Friday, March 21, 2014

Bill Charmatz and the Megeve Silver Broom

By Bob Cowan

Bill Charmatz is a well known American illustrator, who died in 2005. There is a website dedicated to his work and maintained by his daughter, see here. Reading this you will learn that Bill Charmatz was born in New York in 1925. He attended the School of Industrial Arts in Manhattan and served in the US Navy in WW2. During his freelance illustration career he drew for The New York Times, Washington Post, Esquire Magazine, Playboy, Fortune, Life, Time, and Sports Illustrated. He illustrated a weekly column for the last mentioned for over twenty years.

Last year, several Charmatz cartoons came to light during renovations at a Canadian curling club. These drawings appeared to be authentic. But there's nothing that records his involvement with the sport of curling. There's no record that they were ever published, and that's the reason for this post on the Curling History blog today. Can we find out more about them?

'Not hurling you idiot! Curling, curling!' is shown above. 

This is my favourite. An 'Andy Capp' character curling on skis! And it gives a clue to when the illustrator encountered our sport - at the Air Canada Silver Broom World Curling Championship in Megeve, France, in 1971. It is known that Charmatz had an assignment to cover skiing in France. His daughter has confirmed that he was in that country in 1971. Some of the illustrations have an Air Canada Silver Broom sticker attached. Were the cartoons drawn officially for Air Canada, or for the local organising committee? An approach to the airline's archives has not produced any explanation.

Air Canada sponsored the World Men's Curling Championship from 1968 through to 1985 - the 'Silver Broom', as it was always known. The airline contracted out the organisation of the event to an 'executive director' called Doug Maxwell. Doug and his own team worked with local organising committees each year to make sure the competition went ahead successfully, in whichever country it was to be held. 1971 was early in the sponsorship, and what was to become a successful format, involving players, fans and media, was just beginning to take shape. Prior to 1971, the competition had visited Pointe Claire (Quebec, Canada), Perth (Scotland) and Utica (USA). The event continued to grow over the years that followed. At Megeve, the following countries participated: Canada, France, Germany, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland and USA. Canada beat Scotland 9-5 in the final, see here.

Doug Maxwell would probably have been able to solve the mystery of the Charmatz drawings, but he died a few years back. There may be others who can remember what linked Bill Charmatz to the Megeve Silver Broom. Can you help? 

Do you have memories of the 1971 Silver Broom? Did one of the Air Canada flight attendants who worked the event have an accident at Megeve, prompting the cartoon above? Are there still competitors from the 1971 competition reading this, or their families who travelled to support them? Perhaps members of the local organising committee, or national curling organisations, or the media, may be able to help?

Please do get in touch.

There's an interesting video about Bill Charmatz's life and work, in two parts, here and here.

Sonja Laurin has kindly allowed me to put up these Bill Charmatz images.

POSTSCRIPT added April 8, 2014.
The mystery has been solved. Information has come from Margaret Hare, the sister-in-law of the late Pat Hare, a member of the Morrisburg Curling Club where the cartoons were found.  

“Patricia Hare worked in the Public Affairs Department of Air Canada for 38 years. She joined Air Canada in 1947 when it was called Trans Canada Airlines. During her career, Pat became the Coordinator for Special Projects. She enjoyed curling and was thrilled when Air Canada became the sponsor of the Silver Broom from 1968 to 1985. Her position with Air Canada allowed her to travel and attend many of the Silver Broom Tournaments. As a result, she was able to acquire the drawings by Bill Charmatz. When Pat retired she moved from Montreal, where she belonged to the Wentworth Curling Club, to Iroquois and spent many happy times at the Morrisburg Curling Club. She participated in many bonspiels and volunteered for many activities within her community such as the Club's coordinator for the Scott Tournament of Hearts in 1990”.

So it was Pat Hare, in her role with Air Canada, who is the link between the Charmatz drawings and Morrisburg Curling Club.

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