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Curling in Atlin 1968-90


 Edith Nelson

I have been asked to give a little history of curling in Atlin and how it got started. Bill and I were not here at the time but by rumours we heard, it was something like this – 

It seems Watson Lake and Teslin had curling rinks and they wanted some more small town competition.

Roy Smith happened to meet up with some of his old buddies in Whitehorse and the curling bug was planted. Bob Flemming with Ted and Cliff Geddes were the instigators from Teslin and Don Taylor, Ted Ball and Tom Proctor from Watson Lake. 

Roy and Nora Smith had curling in Cantung and didn’t need much urging. They got together with Gordon and Edie Cru, Tom and Vera Kirkwood and Johnny and Win Bullen and in January 1968 The first Atlin Gold Nugget Bonspiel was held on the slough at the south end of town.

Oh! How can you  curl when

You’re raring to go

With the wind from the north

And its twenty below

With your rink on the slough and the stars overhead

Curling all night so you can’t go to bed

But the worst thing of all was 

There’s no place to go

So you head for the bush 

And squat down in the snow!

Bill Roxbourough and Walter Sweet, both members of the 1st Atlin Curling Club somewhere in the early 1910’s, threw the 1st rocks with Norman Fisher and Ira Bennet looking on.

Ed and Dianne Smith, with the help of the Atlin School children, handled the refreshment booth on the ice, open around the clock. The moose hall was open for the curlers to congregate between draws, and sluice juice flowed down a miniature sluice box at 50 cents a drink.

 Maurice Borassa catered to the curlers banquet, and the Twilighters supplied music for the dance. 

I didn’t think it could be done but bonspiel they did and reverberations were felt all the way to Dease Lake. Bearing good tiding from outside clubs were Bob Flemming from Teslin, Don Taylor of Watson Lake, and Bob Campbell of Whitehorse. 

Everyone said it was a distinct success and Atlin was launched on its 22 years of curling. 

Then we got this idea that we’d

Build us a rink

With a forest full of trees

And insulation to chink

The whole town turned out

To do what they could

T saw up , tack down and smooth out the wood.

The rafters were sawed and 

nailed into place.

The roofing was ordered

It sure was a race.

Manne Magnusson and his mill crew supplied the squared logs at cost and with Johnny Bullen building foreman and John Backlund head carpenter, things really started happening. I didn’t think it could be done.

Our bonspiel was scheduled for

The first of the year

We needed our rocks and

All of our gear.

Curling brooms, shoes and

Of course the knee pad

And a lot of good luck

To go with the bad

We needed the ice rinks

With all of the hacks

We needed good thinkers with 

Strong arms and tough backs.

The one thing we were blessed with was a lot of dedicated helpers. People like the Roy Smiths, Gordy Crums, Tom Kirkwoods and Johnny Bullens and others. Ron and Gordon Odian, Ron Bowden, Ed Smith, Bob Fraser, Brian Denton, Dave and Carol Goodwin, John and Betty Thoma and Gary Thoma, John Backlund, Mann Magnusson and his crew, Ed Michayluk of the RCMP and many, many more that no doubt I have missed.

Well we all worked together 

From morning til night

And we made us a curling rink

With 2 sheets of ice

We had buttons in houses

With fronts and with backs

We had score boards with markers and brushes and hacks

We had hog lines and t lines

Knee pads and good sliders

4 sets of curling rocks

With all kinds of prizes.

Prizes and trophies were donated by Whitehorse, Teslin, Watson Lake and Atlin Businesses and all through the years it has been the same.

We had a buffer and corn brooms

Ice brush and ice master

That thing that you measure with

To tell who has the counter.

We had guys who could pebble

And guys who could spray

Electricians and plumbers

And guys who could shave.

We had a miniature mining claim set off in one corner

With a water wheel hoist and

A windless for water.

The sluice juice that ran through 

The boxes was fair

And if you sipped it too much

It could curl up your hair.

There were welding rod nuggets 

That looked like pure gold

And even a backhouse that 

Sat over a hole.

Roy Smith with the help of Ed and Dianne Smith put together this masterpiece which still maintains a place of honour in our museum. It was used at all of the early bonspiels for curlers sluice juice.

We were proud of our venture

All ship shape and real

We were proud of our curlers

And Gold Nugget Spiel

Atlin Residents dug up and donated all they could. Doors and windows, pots and pans, tableware and towels. A 45 cup coffee urn came in from somewhere and Cyril and Jessie James donated an oil range for the concession.

I’m not forgetting the ladies of our town although I know I’ll miss some. Blanche Odian, Dianne Smith, Winnie Bullen, Vera Kirkwood, Jessie James, Shirley Mckenzie, Carol Florence, Olive Odian, Irene Coleman, Dorothy Kirkwood, Norah Smith and many more. And all of the young people lent a hand at anything they could. 

The school teachers, liquor vendor, government agent, RCMP and highways personnel all done their part. 

Teslin gave us our 1st curling rocks and they were passed on to another fledgling club.

The Board of Trade loaned us our first much needed monies and then tore up the check that paid it back. With the President, Mac White saying “ I didn’t think it could be done”. 

Atlin Residents backed our first bank loan and worked their hearts out to make sure the payments were made on time.

The Atlin Recreation Centre and curling rink were definitely a community endeavor and so it must continue to be.

With workers like Jack Green, Wayne Lewis, Dan Campbell, Charlie and Trudie Binnie, Gloria Abel, Leigh Davies, Wava and many more it cannot help but continue on as it has for 22 years.

My hat is off to the workers of today who have so willingly picked up where others left off and as for our old curling rink – it’s down with the old and up with the new and may the Altin Gold Nugget Bonspiel continue to be a Fun ‘Spiel.

Thank you,

Happy 50th Anniversary Atlin Curling Club!

 Edith Nelson