Bowling in Kokomo - 1960 to 1965
This article of Bowling History covers the Kokomo bowling scene from 1960 through the completion of the 1964/65 season. Bowling was peaking in popularity. Higher scores were being rolled. Two Kokomo bowlers hit the PBA Tour. One would leave an indelible mark.
There were many more high games rolled than in any prior era. A good number of perfect 300 games were also rolled.
Many bowlers got closer to the elusive 300 game. Dick Newton rolled the first nine strikes but opened in the tenth for a 265. Chet Archer rolled a 275 game. Ray Cameron and Tom Dinwiddie rolled 276's. Howard Reitenour had the first nine strikes in his 277 game. Clancy Clary, Jim DeShamps, Jack Currens and George Somsel cracked out 278 games. Don Johnson started with two-278 games in his record-breaking series performance. Allen Anderson had the first eight strikes in his 279 game. Bob Coghill left a 5-pin in the tenth frame for his 279 game. Young Ross Pearson, Dr. Robert Stunkard, George Eckert, Larry Kubley, Kenneth Nelson and Carl Babb also pounded out 279 games.
Chet Reel reeled in a 280 game. Lefty Glen Lindzy crossed over and left the 2-pin on his eleventh ball to wind up with a fine 289 game. Charles Hatt and George Wooley rolled 290 games. Charley Grimes duplicated the feat at the Hoinke Tournament in Cincinnati. Wes DeVee just missed perfection with his 299 game. Allen Anderson rolled a 299 game in the 1963 State Tournament in Marion.
With all these high games you would expect that someone would roll a 300 game. Many did and in a variety of situations.
Twenty-year-old Don Johnson reached perfection in the Holiday Doubles Tournament on New Years Day, 1961 at Sycamore Lanes. Later that same year, he tossed another 300 in practice and received a $100 check from Play Bowl owner and manager Don Lowry. He was sending a message that he would be a force locally and nationally in the months and years ahead.
Ray Cameron was next in line to make history. Cameron was a 32-year-old Continental Steel employee who had been bowling only six years! The 186 average bowler rolling for the Wiese Oldsmobile team in the Sycamore Classic League reached perfection in the second game of a 701 series. The March 22, 1961 occurrence was Kokomo's first league 300 game in 21 years.
Valparaiso's Gene Rhoda stroked a 300 game in the 1961 State Tournament held in Kokomo. It was the first 300 at Play Bowl. Rolling in the singles event on lanes 19 and 20, Rhoda captured the first perfect game in State Tournament play since Frank Vargo rolled his in 1954, also in Kokomo.
Clifton "Bunk" Dewitt was next to crank out a 300 game. Dewitt rolled his at Hillcrest Lanes in Peru in the Crawford Classic League. The January 1962 perfecto was the first league 300 ever in Peru. For his accomplishment, he received a number of gifts including $400, a watch and ten pairs of Don Carter slacks. His most treasured prize may have been the diamond ring provided by the American Bowling Congress.
Carl Babb, another of Kokomo's finest young bowlers was next. Babb rolled a non-sanctioned 300 game and 766 series to qualify for the live TV Bowling Show. Six months later he rolled the first league 300 game ever at Play Bowl in a 1962 summer league. For this accomplishment, he received a $300 check from Don Lowry.
Larry Riggs would get the next Play Bowl perfect game less than two weeks later. Riggs notched his game in the Thursday Night Mixed League.
Finally, in October 1962, Gene Lakey, who had just moved to Kokomo from Indianapolis, also found Peru's Hillcrest Lanes to be a friendly environment. Lakey stroked a 300 game while trying to qualify for the BPAA All-Star state finals in Evansville. Lakey was a member of the 1961 team actual State Champion Pepsi Cola team from Indianapolis.
There were also many more 700 series in this era. The list below cannot be considered complete since it was compiled by published records in the Kokomo Tribune. These high series were almost always captured in Lowry's bowling column but some may have been missed during the 1962/63 season when no column was published.
