The senior bowlers in the 12-team Double or Nothing league were ready to roll.
League president “Wild” Bill Ross, a soft-spoken 71-year-old retired machinist in a plaid flannel shirt and blue jeans, was eager to start. His team is the Wild Jokers.
Asked if he’s a good bowler, Ross matter-of-factly replied “I used to be.”
And league secretary Ruth Gruennert, 70, was ready, too. She had even brought some of her terrific peanut brittle. She’s on a team called The Survivors.
This league is a good group, she said. “It’s not cutthroat competition and there’s not a lot of profanity.”
But the electronic scorekeeping system at Valley Bowl was acting up Thursday afternoon. So everyone had to wait while the alley’s employees scrambled to fix it.
Gruennert, an upbeat woman wearing a blue top decorated with the images of bowling pins, took the opportunity to read announcements over the public address system. She noted that a get-well card for a league member would be coming around for signatures. And she mentioned another bowler who was temporarily confined to her home. “Give her a call,” said Gruennert. “She’d love to hear from you.”
There were no death notices Thursday.
During warm-ups, onlookers saw a variety of styles. Some bowlers released the ball with a silky swoosh. A few others did a couple of rumba steps and suddenly plopped the ball onto the lane with a thud.
“My ball was cold,” explained a grimacing man after his crab-like delivery produced a gutter ball.
“You betcha,” said a teammate holding a cigarette.
The unmistakable sound of rattling pins filled the time-capsule alley.
Then it was back to waiting as the tinkering with the scorekeeping system continued. “Let’s get this show on the road,” snapped a tiny white-haired woman.
“I think we should all go into the bar,” suggested a man not far away.
But mostly the bowlers seemed content to visit with their friends. It was one of the coldest days in years, but few spent much time talking about the weather. Each of them had lots of real-life material on which to draw. “They were so poor, they couldn’t even pay attention,” one woman told another.
After a delay of more than an hour, a decision was made. They would keep score the old-fashioned way - with pencil and paper.
“We’re lucky,” said Gruennert. “This generation knows how.”
, DataTimes MEMO: Being There is a weekly feature that visits gatherings in the Inland Northwest.