A new LGBTQ curl in the old­est club’s broom

Mem­bers of Hamil­ton Vic­to­ria Curl­ing Club wel­come ‘100 per cent’ league on Fri­day nights

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - JEFF MA­HONEY

Hamil­ton, late July, and so what bet­ter time, with the ever-present threat of muggy, as­phyx­i­at­ing heat, to turn our thoughts to ... curl­ing!

Ah, yes, the cool­ing ice, the re­fresh­ing swish of the broom, the hand-knit sweaters with pat­terns of clas­sic Cana­dian im­agery, like criss-cross­ing beer bot­tles.

There’s no older curl­ing club in the city, and only one older in all of On­tario, than the Hamil­ton Vic­to­ria Curl­ing Club. It’s 150 this sum­mer, the old­est con­tin­u­ously run­ning sports club of any kind in Hamil­ton (older even than the Around the Bay Race).

How did it sur­vive all this time? By con­tin­u­ously adapt­ing. And right now “adap­ta­tion” means invit­ing the for­ma­tion of an LGBTQ league to re­pop­u­late the club’s lan­guish­ing Fri­day night drop-in spot.

When the club be­gan in 1867, I’m not sure what they would’ve made of it all. For one thing, I don’t think they had acronyms back then. If they did, I think their best guess about LGBTQ might have been “Loy­al­ists! God Bless The Queen.”

But this is a dif­fer­ent world, and while the love of curl­ing hasn’t changed, at­ti­tudes about other mat­ters have.

“When I brought the idea for­ward,” says club pres­i­dent Gord Howarth, “I was not sure how it was go­ing to be re­ceived, but 100 per cent of the board said, ‘What a great idea. Let’s go for it.’ It speaks well for the club.”

The idea it­self, he ex­plains, grew out of con­ver­sa­tions with Deirdre Pike, in her ca­pac­i­ties both as se­nior so­cial plan­ner with the So­cial Plan­ning and Re­search Coun­cil of Hamil­ton and as a curler at Vic­to­ria. (Deirdre will be do­ing an LGBTQ pos­i­tive space train­ing ses­sion for the club, as well as for Rosedale Ten­nis Club and Roselawn Lawn Bowling Club, in Septem­ber).

“The gay com­mu­nity no longer has a gay bar in Hamil­ton,” says Gord. “It lost a meet- ing place. At the same time, our Fri­day night drop-in has pe­tered out, part of the ebb and flow.

“It was time to see if there is any in­ter­est in an LGBTQ curl­ing club (ide­ally on Fri­day night). There’s a curl­ing club in Toronto (that) tried an LGBTQ league and it’s a huge suc­cess. And that suc­cess pro­vided fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity for the club.”

That’s some­thing — fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity — that HVCC is keenly sen­si­tive about. It has hy­dro bills in the win­ter, which, es­pe­cially at cur­rent rates, ac­count for 30 per cent of every mem­ber­ship, says Gord. And the gran­ite rocks aren’t cheap. New ones pur­chased sev­eral years ago cost nearly $40,000.

The curl­ing’s not on right now, so when Gord tours me through the old build­ing, the big rink is a sand-coloured ex­panse of floor, cor­ru­gated with re­frig­er­a­tion pipes. In­ter­est­ing to see it like this. The build­ing has many nice touches and loads of his­tory — ban­ners, pho­to­graphs, tro­phies, mark­ing such mile­stones as the HVCC’s vic­tory in the 1926 Tankard, fore­run­ner of the Brier.

Many greats came out of HVCC. El­iz­a­beth Bagshaw, one of Canada’s first women doc­tors and birth con­trol pi­o­neer, curled at HVCC all her life.

The 150th an­niver­sary finds the club at an ex­cit­ing junc­ture in its on­go­ing story.

Not only the LGBTQ league, but also a grant of $110,000 from the Fu­ture Fund that al­lowed them over the last cou­ple of years to up­grade their elec­tri­cal and seal up some leak­ing among other things; and a new ice­maker in Chris Cairns.

The club, 250 strong, is busy with ac­tive leagues, in­clud­ing pro­grams for learn­ers, young peo­ple, mixed curl­ing, se­niors dur­ing the day, Do­fasco curl­ing on Thurs­days, Spe­cial Olympics and schools in ar­eas of need. And the fu­ture, Gord hopes, holds yet more — con­ver­sion to so­lar; step-up as an af­ford­able down­town ban­quet fa­cil­ity.

Gord, pres­i­dent for all of six weeks, started curl­ing when he met his wife, an avid curler. “She told me, ‘If you’re gonna talk to me, you’ve gotta curl.’ Be­fore kids, our monthly curl­ing bill at one time was big­ger than our mort­gage.

“In win­ter, it’s too easy to sit in front of the TV. Curl­ing’s a good mix of skill and so­cial.”

If in­ter­ested in LGBTQ league or more on club, Ad­min@hamil­ton­vic­to­ri­a­club.com or 905-528-6331.

GARY YOKOYAMA, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Vic­to­ria Curl­ing Club trea­surer Pe­ter Cross is a mem­ber of the board, which is strongly in favour of invit­ing the LGBTQ com­mu­nity to join the club and de­velop a league.

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