~Written by Dave Bjarnason
Marshfield Curling had its beginnings in Medford in 1973 when two curlers from Marshfield, David Bjarnason and Keith Redding (both Canadian), joined the Wednesday Night Men’s League at the Medford Curling Club. The Medford Skips they curled with were Ozzie Tippelt and Dale Schroeder. The 74-75 season saw a doubling of Marshfield Curlers, four brave souls making the Wednesday night
trip up Highway 13N (four being the number of Marshfield residents that had ever experienced or heard of curling, outside of a beauty salon). That team consisted of Dave Bjarnason, Gary Gustafson, Ian Keith, and Mike Wood. The ‘75-‘76 season had 20 Marshfield Curlers joining Medford Leagues, some with previous curling experience including Clarence Topp and R.J. Kennedy. Of the 20, there were 16 men and 4 women. The 20 included the four from the previous year, Dave Bjarnason, Gary Gustafson, Ian Keith, and Mike Wood plus Tom Netzer, Mike Mehr, David Draves, Dennis Kennedy, Jack Young, Clarence Topp, Jim Brousseau, Charley Subapodok, R.J. Kennedy, Ken Rice, Ken Wolski, and Justin Feichner. The four women joined the Tuesday Medford Lochettes and included Pat Topp, Pat Keith, Lorraine Netzer, and Mary Bjarnason. Their infinite wisdom told these 20 curlers that Marshfield could form and support their own
Curling Club and on 3/11/76 held their first meeting in Marshfield to form the Marshfield Curling Club with elected officers Ian Keith, resident, Gary Gustafson, Vice-President, Lorraine (Rainey) Netzer, Treasurer, and R.J. Kennedy, Secretary. The formal Articles of Incorporation are dated 4/26/76 and the 12 initial directors, also the first Board of Directors of the Curling Club, included David and Mary Bjarnason, Gary Gustafson, Ian and Pat Keith, R.J. (Rollie) Kennedy, Tom and Lorraine Netzer, Ken Rice, Dennis Schulhauser, Clarence Topp, and Jack Young.
One of the first items of discussion was to determine a site on which to curl. A building on the Fair Grounds was found to be available, the Alba Bump Swine Pavillion, more affectionately known as the Pig Barn. It was rented from the Fair Association for $50 a month, for 4 months each year for the next 2 years. Now, the building was long enough and wide enough to build 2 sheets of ice but unfortunately pigs don’t care whether the surface is level or not, and it certainly was not. It took a lot of work leveling the ground, laying plastic and then flooding, the flooding not starting until December when it was cold enough. And did it get cold that first year, frequently falling below 0 degrees. Water for flooding was off the corner fire hydrant and once a flood was completed there was always a race to see if the fire hose could be rolled up, dried and put away before it froze. If the hose or the hydrant froze up we would have to slink into the Fire Station to
request they thaw it for the next day’s flood. Our rocks were on loan from the American Curling Foundation and they all weren’t the same size—some lighter, some heavier, some wider, some flatter. Talk about getting to know your rocks. A “warming shack” was built inside the barn. The First Annual Men’s Bonspiel was held February 25-27 of 1977 hosting 8 teams, the winning team skipped by Rollie Kennedy. During the Bonspiel, part of the ceiling of the warming shack collapsed. Fortunately there were no serious injuries or, more important, legal action. The First Season of the Marshfield Curling Club lasted 4 weeks.
The second season in the Bump Pavilion, with improved warming facilities, brought in 85 members, including 5 from Medford: Mark (Smokey) Hemer, Jeff Hemer, Jerry Knippel, Kim Gowey, and Steve Bieliewcz. The 2nd Annual Men’s Bonspiel took place 2/18-19/78. Dues were $25 for new adult, $5 for dependent children to age 22, $10 for students, and $35 for second year curlers.
The Board and Membership were convinced in early 1978 that we needed a new building, our own building, and the Board meeting of 3/4/78 discussed property availability in Marshfield and construction of the Marshfield Curling Club. The May ‘78 Annual Meeting elected Dave Bjarnason, President, and Rollie Kennedy, Vice President, with Bry Wyman, Secretary, and Earl Eisenberg, Treasurer. Private land was looked at as was City land at the Fairgrounds. In June of 1978 the City Planning Commission recorded a zoning change for two parcels of city land in the Fairgrounds area and it was agreed upon by the Board of Public Works in July ’78 to lease 2/3 acre of land to the Curling Club. On 8/1/78, a Building Lease Agreement with the City of Marshfield was signed for 75 years, rental at $114 per year.
With the land problem resolved in August, it became apparent there was a lot of work to get done quickly if we were to have a ‘78-‘79 curling season. Doug O’Donnell was appointed Chairman of the Building Committee and the building was estimated to cost $180K. Wendel David accepted the position of Building Supervisor. Realize, of course, that these positions were all voluntary. To start, the Curling Club had to establish a $150K line of credit which turned out to be a difficult feat to accomplish amongst the three Marshfield Banks at that time. It eventually required members to put down part of that loan in cash, $22K. In ensuing years the Banks required personal loan guarantees from members. Did anyone say this process was going to be easy?
