Geraldine Ewert of rural Durham has bowled there for 51 of those years.
Ewert’s interest in bowling was sparked when her husband, Donald, joined a league when the alley opened. He continued with that league through the 1994 season.
“My husband bowled the first year, and I went over and watched him bowl once in awhile,” Ewert said. “I got interested in it, so I said, ‘I’m bowling the next year.’”
One reason the couple—who celebrated their 65th anniversary this month—became involved was the closer proximity of the alley to their farm outside of Durham.
“When Ray and Betty (Funk) opened (the alley) up, we got interested in bowling,” she said. “I always did want to bowl, but I didn’t want to drive that far, so when they opened up (in Hillsboro), then we got started.”
Ewert joined the Trailettes League in 1962 and has stayed with the league ever since.
“I got interested, then I started and I couldn’t quit,” she said. “I just love to bowl.”
In addition to bowling with the Trailettes for 51 years, the 82-year-old Ewert has been involved in a number of tournaments over the years.
She has bowled in the state tournament for 43 years, she said. To qualify for state, one must be a sanctioned bowler.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Ewert said. “You meet a lot of people. I love the state tournament. I don’t miss it unless I have to.”
She has bowled at nationals with her team at least 15 years, she said.
Other tournaments include a city tournament and a Turkey Tournament in November, which is a nine-pin no-tap.
Ewert explained the rules: “If you get nine pins, you get a strike,” she said. “That is the most fun.”
Additionally, Ewert has bowled in the state senior tournament designed for those age 55 and older.
Despite some health issues along the way, Ewert has never missed a season of bowling.
She did, however, miss part of one season 20 years ago.
“I had a big surgery, but I had enough games in that I could go to the state tournament, and that kept me in the league,” she said. “After I had the big surgery, I said (to the doctor), ‘I suppose I’ll have to quit bowling.’ ‘No,’ he says, ‘I don’t want you to quit bowling; it’s good exercise. Just get a lighter ball and change your way of bowling.’”
This past April, Ewert had knee-replacement surgery, but she is determined that even that will not stop her.
“I bowled every night except the last night (last season)—I couldn’t finish,” she said. “I got somebody to do it for me because I could get in to get my knee done, and I messed with that two years and I wanted it over with.”
While she may not be able to start the upcoming season—depending on how her knee therapy progresses—she said she intends to get back to the alley as soon as possible once the season starts in September.
“I told my doctor, ‘I’m going back to bowling,’” she said. “He said I could.”
The surgery did prompt her to change her approach.
“I had to change my way of bowling after that surgery because I was too weak, but I changed it and take three steps instead of five,” Ewert said. “(That) works too.”
The bowling season typically lasts 30 weeks from September to the beginning of May. Participants bowl every Monday night.
The bowling alley, recently purchased by the Hillsboro Development Corp., is currently undergoing renovation on a timetable set to reopen when school starts as “Tabor College Bluejay Lanes.”
Ewert, who is part of a four-person team, bowls with a 10-pound bowling ball. Bowling balls can weigh anywhere from 8 to 16 pounds, she said.
“(I) used to throw a 13, but after that surgery, I didn’t have enough pep to do it,” she said.
Ewert spoke of her early bowling years.
“It takes practice, but I think the first year I carried a 130 average,” she said. “I have dropped down now, though.
“My highest game was 255, and I did carry a 160 average for awhile, until I started getting surgeries and that took me down.”
Ewert said a goal for this upcoming season is to raise her average—currently in the 120s.
More than a game
Ewert’s favorite thing about bowling is meeting with friends, she said.
“It’s just a night out that was mine,” she said. “I always looked forward to that night—that was my special time and I enjoyed the people I was with.”
Bowling brings enjoyment and health benefits, too.
“It’s just plain fun,” Ewert said. “And good exercise.”
She doesn’t intend to quit anytime soon.
“I always told (them), I’d bowl in a wheelchair if I had to.”