This article is possible thanks to the notes and files of JC Smithson. His contribution to the Almonte Curling Club over the years is greatly appreciated.
The first curling club in North America was established in Montreal in 1807. Almonte’s curling club was founded in 1855 and at the time, was the eighth oldest curling club in Canada. The games were played on various locations on the Mississippi River, the main one being near the fairgrounds on Water Street.
A new two-sheet structure was built onto the end of the old hockey rink on Coleman’s Island. This building was condemned around 1941. A note of interest is that 60-pound curling irons were used by the men and 32-pound irons were used by the ladies during this time.
A group of curling enthusiasts formed a club under the name of Mississippi Curling Rink Ltd. They raised funds, acquired a mortgage and built a new three-sheet rink on the “market” facing onto Brae Street, which they rented to the Almonte Curling Club (ACC).
During the curling season of 1953/1954, an Almonte rink traveled to a special Royal Caledonian Curling Club Bonspiel in Montreal and won the first prize of 16 curling rocks. The club only had an unmatched set of rocks.
The curling club celebrated its 100th anniversary and curling granites or rocks were initiated at the club. The rocks were much lighter. The club had 80 members (ladies and men) at the time.
John L. Erskine donated a matched set of rocks to the club. Now sheet 1 and 2 had excellent new rocks. At a later date, the club (ACC) purchased a third set of rocks that completed a matched set on all three sheets. After this, club membership increased to about 150.
On February 18th at 2:00am, a fire was discovered in the front part of the curling rink. The windows over the ice area were damaged, but the general ice area or curling stones were not damaged. It was a disaster in that all the trophies, furnishings, etc., and all of the records onsite were destroyed.
During the summer, negotiations were continuing with the Mississippi Rink Co., Ltd. But, to the chagrin of ACC members, the company sold the property to a commercial firm and liquidated the Limited company. Therefore, there was no place for the members to curl.
After the fire in February of 1970, the remainder of Almonte’s curling season was played on Carleton Place ice. Over the off-season hiatus, arrangements were made for the ACC to curl with the Carleton Place Curling Club (CPCC).
During the curling seasons between 1971 and 1989, members continued to curl at Carleton Place or Pakenham. The ACC membership fee was still collected and the club name kept active by remaining an official member of the Ottawa Valley Curling Association (OVCA).
From 1967 to 1990, Jack (J.C.) Smithson held the office of President and was instrumental in spearheading the drive for a new facility.
A new hockey rink and front hall was constructed on its present site. It was too great a financial burden at that time to build a four-sheet curling rink although it was in the plans.
The Richmond Curling Club borrowed the Almonte rocks with the agreement that they repair the handles that were damaged in the 1970 fire. Carleton Place were also loaned three sets of rocks while theirs were being repaired.
A group of curling enthusiasts organized an event and called it “The Hacker’s Bonspiel.” It was played on the ice hockey rink. It later became “The Larry Guay Snowsuit Spiel.”
The Pembroke Curling Club borrowed the ACC’s fourth set of rocks while they overhauled their rocks, one sheet at a time.
A great deal of hard work, fundraising, public financial support and support from town council, local organizations and the business community finally led to the building of the present curling rink. The official opening of the new four-sheet curling facility took place on Sunday, October 22 at 4:15 p.m.
The ACC purchased new molded handles duly numbered for all four sheets. The membership for the first years grew to around 190.
On June 12, an agreement was signed between the town of Mississippi Mills and the Almonte Curling Club. This agreement allowed the ACC to administer the curling club facility, which includes the rental of the ice and the lounge. The agreement began as a one-year trial.
The Curling Club hired its own icemaker. This marked a new era for the ACC.
The Almonte Curling Club celebrated its 150th Birthday with a dinner on November 23rd. Guy Hemmings was the guest speaker. The club is currently the 7th oldest in Canada.
In-house and local fundraising allowed the club to purchase new junior rocks; supporter’s names were engraved on the handles.
With help from the town, the ACC bought a new Ice King (ice surfacing machine). The Club also recieved an Ontario Trillium Grant to purchase new equipment.
Thanks to excellent coaching, our Little Rocks, Juniors & Bantams showed great results. The Elementary School Team placed at the top in the “Tim Bits” Bonspiels. Bantam skip Lauren Horton earned gold in the Ontario Winter Games.
Lauren Horton’s Bantam team representing Ontario at the Canada Winter Games in Halifax were very successful and came home with a bronze medal. This year the team played out of the ACC.
Almonte District High School bantam curling team (formerly R. Tait McKenzie School team) were undefeated as they won the Tim Hortons Timbits Provincial Championship with team members Derek Bowden, Allyn Wark, Jack McBride and Karlan Schenhers coached by Carolyn and Gord Mountenay.
J.C. Smithson was celebrated as one of the founding fathers of the Almonte Curling Club. A grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation was used to purchase new curling stones for the club. Lauren Horton’s team won the 2014 Women’s SuperSpiel.