Bowling brings seniors together

In a nicely cool, air-conditioned bowling alley sat four competitors with nearly 200 years worth of experience.

How they found a passion for this sport differed as they began telling me their story, recalling details with little difficulty. As I began to learn more about these senior citizens who have called Fallon home for quite some time, it was obvious that they were not normal. They still had a fiery passion for life, especially bowling, and I could tell as R.L. Johnson, Betty Fudge, Lu Demers and Al Shields talked about why they got into bowling.

Al thought it would be a great idea to get to know the community after he opened up an auto store. It helps to put a face to the name of a business and by mingling with the Fallon community every week at the bowling alley, Al developed a stronger love for the game.

A war vet like Al, R.L. served in the U.S. Marines but picked up a job at a local bowling alley setting the pins. It might be hard to imagine, but bowling alleys didn’t always have the technology to not only keep track of scores electronically or set the pins after each roll. R.L., though, would hop between lanes setting the pins but it lead to him getting involved on the other end of the lane.

For Betty, bowling was a break from taking care of the house. What started out as a hobby also grew into an unimaginable desire for the sport, too, as she competed in many state tournaments and was inducted into a couple bowling halls of fame.

And for Lu, sports have been part of her DNA. Growing up as a big football fan, Lu tried out bowling and fell in love with it. She eventually competed in leagues, as well, and like Betty, she would be inducted into the hall of fame for bowling.

As years passed, their once stellar scores have dipped slightly. But that hasn’t detracted anything from their passion and love for the sport. War stories fall off the tongue with the same vibe and detail as the night after they happened.

For R.L., he was so emphatic that he came one pin away from a perfect game. He remembered precisely what happened on that night and which pin didn’t want to cooperate. I can sense the frustration he felt from that night. Nevertheless, you knew he had fun as have all of these four seniors.

But what I realized most about Al, R.L., Betty and Lu, is that they have no plan of slowing down. They continue to live actively in the community. They’re living life to its fullest, regardless of their age, as they all are within 10 years of hitting the century mark.

And in some part, either small or large, it’s because of bowling, which has brought these four together every week.

Thomas Ranson can be contacted at


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