By Gail Wood
Dale Myers has bowled for 55 years and he still bowls with the enthusiasm of a kid.
“I just love it,” the 77-year-old said with a grin.
Age hasn’t deteriorated Myers’ game much either. Myers, who first got involved in bowling growing up in Toppenish, Wash. averaged 196 last season.
“I bowl for fun now,” Myers said.
Myers squeezes in a lot of fun, bowling in four leagues a week.
On Thursday afternoons, Myers, who has rolled two perfect 300 games in his life, is throwing strikes in the mixed senior league at Aztec Lanes. And don’t let the gray hair fool you.
Darlene Gardner, who is 80-years-young, averaged 168 last year. She recently came back from a national tournament in Reno and is tied for second.
“I bowl for the camaraderie,” Gardner said. “These people are terrific. All the senior leagues are terrific.”
Gardner and Myers, who bowl on the same team, are both an inspiration. Rather than retire to a couch and TV remote, they stay active, enjoying life.
They’re the kind of people Dan Brathovd, the owner of the Aztec Lanes, sees all the time.
At Aztec Lanes, there are ten different leagues for all ages, from kids to seniors.
The youngest bowlers are a pair of 7-year-olds – Troy Anthony and Greigh Brathovd, Dan’s nephew.
Last year, about 500 bowlers participated in leagues at the Aztec. And, Dan Brathovd admits, there’s often more yakking than bowling. It’s as much social as it is competition.
“A lot of times it’s more or less a meeting place for the older folks,” Brathovd said. “If they don’t bowl good, they don’t really care. They’re here to socialize with their friends. It’s basically a gathering place.”
Bowling is in Brathovd’s blood. His grandfather, Dan Ruden, was a longtime owner and eventually offered the business to his grandson. Ruden worked at the Capital Lanes in Tumwater before it burned down in the 1950s. Then when it became the Aztec Lanes on Martin Way in Olympia, Ruden took ownership in the 1970s. When Brathovd was at Tenino High School he began working for his grandfather in the early 1990s and eventually took over the business.
“My grandfather offered me a piece of the business when I was graduating from high school,” Brathovd said.
It was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
For Brathovd, owning a bowling ally is part business and part sports. And it’s all friendship. It’s not sitting at a desk, figuring budgets.
“I like the people,” Brathovd said. “I enjoy being able to socialize with the people.”
He’s always on standby, ready to substitute for teams short a player. He’ll often play in six leagues a week.
Besides the socializing and bowling, Brathovd has another project – fund raising. Last year, the Aztec Lanes raised about $10,000 in college scholarship money that is awarded to kids in the youth leagues. The money is raised by selling 50/50 raffle tickets in the adult leagues. If a bowler’s ticket is drawn and then if they roll a strike, they pocket half the pot from the raffle. The other half goes to the scholarship fund.
“It’s an easy way to raise money,” Brathovd said. “It goes to a good cause.”
In 1991, Gardner and her husband moved to Olympia from the Midwest. While her husband doesn’t bowl, he gives Gardner, who bowls in leagues three times a week, the okay to bowl.
“He’s very supportive,” Gardner said. “He’s great.”
At the women’s national competition, Gardner was recognized for her 30 consecutive years of high level tournament play.
Like Gardner and Myers, Larry Pickett is no stranger to bowling. He first got involved in bowling as a pin setter back in the 1950s in his hometown of Wenatchee.
“I bowl because I can’t golf,” the 75-year-old Pickett said with a grin. “And you can play it year around. You don’t have to worry about the rain.”
And you always bowl where everyone knows your name.