Fun to spare for all ages

February 05, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

On a recent Friday evening, as bowlers began arriving for league competition at Dual Lanes in Hagerstown, Gerry Snyder took her place on one of the freshly "conditioned" bowling lanes.

Eighty-three years old, Snyder has been bowling at the Dual Highway bowling center since it opened in 1958. She bowls in the "Flying Feathers" league, so named because all of the teams were named for birds. Snyder's first team was the "Jaybirds." Now, along with another woman and three men, including her son, Ray Snyder, she bowls for "Ray's Rowdies," Friday evenings from September through April or May.

So do 23 other teams - occupying every lane in the house. They are the regulars, but an estimated 50 million people in the United States bowl at least once a year; worldwide, that number is 90 million, said Jim Baer, marketing director at the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Mo.


The game, with venues throughout the Tri-State area and fans across possibly a few millennia of history, continues to have appeal - especially when it's cold outside.

Everybody can't play hockey or baseball. Not everybody wants to play football. But almost anybody can bowl, Baer said. There are blind bowlers, and there are accommodations for bowlers in wheelchairs.

Plus, bowling is the fastest growing field of high school athletics, Baer said.

At Dual Lanes, though, Gerry Snyder already knows all about the attraction to the game.

The 24 lanes, which are filled with league bowlers for a Friday evening session, are stripped and oiled every day - twice on Saturday, said manager Todd Smith, 44. Except for a four-month absence, Smith has worked at the bowling center since he was 12 years old.

Snyder looked down the glistening alley - 17 feet of maple, 43 feet of pine - toward her tenpin target.

She carefully positioned her feet, raised her aqua pearlized 10-pound custom-fitted bowling ball, aimed, stepped, swung her arm and released it. The ball drifted down the left side of the lane and took down a couple of pins.

She rolled a few more moderately successful practice frames. Then she nailed a spare - taking down the pins with a second attempt left standing by her first.

There was no exhilarated fist pump of victory. Snyder turned with a quiet smile. She'd been there before. Many times.

Through the years, Gerry Snyder has received several trophies for high games. Her two best scores were 244 and 231 with six strikes in a row.

Snyder's score is down considerably: She averages about 130. She thought about quitting a couple of years ago, but her daughters convinced her to stick with it. Bowling is good exercise, and Snyder has a good time.

"This is a fun league," Ray Snyder said. "You don't need to be good to enjoy it," he added.

Bowling has been around for a long time - centuries, according to www.bowlingmu, the Web site of the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame. In the 1930s, a British anthropologist found a collection of objects in a child's grave in Egypt that could trace the sport's ancestry to 3200 B.C.

There are other flashes in history. German historian William Pehle suggested that the game began in Germany around A.D. 300, and it was hot in England in 1366. King Edward III is believed to have banned his troops from bowling to keep them focused on archery practice.

Dutch, English and German settlers imported variations to America. Rip Van Winkle was awakened by the sound of crashing ninepins in Washington Irving's story written around 1820.

The American Bowling Congress was formed in 1895, the sport was standardized, and national competitions were held.

With the invention of automatic pinspotting equipment in the early 1950s, "pinboys" went the way of the horse and buggy, and the industry grew.

Scorekeeping has gone electronic at many bowling centers. Strikes and spares are entered at lane-side computer keyboards.

Little kids bowl. Ninety-six 3- to 7-year-olds are involved in "peewee" bowling at Longmeadow Bowl in Hagerstown. They learn with the help of bumpers that extend from the sides of the lanes to keep the little rollers from getting gutter balls.

Like other bowling centers, the north Hagerstown center hosts birthday parties and other kids' gatherings. There's a 35-foot custom-made "moon bounce" at Longmeadow Bowl, which opened in 1960. Tenpin bowling is gone from the smoke-free location, but duckpins, laser bowling with dance lights and music, billiards and a nightclub - with disc jockey and live music Fridays and one Sunday a month for teens - take Longmeadow beyond the bowling alley of days past.

For years, bowling centers have been gathering places in small-town America, Baer said. And each is unique. They range from vintage versions with six lanes to ultra-modern double-decker emporiums with more than 100 alleys.

Let the good times roll.

If you go


Dual Lanes
Dual Highway

Longmeadow Bowl
19330 Leitersburg Pike

Southside Bowl
17325 Virginia Ave.


Buchanan Lanes
316 N. Main St.

Lincoln Lanes
2071 Lincoln Way East

Nellie Fox Bowl & Sport Shop
3587 Molly Pitcher Highway South

Sunshine Lanes
11924 Buchanan Trail East

West Virginia

Berkeley Springs Bowlerama
4909 Valley Road
Berkeley Springs

Pikeside Bowl
3485 Winchester Ave.

Shenandoah Lanes
U.S. 340
Charles Town

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