Don Johnson -- 771, 709, 706, 704, 700 and 4 others
Dick Newton -- 743, 706
Bob Ellis - 734
Carl Babb - 728, 717, 714, 711, 709, 702
Maurie Newton -- 727
Chet Reel -- 726
Jim Fisher -- 721, 716
Bill Thompson -- 719
Mike Wikel -- 718, 701
Ron Quinnette -- 715
Jim Rutherford -- 714
Dorval Miller -- 713, 704
Tom Dinwiddie -- 711
Wayne Kitts -- 709, 705
Dick Martin -- 709
Moe Troyer -- 709
Tom Ayres -- 708
Doyle Dewitt -- 708
Everett Newburn -- 707, 706
George Somsel -- 707, 703
Tim Harrison -- 705
Henry Bowman -- 705
Leo Scimia -- 704
Gene Lakey -- 701
Ray Cameron -- 701
Henry Bowman's 705 was also significant. It was the first 700 series ever shot at Cedar Crest Lanes.
In November 1962, Don Johnson set a new high series record with his enormous total of 771. The new standard was posted in the Play Bowl Classic League and eclipsed Mike Wikel's five-year-old record of 768. Johnson got off to a blistering start with a couple of 278 games but cooled off with a 215 finish. The score vaulted Johnson's average to 226 only eight weeks into the season. Babb was not far behind with 220.
Bob Frank fired a 788 series in qualification for, and resulting in, his appearance on the TV Bowling Show. Tex Thornton bombed a 794 series practicing at Cedar Crest in January 1961.
There were many excellent State Tournament performances during this time period.
Kokomo hosted the 1961 State Tournament. The team event was rolled at Sycamore Lanes and the minor events at Play Bowl. As expected, the locals had many fine performances. Play Bowl Pro Shop shot the 11th best actual score and took 13th place handicap money with scores of 2864 and 3050, respectively. Yeoman Stone Company wound up in 15th place. Richard Brocking and Ralph Miller finished 19th in doubles handicap with their score of 1316. Carl Babb and Chuck Lucas each shot 658 actual in the singles event. These scores took 9th place money. Don Johnson was not far behind with his 655. James Schwartz fired a 724 handicap score to finish in 9th place.
Many excellent all-events scores were turned in. Johnson led Kokomo with 1827. Elmer Cook was next with 1817. Following them were Babb (1799), Wayne Kitts (1772), Webster Raemy (1749), G. R. "Barney" Pickering (1747), Francis Fisher (1742), Everett Newburn (1730) and Tex Thornton (1725).
In the 1963 event in Marion, the Untouchables took 5th place team handicap with their score of 3152. Sycamore Lanes finished 11th. Don Johnson and Carl Babb finished 10th in doubles actual with a score of 1212. Only one pin back were Thomas Kutzera from Peru and Tex Thornton. Barney Pickering shot a lofty 696 in singles actual, which was definitely in the top ten singles scores rolled. He took first place money after the actual and handicap prize distribution was determined. Jim Deschamps handicap score of 698 took 15th place money. Pickering led the Kokomo bowlers with an all-events actual score of 1809. Not far behind were Deschamps at 1797 and Thornton at 1751.
In the 1964 event in Michigan City, Johnson and Babb moved up to 6th place in doubles actual with their 1246 score. Johnson led Kokomo bowlers with his 1771 all-events total.
In the 1965 event in Richmond, Wayne Ammerman and Bud Compton finished 17th in doubles handicap with a score of 1281. Gary Moore rolled an excellent 269 game to propel him to singles totals of 634 actual and 690 handicap. The handicap score was good enough for eighth place money. He also led the Kokomo contingent with an all-events tally of 1738.
The City Tournament continued to see a large number of entries. Don Johnson and Carl Babb publicly stated their intent not to enter the 1964 City Tournament due to complaints from a few bowlers. Their hope was that this announcement would help maintain high participation levels.
