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Watson’s book packed full of history, attire lessons

By David Garber, U.S. Curling News Columnist, Bookish?

to). J. Ken Watson was the first three-time Brier winner (then called the MacDonald Brier), in 1936, 1942 and 1949. But Watson was known for more than his three titles. He was an advocate, skilled practitioner and teacher of the long slide delivery, removing his toe rubber to slide on his leather sole as a young man (some of these terms will sound like Greek to younger readers). Te book is packed with photographs and drawings. Te chapter on “Te Sliding Delivery” has a


sub-section on objections to the slide (mostly concerning perceived disadvantaging of


traditional non-sliding curlers). Rule changes ultimately allowed for increased athleticism and grace for shooters: from mandating rock release by the tee line; then the hog line, with the proviso that the curler’s body must stop before the hog line; finally, aſter a couple of years of goofy, awk- ward looking stops at the hog, the rules required rock release by the hog but allowed for graceful follow throughs for as long as the player cared to slide. In championship play, well aſter Watson’s day,

the major problem of bad hog line violation calls was solved with the introduction of the sensor handle. (In defense of the officials, hog line call- ing was a difficult, thankless, boring, cold assign- ment.) Watson notes that, in the 1930s, Dominion

(Brier) Championship skips Bob Gourlay and Howard Wood did not even leave the hack in de- livery. No slide at all! One of Watson’s contribu- tions was to justify and teach the slide delivery. By the 1960s, almost all top curlers used at least a medium slide, although many still had a nearly upright slide, broom arm up for balance. Te “tuck,” with its not-yet-widely-known knee kill- ing downside, had become popular with many young players.

ne of my favorite books about curling is “Ken Watson On Curling” (©1950, 177pp., Te Copp Clark Co., Toron-

Other chapters include Strategy, Te Psychol-

ogy of Team Play, and More Ways to Better Curl- ing (including sweeping, corn in those days). Watson advocated a strategy approach that in

the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s was out of favor, called “the junk game,” but which returned to vogue with the advent of the Free Guard Zone. Young skips might broaden their strategic skills by reading Watson’s book. Watson had an effective career as a curling ad-

ministrator, heading the Manitoba Curling As- sociation during a period of growth. Dressing a curler in the old days

Te book’s many photographs can be used as

training aids, but now, in addition, comprise an historical look at curling attire. In Watson’s day, many curlers wore really cool outfits, including fedoras (for men), snazzy, baggy dress slacks ala Victor Mature (like zubas with class) and for women, stretch ski pants. If you gotta ask about these terms, check with your grandparents. To ward off the cold in unheated clubs, very

bulky sweaters with side pockets were de rigueur. Many clubs were unheated then, so long johns, kind of like male yoga pants worn underneath, were valued togs then. Curling shoes for both genders were more like boots – thick, high sided, warm. (See photo of fedoras (and cigarettes!) on P30. Photo courtesy of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame website, sort=name).

Columnist’s notes: I stand corrected: Wisconsin’s Jim O’Neill,

lately of Appleton with Tri-City curling club roots, provides correct information in response to my recent column, writing, “You remember that the old Tri-City club was in the parking lot of the Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company (NEC- PO) with all the wonderful ice vagaries brought by building on a parking lot. When NEPCO (by then I think officially Great Northern Nekoosa) decided they wanted the parking lot for them- selves, they graciously made the arrangement for the space next to Centralia Dam (just inside the Wisconsin Rapids city limit). I don’t remember

the exact financial numbers but I think it was a token amount — perhaps someone else has al- ready passed you that info. While Consolidated has been a great neighbor, they were not involved in the land swap.” I do remember, thanks — first curled at the original club circa 1964, a high school dual meet. Russell anecdote: Former USCA president and

champion senior curler David Russell recalls a notable use of sports psychology at the 1976 men’s nationals. In those days, the round robin winner won

the event — no semi-final/final playoffs. Tese were the pre-Free Guard Zone days, when skilled hitting teams could keep the ice open, very low scoring games were common, oſten 2-1, some- times 1-0, with hammer advantage even more important than today. Oſten, in the ninth end, especially with a two-point lead, the hammer team would throw their first rock through the house to keep the end clean, hoping to retain the hammer in the 10th

but willing to give up one. Tese games could be boring and, in fact,

when curling was on the cusp of Olympic medal status, the then-IOC president Samaranch stat- ed to then-WCF president Hummelt, “You’ve got to make this game more interesting.” Te Free Guard Zone rule was adopted by the WCF shortly thereaſter, and curling became a TV hit during the Olympic Winter Games. Back to Rus- sell’s story: “Minnesota (Roberts rink) and Wisconsin

(Somerville) had tied for first at 10-1 in the round robin, so they played one another in the champi- onship final. Roberts scored two in the first end, then had his lead throw his first rock through the house in the SECOND end. I did not see that, but (USCA Hall of Fame member) Elgie Noble said it was the most intimidating thing he had seen in curling.” (Roberts won.) Q

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