THE STONE AGE: A SOCIAL HISTORY OF CURLING ON THE PRAIRIES
by Vera Pezer
Fifth House, 326 pp.
My name is Bruce and I am a couch curler. I think The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon is the greatest Canadian play
ever. At parties I tell all the curling jokes I know both of them to anyone who will listen, and every spring I watch the Brier, the Tournament of Hearts and the World Championships with a religious fervour. And I am not alone. There are many more people like me who have come to appreciate curling as a spectator sport and vicariously enjoy watching a well-delivered takeout shot. What I didnt know until I read this book was that curling had such a distinguished history in Canada.
Indeed, I learned much from this book. Among the claims that Vera Pezer makes are that curling should be considered Canadas national sport and that it best represents Canadian cultural values. Originally introduced by Scottish settlers anxious to maintain their heritage and inculcate values of fair play and order associated with the dominant colonizing culture, the game of curling spread across the western provinces following settlement patterns dictated by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Along the way, it enjoyed greater acceptance in rural communities than in urban areas and became a sort of battleground where the major social issues of our time played themselves out on a smaller scale. A case in point: the struggle for womens rights won an early victory on the curling rink, seeing women in rural farming communities accepted as equals earlier than in the cities because they were needed to fill teams, and their strength and abilities could not be denied.
This is a well-written book by an author who has both academic and curling credentials. Although she is not a historian, Pezer has sufficient grasp of the requirements of the discipline to enable her to straddle the gulf between popular and academic history. She also shows the true love of the game befitting a former champion curler. Curlers are the obvious audience for this book, but it should also appeal to anyone interested in sports history or Western Canada in general.