For a cheap good time, try Curling in Ashcroft

Curling has been an Ashcroft past time for over a century, but numbers are dwindling.

Probably the oldest continuously running association in the area, the Ashcroft Curling Club had its first game on the “Slough” in 1896 – one year after The Journal began publishing.

“They had people come from all over to curl here,” says long-time curler Janet Quesnel, “and our curling team went to other rinks, including Vancouver.”

It was always the Scots against everybody else, she says. During one Scots vs. Canucks bonspiel, they made up rules like the Scots had to use brooms made of heather and couldn’t use their own language on the ice.

“It was a running joke,” says Quesnel.

“It was something for the men in town to do,” she says. “The businessmen used to close up shop to go curling on the slough.”

Women couldn’t curl unless invited by the men, but it was expected that they would provide all of the food for the bonspiels.

Curling was held outdoors for many years. It started at the slough along Evans Road and moved around a bit before the new covered rink opened in 1956.

Quesnel started curling in Ashcroft as soon as she moved to town in 1988.

“I love it,” she says. “I like the people, the camraderie. You don’t have to decide whether you want to be competitive when you start. You’re competing against yourself.”

She says when she began curling here, the rink was running five days a week with all four sheets full.

Last year, she says, the Club had 70 members, the majority of whom are seniors and have their own games on Tuesday afternoon.

The seniors curl for the pleasure of curling and for the social aspect, says Quesnel. They have a very nice group.

“We have enough seniors to keep the club going,” says president Hilda Jones, “but evening curling is the issue.”

Jones has been curling since moving to Ashcroft in 1992.

She says she good hooked with jam can curling at Loon Lake’s  winter carnival one year “and we had a blast!”

She was persuaded to join the club in Ashcroft “on bonspiel weekend.” She dressed up as a sheep and “had a hoot.”

“When you go to a bonspiel and everyone is laughing and cheering and “sweep!”…

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a bonspiel in two years because of low membership.

“All clubs are feeling the pinch,” says Quesnel. Even Kamloops.

“I don’t know why,” she says. “It’s a good game, a nice way to meet people.”

Numbers declined in Ashcroft during the war years, she says, but they came back up when the war ended.

“Curling is very social for me,” says Jones. “I’m getting exercise for two hours during the games, sweeping and skating. It’s a real workout.”

“I love being in the lounge watching others play and talking about the plays to others in the lounge,” says Quesnel. “We shake hands at the beginning of the game and shake hands at the end, even if it’s your worst enemy. You’ve got to make the sport fun for you or it’s not worth doing.”

Both Quesnel and Jones say the Club is always trying to attract new members.

We’re losing our older players, says Quesnel. And there aren’t any members younger than 50 years old.

“We’d like to get young members,” she says. “We used to have a lot of high school curlers.”

It’s one of the cheapest sports to play, she says. “All it takes is a broom, a pair of shoes and a slider.”

She says people who can no longer get down on their knees can use a stick to push the rocks. It’s amazing, she says, how accurate they are.

“We’ll keep going until the people who want to keep curling say they’ve had enough,” says Quesnel. If the club has to close, she think it is likely that it won’t open again. If membership drops to under 50 members, they don’t be able to financially support it any longer.

The ice is in for the new curling season and the Annual General Meeting is set for Sept. 30 at 7:30 pm in the Club. After the AGM, registration nights will be announced and they hope to be curling by Oct. 20.

The Legion Provincials will be held in Ashcroft on Jan. 28-31, and  Mixed Playdowns for Curl BC will be here in February.