Friends have met and found their second home at the Village Bowl for over 50 years.
When you’ve lived in the Aberdeen area most of your life, it’s easy to take for granted the buildings and businesses that you pass by nearly every day. But if we stop for a second look, we’re often surprised to find that these places offer interesting history and stories that can teach us things we didn’t know about our community. One such city landmark is the Village Bowl. Over the decades, so many local people have put in their time to make it a space where everyone, from the very young to the very old, can have fun and make lifelong friendships.
Bowling became a widely popular sport in Aberdeen as early as the 1930s. The Village Bowl was built in 1960, but before that Hub Recreation and King Pin were the two main bowling alleys in town. Myrna Chamberlain has been a part of the Aberdeen Women’s Bowling Association for years and has helped record the Village Bowl’s history. She told us that when it opened its doors in the 60’s, the center was completely full. “Our first season had 1300 bowlers and 31 leagues. Back then bowling was a very popular thing to do.”
At first, only men organized their own bowling leagues. But after going every week and watching their husbands play, a group of 10 women decided they wanted to bowl, too. They did just that in 1938 by forming the first women’s bowling league in Aberdeen, called Hit or Miss, which grew from two teams of five bowlers to eventually include over 40 members. Myrna explained how important it was for women at that time to not only step up and form a league, but to be able to participate and compete in the sport. “We didn’t have all the opportunities that there are now.” The Hit or Miss League is still going strong today with members meeting to bowl every Monday night at the Village Bowl.
It’s easy to see how lasting friendships form around bowling when you spend time with your teammates every week and even travel together for tournaments. Myrna added more good insight as to why bowling is such a unique sport. “Because you get a handicap based on your average, you can go to tournaments and have a really good day and add in your handicap and be right up there and win. And while with most sports you have to qualify, with bowling if you are a sanctioned member and bowl at least 21 games in a season, you can enter to play in the state or national tournaments.”
John Osborn is the owner and general manager at the Village Bowl. His father, Robert Kent Osborn, was one of the original partners who opened the business. He explained that while he manages the bowling alley, it has really been all the people who love the culture of bowling so much that have kept the Village Bowl going for decades. Every bowling alley has associations made up of members who run the behind the scenes work like managing the men’s, women’s and youth leagues, keeping track of scores, collecting fees, running city tournaments, and more. Up until this year, there was a men’s association and women’s association in Aberdeen, but this season they are joining into one committee called the Aberdeen Bowling Association. John said, “We’ve been lucky to have so many people involved with the associations who have for a long time put in a lot of effort and time into running the bowling organizations.”
Right now there are about 800 league bowlers in Aberdeen. A challenge faced by many bowling alleys is that because there are so many activities for kids to do, they have to get creative to find ways to get youth involved in the sport. One way the Village Bowl has been getting kids interested is by participating in a national kids bowl free program, which allows kids under age 15 to have two free games of bowling every day in the summer. They also have junior bowling leagues that start this year on September 16. Open sign-ups for junior leagues will take place on September 9 during their free food, drink, and bowling open house and bowler appreciation event from noon- 6:00 PM.
If you ask them, most bowlers will agree that the best part of their sport is the camaraderie, and the time that they have spent together bowling with friends over the years. John described it by saying, “It’s a community; it’s a culture, there’s a lot of sense of belonging and having a common interest.” // by Jenny Roth