History of Penetanguishene Curling Club Curling in Penetanguishene was first recorded with the Ontario Curling Association in 1903. The first president, W. A. Firstbrook, owned a logging mill where Beacon Bay Marina now stands.
From what I have been told by a number of older curlers now deceased, curling existed in Penetanguishene long before it was recorded with the O.C.A. Most of the history as I know it came from my father Alcime DesRochers who was tutored by George Robinson a top curler of the day and a lifelong member of the Ontario Curling Association (1935), as well Art (Jumbo) Dubeau who played lead stone for my father and played that position all his life.
Over the years the winter temperature varied and when warmer winters occurred there was not much curling going on and they did not bother to register with O.C.A. The curling dues at the Ontario Hospital Curling club were $1.00 and that dollar went to the Ontario Curling Association.
Legend has it that there was a curling club where the Penetanguishene Curling Club now exists, built by the owner of the property and McGibbons Mill. Another Curling Club stood where the Post Office is now located. Then H.A. Osborne built a hockey arena with a curling club attached.
The ice area had many problems with ice cracking and heaving due to poor underlay. After a very short period of time this club was abandoned and all joined the Ontario Hospital Curling Club. This was a great two sheets of good natural ice with a skating area that circled the two curling sheets. It was a great place to take the whole family. Here skaters young and old would stop, watch some curling for awhile, then continue skating and learned much about the game and eventually end up playing the game.
The first major win recorded with the Ontario Curling Association was in 1928 when Penetanguishene was the winning club for the Ontario Junior Tankard.
In 1932 a trophy was donated (The Seiberling Trophy) which was challenged for on a yearly basis. The names on this trophy recorded the club champions each year. Unfortunately, this historic trophy is no longer played for and now sits in the Penetanguishene Hall of Fame.
In the late 1950s the Penetanguishene Ontario Hospital Curling building was condemned and had to be abandoned.
Having no place to curl brought on an awareness that something must be done if there was to be any curling in Penetanguishene. After a general meeting by all of the local curlers it was decided to join forces with the new arena that was to be built providing that the curling club was given two days of ice time a week and this was agreed on. President Orval Ambeau spearheaded a campaign to raise funds to be added to the $18,000.00 that we already had accumulated for a new building. They raised over $30,000.00 and continued to turn money over to the arena for years.
Over the years it was not a happy relationship with the arena board. In 1971 we started to lay plans out to build a new Curling Club. After many years of meetings the new curling club was to become a reality.
During a building year no one wanted the position of President and after much persuasion by Alvin Gropp, John W. DesRochers finally accepted the position on condition that a Building Chairman be appointed.
Many meetings took place between the men’s and ladies curling clubs. We had approximately $18,000.00 in the bank.
The original quotations for a new curling club at the time were $125,000.00 for six sheets of ice and $90,000.00 for four sheets of ice. In 1972 there was much discussion over the size of the club and after a vote, it was agreed by the majority that six sheets of ice would be the goal.
On May 10, 1972 Ossie St.Amant was introduced as Building Chairman. A vote was taken that an initiation fee of $100.00 (which entitled a lifetime social membership to the Penetanguishene Curling Club) be paid as well as annual curling dues.
This was the beginning. By then the town had offered the curling club a vacant pi ece of property where the Penetanguishene Curling Club now stands.
Additional funds were needed and eventually a deal with The Bank of Nova Scotia would be approved. This was a loan of $60,000.00. Security would consist of personal guarantees. Guarantors were limited to $1,000.00 or $2,000.00. It was also agreed that all future officials and the Board of Directors would be required to be guarantors.
In 1972 Vince Moreau was Mayor of Penetanguishene and also a club member. He helped to negotiate an agreement with the Town that the club be built as a Community Centre with the club then leasing the building from the town.
Due to the lack of funds, the Penetanguishene Curling club could not afford a manager so the President elect in the earlier years would take over those duties; the ice maker was gratis and so was the barkeep. The entire operation of the club was handled by volunteers. The building other than the steel section of the club was accomplished by volunteers such as block laying, carpentry, painting, electrical & plumbing, etc. It was really a joint effort.
All of the past officers including the Board of Directors agreed to re-election for the new building years 1972 - 1973. As we were well into the new building, the new by-laws and constitution were adopted. In January of 1973 the construction of the club was finished to a point where we were able to curl, however, with many projects to be completed in the future. Many problems occurred with the ice mainly with condensation and the ice plant. It took a number of years but eventually, all of the problems were rectified.
In 1973 a liquor permit was granted to the Penetanguishene Curling Club. Over the years the Penetanguishene Curling Club raised money to pay off the mortgage by having bingos, summer fests, dances and draws.
This is a very brief history of the Penetanguishene Curling Club. There are many areas that I have not touched on as you could imagine a building of this magnitude being built mostly by volunteers. It would be impossible to name everyone who worked on the building as they are too numerous. Some volunteers worked day after day others whenever they could and eventually we were able to open the doors to curling.
John W. DesRochers