Wednesday, September 26, 2012

American Curlers at Ayr Ice Rink in 1952

by Bob Cowan

On Friday, January 11, 1952, a Pan Am airliner called 'Flying Cloud' (* see below) landed at Prestwick airport with twenty-four members of the first team of US curlers to visit Scotland. They were met by Provost Milligan of Prestwick, Walter Bain (the Tour Convenor), John Watson (Ayr), John Allison (Ayr), Thomas Hobkirk (First English Province), and James Hamilton (Secretary of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club). The tourists travelled directly 'by special motor coach' to the Central Hotel, Glasgow, and that evening they were formally welcomed by the Royal Club President, David M Hutchison, and attended a dinner and reception at the City Chambers hosted by The Lord Provost of Glasgow, Sir Victor D Warren. This information comes from a report in the Annual of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club for 1952-53.

The American curlers played first at the Scottish Ice Rink, Crossmyloof, Glasgow, and in the weeks that followed visited the rinks at Ayr, Perth, Aberdeen, Dundee, Falkirk, Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline, before finishing up in Edinburgh for games on February 9. The final days of the tour and the closing celebrations were tempered by the death of King George VI on February 6, and the period of national mourning that followed.

A trophy had been donated for Scotland-USA competition by Commander Herries-Maxwell who was President of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1950-51, see here. In 1952 Scotland emerged on top by 479 shots to 366. The Herries-Maxwell trophy is still played for. Indeed, earlier this year, the American team won it. See this post.

In David B Smith's archive is a reel of 16mm film, taken by local enthusiast David Stratton. The film contains a clip of the American curlers playing at the Ayr rink. David and I arranged for the film to be digitised, and the four minute clip can now be watched here, or just click on the image above. There's no sound.

The original Ayr Ice Rink at 21 Beresford Terrace was built in 1939 for skating, ice hockey and curling. It was demolished in 1972 to make way for a supermarket development. There's a photo of curling at the rink in the web page of the Ayr Figure Skating Club here.

I curled at Ayr a number of times in the 1960s, so seeing this footage brings back lots of memories. One thing I do remember about the timed curling sessions was that the bell would ring, and you would finish the end you were on, and then play one more. In my home rink at Crossmyloof, you just finished the end you were playing when the bell rung. Just how the Herries Maxwell games were played in 1952 is uncertain.

When watching the footage online, look out for the large stage at the end of the rink, the skaters using the end ice, and the wide straw brooms some of the Americans were using.

The Royal Club report does not list all twenty-four players, although some names are evident from the match results at the various rinks, which give skips' names. The USA side included FL van Epps, AB Backstrom, WJ Polski, EW Fiske, AJ Dalton, P Moreland, R Bennett, HW Kochs, C Sargent and EW Freytag. I am sure that this last is the same Elmer Freytag after whom the World Curling Freytag Award is named. Freytag was to become a key player of the US Curling Association which had yet to be formed, and he was one of the founding members of the International Curling Federation which is now the World Curling Federation. Perhaps someone can recognise him in the video.

There is another photo of the US curlers in this post.

*This is most likely to have been the Pan American World Airlines Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, N1028V, Clipper Flying Cloud, which entered service in 1949 and can be seen in this photo, and in the air here. (The earlier Boeing 307 Stratoliner which carried the same name is preserved in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, see here and here.)

ADDED LATER: David Garber has been in touch with the complete 25-strong US team roster, with name and curling club, by USCA state/region:

Grand National
E.W. Fiske, Jr., Ardsley
Albert Shaw, Jr., Ardsley
Mills Ten Eyck, Schenectady
John MacFarlane, Mahopee (Yonkers, NY)
W.R. Henderson, Utica
John P. Carr, Winchester (MA)
Howard Eteson, Winchester
Richard P. Hallowell, The Country Club (Brookline, MA)
Harold S. Cutler, TCC

Great Lakes
Dr. James Lammy, Detroit
John McKinlay, Detroit
A.J. Dalton, Detroit
Paul Moreland, Detroit

Elmer Freytag, Chicago
Joseph Jardine, Chicago
Herbert Kochs, Chicago
Chester Sargent, Chicago

Walter Polski, Eveleth
A.G. Backstrom, St. Paul

David Bogue, Portage
Ross Bennett, Portage
Frank Van Epps, Portage
A.L. Papenfuss, Wausau
Helmus Wells, Wauwatosa
Edward Fitzgerald, Milwaukee

The images are screenshots from the videoclip.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Revisiting the 1976 Uniroyal

by Bob Cowan

It is more than four years since David and I set up the Curling History Blog. One of the earliest posts, see here, was about the 1976 Uniroyal World Junior Men's Championship at Aviemore. The August 27, 2008, post had been stimulated by Bob Kelly lending me a VHS videotape that had been converted from the 16mm film which Uniroyal made for promotional purposes. I said at the time, "This thirty minute film record of the 1976 event is now on DVD. Perhaps one day (soon) it will be possible for all to see again on the web."

Well, as those who have followed this blog will know, I eventually learned how to post clips on YouTube, for example here is the link to clips of the 1962 Scotch Cup, and here is David Smith on Flog It in 2005.

Recently I was contacted by Viktoria Grahn, whose father Anders played in the Jan Ullsten team which was the runner-up to the Paul Gowsell Canadian rink in 1976. She was looking for a copy of the video for her dad! Viktoria's encouragement was what I needed to get the 1976 Uniroyal footage online. It's in two parts.

