“Hey buddy, how come you’re up so early? Did you mess the bed?”
Men’s voices rise and fall in animated conversation, with interjections of hearty laughter in response to the jabs of good-natured banter.
This is Friday morning at the Salmon Arm Curling Club. Members of the senior men’s daytime league are getting ready to take to the ice.
About 80 men belong to the local league, ranging in age from 55 to 90. At least 10 are over 80.
Cliff Carlyle is one of them. In fact, Carlyle claims the position of most senior. He turns 90 today, Feb. 8.
At the rink, he cautions one of the men to watch his language – there’s a lady present.
Carlyle has been curling for more than 40 years, most of it in Salmon Arm. He started curling in Edmonton, where he grew up. He used to curl for the Edmonton Scottish Society at the Shamrock Curling Club, as well as for the men’s league.
It was in Edmonton that he married his late wife Anne, who was also an avid curler. When they moved to the Shuswap, curling made up a large part of their life. Anne curled twice a week on her own, he curled twice a week on his own, and one day per week they curled together.
In 1996, in the 60-plus league, Carlyle’s rink took provincial honours. Jim Tod played third, Joe Green second and Tom Shepherd, lead. He explains sadly that Tod was killed in a vehicle accident. Gordon Brady, who also passed away, filled in as spare.
“We were Zone 4 winners and then we won the provincials. We lost the first three games and won the next four. We came second actually. We won the Hobbs Cup. A team from the Coast beat us – there were two cups.”
Carlyle’s sports expertise hasn’t been limited to curling. Growing up in Edmonton from age 10, he played junior hockey at the Edmonton Athletic Club.
Fastball was another love. His team won the junior fastball title for Alberta.
“We played the finals in Calgary and we beat the team from Calgary.”
In curling, he says one of his attributes as a skip is that he’s able to read the ice.
Asked what he loves most about the sport, Carlyle doesn’t hesitate.
“The camaraderie. You meet a lot of people that you never forget. Even some teams we’ve beat, they’re still my friends,” he says.
Fellow curler Garry Fiske agrees. “He’s been giving me a hard time for 15 years,” he says of Carlyle with a grin.
Carlyle recommends the sport – to anyone, of any age. He has had to make a couple of modifications as the years have progressed. He now uses a curling stick, for instance.
“I tried to get up with a hack once, and I couldn’t get up. The other skip had to help me. I said I’d better learn how to use the stick. I’ve been using it for three years now.”
And he no longer sweeps. When he started curling, he explains, there were no sticks. Nor were there brushes for sweeping, only corn brooms.
At 90, Carlyle doesn’t intend to stop curling in the foreseeable future.
“I just hope to be 91. I figure I’ve got about seven years left, I hope…
I’m still going strong so far. I’m not winning very many games, but that’s all right. We’re having fun,” he smiles.
Fellow curler Don Watt concurs.
“He’s still got it. When he focuses, he’s as good as anybody.”