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The King of Swing

Clarence 'Shorty' Jenkins

Clarence W. "Shorty" Jenkins (1935 – 11 April 2013) was a famous ice technician in the sport of curling. He was known for his "trademark" pink cowboy hat, pink leather jacket and pink cowboy boots.

Born in Hanna, Alberta and raised in an orphanage in Victoria, British Columbia, Jenkins served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from the age of 17. He would be posted in Germany and in Canada to do various military jobs. He eventually left the military to work with Sunoco. That wouldn't last, and Jenkins convinced the curling club in Trenton, Ontario to take him on as ice maker. He wanted to be an ice maker after noting how terrible the ice was at the 1974 provincial championships he was competing in. Being a perfectionist, he started to study ice-making deeply.

He began watching curlers, noticing how results varied from night to night even though he made the ice the same from day to day. After watching race cars on television, Shorty had a brainwave; he decided to time the rocks as they traveled down the ice, much as racing cars are timed in their laps. He bought a stopwatch and began using it at the rink. No one else had thought to time the rocks, and at first other curlers laughed at the idea; but within a year stopwatches began to appear.

One trend Shorty started in curling was that of timing rocks. He used his idea to judge how good the ice was. Jenkins claimed he was the only person who could "choose and match rocks for major championships". He refused to do the ice of a tournament without choosing the rocks for it. Jenkins kept video tapes of the tournaments he had done to see what the television announcers were saying about his ice.


The stopwatch is not the only innovation that Shorty brought to the sport of curling. As well as trying numerous types of water tap, rain, filtered, hot, cold, and so on for pebbling the ice, he tested ice, brine, and even rock temperatures. Over the years he accumulated over $20,000 worth of equipment. All for the making of the famous Shorty curling ice.

Shorty made ice for nearly three decades and while curlers have curled their last on Shorty's ice curlers and curling fans need not despair, Shorty passed on his know-how and technical expertise by teaching courses and lending a free hand to smaller, poorer clubs. People have questioned the wisdom of allowing others in on his secrets, but Shorty would have none of it. “I just like to help others,” he says. “That’s what I’m here for.”

Shorty was inducted into the World Curling Hall of Fame posthumously in 2018. Members of the World Curling Federation Hall of Fame are inducted either as ‘curlers’ or ‘builders’. A ‘builder’, the category which Jenkins is inducted under, is someone who has given distinguished service and has made a major contribution to the development and advancement of curling internationally.

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