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Right up their alley

Seniors on a roll in Long Meadow bowling league

Seniors on a roll in Long Meadow bowling league

September 25, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

View the "Senior Bowling" slideshow.

As soon as you open the door you hear it - the unmistakable sound of balls rumbling down a lane and exploding into a flash of white.

There's laughter and applause and the hum of pins reloading.

It's the soundtrack of any bowling alley - a reminder of how much fun this sport can be.

And on this particular day, more than 80 bowlers are having the time of their lives.

Every Wednesday afternoon, 24 teams arrive at Long Meadow Bowl in Hagerstown for a little exercise, a little competition and a whole lot of socialization.

They are members of the Senior Citizens Bowling League, and for several hours, they let the good times roll.

The league had its start about 35 years ago, said league President Jack Monn of Waynesboro, Pa.

It's been going strong ever since, attracting older bowlers from across the Tri-State area.

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"Many members have been bowling together since the league began," Monn said. "Once they join, they don't quit."

Membership is open to anyone 55 years of age and older, he said.

And if you want to challenge these seniors, you better bring your A game.

"Some of these bowlers are very good," Monn said. "Many have been bowling all of their lives. Some bowl two or three times a week."

But you don't have to be a professional to be part of the fun.

"We have a wide range of abilities," he said. "Some people take it very seriously. Others never bowled a day in their lives until they joined the league. We have a real cross section."

Monn said averages range from the 60s to 200s.

But it's not about scores.

"It's about coming together to have a good time," Monn said. "For many members, it's the highlight of their week."

And age is no deterrent, he said.

Monn, 66, said there are bowlers in their 50s. But five members are in their 90s.

Showing off his good form and follow-through on a recent Wednesday afternoon was Don Stevens of Hagerstown, who said he was "going on 91."

Stevens said he has been part of the league since the very beginning and always has enjoyed bowling.

"I started out years ago in the Fairchild League," he said. "It's great exercise. That's why I do it."

Stevens said he has made a lot of friends through bowling and enjoys getting together with fellow bowlers every week at Long Meadow.

But don't ask him about his average.

"I'm terrible," he said.

A few lanes down, Woody Guessford, 91, of Hagerstown, said he has been part of the league since 1991, but has bowled since he was 16.

Guessford said his cousin told him about the senior citizens league and he decided to give it a try.

"I signed up and have been here ever since," he said.

Guessford said he has made a lot of friends since joining the league, but also grew up with many of them.

"Some I've known practically all of my life," he said.

Ruth Middlekauff, 77, of Hagerstown, said she's been a league member for at least 34 years.

"My late husband bowled and I would come with him," she said. "When I retired, I started bowling."

Middlekauff said her average is about 95, "but it's not about the bowling. It's about the fun. Everybody knows everybody. It's like a big family."

A volunteer at Washington County Hospital, Middlekauff said several years ago she invited a few of the volunteers she works with to come watch her bowl.

"Now, they're part of the league, too," she said. "Wednesday is our personal day. We don't volunteer. We bowl."

Middlekauff said there are members who are cancer survivors, heart attack survivors and people with joint replacements and artificial knees.

"That's what makes this league unique. Some of us can't see and most of us can't hear," she joked. "But we all have a special bond."

Frank Hoover, who is a former league president, said he has been bowling for much of his life, and at the age of 84, doesn't plan to stop.

"Some time ago, I broke my ankle hunting mushrooms in the mountains," he said. "So I can't bowl as well as I once did. My average used to be about 125. Now, it's 104. But I don't let plates and bolts in my ankle slow me down. I'm still bowling. I'm still having fun."

Glenn Presgraves, who works at Long Meadow Bowl, said he has gotten to know many of the league members and considers them family.

"When they're no longer able to come here for health reasons, you miss them," he said. "You become close to everybody when you see them every week."

Presgraves said the senior league is "probably the biggest league we have at Long Meadow."

"Some take their game very seriously and are really into it," he said. "I think it's a great way to stay active."

In addition to Wednesday bowling, Monn said the league also holds a holiday party and an annual banquet.

Monn said that team rosters currently are full, but if people are interested in putting their name on a waiting list, they can contact the bowling alley.

"If you want to have fun, this is the place to be," he said.

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