Bowling for the love of it

Greene seniors take to the lanes for camaraderie and a bit of exercise

April 12, 2014
Bobbie Snee, right, lets her ball fly as she gets a strike during league play. Snee, 71, serves as secretary for the league, and her husband, Emerson, 73, is president. - Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter Order a Print

MEADOW LANDS – This particular Wednesday in March was quite brisk and snow flurries were in the forecast, but the late winter hiccup was not going to deter this hardy group of seniors from doing what keeps them young in spirit and body.

This group of 30 lane sharks and pin wizards are members of the Greene County Senior Bowling League, and since 2011 most have been making the drive north on Interstate 79 from Spraggs, Graysville, Rogersville, Wind Ridge and Waynesburg to the alleys at The Meadows Casino in Washington to participate in something that is “just as much entertainment as competition,” said 92-year-old Ray Davis Jr. of Waynesburg.

Davis has the distinction, or honor, of being the oldest among the group, but that doesn‘t keep him from bowling a respectable 124-pin average on his Rolling Fours team that was in second place in the league standings.

Davis, who began bowling when he was 27 years old while living in New York City, said this league has introduced him to “the best people in my life.” Getting out to be with people is paramount to this World War II veteran.

“And as far as exercise, it is better than going to the gym,” he said.

Bowling is a sport that respects age and experience. Control of resin on hardwood doesn’t necessarily depend on strength, and many of the senior bowlers have done it for so long that they’ve picked up an intuitive sense of how minute imperfections in the lane affect the spin and speed of the ball.

Donnis Hoy is a perfect example. On this day, as she came through the glass doors leading into the bowling alley on the ground floor of The Meadows Casino, this octogenarian from Spraggs made her way to the scoring tables, where she parked her walker.

It was time to warm up along with her Just A Swinging teammates, Allan Morris, 69, of Waynesburg; Karen Skelley, 63, of Wind Ridge; and Harold King, 79, of Washington.

One of her teammates handed the ball to her and she walked to the release line. With a slow backswing, Hoy then brought the ball forward and let it go down the lane. There was nothing fancy about this trajectory – the ball rolled straight down the middle, clipping the 1 pin and knocking down seven others.

She wasn’t fazed that completing the spare might be out of the question. “Winning isn’t everything, ” she said.

And that sums up the attitude of most of the senor league bowlers who have been getting together every Wednesday from September to April for more than four decades. The league began in Waynesburg, then moved to the Klondike Lanes in Masontown until the bowling alley burned down.

The group then bowled for a while at the Alpine Lanes in Washington before finding its new home at the lanes at The Meadows. “This meets all our needs,” said Bobbie Snee, league secretary.

Then as Snee was explaining that members select the team name, such as Easy Rollers, Hardly Able, Awesome Bunch, Happy Bunch, Greene Acres and Firecrackers, she watched Hoy release her ball down the lane.

“What a wonderful person,” Snee said. “She lives to bowl and she told her husband of 68 years that if she should die on a Wednesday, he had to drive her past the bowling alley first.”

Just as warm-ups were concluding, 87-year-old Mabel Miller of Waynesburg took a seat next to the ball return. A member of the Firecrackers team, which is in the middle of the pack, Miller didn’t hesitate to answer when asked what made her come bowling every Wednesday.

“These are nice, decent people,” she said. ‘It gets me out of the house and the league is like an extended family. It is what you make of it,” she said.

“She has such an upbeat personality,” Snee said, referring to Miller. “She never has a bad day, always looking for the good qualities in people. I would like to be just like her when I grow up,” the 71-year-old Wind Ridge resident said.

And, if there is one thing these senior bowlers take away each week it is this: You are never too old to bowl.

Jon Stevens was the Observer-Reporter’s Greene County bureau chief. During his 41 years with the O-R, he covered county government, courts and politics, and won statewide and regional writing awards.

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