John, it sounds like you cut the film loose from the cartridge from the very beginning. I always leave my 35 mm in the cartridge (you can get the lead out pretty easily with that special gadget or a strip of old negative with a piece of double sided tape) and pull out as much of the film as I need as I go along. The weight of the cartridge more or less keeps the film straight. As soon as I get to the end of the film (the cartridge almost touches the Patterson reel), I then cut loose the cartridge and load the last little bit of film, which is indeed pretty curly! I have never had any problems with scratching or otherwise damaging the film.

Hope this helps.
Good luck.
Anne Marieke