FAIRBANKS CURLING CLUB HISTORY
The Klondike Gold Rush of '98 brought Scots and the game of curling to Dawson City, Yukon Territory of Canada. Then, in 1902, a new strike in the Pedro Creek and Cleary Creek areas near Barnette's Cache (now Fairbanks) attracted many of the goldrushers from the Klondike and curling was introduced to the Alaska Territory. By 1905, the Fairbanks Curling Club had been established and it now has the honor of being the oldest club devoted to any sport in Alaska.
During the 1905 and 1906 season, curling games were played on the Northern Commercial Company's dock located on the river bank and in front of the present location of the Key Bank parking lot. The dock about 60 feet wide, reached from Barnette Street to Turner Street. Exhibition games were played in the open on the river ice during the spring months when the weather had moderated and the ice was suitable.
During the summer of 1908, the first curling rink was built on ground purchased from the city and was located on Second Avenue between Cowles and Wickersham Streets (the old club is now the Friends Church, Assembly of God). It was a long wood frame building affording two sheets of ice and a very small spectator area. Since there was no clubroom, curling functions were held elsewhere and the 100F Hall was the place of choice. Prior to World War II, the annual Curlers Ball, which was attended by invitation only, was held at the Moose Hall and was the gala event of the year,
In 1935, Fairbanks curlers effected an exchange with Dawson City curlers, with participants flying between the two cities. Thus the annual International Bonspiel started. There were men rinks and women rinks, with each participating in their own bonspiel. Thus the International bonspiel is, in effect, two bonspiels played simultaneously and this format continues to this day. During the war years the visits were suspended as the Fairbanks Club was commandeered by the military and used by Smith Construction, which built the telephone line along the Alaska Highway.
After the war, curling resumed, in the original two-sheet club and in 1952 the east wall was torn down and replaced with concrete blocks. Shortly thereafter the club acquired a house and lot adjoining on the west. The house was used for several seasons to accommodate visiting curlers. It was torn down in 1956 when the club was expanded to three sheets.
In 1957 the United States Men Curling Association was formed with Alaska being a full member. March, 1957, the first championship playdown was held in Chicago Stadium.
By 1961 the curling club was suffering from growing pains and neighbors were complaining about the number of cars cluttering up the adjacent streets. Club members decided a site vacated by the Civil Aeronautics Administration would be a suitable site for a new curling club and efforts began in that direction. Club members discussed the proposal with the city Planning officer and Harold Gillam, who was then city engineer, later mayor, and an active curler. In due time, the club received City approval and obtained a lease on a tract of land with 300 feet of frontage on Second Avenue and 390 feet deep. In Order to finance construction of the new facility, the club went to members for five and ten year notes. Arne Hanson, a club member, drew up the plans and by August of 1962, excavation was under way for the first three sheets of ice. The first footings for the current club were poured about the first of September, 1962. As longtime Fairbanks curler, Kenneth A. Murray recalls, 'We had a lot of talent in the club, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, heavy duty equipment operators, crane men, and they all donated their services. Work not done on a volunteer basis was done at cost. Equipment was donated by local contractors such as Reed & Martin, GHEMM, Peter Kiewit, Worthington, Wilburs and others. U.S. Smelting and Refining Co., Commonly know as the Fairbanks Exploration Co., was closing down its operation here as was Reed & Martin, and they donated timber, steel and bolts.
Our treasurer at the time was Dick Ludwig, who was a structural engineer with Fairbanks Exploration. "I would say he is one reason our dance floor stands up to the pounding it takes," Murray says. As construction continued and the building crept out of the ground, Murray recalls that one day he counted 55 curlers on the job. He adds, "Snow flurries had begun when we built the roof and when we hot mopped it, we had, to brush the snow off first. There were no roofers in the club, but Pruhs and Fivey did the labor and we furnished the materials and some amateur roofers. Those roofers who assisted us receive memberships in the club."
The curling club had retained the downtown facility and both locations were used in the 1962 season. The downtown property was sold and the second three sheets finished in time for the 1963-64 season. In 1976 the club purchased and installed equipment to refrigerate all six sheets. In 1980 the club celebrated its Golden Jubilee with a reenactment of curling downtown on the Chena River. The club has hosted several national and international curling competitions. These include the United States Men's Championship in 1981, the Arctic Winter Games in 1982 and 1988 and the United States Mixed Championship in 1988. In 1985, the Fairbanks team of Bev Birklid, skip; Peggy Martin, third; Jerry Evans, second; and Katrina Sharp, Lead won the United States Women's Championship in Hershey Pennsylvania and represented the U.S. at the Ladies World Championships in Jonkoping Sweden