Father and son connect with their family history at Royals’ Doors Open Toronto 2017
On May 27-28, over 600 visitors dropped in to the Royal Canadian Curling Club for 2017 Doors Open Toronto. They came to find out more about the game of curling and to learn about the club’s rich 125-year history. Many were surprised to learn that one of the city of Toronto’s most significant historic establishments was hidden away near the corner of Queen and Broadview.
Two guests of honour, Frank Shortt and his son Dave, attended the Doors Open event to see some of their family history on permanent display. Frank’s grandfather, Joe Shortt joined the Royal Canadian Bicycle Club in 1898. He promptly set a record for the fastest time at the Dunlop trophy race that year that remained unbeaten for an astonishing 15 years. This individual win, coupled with another first-place finish in 1899, propelled the Royal Canadians to win the team race in two consecutive years and giving our club permanent possession of the Dunlop Shield. Joe was also on the winning team that won the sterling silver Dunlop Cup in Montreal in 1899. Frank and Dave Shortt were thrilled to see their ancestor’s contributions featured prominently on the walls of a club that meant so much to Joe.
Thanks to Margaret Bryce and Sue Gillespie who organized the club’s participation in this year’s Doors Open. Members of the History Committee assisted in the smooth running of the event: Brian Bobbie snapped photos and, along with Margaret, Sue, Ashley Waye and Jeremy Weeks, talked to visitors about the club; Steve Yano, Rob Retchless and Stu Gibbs answered the many questions our installation incited, which included two new panels in the foyer; Both Robs (Retchless and Ainsley) ran the bar and sale of 125th anniversary t-shirts; Club curator, Cynthia Waye, conducted four tours each day for the curious onlookers.
The history of the Royals goes back to 1891 with the founding of the Royal Canadian Bicycle Club, which was dedicated to “the encouragement of bicycling, athletic sports and good-fellowship”. The club occupied the upper floors of Dingman Hall (on the north-west corner of Broadview and Queen) where, according to the Toronto Evening Star: “The club parlours are upholstered and furnished in the best of style and the pictures of the winning teams decorate the walls. A padded boxing room, a pool room, a card room, a smoking room, a reading room and a first class gymnasium are among the attractions.”
In 1907 a new clubhouse was erected across the road at 131 Broadview Ave. In 1929, a rink was built behind the clubhouse, which marked the transformation of the Royals from a cycling club to a curling club. On July 2, 1930, to reflect this change in focus, the club’s name was officially changed from the Royal Canadian Bicycle Club to the Royal Canadian Bicycle and Curling Club.
Hockey, skating and curling competed for ice time at the Royals until 1953 when the six ice sheets were devoted exclusively to curling. In September 1954, the executive, with the support of the club’s membership, changed the club’s name officially to the Royal Canadian Curling Club to reflect the club’s 100% commitment to curling.
The Royals was one of the first in the city to organize mixed curling and support women curlers. In 1963 they hosted the first National Mixed Curling Championships and in 1962, they hosted the first SOLCA Business Girls Trophy Championship.
Inside the curling club lobby stands one of the world’s largest athletic trophies – the seven-foot tall, silver and ebony Dunlop Trophy. Named for the bicycle tire manufacturer that sponsored the Dunlop Trophy bicycle races from 1894 until 1926, the Royal Canadian Bicycle Club gained permanent ownership of the trophy by virtue of two consecutive wins of the Dunlop race in 1895 and 1896.
Much of our rich history has been uncovered through the efforts of the RCCC History Committee whose purpose is to collect, secure, protect and record the history of the Royal Canadian Curling Club for the benefit of the club and its members, as well as visitors and the community.
This is an on-going process. If you are interested in helping out, or can contribute artifacts, or even have interesting tall tales and stories about the Royals, please contact Rob Retchless (Committee Chair) at email@example.com
The Dunlop Shield, was the second trophy offered for competition in 1897 by the Dunlop Tire Co. with the provision of full-time ownership in the event of two consecutive wins by a team. The Royals’ Joe Shortt won the first time prize in the race, boosting his team to first place both in 1898 and again in 1899.
Soon after the Royals History Committee was formed, it was discovered that the Dunlop Shield had been sitting in a silversmith’s shop awaiting restoration for almost twenty years. Successful fundraising resulted in enough money being collected to complete stage one of the Shield restoration. If you wish to contribute to the final stage of the restoration of the Shield, please contact Rob Retchless firstname.lastname@example.org
The Dunlop Shield, now hangs in a central position on the club’s lounge wall.