People have tried to win it. Some have come close, but there are few who have actually won it. The distinguished Toilet Seat trophy is the prize for one of the longest-running sporting events in Shawville – the Community Bonspiel, which takes place at the Curling Club on Lang Street.
The Community Bonspiel began in 1976 with this year marking its 40th annual event. Records in the Pontiac Archives credit Bob Findlay, as the creator of the Toilet Seat trophy, but no mention was ever found to unravel the answer – why a Toilet Seat?
So, I will just settle on it was meant as a joke.
What is no joke is the praise the Bonspiel has been given through the years. The event has had a peak of 72 teams and 288 players involved, which leads to claims it’s been the largest bonspiel on a single rink – in the world. Others say it’s really the largest, on one rink in one community in North America, while a few more argue the bonspiel’s ‘officially’ been the largest in one community in only Canada, because nobody else could refute the fact.
The little bonspiel beginnings started because of the brainstorming of Harold Hall, Bill Kuehl and Doug Young. The mill happened to be on strike at the time and the threesome were coming up with the ideas to get people interested in curling, but the club needed to raise money to help pay off the mortgage on the building.
The Community Bonspiel in 1976 kicked off with a 5pm start on Monday, February 2. There were 23 men and one lady for the first three matches. Claire O’Donnell threw the first rock. Games followed at 7 and 9. The curling happened all-week and was considered an open house for the club. The event wrapped on February 8 and a total of 48 teams took part.
Shawville’s mayor at the time, Orla Young, presented the Toilet Seat trophy to the team members of Bank of Montreal: Brian Kilgour, Debbie Kilgour, Janet McCord and Gordon Pehleman.
The second year, the Bonspiel was considered another success. The 1977 team of the Pontiac Hospital were declared the big winners with Bill Watson, Carson Ryan, Ron Campbell and Neil Richardson playing. The Bonspiel had 48 teams involved again, with only the top 32, going home with prizes.
Dixie Atkinson, Dorothy Cowley, Nancy Lemay and Shirley Delaurier were awarded best costumes that year. Although no prizes were given to them the following year, their costumes were a hit again.
Laird Murray had been the Chairman for a stint and recollected the costumes were a common sight at the Community Bonspiel, in the early days. He was noted, telling the tale about a guy had worn a dress, with braces and when he bent over for a curling rock, the dress would rise up and a heart was painted on his backside.
Sonny Germain and his team from Bryson, Forest Inn, was the winner for the third edition of the Bonspiel. The Shawville Lions team of Nelson Angus, Bill Kearnan, Ven Crisostemo and John Musgrove came out on top for 1981.
The Bonspiel was growing through all this time as well; 1988 was when it hit a record of 66 teams.
The milestone of the 40th Community Bonspiel will kick off on the evening of January 29 at the Curling Club and the public is welcome to come out and watch. Although teams have dwindled from the peak days of 72, a committee has managed to scrounge up 66, which is an increase from the 54 teams that played last year.
The winning team will be declared 10 days later – on February 8.
Current Chairman, Stu Stark has decided to step aside this year after 10 years of organizing. “Laird once said, if it wasn’t for the Community, there would not be a Curling Club,” said Stark. “Forty bonspiels is fantastic.”
By: Scott Campbell – January 2015.