It was 75 years ago that a 10-year-old girl helped her father shingle the newly constructed one-sheet curling rink he built in Rokeby, Sask. Now, some time later, Joan Buckmaster has been presented with a lifetime membership at the Moose Jaw Curling Centre.
“I started curling at age 10 in a little hamlet. My dad was really instrumental in starting a one-sheet curling rink. I don’t know where he learned about it, but the community all got together, and we built this little rink. It was pretty bad, but we curled,” Buckmaster recalled.
“My brother used to say it was 40 (Celsius) below outside, and 45 (below) in there,” she added.
The one-sheet rink would be the setting where Buckmaster learned the ropes of curling and began what would become a life-long passion for the popular prairie sport.
“It was natural ice, and we used to hitch up our horses and curl at night,” she said. “That was where I started.”
Following this introduction, Buckmaster would go on to curl in high school with her coach, Mr. Harold Ford, and shortly after that she moved to Moose Jaw.
“I didn’t curl right away, but I guess maybe in a couple years I joined the club that used to be on Caribou Street. From there, I went to… The Hilltop (Curling Club). I curled with a lady there named Mrs. Parker.
“After The Hilltop, they built the other club… the Hillcrest. We curled up there until the new (rink) was built.
“I’ve curled in just about every competitive group: ladies, seniors, and then masters. We had Army, Navy, and Air Force Veterans (ANAVETS) and we did a teacher’s (league) – anything that we could get into was good for a go.”
For Buckmaster, the membership award is well-received but also well-deserved. For the past decade, she has been a strong supporter of the Lindale School’s curling program. As part of her volunteer duties, Buckmaster came out after school each Wednesday throughout the curling season to share her knowledge and curling expertise.
“I’m afraid I never won big in curling. We came so close to provincials so many times, but something would go wrong, or we just wouldn’t do it. We did win in the smaller ones, like teacher’s and ANAVETS, but not the Saskatchewan Provincials.
“We were right to the last rock so many times, but it just didn’t happen. That’s okay (though),” she said in good spirit. “It isn’t really the winning anyways; it’s all the stuff you did along the way. Winning would have been nice though,” she added.
Buckmaster said one key benefit offered by curling is a sense of camaraderie.
“One thing I might mention is that I’m curling right now in the two-by-two with my granddaughter. It’s a lot of fun to come with her, discuss the shots and the strategies, and how we can improve.”
The sport also teaches many valuable lessons that can be applied on and off the ice.
“I remember curling with Stanley Montgomery one time and being five down coming home. It was in a bonspiel. Wouldn’t you know it, we got the five, and then we stole in the extra end to win a little camera. It was such a good memory, because it always made me realize there’s always hope if you’re out there.”
Buckmaster’s decision to volunteer has made a significant impact on local youths introduced to the sport. Her patience and consistency helped her young students learn the game and improve their curling skills.
After a still-ongoing 75-year curling career, Buckmaster had a few tips to share with novice curlers looking for that extra edge.
“Focus – learning how to focus is one thing you should have (to do) to get better,” she advised.
Another helpful piece of advice is playing to your strengths. “It would be a little crazy for me to think I can do 20-foot runbacks. I could probably do one, but it wouldn’t be too accurate. I would say, (play) to your ability.
“And just curl lots, I guess,” she added.
“If you’re struggling, get a coach and get some help,” she advised. One individual she recommended is Merv Fonger, who has taught her a few techniques and, along with his wife Roberta Fonger and Shaunna Fritzler with the Curling Centre, presented the recent award to her.
Buckmaster’s lifetime membership award comes after considering this legacy and is a nice way to celebrate her diamond anniversary of commitment to the sport.
“Thank you, Joan, for your commitment to keeping curling alive and well in Moose Jaw,” wrote Roberta Fonger and Shaunna Fritzler on Buckmaster’s approved official nomination form.
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