It was with great interest that I read last week’s Citizen coverage of the 50th Anniversary of the construction of the Kipling Arena. Currently the “rink” may not meet the mid-to-late1960’s level of being the centre of the community’s universe, (53 rink bonspiels!! my goodness), but it is still a very vital structure as well as a cornerstone of our community.
50 years! It seems like such a short time ago in our history but a lifetime ago in our memories. As they say, “if those walls could talk”, my, my, my what stories they would tell.
The Kipling Arena was barely three years old when I crossed the threshold for the first time in 1970. I spent an awful lot of hours in that facility in many different capacities throughout the years. Fan, player, coach, referee, linesman, ice maker, PA announcer, bonspieler, cook… I even worked out of the Parks and Recreation Office in the northeast corner of the waiting room for four years from 2002-2006. I know that building intimately.
There were numerous times when I sat alone in that massive wood structure while it seemed as though the walls were trying to talk to me. I wasn’t sure what they were saying but there was a lot of creaking and cracking and moaning and groaning going on in there. Most people would be a little spooked being alone in that old building with those noises going on all the time but I felt that if there were any spirits floating around the Kipling Arena they’d just be the ghosts of fun-seekers past. You know, benevolent spirits still having fun in a building built for that very purpose…fun…and in that capacity, it has been and continues to be a resounding success.
I am reluctant to name names while talking historically about bygone days in our community, knowing full well that I will miss someone significant, but I can’t help but mention a few people from my early, early days in the rink. A few of the rink-dwellers from back in the day who made an impression on me for various reasons.
People like “George Baker the Caretaker”. If you were to tie all of the skate laces together that George Baker tightened up for every little skater over the years they would stretch for miles and miles and miles. Ol’ George could skate like the wind, too. He loved skating.
Then there was Frank Kashmere with his ever-present grease dripping burger flipper in hand standing in front of the hot grille cooking burger after burger after burger always with a smile on his face and a gruff-voiced tease to a waiting customer. Dare I say a cigarette ash may have found its way onto the cooking surface a time or two? Nah…
Frank’s brother, Steve “Choopy” Kashmere, was another rink caretaker and he had a spot on the top bench at the south end of the waiting room bleachers where he’d hold court and critique the abilities, or lack thereof, of the hockey teams currently playing on the arena ice. Most of the time whatever they were doing was wrong! And Choopy was probably right.
Most of my time at the rink was spent on the “skating” side but I had my share of wobbly pops in the curling lounge, too, over the years. I’m a terrible curler but I can bonspiel with the best of ‘em. Or could…that is.
Safe to say some of the happiest moments in my life have happened in the Kipling Arena. So many memories. So many friendships made and moments enjoyed.
One column dedicated to 50 years of history seems inadequate so you’ll have to tune in again next week for “Kipling Arena 2-Point-Oh!” There are more stories to be told.
“We didn’t realize that we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.”-from Winnie the Pooh.