Marianne Van Osch (Patrick Davies, 100 Mile Free Press photo)

Marianne Van Osch (Patrick Davies, 100 Mile Free Press photo)

Curling with the Forest Grovers ‘great to gruesome’

Marianne Van Osch guest column

In the early 1950s, a group of enthusiasts decided to build a curling rink in the thriving community of Forest Grove. It would be an outdoor rink, next to the general store.

From the very beginning, the rink was the place to be. It was a community project and the Grovers showed up, hammers in hand. The finished rink was a perfect place to socialize and do some curling.

The first part of the rink was a good-sized room, warmed by a wood stove. Pots of hot coffee and chocolate were always on the stove when the rink was open. There were seats for spectators in front of the windows. A door opened into the long, open-eaved ice rink, where curling took place in the depths of Cariboo winters and on a natural ice surface that could range from great to gruesome.

Louis Judson was there from the start.

“Man! That could be something!” he laughed. “Dust from the logging trucks would collect during the summer on those eaves and then it’d blow down in front of us while we were curling. But we were a tough bunch. We had a ball, even with grit on the ice. At the far end of the rink, there was this little building where you could go into this ice-cold room and there’d be refreshments of a certain kind for us older folks.

“In the summer the Forest Grove Gun Club used the rink as a shooting range. We’d lie down on old mattresses to shoot. The club held safety and gun handling classes for the public there.”

READ MORE: Watching the birds help us fight ‘Midwinter Jickers’

Forest Grove was home to many young logging families at that time. Most teenagers curled. Colleen Felker recalled the night she decided to curl and make a fashion statement at the same time.

“Back when I was a teenager vinyl suits were really in. Mine was brown Naugahyde. Well, here it was, 40-below, and I was wearing that suit to be stylish. I thought I looked great! But the minute I bent down in the hack to throw my rock, the pants started to crack. Then the whole suit just cracked open everywhere!” By the time Colleen got home, her new suit was a mess of gaping holes.

“Cariboo weather can be unpredictable,” Colleen said. “One day you’d be throwing rocks through ankle-deep water, and the next we’d be praying for it to get cold enough for a bonspiel that was coming up. The ice had to be flooded overnight so we never knew how it would be the next day.”

Sheri McLean is another Grover who curled as a youngster on the changeable ice surface. She described how strenuous it could be when the weather was mild and the rink was covered in slush.

“You’d put your feet in the hack and push the rock with all your might,” she said. “The rock might move a couple of feet if you were lucky.”

Sally Gustafson recalled that Forest Grove bonspiels were popular with teams from out of town.

“We’d be booked solid months ahead. Sometimes the ice would be so bad toward spring that it was strength that won the game, not curling skills. We would mop up the water and get going again. Saturday night there would be a hearty dinner and a dance for the players at the Legion. We had a great time!”

As a Centennial project in 1967, a committee was formed to build a recreation complex in Forest Grove. Once again volunteers made up the workforce. A community hall was built. In the mid-70s, a curling rink and library were added. Now curlers could enjoy their winter game, in comfort, with no slush in the hacks.

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