Curling came to Norfolk with Elisabeth Childs. As the daughter of John Walcott Calder who curled in Utica, New York, for over fifty years, Elisabeth was exposed to the game at an early age.
When Elisabeth married Ted Childs and moved to Norfolk in 1951, either Norfolk was going to see precious little of her during the winter months or the community would have to take up curling.
With the cooperation of Jack Calder and the kindness of the Farmington Curling Club, several sets of strangely assorted curling stones were brought to Norfolk. Many were individually owned and beautifully inscribed with the names or initials of their original owners.
During the winter months of 1954-55 and 1955-56, games were played on Tamarack Pond and Tobey Pond. On days chosen for a match, a section of ice 150 feet long and 15 feet wide would be shoveled and scraped free of snow, hacks set and twelve foot circles scratched 114 feet apart. Then a hole would be chopped and water sprinkled along the length of the sheet to pebble the ice.
Norfolk made application in September 1956 to the Grand National Curling Club of America for recognition and membership in that organization. That fall, membership numbered forty-six men and eighteen women.
The original curling shed was built during the autumn months of 1956. It was a simple wooden building, with apertures for letting in the cold air at night as there was no freezing equipment. There was room for two sheets of ice atop a level blacktop surface. A clubhouse warmroom with plate glass windows adjoined the curling shed. It included a large fireplace. The first curling took place on New Year’s Day, 1957, with the temperature at ten degrees below zero.
By the autumn of 1958, artificial ice-making machinery was installed and a lounge and bar was added to the space above the refrigeration plant. This made it possible to hold the first Norfolk Curling Club Men’s Invitational Bonspiel in December 1958.
Then in 1959, the Club purchased twenty-two matched granite curling stones and the game was greatly improved.
As time went on, it became apparent, however, that the old curling shed was in serious trouble. In strong winds, the walls buckled like an accordion and sandy grit would sift in from the outside along with drifting snow.
In the fall of 1971, the shed was removed and a new insulated metal building was erected in its place, along with an enlarged locker room and equipment rooms. Those who remember the old shed will look back fondly and with poignancy, for things will never be quite the same.
But the ice became better and in the years that followed, the Club members worked hard to achieve the keenest ice in the Northwest Corner. A new energy-efficient ceiling was installed, a dehumidifier drew the moist air out of the shed and improved the quality of the ice immensely.
The Club had just begun its winter season when the unexpected disaster occurred. The Club was a total loss in an unwarranted act of arson. To that point, our curlers were in agreement: 2012 was going to be a great season with the best ice ever.
Today, the club numbers approximately seventy men, women, and young curlers in all categories. With the devotion and enthusiasm shown in the past, the Norfolk Curling Club will rebuild and will continue to provide fellowship and friendly sport for years to come.
[Adapted from the booklet, Celebrating 50 Years of Curling in Norfolk*]