen volunteered to manage the project, Mike Watson to chase potential donors, and John Morralee to carry out drafting.

A key need was someone with civil/construction background, and Jerry Lemon volunteered, while Janis Gulens organized the volunteer work parties. John Hilborn and Peter Garvey rounded out the committee.

It was estimated that two courts could be built for under $72,000 with volunteer labor. Our application for a Wintario grant was rejected in early 1979, but “would be reconsidered if we applied as the Curling and Squash Club”. So it was time for action. A committee was set up consisting of curlers Don Ross, Leo Buckley, and S. L. Beamish, and squash players Ian Glen, John Hilborn, and Peter Garvey. The basic concept would be that all costs would be bourn by squash players, while the land would be provided by the Curling Club, and common operating costs would be shared by an amalgamated club. A key aspect demonstrating viability was the collection of un-cashed cheques, of largely $200 from 50 potential members, for a total of $12,000.

So the crucial meeting occurred on May 7 1979, when the Curling Club members had to vote to amalgamate or not. While the Curling executive had approved the Squash Club addition, a vote by the Curling members was needed, and since a money by-law was involved, a 2/3 approval was needed. Of 110 votes cast, including last minute proxies, approval received 75, while 35 were against. A cliffhanger won by 1.7 votes.

Thereafter, the $36,000 Wintario grant was approved, and the courts built for about $65,000 plus volunteer labor. Operation started in the fall of 1980, and membership was 170 for each of the first four years – a success!

Building the Squash Courts

With the Curling Club’s approval in May 1979 to become the Curling and Squash Club, and with a subsequent Wintario promise of $36,000, and donations of $12,000, the construction started.

The plan was to join onto the south wall of the existing curling club lounge. Two courts would be constructed rather than one. The new facility would open up and improve the lounge, yet provide viewing to one court. The other court would have a viewing area open to the court, and accommodate larger crowds for championship match viewing. Beneath these areas would be ladies and mens changing rooms with showers and toilet facilities.

Early on, following excavation, volunteer labour seemed to consist of shoveling and shoveling sand, at the bottom of a one story pit The basic construction consisted of block, laid by sub-contractor on concrete footings. Reinforcement was by tie-rods and concrete in the block cavities. Plumbing had to be laid below the basement floor level. One gut-wrenching accident with a bulldozer while back-filling was quickly righted.

Flat roofing kept the construction cost reasonable, with little subsequent maintenance over the years.

A major innovation was to apply fiberglass coating directly on the concrete block. High quality courts were then built using ¾ inch thick plaster walls. In Canada, the experience had been that fiberglass was needed to stop ablation of the plaster by the ball. J.Lemon had experienced putting the fiberglass straight on the concrete block. Sample fiberglass was found to be immune to pounding by a 2 x4. Thus we saved the plaster cost, and now own the biggest squash courts in Canada by 1.5 inches. They have been almost maintenance free for 20 years. The technique required that the blocks be laid true as possible, interstices ground smooth, fiberglass sanded smooth etc. Lots of dusty manual labour.

Other features were a professionally laid sprung hardwood floor. No sealant was applied, or ever should be, based on squash-expert advice. The only maintenance needed over 20 years was to correct lack of edge-clearance to avoid buckling from humidity, and fine sanding once or twice.

Lighting was at the minimum recommended, and was uprated years later. By the fall of 1980 the courts were open, and extremely popular.