Part One is here:

Part Two is here:

The quality is not as good as it might be, reflecting the fact that the clips were not digitised directly from the 16mm film, but via a VHS tape. Perhaps in the future it may be possible to make a better copy directly from the original. Uniroyal made a promotional film of the event every year. Copies of these films must surely exist, and it would be great if these records of the early days of the World Junior Championship could be made available. It was junior men only back then of course. It was not until 1983 that European junior women had an international competition to play in, and not until 1988 that the first World Junior Women's Championship was held.

I love Bob Picken's commentary. He was the voice of curling in the 70s and 80s. Great to see and hear teams using the corn brooms. Anders Grahn wields a Rink Rat synthetic broom.

Gowsell and his team of Neil Houston, Glen Jackson and Kelly Stearne were exciting to watch! And of course, the footage is a visual record of the Aviemore ice rink which no longer exists.

Fascinating to see the shots of the crowd and of friends I recognise, some, sadly, no longer with us. Sobering to recognise myself! Here I am standing with David Horton and his father (always 'Mr Horton') who did so much to much to encourage us young curlers back in the day). David's younger brother Ken was third on the Scottish team with Bob Kelly (skip), Willie Jamieson and Keith Douglas. All the records of the competition are in the World Curling Federation's historical database here.

That's me, complete with beard, on the right! Happy days.

The top photo is a screenshot of the victorious Canadians with the Uniroyal trophy.

Thanks again to Bob Kelly for supplying the original VHS tape.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Swedish Curling 'Medals'

David B Smith writes:

From at least the beginning of the nineteenth century the medal has been used in Scotland both as a trophy to be won at the curling and as a prize of victory.

When one hears the word 'medal' one instinctively thinks of something like the basic definition of the word to be found in the Oxford English Dictionary, 'a coin-shaped metal object, made especially for commemorative purposes. In these senses, the device may have an attached loop or hole for suspension'. And, indeed, most Scottish curling medals conform with this definition.

I was quite surprised, therefore, when I discovered a different tradition in Sweden.

Although the game was first played in Sweden in 1847 it was not until 1916 that a national association, the Swedish Curling Association (Svenska Curling Forbundet) was founded. In 1917 it began a national championship, and from then it produced plaques, or plaquettes, to serve the same purpose as the medal in Scotland.

These plaquettes are basically rectangular in design although there are some slight divergences from rectangularity in some cases.

The first plaquette which I came across bears the oldest date. It is a silver-gilt rectangle, bearing on its obverse a most remarkable design, a depiction of a naked, bearded curler delivering a curling stone (above). His modesty is preserved by a bearskin casually thrown over him. The letters SCF show that this was an official production of the Association. There is, moreover, the signature of the Swedish sculptor who designed the piece, Carl Vilhelm Fagerberg.

Engraved on the obverse are: “A.H.HAMILTON, S.S.C.” and on the reverse “FROM SWEDISH CURLING TEAM DEC., 1923”. This was obviously a gift from the Swedish curlers who toured Scotland for the first time in 1923 to the Secretary of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.

I have another example of this form of the plaquette, this time a prize. It is engraved: 'ST MORITZ CUP/ 1934 1PRIS'. I have seen silver examples and the latest addition to my collection is one in bronze which reads: 'HOTEL ANGLAIS' HEDERSPRIS 1932 3. PRIS'. A 'hederspris' was a presentation prize.

Fagerberg, 1878-1848, was a well-known sculptor many of whose larger works are to be found in Swedish cities.

The next design I came upon again involved both the SCA and nakedness, this time in the form of a diaphanously clad female figure with bare feet, standing on the ice with a curling stone in front of her, below a conifer branch. That she has a shield bearing the emblem of Sweden, the three crowns, shows that this was Mother Svea, or Mother Sweden. The legend 'Svenska Curling Forbundet' is part of the struck design. My attempt to find the name of the artist who designed this was unsuccessful, but Lars Lagerqvist of the Myntkabinettet (The Swedish Coin and Medal Cabinet) informed me that this was the first design to be adopted by the SCF in 1917, just the year after its foundation.

(The dates of the three examples I possess are 1944, 1945 and 1962. It is not clear to me whether these were won in national or club competitions for no club name is engraved. Perhaps a Swedish reader might help in this matter.)

There is another plaquette issued by the SCA and bearing a figure of a plus-foured curler just after he has released his stone. Both of the examples in my collection appear to have been used by clubs. The older example is engraved 'Forsta Curlingmatchen Amals CK Karlstads CK', and it obviously records the first encounter between the named clubs; the second is dated 1969.

The remaining designs are all club plaquettes. One in silver, dated 1938, was the second prize in the club championship of Norrkopings Curling Klubb.

A second played the same role in the club championship of Linkopings Curlingklubb in 1952.

Two are of the same design and were produced in bronze, with the club insignia in black and white enamel, for the Kronprinsens Curlingklubb (The Crown Prince's Curling Club). Of these, one was a presentation to J. Eric Cowper, a Manchester Caledonian curler who was part of an RCCC team which toured Sweden in 1932; the other was a 3rd prize for a competition played in 1948.

The last plaquette is the largest and is bronze but surrounded in mystery. It has no date, but the legend struck as part of the design, 'GLASGOW POKALEN' (The Glasgow Cup), indicates that it has some Scottish connection. In the design a large cup – presumably THE Glasgow Cup - predominates over a curler throwing a stone and a standing sweeper. My internet searches have failed to find a reference to Glasgow Pokalen.

Images © David B Smith