Curling club a home away from home

By Danna Farhang

The Ottawa Curling Club is an attractive red-brick building that sits on the corner of O’Connor and Catherine streets, a piece of Ottawa’s history just moments away from the hectic pace of the Queensway’s rush hour traffic.

Walking into the building, the comforting smells of fried food, the creaky carpeted floors, the solid wooden staircase, the giant fireplace and the large painted portrait of founder Allan Gilmour surrounded by dozens of plaques and old photographs.

The club has discussed has informally discussed applying to the city for heritage status but has never done anything about it.

The top notch curling facilities and the cheers from the excited fans make it perfectly clear that this is a home away from home for many.

Bob Gamble, a curler for more than 50 years, sits and enjoys a beer in the lounge as he talks fondly about his club.

“People from all walks of life and all parts of the city come here. Rich guys, poor guys and in between. It’s like a home, a completely comfortable place to be,” he says.

The Ottawa Curling Club (originally called the Bytown Curling Club) was founded more than 150 years ago, in 1851. As the city’s oldest curling club, it had its beginnings on the ice of the Rideau Canal, with 14 members and Gilmour casting the first stone into Ottawa curling history. In 1916, after a number of venue changes, the club finally found its permanent home on O’Connor Street.

Past club members include many notables from Canadian history.

Former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was an honorary member who appreciated the benefits of a good curling match-up.

Adding to the cozy atmosphere of the club, people move about freely; laughter, jokes and plenty of back-slapping in the lounge area mix with the sounds of cheers and tense shouts from the fans in the stands.

The club’s vibrancy also gives way to a competitive environment — one that has helped members bring home championship titles over the decades. More recently, John Morris’ World Junior men’s championships in and the 2002 victory of the Provincial Senior women’s championship, a long line of winners have come out of the club.

This month, the Ottawa and Rideau curling clubs played host to the Karcher Canadian Junior Curling Championships, bringing out players from across Canada.

During recent tie-breaker matches at the club, the enthusiasm was evident as fans from across the nation came out to root for their home teams. Geoff Sheppard, a member for the past five years out to enjoy the matches, noted the importance of the club. “I think this curling club is a focal point (for Centertown), its history, its background. But it’s the curling that’s the draw.”

While sitting down to talk, president of the club, Gord Perry Jr. is interrupted by a cheerful stream of friends making jokes and taking good-natured jabs. “The camaraderie we have after the game. . .The winners and the losers shake hands and then sit around the table and gab,” says Perry, clearly enjoying it all.

The history of the club runs deep in the heart of Perry Jr. as he carries on as president, like his father did. Gord Perry Sr., who is 99 years old, holds the honour of having a curling tournament (a bonspiel in curling terms) named after him.

Summing up the general feeling of the Ottawa Curling Club, Perry Jr. adds, “That’s what I really do love about the game of curling. It’s a fellowship, a friendship.”