The year was 1906 and the famous Middlesborough Mine was in full swing in the Nicola Valley. The miners came from all over Canada, England and the United States to work the coal mine. They worked together to make a sheet of ice to curl on to pass the time. The first sheet was near what is now the A&W, and was on natural ice beside the river. As you can imagine, there must have been an old shack with a pot bellied stove to warm up the curlers while they put on their shoes. They would have had to clean the snow off the ice before they could play, flooding would have also been a chore. The equipment would have been corn brooms and often knee sliders, and the dress would have been warmer and more of it than today.
By 1914, the curling rink and arena was where the Merritt Civic Centre is today. They were still curling on natural ice. Of course, the population was growing and Merritt was the new town site.
In 1949, January 10th, the men curlers made a motion to allow women to curl in the afternoon! WOW! By 1951, the men made another motion that the ladies could curl two nights a week! That year they also made a motion to allow high school boys over the age of 14 to curl after school and on Saturday morning.
By 1958, a dramatic event took place, and the curlers were forced to curl under the bleachers of the arena on natural ice. What a spectacle that would have been. In November of that year, work was started on the foundation of the new curling rink beside the existing arena.
In 1959, the new curling rink was opened with two sheets of artificial ice. A bonspiel for the men was held in the curling rink and the arena on October 31, 1959. Imagine going from natural ice to artificial – what a thrill. The ice machine is shared with the arena, which is a little different than other rinks.
In October of 1972, the existing curling rink was added on to both sides, now housing four sheets of ice. The original two sheets are where the current sheet 2 and 3 are today. The four sheets of ice were built by a $25,000 loan/grant with $25,000 of cash on hand. Further improvements followed, with a lounge, kitchen and office. In the mid 1970’s, bonspiels included using the arena with 4 sheets – 4 events – 48 teams.
In the 1950’s until the 1980’s curling in Merritt was played around the clock. The men and women helped each other with the cooking. Ladies hosted the out of town teams in their homes for meals and accommodation. The kitchen was in full swing, with everyone turning up for bacon and eggs for breakfast.
Here we are in the year 2009. Men and women both have full time jobs, the pace of life is quicker, with organized sports in every area, leaving little time for extra work. The kitchen is no longer used for breakfast and dinner, catering for meals is common, and the work and cleaning is paid for. The facility is still great, the curling is still fun, and we look forward to October every year, when the games begin!