Years in the curling world creates endless storytelling opportunities

By David Garber, U.S. Curling News Columnist,

From 1959 through 1971, curling was an official varsity letter sport in Wisconsin. In 1971, curling and skiing were dropped from the program of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) because not enough schools had pro- grams (curling had about 29 participating high schools, likely the most in any state at that time). Since my dad had taught me to curl in 1961,


at age 12, I had a leg up on many other kids by high-school age and was able to earn a letter as a freshman. For the next three years, I competed in the unusual winter sports combination of wres- tling and curling. Te wrestling coach, who had taught our

freshman PhyEd class and evidently saw some potential for me on the mat, asked me to go out for rasslin’ the next year. I said sure, but since I already lettered in curling, please allow me to continue in that sport. My logic worked – and there were few conflicts because wrestling dual meets were held on Tuesday and Tursday nights, and curling practices were just aſter school on Tuesdays and Tursdays – the coach knew curl- ing was not an injury-prone sport, and the prac- tices would help me to keep my weight down for pre-meet weigh-ins. High school curling was great fun. I met fel-

lows (few girls: no Title IX then) with whom I vied for many years, some of whom I still see from time to time – guys like John Stange and Rex Pope and the Taylor family from Waupaca, Bill Edwards from Wausau; Kip Goodland and Bill Rhyme from Portage, the Russells from Pardeeville, and many more. More than 30 years later, David Russell and I would curl in Scotland

ugust 2-3 marks a milestone – my 50th high school reunion from P.J. Jacobs High School in Stevens Point, Wis.

together as Scotland Tour teammates. An annual highlight was the Wausau Bonspiel, which at- tracted about 30 school teams – most of the guys used their letter jackets as team outfits. Corn was king then, and for teenage boys, much more ma- cho than the sissy brush I would adopt in a few years. During these teen years, many boys curled

with their fathers in club leagues and bonspiels. (I don’t think the Wisconsin Interscholastic Ath- letic Association had rules, back then, banning outside high-school competitions.) For a kid, observing the men bantering aſter games was a valuable and pleasant experience, especially hearing the several “characters” in our club. I’m sure all clubs had (and have?) their characters. One of our men claimed to be the World Stand- ing Broad Jump Champion (the broad jump is now known as the long jump). I hope this mixing of the generations in curling continues! Curling stories never fade

Several curling stories linger in my mind

(names withheld!). In the 1960s or 1970s, a very cordial but unathletic fellow played with my dad in men’s leagues. Aſter several years, dad devel- oped this story, told at out-of-town bonspiels: “I have this lead. A fine fellow indeed, and I like him. On the ice, however, he leaves a bit to be desired. You see, I don’t mind his atrocious weight, his random direction at the broom, or his feather-the-ice sweeping, which leaves more dirt in front of the rock than it clears. But what really gets to me is his perfect attendance record!” Tis story was submitted to the then North American Curling News and was published. I curled many times with a guy who has been

my good friend since the 1970s. When he was on, he was truly world class. Other times, he seemed to lose this great touch. At one bonspiel, he was skipping three other guys, who later related this story to me: “(the skip) had a terrible game, may-

be shot 20 percent. We set up ends, he ruined ‘em. He raised their rocks into the house. He took out our counters, you name it. We lost bad. It was a Saturday aſternoon game. We went back to the hotel to shower and change for the evening ban- quet. When we got to the club parking lot, we no- ticed parking spaces reserved for the physically disadvantaged – we insisted (our skip) park there that night – he surely had earned it.” My dad had a very loud voice when he called

sweep. Very early in their curling careers, this same skip and his brother, then inexperienced teens, were playing front end for my dad in a league game. In the first end, their third deliv- ered his shot. Silence until the rock neared the hogline, when my dad yelled a particularly loud, crackling “SWEEEEEP!!” Tis startled both young sweepers, who had been lulled and had not been paying full attention. At that moment they both, as if blown down by the force of the call, slipped and fell to the ice, four feet splayed upwards, to the great amusement of all the other curlers on the ice. Tese agile young guys man- aged to avoid fouling the rock (as I recall), and I don’t recall either guy ever losing their footing again on curling ice. When someone curls for 50 years (1961-2011),

and works in curling most of that time (as an ac- tive volunteer at club level and, for 24 years, at the USCA around the curling world) there are many stories to remember, and many unusual experiences, from managing to severely bruise my back while pebbling, to spilling coffee on the new suit of a new acquaintance while attending a world championship, to competing at a district playdown while laying on my back on the floor of a club (aſter throwing the first two rocks of the first game to ensure a legal competition), and many more. But for now, wish me luck at my high school reunion. Perhaps I’ll survive, with a new story or two.Q

USA Curling (( 31

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