Community Members were very generous in supplying materials and some of these included:
Club Member work crews were set up and in the Fall of ‘78 began setting the poles and getting the walls up. Professional roofers were hired to set the steel poles, the rafters and to complete the roofing. Unfortunately, into December ‘78 there was little roof work completed, partly weather related and into mid-December the roofers were not available— deer season. January 1, 1979, there were ice storms followed by severe cold, frequently below zero, and the roofers couldn’t work due to the cold. However Club crews were working on the metal siding in that same weather. The plan was to have a Mixed Bonspiel January 16-17, 1979, which wasn’t going to happen, but the Men’s February 18-19 was still a go. By mid-January only two-thirds of the roof was completed, plumbing was not in and there were no lights. The plan was to use the projected compressor room as a warming room as the planned warming/viewing room had not been started. On 2/4/79 with only 2/3 of the roof in place the electric service was complete, a portable toilet was on site, and flooding started that day under the light of the moon through the open roof. Not mentioned is that the planned ice surface was built on an old roadbed so that added another difficulty to leveling our ice surface. Why not? The Men’s Bonspiel was held February 17-18, 1979, with 8 teams, one
each from Portage, Eau Claire, Pardeeville, and Medford, and two each from Waupaca and Marshfield. Bonspiel profit, $300.
In March 1979 the San Francisco Curling Club went bankrupt and had 16 pairs of stones for sale. Gary Gustafson wheeled a deal to purchase them for $3600 delivered. Law enforcement may still be evaluating the legitimacy of that transaction.
Amazing, we made it through the First Year in our own building.
The June ’79 Annual Meeting elected Rollie Kennedy, President, and Tom Netzer, Vice President.
The summer and fall of ’79 concentrated on finishing the Clubroom and also was our 1st year hosting our Beer Stand during the Fair, with a net profit of $2088.32. Due to building needs and dependency on the weather to make “natural ice,” the start of the ‘79-80 curling season was 12/30/79. We were able to host an In-Club Spiel, February 9-10, 1980, with 8 teams, and a Men’s Spiel with 12 teams, February 15-16, 1980, with 9 out of town teams. The Men’s Spiel was won by the Terry Gebert rink of Medford. Profit: $1330.
The Spring of ‘80 brought about serious discussions of ice quality, namely the need to provide quality ice for our curlers and those that visit the Club. Committees met to determine the cost and availability of ice making equipment. On 8/7/80 a counter-offer of $6500 to the original price of $12,000 was accepted by Chisholm, MN, for a complete ice-making unit including Freon setup and electric controls. Don Duellman of Louis’ Refrigeration took on the responsibility to evaluate and set the equipment up and he reassured the Club that even
though this was a 1948 dated machine it was still in good working condition. Additional discussions resulted in the decision to go with a mat system to freeze the ice over a concrete floor. The mats for 2 sheets cost $10K and the total cost to provide “artificial ice” including concrete flooring was $35,000. Board decision was given to proceed on 9/2/80. The equipment and mats were delivered by 10/2/80 and the Club had its first season with “artificial ice” in 1980-81. That season the Curling Club had 133 paid adult members and 10 juniors.
The ice equipment purchased in 1980 extended the curling season significantly. However it did not produce the quality of ice needed. The ice was slow and hand scrapers were not adequate to clean and level the ice surface, at least to curlers standards. De-ionized water was being used for pebbling, “donated” by the Marshfield Clinic Research Facility, and curling rocks were used as pebble breakers prior to games. In 2/84 discussions were finalized to rent or purchase DI water equipment for flooding and pebbling. With increasing numbers
of curlers, the addition of a 3rd sheet was discussed and a motion was made 9/84 to purchase mats for what is now sheet 1 at a cost of $6K. The mats were shipped 10/8/84 in time for the ‘84-85 curling season and the Club had 3 sheets of ice in use for that season. Up to 1989 the Medford Curling Club was kind enough to let us use their Rink Master ice scraper at the time of Bonspiels. The purchase of an ice scraper was discussed in 9/90 but was tabled because of the need of a new furnace. Perhaps the most important ice decision made by the Marshfield Curling Club was in 1991 when the “Prince” ice scraper was purchased for $4500. Evidence of that came from the Open Spiel on 1/8/92 where comments were made on how keen the ice was. Other comments included that the scraper was marvelous, money well spent. Present curlers remember the “Ice King,” a step up from the Prince, larger and electric but cordless. Many will remember pulling the cord up and down the sheets behind the Prince. Now we are into the Millennium. Through the use of DI water for
flooding and pebbling and an electric driven ice scraper, the Marshfield Curling Club joined other curling clubs in the era of “Jet-Ice.”
There were some bumps in the road, literally. In 1989 we were forced to deal with a severe problem on sheet 3, a large heave area of the ice presumably caused by underlying frost. We made it through the season with the ice defect, even had some fun with naming the various defects, but something had to be done. During the summer the west side of the building had to be excavated and adequate insulation placed which did prevent the ice heaving in future years.