Wednesday, September 26, 2012

American Curlers at Ayr Ice Rink in 1952

by Bob Cowan

On Friday, January 11, 1952, a Pan Am airliner called 'Flying Cloud' (* see below) landed at Prestwick airport with twenty-four members of the first team of US curlers to visit Scotland. They were met by Provost Milligan of Prestwick, Walter Bain (the Tour Convenor), John Watson (Ayr), John Allison (Ayr), Thomas Hobkirk (First English Province), and James Hamilton (Secretary of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club). The tourists travelled directly 'by special motor coach' to the Central Hotel, Glasgow, and that evening they were formally welcomed by the Royal Club President, David M Hutchison, and attended a dinner and reception at the City Chambers hosted by The Lord Provost of Glasgow, Sir Victor D Warren. This information comes from a report in the Annual of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club for 1952-53.

The American curlers played first at the Scottish Ice Rink, Crossmyloof, Glasgow, and in the weeks that followed visited the rinks at Ayr, Perth, Aberdeen, Dundee, Falkirk, Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline, before finishing up in Edinburgh for games on February 9. The final days of the tour and the closing celebrations were tempered by the death of King George VI on February 6, and the period of national mourning that followed.

A trophy had been donated for Scotland-USA competition by Commander Herries-Maxwell who was President of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1950-51, see here. In 1952 Scotland emerged on top by 479 shots to 366. The Herries-Maxwell trophy is still played for. Indeed, earlier this year, the American team won it. See this post.

In David B Smith's archive is a reel of 16mm film, taken by local enthusiast David Stratton. The film contains a clip of the American curlers playing at the Ayr rink. David and I arranged for the film to be digitised, and the four minute clip can now be watched here, or just click on the image above. There's no sound.

The original Ayr Ice Rink at 21 Beresford Terrace was built in 1939 for skating, ice hockey and curling. It was demolished in 1972 to make way for a supermarket development. There's a photo of curling at the rink in the web page of the Ayr Figure Skating Club here.

I curled at Ayr a number of times in the 1960s, so seeing this footage brings back lots of memories. One thing I do remember about the timed curling sessions was that the bell would ring, and you would finish the end you were on, and then play one more. In my home rink at Crossmyloof, you just finished the end you were playing when the bell rung. Just how the Herries Maxwell games were played in 1952 is uncertain.

When watching the footage online, look out for the large stage at the end of the rink, the skaters using the end ice, and the wide straw brooms some of the Americans were using.

The Royal Club report does not list all twenty-four players, although some names are evident from the match results at the various rinks, which give skips' names. The USA side included FL van Epps, AB Backstrom, WJ Polski, EW Fiske, AJ Dalton, P Moreland, R Bennett, HW Kochs, C Sargent and EW Freytag. I am sure that this last is the same Elmer Freytag after whom the World Curling Freytag Award is named. Freytag was to become a key player of the US Curling Association which had yet to be formed, and he was one of the founding members of the International Curling Federation which is now the World Curling Federation. Perhaps someone can recognise him in the video.

There is another photo of the US curlers in this post.

*This is most likely to have been the Pan American World Airlines Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, N1028V, Clipper Flying Cloud, which entered service in 1949 and can be seen in this photo, and in the air here. (The earlier Boeing 307 Stratoliner which carried the same name is preserved in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, see here and here.)

ADDED LATER: David Garber has been in touch with the complete 25-strong US team roster, with name and curling club, by USCA state/region:

Grand National
E.W. Fiske, Jr., Ardsley
Albert Shaw, Jr., Ardsley
Mills Ten Eyck, Schenectady
John MacFarlane, Mahopee (Yonkers, NY)
W.R. Henderson, Utica
John P. Carr, Winchester (MA)
Howard Eteson, Winchester
Richard P. Hallowell, The Country Club (Brookline, MA)
Harold S. Cutler, TCC

Great Lakes
Dr. James Lammy, Detroit
John McKinlay, Detroit
A.J. Dalton, Detroit
Paul Moreland, Detroit

Elmer Freytag, Chicago
Joseph Jardine, Chicago
Herbert Kochs, Chicago
Chester Sargent, Chicago

Walter Polski, Eveleth
A.G. Backstrom, St. Paul

David Bogue, Portage
Ross Bennett, Portage
Frank Van Epps, Portage
A.L. Papenfuss, Wausau
Helmus Wells, Wauwatosa
Edward Fitzgerald, Milwaukee

The images are screenshots from the videoclip.


old david said...

Another fabulous piece of curling memorabilia from two of our most dedicated curlers. I love the three piece suits, and the Scottish Skip on rink A (I still remember which way round they were) has a handkerchief in his breast pocket..... delightful.

I notice the American team does not indicate handle by the hand they hold the brush with. Our habit of doing so here is perhaps because so many of us learned on ice that was not true, you really had to call the handle not just assume the natural turn was correct.

I had forgotten about the bell and one more end, although I do remember the 12 end semi-final and 14 end final regime. Were the sessions still three hours in the old Ayr rink?

Unknown said...

My dad’s Uncle Bob was a curler and I have some metal badges which must have been brought over by the Americans for their trip.