Penchant for pins

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

WEYBURN, Sask. -- This is a story about one curling pin from the very first Brier turning into 20,000 curling pins.

And it's a story about one more curling pin, years later, ironically involving the same man, and turning into millions.

Of pins. And dollars.

Not being religious about Brier morning draws I made the religious pilgrimage here yesterday to visit a shrine which should be declared a national treasure.

It's the Turner Curling Museum featuring the world's largest collection of curling pins, 75 old curling rocks of various sizes and shapes from the beginnings of the sport, ranging from 17 to 52 pounds. There are even curling clocks made to hold 26 ounces of aiming fluid.

There are dozens of old brooms, crests, sweaters, blazers, tams, pictures, memorabilia and remarkable oddball items.

There's an old 16-end 'Player's Please' scoreboard, a 1920s rock sharpener and more interesting old curling stuff than you could possibly stuff into a basement.

IN DON TURNER'S BASEMENT

Which is how it ended up in a city-funded museum. For 17 years it was in Don Turner's basement museum.

"It was more fun when it was in Don's basement," said Karen Pasterfield, the 2006 Regina Brier vice-president.

"When it was in their basement, Elva would invite you upstairs for a cup of coffee and a piece of pie."

More than half the pins came from her mom.

"My mom had a collection of 11,000 curling pins. She donated them all to the Turner museum on the condition they be kept together."

Turner remembers when Sylvia Fedoruk, then Saskatchewan lieutenant-governor, and a former curler, made a special stop to visit the basement.

"We were standing on the front porch with her, and two police officers accompanying her and Elva, said 'Let's go in for coffee before the neighbours think we're being arrested."

And it all started with one curling pin.

It was in the late 1930s when Turner started to farm here. The man who farmed next to the young bachelor who was born in 1920, used to invite him over for meals. And every time he was there, he couldn't take his eyes off a curling pin.

It was a pin given to each curler competing in the very first Brier, back in 1927.

Pete Wilkin was a member of the Yellowgrass, Saskatchewan, (18 km north of here) team which competed as Western Canada in the first Brier.

"He gave it to me," said Turner. "That's what started it all. To this day, I wonder if this place would exist if he hadn't given me that pin, if a team from Yellowgrass hadn't made it to that first Brier.

MEETING PEOPLE

"I started collecting and trading pins. It was such a great way to meet such great people. It just snowballed. It's been wonderful. It's been our life. We've travelled around the world curling and trading pins."

While it's Turner's collection, it's wife Elva who gives you the tour. Don had a stroke a few years back and sits watching your reaction to the collection, which came out of his basement, and was relocated to a 3,300 square-foot facility where Turner's car with "PINS" on the Saskatchewan licence plate, is parked out front.

That's the story of one curling pin.

The other pin is the rest of the story and how a curling pin made Laurie Artiss a multi-millionaire.

The guy started out as a sportswriter with the Regina Leader-Post. He left in 1969 to go into the curling supply business.

'ARE YOU NUTS?'

"People thought I'd lost my marbles to go from sports editor to selling curling brooms. They'd tell me 'You've gone from having a job where you get into the games for free to selling curling stuff? Are you nuts?"

Artiss folded his curling broom business by the '90s.

"We were doing too well with pins."

Ironically, it was Don Turner who managed to inadvertently get Artiss into the pin business.

"Don was running the Weyburn Curling Club. I was making my rounds selling curling supplies and he gave me my first order. I'd go from club to club selling brooms and I'd keep hearing 'We need club curling pins.' "

Artiss had just been chairman of the Regina 1973 Silver Broom.

"We had to get a pin. I believed we needed to get a Canadian-made pin. And the pin really wasn't worth a damn. The paint peeled off."

In 1976 he was conscripted to be chairman of the Regina Brier.

"That year I got the official pin made in the Orient. That started me thinking. After that Brier, I went through Weyburn, met with Don, and when he mentioned his club needed a pin, I decided I'd expand to including curling pins as part of my business."

Then came the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games. Artiss was awarded the pin contract by the organizing committee.

"The deal was 10% with a guarantee of $250,000. I later found out my bid was $100,000 higher than anybody. We did $12 million in business. We wrote a cheque for $1.2 million to the organizing committee. We produced 671 different pins and sold just shy of eight million."

THE COCA-COLA LOGO

Many of those pins involved the Coca-Cola logo and the Olympic rings.

"That year was the first year of a full-time Coca-Cola pin trading centre."

Artiss was hired by Coke to run the pin centres at Albertville '92, Barcelona '92 and Lillehammer '94 Olympics and moved 16 million Coca-Cola Olympic pins in those three Olympics alone.

His company, now run by daughter Karen, mentioned earlier in this column, won the Vancouver 2010 bid with a $3.5 million guarantee.

It all started with one order from a guy who needed a curling pin for the Weyburn Curling Club and went on to house the biggest collection of curling pins in the world. And he gets every curling pin produced by the company to this day.

Laurie Artiss came to this Brier to be inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame.

Don Turner should be here to be inducted with him.


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