B y Jaime Thomas
Bernice Wallman laced up her shoes. She used both arms to carry her bowling ball to the ball return, and she took a seat with her teammates.
When it was her turn she dropped the ball with a thud, and it slowly but intently made its way down the lane to knock over all but one pin. She missed it on the second roll and then apologized for failing to make a strike.
At 92, though, it’s forgivable. Wallman is one of 28 women—two under the age of 50 and the rest ranging from 65 to 92—in the Coffee and Donut League at the Granville Bowling Alley.
On a chilly Friday morning, the first of 33 weeks of bowling, the women warmed up with hot coffee and fresh doughnuts and greeted each other with hugs and laughs. Secretary Cheryl Lurvey said it was hectic, being the first day back at the lanes for the season, but the women didn’t seem to notice.
Taking their time between bites, sips and chatting, the women approached the pins unhurriedly and bowled.
“It’s not serious. It’s more of a social gathering,” Lurvey said, echoing the sentiments of the other women, who emanate a festive feeling with laughter, joking and even a little dancing.
Though the bowlers do care about improving their scores, they’re more about socialization and prompting each other up. Everyone cheered, for example, when Iva Liebig started out the day with a strike.
Liebig, who modestly said she was just OK at her sport, has been coming to the alley since it opened.
“I enjoy bowling. I come to enjoy it with my team and the other teams. We don’t care if we win or we lose; it’s about friendship,” she said.
“You know you’ve got one thing each week to look forward to. We’re just happy to get out of the house, and we’re happy if we keep the ball in the lane,” Lurvey agreed.
Wallman, who gave similar reasons for her long-standing attendance, said she’d never bowled before joining the league in the 1970s.
“I moved to this area, and one of my neighbors asked me to bowl because they were short—I’ve been bowling ever since,” she said. “I don’t know what I’d do without it. It gets so you look forward to it, and you’re ready for it to start up.”
She’s not the only one of the women who’s been in the league for more than 30 years. Many of the bowlers have grown old together inside the alley.
“When I was getting married, they threw a wedding shower for me here. When I was having my last daughter, they threw a baby shower for me here. When there’s a funeral, we all send cards. More or less we got to know each other here,” Lurvey said.
She said many in the group were mothers of young children when they started, and today most are of grandparents.
The women, who come from a number of nearby towns, play three games each Friday. Since the league started about four decades ago, Angelo Scott has consistently provided coffee and donuts for the ladies to enjoy. They pay $10 a week to play but get most of it back through awards and prizes.
President Janice Jones said the league is looking for more individuals or teams to bowl. Those interested in participating can call either Jones at 802-645-9030 or Lurvey at 642-9895. Or, they can go to Granville Lanes any Friday at 9:30 a.m. and see what it’s all about.
“We come to have fun—that’s the bottom line,” Jones said.