It’s Wayback Wednesday, sponsored by Jamie Lockwood, broker/owner of Sutton Group Muskoka Realty!
Pictured below, from left, are Milt and Marg Tibbett, Martha Moores and Wes Payne. In 1959, the rink scored 1 in an extra end to break a 10-10 tie to win the top honours in the second annual Muskoka International Bonspiel. They are holding the “original” Grand Championship Rubberset Trophy which was valued at the time at $4,500.00. Wes Payne was a long-time town councillor from 1948 into the 1950’s. Milt Tibbett was a Councilman from 1951 – 1956, then Mayor of Huntsville from 1964 – 1970, then First Muskoka District Chair from 1970 – 1972. (Photos: Muskoka Heritage Place Collection, Huntsville Ontario).
by Dennis Rolland, Huntsville Curling Club
Up until the late 1940’s only men curled in Huntsville. No women. Some male members liked it this way, other male members thought it would be permissible to have women curl but only if their husbands were members and they had their husband’s consent for ice privileges. At that time, there were 112 members of the club. All men.
In 1949, with the vigorous advocation from future Huntsville Sports Hall of Fame Inductees Pat Brothers and Don Lough, Moss Leverton founded the Huntsville Ladies Curling Club.
That first season, 1949/1950, added 36 Charter Ladies Members. Within a few short years, the addition of lady curlers caused the club’s membership to surge to just over 200 members. Not surprisingly, one of the most popular leagues became the “Mixed” league with teams composed of two men and two women.
Mixed Curling became so popular in Muskoka during the fifties that Gravenhurst, Huntsville, and Bracebridge joined forces to create the “Muskoka International Mixed Bonspiel”.
The Muskoka International Mixed Bonspiel
The underlying policy of the organizers of the first Muskoka International Mixed Bonspiel was to extend “Never-To-Be-Forgotten Muskoka Hospitality to all Participants”. Originally billed as the “World’s Biggest International Mixed Bonspiel”, the Muskoka International took off like a rocket soon attracting 112 teams, over 450 curlers, from over 50 different Curling Clubs during 5 days of competitive mixed curling, organized by more than 700 volunteers.
The first Muskoka International Mixed Bonspiel, where “Good Curling and Good Fellowship in Muskoka are Inseparable”, took place in 1958. The hosting of the spiel was shared in turn by Gravenhurst, Huntsville and Bracebridge. It was so popular that within two years it quickly grew to become one of Canada’s major Bonspiels. There was no lack of international flavour, as rinks from Western Canada, Ontario, Quebec and the USA took part. Many well-known Canadian curlers and also the Dean of the United States Curling Association, competed in the Spiel. The championship games were broadcasted live by disc jockeys to Toronto radio stations. On the final night, the hosting club concluded the spiel with a fine dinner followed by a dance with entertainment provided by Muskoka’s best local musicians.
The bonspiel was played at the three Muskoka Curling Clubs, Gravenhurst, Huntsville and Bracebridge, with elaborate opening ceremonies at each club. In December 1959, the newspaper wrote:
“This Spiel is one of the most phenomenal stories in Canadian Curling History, which was also cited as a shining example of cooperation and effort among once rival communities. Prior to the Muskoka International Mixed Spiel, the bitter rivalry between the three communities, with a total combined population of 9,000, was so keen that speaking to someone from a neighboring centre was looked upon as almost the act of a traitor. Increasing popularity of curling, particularly the introduction of lady curlers, gradually thawed the bitterness and curling created a new spirit of friendship in Muskoka.”
Patrons of the Spiel were Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and Ontario Premier Leslie Frost who put their “Stamp of Approval” on the Spiel. The Spiel was so successful it had a long list of teams waiting for a last-minute cancelation and before the first draw was completed, the next year’s spiel had dozens of rinks already entered.
The over 700 residents from the three towns who volunteered to organize and run the Spiel, arranged sponsorships, managed the games and scheduling and sold entry fees, programs and 50/50 tickets. Curlers were “shuttled” by volunteers between games played at all three towns. The volunteer activities also included a full round of hosted social events, including receptions, refreshments and entertainment at the clubhouses, nightly banquets, “Sock Hop” dances (think ponytails, poodle skirts, blouses with chiffon scarves, bobby socks and saddle shoes for the girls and bowling shirts and Brylcreem hair gel for the guys), sleigh rides, snowmobile rides, sightseeing, plane rides and many house parties provided by some of the resident curlers.
Another Huntsville Curling Club rink to win the Muskoka International Mixed Bonspiel, holding the “redesigned” Rubberset Trophy, the Grand Prize of the Muskoka International Mixed Bonspiel, was the 1969 rink of Gord and Mossie Leverton, Moss being the founder of the Huntsville Ladies Curling Club, with Bette and Dennis Hutcheson. Dennis Hutcheson was the son of Huntsville Mayor Art Hutcheson, Mayor of Huntsville 1941- 1943, and he was Huntsville Curling Club President in 1967.
After twelve years of trying, this rink won a nailbiter Championship 7-6 over Mississauga.
The Muskoka International Mixed Bonspiel was held for 36 consecutive years lasting to 1993. To this day, the Mixed Curling Leagues are still the most popular leagues at the Huntsville Curling Club.
If any Doppler reader has stories or old pictures of Curling in Huntsville, please contact Dennis Rolland, Huntsville Curling Club, [email protected].
The Huntsville Curling Club is hosting their Open House tomorrow, Thursday, September 22nd, 2022 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m, everyone is welcome to attend. The open house is intended for new curlers to come out and see the club, ask questions and hopefully sign up for curling. We offer a fantastic 7-week learn to curl course starting in October.
“If you want to make friends – join the Huntsville Curling Club!”
See more Wayback Wednesday photos here.
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