Garrison Curling Club History
Read Bob Blakey’s compete historical record “The History of the Garrison Curling Club.”
The Garrison Curling Club’s beginnings are rooted in the military. Its original Quonset style building, within Calgary’s Currie Barracks, served as a recreation facility for army personnel and some non-military members. The first structure, which opened in 1961, was said to originally be a portable weapons WWII training centre from Coal Creek, AB.
The Garrison name was blessed by the 1960s Currie Barracks commander. The name was coined after 1950s non-permanent stationed army units who would temporarily pass through the base. This action was known as “garrisoning.”
Its founders, including some of today’s original members, worked hard to add improvements to the club such as a clubhouse and volunteer run lounge. In 1963, the Garrison Curling Club opened its doors to civilians and rental leagues. The junior program was then launched in 1967. In 1968, a Canadian “unification” program, led by Defence Minister Paul Hellyer, caused the rink to adopt an official name of the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Calgary Curling Club. However, many members never stopped calling it the Garrison.
In 1977, a new edition was built that featured add ons like a conference room, dance floor and offices. During this time the rink also really began to establish itself as a place where rank/status didn’t matter. Teammates weren’t known as colonels and privates, they were known as everyday people. 1973 member, Joe Ganter states that “once you were on the ice, you were Joe and Bob and Pete or whatever your name was.”
In June of 1987, the club faced tragedy. A fire broke out and destroyed both the clubhouse and lounge. The event cut off 290 curlers’ season, with some contemplating whether or not they had to look for a new rink.
The following year represented the club’s largest ever to-date recorded expenditure: rebuilding the club. In 1988, the CFB Calgary Curling Club re-opened with 200 strong. Volunteers helped cut an estimated final bill of just over a million dollars. The rebuild allowed for further improvements and equipment such as kitchen upgrades, sound systems and an ice plant overhaul. It was even designed to be easily expandable for six sheets of ice.
1990s and on
At the start of the 90s, the club was forced to borrow money from CFB Calgary, until the mid 90s, when it posted a healthy bank account surplus. The club’s success at this time was largely accredited to fundraising efforts. Between 1988 and 1997 the club was self-sufficient. It flourished within the city’s community and sported some headliner athletes. Curlers such as Paul Gowsell, Ron Northcott, George Fink, Frank Morissette, Wayne Sokolsky and Fred Britton played on Garrison ice.
The late 90s is where the Garrison would reclaim its original name, it was also a time that begin another major shift in the club’s history. In 1996, a cited cost cutting federal budget called for the club’s land. The base closure was set for 1998, with a federal agency called the Canada Lands Company assigned to handle the real estate deals. The original negotiable terms seemed promising for the club to stay, but ultimately went south as the years proceeded. In 2000, after a long fought battle, the rink officially vacated. Not until 2003, was the club able to secure a new location, where the current 2004 completed building stands.
The Garrison now functions as a solid fixture in southwest Calgary. The rink
is still guided by its long-term history of resiliency and unity
“It’s the social aspect that’s always brought people here. That hasn’t changed. People
like to have a drink after they’ve played, and in some of the leagues the winners buy
for the losers. That’s gone away in most of the bigger curling clubs in Calgary.”
Ganter says, "The Garrison Club is a great experience. It’s a social club as much as
a curling club.” Now with over 800 members, and mulitple rental leagues, this same sentiment continues to form the foundaton of the Garrison's culture.