by Anne Pryor
As you walk from the parking lot into the clubhouse, have you ever paused to admire the dark blue metal sign that announces our club?
Look carefully and count – eight stones are up there above the name Madison Curling Club.
The first story I heard about the sign was that Ken Neidhart donated it to the club in honor of an eight-ender that was laid against him. When I asked Ken, I learned that story is only kinda, sorta accurate.
As Ken tells it, “When the club was being built, we were looking for some kind of memento for the club that would characterize it. I was on the board; I was president then (1995). I worked out a trade of services with one of my patients.” That was for his practice as a periodontist.
“She had a significant other who did sculptures here in Madison, as well as national commissions. He was willing to do that sign instead of payment.”
The sculptor, O.V. (Owen Vernon) Shaffer is a renowned artist specializing in cast or welded metal. He has a special collection in the Kohler Foundation, a biography in the Museum of Wisconsin Art archives, and is a recipient of the Governor’s Award in the Arts.
With some input from Ken, Verne designed and created the piece. It was Verne who chose to depict 8 stones “because of that significance to curlers.”
Is it an eight-ender? Perhaps. “We really don’t know if they’re all of the same color,” observed Ken.
Does it commemorate a moment from Ken’s curling career? No, not really, although Ken did have an eight-ender laid against him. A new curler at the time, he was skipping a team in the Krautspiel, our annual friendly grudge match with Arlington Curling Club that started in the mid-1950s. For that spiel, they were playing in Madison at our old club on East Wash. The opposing skip was the notable late Bernie Dushek, so dedicated and revered a curler that he was the inaugural recipient of the Wisconsin State Curling Association Service Award. The eight-ender delighted Bernie for years to come.
Whenever Ken ran into Bernie and reminded him of the eight-ender, “He was always a total gentleman about it,” he said admiringly. “He wore an eight-ender patch on his sleeve from then on.”