Ten Pin Topics! Alley Action! Timber Topper! Picking Head Pins! These four headlines had one thing in common: Besides being about five and ten pin bowling, they were all written by the late Dick Brett in the Hamilton Spectator in the 1950s and early 1960s. The earliest column on record is from Jan. 2, 1951 and details scores from the alleys of Tivoli, Pla-Mor, Mountain, Winter Gardens, Central, Co-Op, YMCA, Connaught, Martins, Winston Hall, Brant, Strand, Crown, Olympia, Beach Road, and Ottawa. One story had both George Firth and Tony Vidas rolling 22 strikes in a row without a 450 game. They both finished one game with 11 strikes, then started the next with another run of 11 strikes. And Frank McCarty started with nine strikes, then his father started with eight strikes. Two unbelievable items were Bill Adams, 68, firing five perfect 450 games and blind bowler Bob Galloway tripped a 319 five-pin game with six strikes in a row.
Timber Topper also reported that six five pinners started with 11 strikes with the results being Ernie Terry, Eddie Mamela and Jack Braid firing perfect 450s with Lee Johns and Bert Gillie at 443 and Marv Broughton, 441.
Ernie Martin said better late than never as a few years after scoring a 450 at Pla Mor in 1946 he finally received a gold ring from the Canadian Bowling Association. John Nedal was ready for “sweep” action at Mountain Lanes and found no takers. That was a good thing for them as Nedal rolled a 450 practice game instead.
The ten-pin shooters were also in Brett’s columns as evident by Pete Shawera dealing a 665, Gabe Bihary, 664 and 662, Stan Prokop, 663 (246), Joe Koziol, 659 (251), Paul Frigault, 648 (225), Bob West, 644 (259), Hal Schatz 613 and 597, Wally Small, 605, Andy Toth, 604, Jim Bonk, 594, Leo Gral, 591 (245), and Prokop with a 264 single. Bihary then fired a 287 single and Bill Anderson 267 at Pla-Mor.
The ten-pin leagues were Veterans Service, Merry Makers, Queenston Mixed, Tiny Tens, Brightside, City Tenpin, Dofasco, Stelco, Westinghouse, Proctor & Gamble, Skyway Mixed and Brant Industrial.
Every year the local Alley Owners and Operators Derby was held and in 1952 it featured Anna Kostrich, Joe Pacione, Leon Hudecki, Lou Gold, Al Peet, Carl Cupido, Rudy Menzy, Cliff Martin, Sam Shaw, Porky Garbutt, Cec Habros, Ernie Roberts, Joe Krusko, Evelyn Balfour and Ed Taylor. It took place at Sabby’s, Barton and Kenilworth, with last year’s winner Ed Taylor from the YMCA Lanes the favourite at odds of two to one and Roberts a very long shot at odds of 5,000 to one. The top three were Taylor, Martin and Cupido.
For Canada’s Centennial Sports Review book in 1967, Brett wrote a detailed history of bowling in Hamilton titled HEADPINS AND KINGPINS OVER A CENTURY. In the book he mentioned that Bill Bailey was a pin-boy at MacDonalds, at 66 James St. N., in 1902 and Les Slater was a pin-boy at the Hamilton Armouries, also on James St .N. in 1905. Slater was also a top bowler as evident by his 736 (275, 257, 204) triple in 1913. Brett mentioned bowling alleys at the corner of King St. E. & Jarvis. That location is now the site of the Hamilton Tiger Cats head office.
Along with writing for The Spectator, Brett also penned a bowling column for the Hamilton News which was in play from 1947 to 1955. During busy times the columns were in the Spec every day. When his picture was in the paper in 1970, it mentioned he had been bowling five and ten pins for 50 years with championships too numerous to mention.
According to Bob Coulter, who replaced Brett as the bowling writing for The Spec, his many valuable bowling related items were donated to unknown persons and have gone missing. Coulter’s column’s started on Aug. 13, 1975 and ran until April 12, 2006. His column appeared weekly for many years then every two weeks at the last.
Like Brett, Coulter also bowled both five pins at Bar Don and Lucky Strike, and ten pins at Skyway Lanes.
Another local paper, the Hamilton Herald, which was published from 1889 to 1935 at 13 King St. W., also had a few bowling related items. The Herald did not have to go far for bowling stories as the Iron Duke Alleys were across the street.
Also with bowling stories many years ago were Larry Moko, Ivan Miller, Linda Jacobs, Dennis Harvey, Denis LeBlanc and Hamilton Red Wings hockey announcer on CHCH, and Spectator hockey writer “Jolly” Joe Watkins, who was usually found sitting next to Norm Marshall at the Hamilton Forum during the telecasts.