The local bowling alley resides in the basement of the Parish Hall, across from the Catholic church in St. Martin. The building has been there since 1936. Bowling in the Parish Hall began under the benevolent direction of Father Pius. Since that time it has not only served the members of the church, but also the whole community of St. Martin. The Parish Hall is also where the community goes to vote and give blood.
The residents of St. Martin have been bowling since the early 1930s. At first, they bowled on long wooden boards outdoors across the street from the church, usually during church bazaars. Using horses to help with the construction, the Parish Hall was finished in 1936 complete with a two-lane manually operated bowling alley. It wasnít until the 1970s that they had automated lanes.
Before that time they had ďpin boysĒ to set the pins upright. Gerry Schaefer, a former pin boy of the late 60s and early 70s, recalls working four hours a night for four dollars. In 1980, an addition was built on the hall to accommodate a four-lane alley.
Wiletta Stanlake has been the bowling alleyís manager for the past 14 years. From September to April, she makes sure the machines are in good condition, cleans and oils the lanes every day, sells reasonably priced snacks and beverages to the bowlers, and overseas the general maintenance along with her assistant Viola Karsch. Wiletta says business ďis in a downward swing right now.Ē Its peak was in the 1970s, then bowling was six nights a week, now its down to five.
St. Martin league members are part of the Paynesville Association of Bowlers sanctioned by the American Bowling Congress (ABC) and Womenís International Bowling Congress (WIBC), which means St. Martin bowlers can compete in national tournaments. St. Martin has 180 league members currently, but membership has been as high as 250. Women werenít allowed to bowl until the 40s and then years later, St. Martin had mixed leagues.
Since 1987, they have also had youth bowling leagues. The highest membership has been 30-40 members. The youth league educates youngsters (grades 1-12) on rules and techniques of the game for a total of 12 Saturdays.
There is bowling for the general public on Saturdays and Sundays, but one needs to call Wiletta in advance. League teams compete against each other Sunday through Thursday nights.
For league members, the key concept is ďthe more you win, the more you play.Ē
Return to Sports Archives