History of the Wausau Curling Club

The following excerpts, one from each decade or so, are from the booklet “House, Hack and Hog Line”, a history of the Wausau Curling Club, that was put together in 1986. Most of the credit for the information in the book goes to Robert C. Altman.

Early 1920's...
Curling began in Wausau sometime in the early 1920s, perhaps even earlier. There are reports of a few dedicated curlers playing the game on the Wisconsin River's west channel, just below the Curtis woodworking plant. Details are very sketchy, and it must be assumed that this was an occasional event, programmed on the spur of the moment and reminiscent of the cry of "Black Ice" in Scotland. Following this, we have reports of curling on the tennis courts of the YMCA, a safer but no better protected area. We have no one who recalls these days and have no specific information as to who participated in this curling, although it seems certain that they were among those 49 who were part of the first organized club.
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Early 1940's...

. . . progress was somewhat slowed during the years of World War Two and the loss of many young active curlers. Those who stayed behind (during those years there were 20 to 25 rinks actively curling) kept the veterans well in mind. (Some stories claim that America's entry into the war was hastened by the sinking of an English freighter carrying a full load of Scotch whiskey and a set of matched curling stones destined for Wausau. Unfortunately, we cannot verify this because the minutes of the years when this is alleged to have happened are missing. It makes a nice story, however, and we will do nothing to debunk it.)
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Late 1940's...
"Female Stone Heavers, Broom Beaters Arouse Men's Fears." That was the headline for an article that appeared in the Wausau Daily Record-Herald on February 29, 1948. It began: "One of the harried male's last refuges in Wausau has been invaded by the encroaching female. Once upon a time the tavern, the club, the bowling alley was considered a safe and friendly haven for the harassed husband seeking relaxation. But no more. And now the curling club-vestigial evidence that this was once a man's world-has fallen." Later in the article, however, the writer goes on to say: "Observers say the women, [their club known as The Highlanders], show an aptitude for the game and already the Wausau lady curlers, only at the game a month or so, are better than 30 percent of the Wausau male curlers."
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Late 1950's...

A visit of Scottish curlers to Wausau in the late fifties was an eye-opener to most. The use of the besom instead of the corn broom was new to us. We were amazed at the effectiveness of the instrument and arranged to have several shipped to us. As most are aware, the brush is now predominate and the corn broom almost extinct. This innovation is credited with extending the curling life of the participants.
Bob Wilson likes to tell about the time when figure skating became popular in the area. With only outdoor ice and uncertain weather, the devotees looked hungrily at the curling club's smooth and sheltered ice. Reasoning that this was on county property, they felt they should have some rights to the ice. Bob was called for a conference with their president. As the talks progressed, sometimes haltingly, Bob was asked why the dividers [between the rinks] were necessary. Bob assured the skaters that without the dividers, there was no way there could be flooding and curling. The skaters reluctantly went their way and have never bothered us since. We have often wondered what they would have said had they known that, two years later, Bob had the dividers torn out so that we could have five sheets!
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With the exception of the transition from natural to refrigerated ice, no other single event served to unite the membership of the Wausau Curling Club as much as did staging the 1976 USMCA National Championships. The event was held in Wausau March 1-6, 1976, with ice being available in the Multipurpose Building in Marathon Park, about one hundred yards from the curling club facilities.
For the balance of the decade there was nothing glamorous or exciting, just the standard and usual work and maintenance around the club. Wausau continued its tradition of volunteer help. There are only two people on the payroll: a man who comes in each morning and cleans the ice, spectator and locker area and a lady who tidies up the kitchen and the clubrooms. The ice makers do get a reduction in their annual dues, but all the rest is unpaid, often unsung, volunteer labor. The clubrooms are attractive and spacious. We could use additional locker space. The ice is clean and keen, with only the normal amount of runs. There is still a good feeling of camaraderie and with the exception of a few expected areas of disagreement; the club is a closely knit, active and viable organization. There is every expectation that the Wausau Curling Club will continue to be such for a long period of time.

Note: The above was written in 1986. If you want to have a look at the entire book, you can download a PDF copy (41 pages, 14,000 KB). This is a large file, so it would be best to do a right click on the link and save it to your computer to read at your leisure.  Our history continues below...



Our Bob See and Doug Seeber were instrumental in developing the idea that Wausau could host winter games similar to the Badger State Summer Games held annually in Madison. With curling as one of the sports, the local organizing committee worked with the Badger State Games staff to add cross country skiing, downhill skiing, youth hockey and figure skating to the list and host the first Badger State Winter Games in February, 1988. The winter games have continued here ever since.



Champioinship-level individual curling highlighted the 1990s, with our Marcia and Cal Tillisch curling on the U.S.National Championship Mixed curling team in 1991. They repeated this awesome feat in 1993. In 1995, Marcia was the lead curler on the Women’s National Championship rink, and went to the World’s where they finished fifth. In January of 1993, the Scottish Ladies Curling Tour Team came here for competition as part of their international tour. Somewhere in the ‘90s, maybe 1995, stick curling was introduced to the sport, enabling senior citizens—past their sliding days—to keep on throwing rocks.



The year 2000 ushered in a huge new century for curling worldwide and in Wausau.  In 2002, Wheelchair curling was introduced in the U.S. In 2012, buoyed by generous community and foundation support, we opened the state-of-the-art, 8-sheet Wausau Curling Center on Curling Way. We were out of the old barn!    Curling was suspended at the Curling Center for all of the 2020-21 season because of the COVID pandemic, although the U.S. Men’s and Women’s national competition was held in Wausau in May, 2021. We celebrated our 100th year of curling in Wausau. The Tietge High School bonspiel became one of the longest-running and the largest bonspiel for high school curlers in the nation. Our Matt Thums became the U.S. Open Wheelchair champion and became “skip” of the U.S. team which finished fourth in the 2021 World Championships and qualified for the Olympic-sanctioned Paralympics in Beijing, China, in March 2022.

In 2023, the Wausau Curling Club membership and participation rebound.  In March, we hosted the U.S. National Club Championships, entering men’s and women’s teams against the best in the country. Teams from New York State and Colorado won the exciting competition.

Our younger curlers came through big time, too, A team skipped by Wausau West High School graduate Wes Wendling won the U.S. junior men's championships. Later in the year, his sister Ella curled on the winning U.S. junior mixed doubles team. Both headed for international competition.


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