Among the names of bowlers capturing city titles were Don Johnson, Carl Babb, Cloyd Long, Tom Dinwiddie, Wayne Kitts, George Somsel, Jim Dewitt, Ray Cameron, Ken Bassett, Conway Bridges, Allen Anderson and Jim Grant.
John Cox hosted the Wildcat Singles Classic at Sycamore Lanes. Ray Cameron won the 1961 event.
Don Johnson bested Bob Sebree from Peru and Carl Babb to win the 1961 local BPAA match play qualifying. Johnson finished 4th in the state finals in Marion to advance to the national finals. Alma Hartman won the local women's division over a lone competitor from Marion. The men rolled 32 games of match play while the women had to roll 24.
Local bowlers also continued to participate in a variety of tournaments nearby.
The local Yeoman Stone team took the lead with one squad to go in the Jay County Merchants tournament in Portland. That team consisted of Jim Fisher, Ray Cameron, Chuck Lucas, Dan Gibson and Fred Rutherford.
Rutherford also led the Wapekoneta tournament in Ohio.
Babb and Johnson won the 1964 Cedar Crest Doubles Tournament over Dave Wolfe and Ed Gibson.
Dan Gibson and Floyd White won the Holiday Doubles Tournament in 1964 at Sycamore Lanes.
Kokomo hosted the 24th Annual Moose State Tournament. Coincidentally, the 1964 event attracted 1964 singles entries. There were many good finishes by local bowlers. Sycamore Lanes finished 4th in the team event with 2789. Conway Bridges and Everett Newburn won the doubles actual and handicap titles with scores of 1250 and 1337, respectively. Jim Huth Jr. captured the singles actual crown with his 659.
Kokomo bowlers even did well at the famed Peterson Classic in Chicago. Carl Babb pounded out a score of 1598 for his eight games in 1962. He finished eighth that year. In 1964, Clancy Clary rolled 1619 to move into 4th place at the time. Clary eventually finished 15th.
It was rare to see averages posted in the newspaper. It was stated that Dick Newton led the city in averages for the 1963/64 season with 195. He achieved this average in the Cross Town League.
Bowling exhibitions continued during this period.
Virginia Riser and Al Schmidt from Peru won the right to compete against Marion Ladewig and Joe Joseph. Ladewig and Schmidt teamed up againat Riser and Joseph in the mixed doubles match. The event was held as part of the grand opening of Cedar Crest Lanes.
Seventy-year-old Andy Varipapa again came to Kokomo to perform in January 1961.
The Falstaff team came to town in September 1962 for an exhibition. They rolled a team match against five local bowlers at Cedar Crest. The locals performed well but still lost 3062 to 2915. Participating were Vern Kirkman, Fred McCoy, Fred Rutherford, John Cox and Tex Thornton. At the Play Bowl, Don Johnson and Carl Babb beat Harry Smith and Dick Hoover in a doubles match. The visitors also did exhibitions at the Bowling Center and Sycamore Lanes. Kirkman still has very fond memories of meeting Glenn Allison and introducing him to other bowlers.
The town of Kokomo was tracking the PBA tour very closely. Two of its native bowlers turned professional to try to make a name for themselves. Don Johnson joined the tour first and was joined shortly thereafter by Carl Babb. Their first professional event was in Chicago in December 1961. Both averaged about 190 but did not make the finals. The PBA tour started to be covered by ABC television.
Babb finished 15th in the 500 Festival Tournament in May 1962. He finished 16th in the Indianapolis Open in April 1963.
Johnson, however, was the Kokomo bowler who would leave his mark on the game. His first professional victory came in the 1964 Denver tournament. Along with it came the $4000 first place prize. His career was just starting and the best was yet to come!
Kokomo added another bowling facility during this time period. Construction of Cedar Crest Lanes began in May 1960. They opened for business on September 2, 1960. The 24 lane center was certainly state-of-the-art at the time. It was touted as the "Midwest's Most Luxurious Bowling Center".
