Creemore skates: Second life for The Palace

 In Opinion

Here we are another month into winter with no skating rink in sight. The arena is closed because of the pandemic, It doesn’t seem cold enough to make an outdoor rink and even the river is refusing to freeze over. Last month I left you with the bad news that the old arena on Mill Street was ordered closed. The roof had become unsafe. That was the spring of 1923. I told you that Creemore has a remarkable ability to rise to an emergency and solve problems. 
Such was the case. George Scriver, a local mechanic and entrepreneur, built an ice surface on the river at the end of Mill Street at the beginning of winter 1923. Wallace Timmons, recollects how he did it.  “He built a small dam at the lower level end backed up the water enough to make a rink. He had boards along the sides and flooded the ice with a barrel pulled by a hand sleigh. The barrel had three plugs in the bottom which he pulled out and flooded the ice as he pulled it along. He charged 10 cents to skate.”
This rink was also in operation the winter of 1924-25. A report in the local paper said that George Scriver was making preparations to give young people recreation on an open air skating rink. However, the roof on the old arena scheduled to be pulled down, appears to have been fixed. Soon after Mr. Scriver began preparations for his ice surface a report came out that the youth of the community were jubilant, as was everybody, that this old rink would be operated by George Scriver who obtained a lease from the owners.
Hockey and the annual skating carnival continued as they had done for many years. It was at this time that this old arena became affectionately known as The Palace. At the beginning of the 1927-28 season Frank Gray took over the lease of the rink and in the spring of 1928 J. Kolb was the manager. It is interesting to note that they were still skating on natural ice in April of 1928. 
Finally in October 1928 something was being done about replacing The Palace on Mill Street. Apparently much discussion had been going on for a few years. A largely attended meeting of businessmen resulted in plans to organize a joint company and sell stock sufficient to raise the capital sufficient to start building. First plans were to purchase the land behind the United Church.
This location did not work out but within a few days the board had purchased lots from William Dunstan on Elizabeth Street East which were on the corner of Jane street, now Library Street.  The first sod was turned October 29, 1928.
Weekly reports in the Creemore paper kept everyone excited. The price of the rink was to be about $8,500 with a wood frame and sides and roofing of steel. Hope was alive that there would be skating by Christmas. It wasn’t until the middle of January 1929 that opening night was in sight. Compared to today’s world this was remarkable with only three and a half months from first meeting to completion. A sum of $10,000 was raised with shares at $50 each.
The completed rink was 175 feet with plant framed arches with no inside posts and was covered with standard steel roofing. The curling rink was 30 feet wide by 146 feet long. The roof had inside wood sheeting to prevent drip. The skating rink was surrounded by a six foot wide walkway around the west, north and east sides. A gallery was at the north end, and there were two dressing rooms and upstairs a comfortable room with glass overlooking the curling ice.
The grand opening on January 29  was a huge success with 550 paying admission.
As with other years there was a costume carnival and races with prizes. Prizes were given to the largest sleigh load and for one coming the furthest distance. Art May’s Gophers competed with George Shepherds Groundhogs in a game of broom hockey. The evening ended with all skating to the music of a band.

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