The Cambridge Curling Club has come a long way since co-founders Tom Satrom and Dr. Odell Johnson set up a sheet of ice in the pig barn on the Isanti County Fairgrounds.
A special night to celebrate 40 years of curling in town will be held at the club Saturday, Feb. 8.
The history of the Cambridge Curling Club has ties to clubs in Grand Forks, N.D., and northern Minnesota.
“In the early 1950s, my uncles, my dad and their wives got the Grand Forks club going. And so we curled quite a bit and traveled competitively,” began Satrom, who has a law office in Cambridge. “Then I came over to Cambridge and began talking curling with Doc Johnson, who was just a hard-driving, unique individual and an optometrist here. He had curled up in Baudette. There was one other curler in town, Jack Maki — a teacher and a skillful carpenter, who had curled up on the Range. So it went from talking to seeing what we could do.”
The first season had eight teams trying out curling on two nights a week, and the first bonspiel, or curling tournament, was hosted the first weekend in February 1974. An unique agreement with the Isanti County Fair Board helped create the present building which, under Maki’s supervision, sprung from the ground later that year.
Concrete floors were added to hold the ice sheets the following year, along with a compressor system bought from the abandoned Nike missile base in Isanti.
More scrambling was done to purchase a matted ice-making system, and 32 curling rocks were found at the Rice Lake Curling Club to use in the first bonspiel in the new home.
That year, Satrom relatives from Grand Forks and St. Paul clubs joined in the bonspiel, and the first club banquet has held at the Satrom home. Next year, the banquet was larger and was held at Clint Moline’s home. After that, membership grew past 100 and the banquets moved to establishments around town.
“This is a happy thing that in today’s competitive recreational spending that a club can survive this long. I don’t care if you’re a tennis club or a golf course or whatever, it’s competitive out there,” Satrom said. “Just to survive 40 years, I think, is a real achievement. That’s a credit to current leadership and to past leadership.”
Satrom continued: “The sad thing is — looking at the charter members of the Gateway Club — is a lot of those people aren’t there any more; they’re dead. And that right away starts making you think, ‘You’re getting old, man; you’re getting old!’”
John Munkberg is the ice man who maintains the quality of the curling club’s sheets.
“John has been doing this for at least 25 years, and he has some good equipment over there now. He’s one of those unsung heroes. He’s out there early in the morning or late at night cleaning and flooding, when no one else is around,” Satrom said.
“Men were involved in that formative stage, but something that shouldn’t be overlooked is the integral impact women members have made over the years,” Satrom said. “The women got involved the first year of the main club. They curl, they’re active in leadership, they make the place look better and they were always bringing food to the events — making the club a bit more homey, if you will.” He added with a laugh, “You know how guys are: If it’s Sheetrocked, that’s good enough.”
The club also has ties to Scotland, the originating country of curling. The Herries-Maxwell Trophy is a three-week tour exchange hosted every five years between Scotland and the U.S. The Scottish team visited the Cambridge Curling Club twice, the last time in 1997. Club member and past president Lynette Munkberg made the trip to Scotland in 1996 as part of the women’s version of the goodwill curling exchange.
“You know what is neat is that the Scots go to a lot of fancy clubs out East on this tour. We don’t have a fancy club, and they loved our place because we were down to earth. We had a roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings here with downhome cooking. They absolutely loved visiting here,” Satrom said with pride.
The cruel irony is that Satrom shredded his hip on the 1992 U.S. team’s Herries-Maxwell curling tour of Scotland, and the hip never healed well enough to curl extensively.
But he stayed in touch with the sport at a high level, working as the U.S. team leader at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville and the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Minnesota has six athletes on the two 2014 U.S. curling squads heading to the Sochi Olympics (Allison Pottinger-Eden Prairie, Jessica Schultz-Minneapolis, John Schuster-Duluth, Jeff Isaacson-Gilbert, John Landsteiner-Duluth, Jared Zezel-Hibbing). Satrom will be avidly watching the curling action when the Winter Olympics get underway Feb. 7.
“Ever since we got curling into the Olympics, more people are becoming aware of the sport. Curling is a lifetime sport,” Satrom said. “My grandpa was curling at the age of 87 with his three sons. And sportsmanship guides the whole sport of curling. You could be at national championships or world championships and you still expect self-reporting of a violation. That’s still one of curling’s unique characteristics.”
Cambridge Curling Club 40th Anniversary Open House
Saturday, Feb. 8, 4-6 p.m. $5 for barbecue, pop and cake. Socialize and thank all the volunteers who have made the club a success for 40 years. Non-member guests are invited to bring a clean pair of shoes to try out curling.
CHARTER MEMBERS OF THE CAMBRIDGE CURLING CLUB
(Originally named Gateway Curling Club – 1974)
David Anderson, Dean Anderson, Gary Anderson, Leon Anderson, Kevin Bauer, Bill Binger, Dennis Carpenter, Jim Chalstrom, Donn Fredlund, Jerry Fredlund, Lynn Guthrie, Neil Hendrickson, Dr. C. Odell Johnson, Dennis Kerr, Adolph Larson, Jim Lawrence, Shorty Lawrence, Jack Maki, Bob Manke, Clayton Mason, Gary Middag, Clint Moline, Craig Moline, Dennis Olson, Arnie Niedorf, Gary Palmquist, Dixson Pearson, Dan Ruud, Tom Satrom, Ron Sherek, Dave Skalbeck, Don Spencer, Jack Tingblad, Steve Watson.
“The ice was natural ice that first year, and so it was a relatively short season. And, as you might imagine, the ice was neither keen nor perfectly level … made worse by the fact it was impossible to keep clean since all but one of the curlers used snowmobile boots, overshoes or rubbers on the ice. …
“But despite the fact that the ice was marginal in quality, it was the greatest sheet of ice that had ever been laid in the eyes and minds of those first curlers in Cambridge. It certainly served its purpose as it enabled all the curlers to actually try the game and to enjoy it. … I doubt if any curling spectators anywhere have been as close to the action as our spectators were. … They would run alongside the sweepers and the rock as it traveled down the ice, sometimes encouraging the sweepers and sometimes harassing them!”
– From “The Formative Years” written by Tom Satrom for the Cambridge Curling Club’s 25th anniversary
CURRENT LEAGUES AT CAMBRIDGE CURLING CLUB
• Monday Night Women’s
• Tuesday Night Men’s and Open
• Wednesday Night Men’s
• Thursday Night Men’s
• Friday Night Mixed
• Sunday Open Curling 4-6 p.m.
2013-2014 CAMBRIDGE CURLING CLUB LEADERS
• president Brad Swanson
• vice president Jeff Anlauf
• treasurer Steve Kast
• secretary Kelli Ellingson
• directors Trisha Curtis, Tom Heinen, Rich Polzin, Linda Swanson, Rob Willets, Wayne Yerigan.