BOB DESTEFANO PHOTO | Betty Kontje and Lou Cicero at the Legion lanes.
Louie Cicero thinks he and Betty Kontje may be the only originals still bowling
I don’t know how many times in my life I had to answer the question, “What do you do on that Island in the winter?”
Since these people don’t always understand things like tranquility and friendship, I always mention that, among other things, we have a bowling alley. They are always surprised that this small Island would have a place to bowl. I fail to mention that it has only two lanes.
Thanks to some excellent scheduling through the years, those two lanes at the American Legion Hall have been all we’ve really needed.
This year, the Legion is celebrating 50 years operating those two lanes, which have brought so much joy and friendship to so many. Fortunately, a few of the early pioneers are still around.
Maurice Tuttle remembered 50 years ago not only rolling the first ball on the new lanes but also holding the record for the highest game with a 267 for quite a while. A perfect 300 has never been rolled on these lanes but Louie (The Clip) Cicero noted that Ben Wojenski (25-year superintendent at Gardiner’s Bay Country Club) still holds the record with his almost perfect game of 290. George Blados was always one of the best bowlers at the Legion and his 190 average still holds the record for highest ever yearly average.
Betty Kontje said that, in the beginning of the league, Williette Piccozzi was known as the best female bowler, much as Jackie Brewer is today. I was around in those years so my winters were enhanced by bowling on a team called the Misfits for quite a few years. I think I was the only Legion bowler who was ever given a zero for a frame because I was in the bar getting drinks when it was my turn.
These lanes have never had pin boys and Jim Gibbs remembers installing the pin set-up machines along with Bobby Clark, Bob Tybaert and Toots Clark in the very beginning. Among the many people who volunteered their time in these early years to make things work were Barice and Betty (Kontje) Nevel, Jim Kelly, Maurice and Jackie Tuttle, Jimmy Wilson, Dot and Tink Clark, Ginny and Emil Johnson and, of course, Louie Cicero.
One of my Misfit teammates was Toots Clark, who did more than his share when he took the Legion’s old bar and completely refurbished it. Betty Kontje said that is the bar that is still in use today. Louie said he could be wrong but he thinks he and Betty Kontje are the only two originals still bowling.
Mentioning those names brings back a lot of good memories. Jackie Tuttle remembers that she, Jean Bourne, Ginny Johnson and Yvonne Clark called themselves Getty’s Gorgeous Gals, named after the popular local store at that time. She also revealed that, for the first few years, they were always the worst team. When the Getty store was sold, the team became Pell’s Precious Pearls, named for Pell’s Fish Market, and they went on for 20 years. Of course, Getty’s store was sold to Betty Kontje Nevel and Betty formed a team called Nevel’s Luncheonette. Today the team is called the Fabulous Five.
Well, here they are celebrating 50 years. The Legion’s two lanes are still providing enjoyment for everyone including special times for the youth and seniors. Even Special Olympics gold medalist Haley Sulahian practices her skills on those two alleys. Today, working out of the newly renovated kitchen are Gunnar Wisseman, Dave Clark and Stephanie Tybaert, who continue to serve Friday night dinners while Fred Ogar does the monthly Legion dinner.
Just about everything through these many years was done by volunteers and the glue that holds it all together is a sport, bowling. And now folks, your new season has started again. Enjoy it!