These seniors like to strike

September 28, 2004|EMILY TOADVINE

Vernocia Neal steps up to the line at Danville Bowl-A-Rama and lets the ball fly down the lane.

The 87-year-old's ball knocks over nine pins.

"That's a Hawaiian strike. Nine and a wiggle," says Brenda Stiglich, a member of Neal's team.

Neal finishes her frame and returns to her seat, passing out a few hand smacks along the way. It's a popular form of congratulations for the bowlers who gather at the Tuesday morning coffee league.

Neal's dark blue bowling shirt from the team's sponsor, Arby's, has a long line of pins hanging from the front. They date back to 1986 and commemorate her participation in the state Women's Seniors Bowling Association. Neal says she would have had more pins.

"We didn't get a pin when we first started," she says.

Neal used to bowl five times a week, but she has slowed down quite a bit.

"I tell people nobody wants me to bowl now," she says.


After Neal's trip to the line, the next bowler is Margaret Carter of Junction City. At age 90, Carter has the most seniority on the team. She's been bowling since the bowling alley opened in the '60s.

"I worked at Corning and bowled on a league," she says.

Like Neal, Carter, whose eyesight is not as keen as it once was, admits that her game has slipped a bit. She has switched to a ball that's a few pounds lighter than she once used and is good-natured about teasing that her biggest problem is finding the holes in the ball.

"Sometimes I think I ought to quit and play marbles, but I can't stoop and get up," she says.

Carter's great-granddaughter, Renee Wright, also is bowling in the Tuesday morning league. She says Carter inspired her.

"Her and all my other grandparents used to bowl in a league. It's just in my genes," she says.

Getting ready for state tourney

Despite feeling like their strikes are few and far between, Carter, Neal and several other seniors who gather on Tuesday mornings have a goal. They are practicing for the state Women's Seniors Bowling Association tournament that will be held Saturday and Sunday in Danville. Both Neal and Frances Teater, who is bowling nearby, have won in other senior tournaments.

Like Neal, Teater and wears her pins on her shirt. Around her waist, she sports a needlepoint belt she made with bowling emblems. Teater, whose red shirt reveals that Carrie's Beauty Shop is her sponsor, makes her way to the line with the use of a cane to help her balance. She has a prosthetic leg from the knee, but the 88-year-old Harrodsburg woman doesn't let it deter her. She began bowling 12 years ago.

"I've improved in the last 12 years," she says.

Her teammate Glynda Green vouches for Teater's success.

"We give a dime when you get a split. She breaks us up," says Green as she hands over a dime to Teater.

When not at the bowling alley, Teater likes needlework and she put her skills to work to make a quilt featuring all her bowling patches. She now sleeps under the quilt that displays about 50 patches against a light blue and white background.

"They laid in the box for years, and I decided to do something with them," she says.

Lou Rogers, who heads up the bowling league, says these older members are a great inspiration. Her mother, Gelea Nicholas, is another bowler. One of Carter's daughters also bowls.

At the tournament, Rogers says the age divisions will be split into 55 to 60, 60 to 65, 65 to 70, and 70 and over. Neal, Carter and Teater will have plenty of company in the oldest category.

"That's the largest group," Rogers says.

With their spirits fighting off any aches or pains that would keep them away, Neal, Carter and Teater will be adding another pin their collections.

Carter says she has no intentions of missing the tournament or the practices for it.

"I love being with people and I love to bowl," she says.

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