The Founding of ECC

Doug Schaak, Evergreen Curling Club’s Founder and President for the first
four years describes how the club got started, in his own words:

I grew up in North Dakota watching my dad, Paul Schaak, curl in our hometown of
Rolette, a farming town with about 600 people and a four-sheet curling
club. My dad had recently moved to North Dakota from Manitoba, where he
had grown up, gotten married, and finished both pharmacy and medical school.
He was a small-town doctor, and this was his first full-time job. Part
of the reason he accepted the job at Rolette was that they had a curling
club – he had interviewed for a position in Dryden, Ontario, but my mom
couldn’t stand the smell of the paper mill. Dad was a skip and entered
North Dakota playdowns several times, once coming one game away from advancing
to nationals.

We lived in Rolette from 1972 to 1982 but then moved to Indiana where there was
no curling nearby. So during my high school and college years I had no
chance to curl. I got married in 1992 and moved to Mobile, Alabama, to
accept a teaching position — no curling there — and then finally hit
the jackpot when I landed a teaching job at a small college in Owatonna,
Minnesota, in 1993. The Owatonna Curling Club was my home for one year
before we headed off to grad school in Pocatello, Idaho, the center of
the American curling hinterlands. So for four more years I missed curling
and wanted desperately to get back to it. When I landed a job in Portland,
I thought I’d struck it rich, having seen the Portland Curling Club listed
in a USCA directory. But when I called the name listed as president, imagine
my despair when he told me that they were only a paper club — there had
been no curling in Portland since the mid-80s, and even then it was only
an arena club.

From 1998 to 2002 I lived in Portland and dreamed of curling here, and when I
finally realized that we were probably staying in Portland for the foreseeable
future, I decided to begin making inquiries about starting a club. The
first day I sent out a note was January 15, 2002, just before the Salt
Lake Winter Olympics. Dave Peck from SFBACC e-mailed me back the same day
and told me that there was a “mover and shaker guy” up here by the name
of Arnie Iwanick who was interested in curling and who had a set of stones
with him on loan from SFBACC. I was thrilled to find this out. Arnie and
I curled together in Seattle’s April Spiel in 2002, and I can’t describe
just how wonderful it was to be back on the ice again. It was like heaven.
But Arnie was preoccupied with work, etc, and really didn’t get involved
with building ECC until the fall of 2002.

In the meanwhile, a woman by the name of Cheryl Doucette (now Churchek) had
also contacted me with great enthusiasm about getting a club going, and we
met at my home in Cascade Park on January 17, 2002. We sat on my living
room floor with some papers spread out between us and said to each other, “Okay,
how do you start a curling club?” What a learning curve! I took it upon
myself to build a relationship with MVIA because it was near my home and
because as a two-sheet facility it seemed a more likely place to have ice
available for curling. It took several meetings with manager Tom Bahls
before he agreed to put in two sheets of curling ice in Rink 2 in October
2002, just days before we had scheduled our first open house. They were
drawn poorly and had no center/sidelines, but there were houses painted
on the ice and we could curl.

A writer from the Oregonian, Katy Muldoon, picked up on my press release titled “Curling
Slides into the Portland Area” and did a front-page story on the formation of the club/open house, and 150 people
showed up to try curling. What a night! We had two sheets of ice and no idea
how to deal with all of these people, but it was just tremendous. The best thing
that came of the night was that it brought together many former curlers who were
looking to curl again, and so a nucleus of dedicated curlers came together at
that point. We added two more sheets a few days later and curled from 10:30
p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Saturday nights that first season. About 24 people curled
in our league from October to March.

In addition to me and Cheryl, among the founders were Arnie Iwanick, Kelly Mamer,
Kim Goldsmith, and Duane Eitzen. But this core soon grew to include Pam Pfiffner,
Devon Rowe, and others. We were able to pull off our first Rose Bonpsiel (then
called the Evergreen Curling Club Rose Festival Bonspiel) in June 2003 and had
29 teams entered. What a weekend!

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