Competition to attract Kokomo bowlers was fierce. The Bowling Center put in 12 new Brunswick Lanes that same summer. Each center advertised to bring the bowlers to their establishment.
In the summer of 1961, Sycamore Lanes added automatic pin-spotters. That was the end of pin-boys for the city of Kokomo as Sycamore Lanes was last to add automatic pin-setters.
Play Bowl remodeled the lobby, enlarged the rest rooms, added a ladies lounge and provided a meeting room for league use.
With the new center and all the upgrades, Kokomo's facilities had to rank as one of the states' best.
The 1965 Palm Sunday tornado did some damage to Play Bowl and more significant damage to Cedar Crest. Some Cedar Crest leagues quit a few weeks early while other finished at one of the other centers.
Fred Swaney continued Kokomo's involvement in bowling at the state level when he was elected the 5th vice-president in 1960. Swaney would rise through the chairs to 2nd vice-president. In 1963, a sudden heart attack took Swaney, one of Kokomo's most dedicated bowling servants. Only one month earlier, Loren Guge took over the local association secretary duties to allow Swaney to focus his energies at the state level.
"Doc" Holcombe was still bowling in town at the age of 94.
Brunswick came out with their new Crown Jewel bowling ball. It represented the first major manufacturing change in bowling balls in about 50 years. It quickly became a hit as many of the top bowlers flocked to the ball.
Finally, the 10,000th sanctioned 300 game ever was rolled in January of 1965. No one was sleeping when Rochester, New York's John Sandman rolled the historic game. The first sanctioned 300 game was rolled in 1908 by Art Jellison from St. Louis. It took a long 57 years to record 10,000 perfect games. Now we get more than three times as many in a single year! Over 33,000 ABC-sanctioned 300 games were rolled during the 1996/97 season.
That's concludes the Bowling History column for this month. If you have any photographs, interesting stories or topics that you would like to see in future articles, please let me know.
Women's Bowling in Kokomo - 1960 to 1965
Great scores continued to be shot by the women in the 1960's.
Joan Miller recorded the second highest game ever at the time for a Kokomo woman with her 279 game. The feat was performed in November 1960 at the Bowling Center. Peg Hawkins sailed to a 267 game and Barbara Hackett chopped down the pins for a fine 265 game.
Many women continued to shoot 600 series with Hawkins, Betty Hubert and Katie Weitzel leading the way. The recorded list of 600 series during this time period is shown below.
Peg Hawkins -- 656, 625
Betty Hubert -- 647, 643, 640, 616
Katie Weitzel -- 642, 621, 619, 606
Agnes Urbanek -- 640, 601
Jeniece Kasey -- 637, 615, 610, 606
Sue Thornton -- 621
Rosie Currens -- 617, 609
Naomi Ruth -- 613
Elvetta Pristach -- 611
Barbara DeShon -- 602
Alma Hartman -- 601
In the 1961 State Tournament in Elkhart, Fenn's Shell Service won the Class C Team event. Members of the team were Sharon Wilcox, Marilyn Lawson, Dorothy Wilcox, Connie Johnson and Joan Cameron. The team, which rolled together in the Wildcat League at Sycamore Lanes, scored 2313 to capture the event.
Ladies Traveling Scratch League
Local women participated in a traveling scratch league in 1963. Representing Sycamore Lanes were Faye Crawford and Betty Hubert. Rosie Currens, Ann Schreiner and Sue Thornton represented Cedar Crest Lanes. All five women shot over 500 in one showing at Star Lanes in Lafayette.
Ann Schreiner won the 1964 Muncie Star and Press Women's Singles Tournament with her handicap score of 702. Schreiner shot 209 -- 191 -- 212 for an actual score of 612.
In the 1965 GM Women's State Bowling Tournament, the Delco Hit and Misses captured the team actual crown for the 5th time in six years. Members of the team shooting 2361 were Betty Ewing, Jeniece Kasey, Evelyn Ratcliff, Barbara Hackett and Rosie Currens.