Those Scots certainly loved their games. They didn’t just invent golf, but invented curling too, and when I was growing up, jam can curling was one of the outdoor games we’d play in the wintertime, at school. Made from empty jam cans, it was recycling before anyone knew what recycling was. And it was great fun.
In 1973, our city – Regina – was hosting the Air Canada Silver Broom – the Men’s World Curling Championships. All the schools in the city were encouraged to get involved. Our teachers decided to set up some curling sheets on the school grounds and put out a call to all our parents at the beginning of the school year to to save the Empress and Nabob jam cans so they could be used to make a poor-man’s version of a curling stone.
I don’t remember exactly who did all the work in getting those cans in shape for curling at our school, but our teachers were always busy doing something to help out — especially if it involved fun – which included track and field in the summer and curling in the winter. Oh, and Wine and Cheese evenings with the PTA. My guess is that Mr. Thiele and Mr. Leontowich spearheaded this particular project.
To make a curling stone out of a jam can, the bottom needed to be hammered out to be round enough to slide down the ice. I’d guess that was the first step.
Then, the interior was filled with cement to mimic the heaviness of a real curling stone, which is supposed to be between 38 and 44 pounds – HEAVY!. Once it was dry, the cement was spray-painted so each team could have rocks with colours of their own. I think we had two colours: red and green.
We had recess twice a day, and the first ones out the door and onto the ice would get the best rocks – the ones that rode the smoothest down the ice. We had brooms, what were proper curling brooms at the time, made out of corn straw, and some of them had their handles shortened so the shorter kids wouldn’t have so much trouble sweeping.
I think we had four curling lanes set up. We’d have to shovel, or sweep off the snow before we could begin a game, which would last until the school bell rang. At lunchtime, most kids would go home for lunch, and those of us who liked to curl would race back to school as soon as we finished, to play some more.
That year, our school was paired with the Danish Men’s team, which gave us an opportunity to learn something about Denmark in geography class, and, in music, to learn the Danish national anthem, which we sang to them when they came to our school for a visit. A local woman, who was born in Denmark, came to our school to help teach us how to sing that anthem: it was the first time that many of us had tried to read and pronounce a song in what seemed to be a truly foreign language. Later, I was told that Denmark had more than one national anthem.
That year, the Canadian team ran away with the Silver Broom, winning all their matches. Our Danish team, in red and white sweaters that reflected their country’s flag, came in dead last.
But we learned about Denmark, how to sing in another language (even if we had no idea what we were singing) and learned how to jam-can curl. It was a lot of fun.
The image I’ve used for this post comes from the Saskatchewan Archives. Although it’s not a picture of jam-can curling at our school, St John’s Elementary School in Regina, Saskatchewan, it looked just like that.