July 27, 2009


Five inducted during birthday bash

Sports Editor

A birthday party with no cake?
Well, scrounging around for and then keeping 75 candles lit would have been a slight challenge. And ice cream sundaes certainly sufficed as yummy dessert sustenance courtesy of the Walden Oaks Country Club food folks when the Seven Valley USBC Hall of Fame Induction Dinner was held Saturday evening.
And this was still a pretty special summertime celebration remembering that 75 years ago a group of some 40 bowling enthusiasts gathered at the Cortland Fire Department to give birth to the initial city association that helped accommodate the needs of the ever-growing sport.
These were people with the same dedication that Saturday’s deserving handful of inductees — Gen Duca, Gary Loudan, Ron Marshall, Jane Park and Russ Teeter — have displayed during distinguished careers rewarded by this Class of 2009 Hall of Fame recognition.
Celebrating 75 years as a men’s association, with the women following suit just three years later, is why this annual dinner was moved to July rather than being held at the end of the bowling season in the spring. The idea was to give the ceremony a little extra emphasis in this milestone birthday year.
So inserted in the dinner’s program, on Cortland Fire Department stationary, were the notes from that historic meeting when Sam Brackett was selected the inaugural president. He beat out Leland Dickinson by a 28-3 voting margin during that Dec. 2 meeting from 1934.
As dutifully noted by former Cortland Standard sports editor and avid bowling supporter Rol Randall, Walter Ashcraft became the first vice president, Francis Rice the second vice-president, Bertrum Miner the treasurer and Randall the secretary in unanimous fashion. When George Zaharis, Clarence Stevens, Leland Dickinson and Ara Woodworth were also added to the executive committee, the first association was intact.
Brackett, Randall, Zaharis, Dickinson and Randall would all go on to be charter members of the Hall of Fame, elected in 1973.
That was the start of what grew into a rich history of bowling locally which, despite tougher economic times and fewer participants bowlers, is still perking along and remaining optimistic about the future. Though the association has gone through several name changes and now wears the Seven Valley USBC tag that covers both men and the women, things basically remain the same.
Cort-Lanes and 281 Bowl in Cortland, Hi-Lanes in Homer, Marathon Lanes & More, Country Lanes in Cincinnatus, the Corona Club in Groton and the Masonic Lanes in DeRuyter are all part of the Seven-Valley community — a pretty nice collection. So though the association name and the circumstances may change, as guest speaker Gerry Angel pointed out, an Ithacan who is the director of the New York State Men’s Bowling Association: “The cause for our celebration stays the same.”
Current Seven Valley USBC president Mike W. Root would made Angel an honorary Hall of Fame member, too, for the work he does promoting the sport.
“I’m not sure if I chose bowling or bowling chose me, but I’m so happy with the way it worked out,” said Angel, who bowled in nine different leagues during six days of the week at his heyday. Then he got involved in running things locally in Ithaca and at the state level, Angel having always been good at (to use his own words) “putting back what you get out of it.”
That’s what this group of Hall of Famers has done, too.
Cortland’s Duca, two days past her own 81st birthday celebration, was the first Hall of Fame inductee under a new Golden Longevity category. A certified bowler for 55 years with high averages, the woman called “Gram” gave a shout-out to the proprietors of 281 Bowl by thanking “the Beckers for putting up with me.”
Cortland’s Park and McGraw’s Loudan were inducted in the Achievement and Accomplishments category.
A 300 game and 700 series are among the many Park accomplishments for a successful bowler who has also hauled in sportsmanship awards in the past. The 30-year lanes veteran who averaged an eye-opening 195 this past season thanked mentor Ann Strom for making her get involved in the junior bowling program that ignited a stellar career.
Loudan’s 35-year career also featured 300 games, along with a best 799 series, and his own sportsmanship award. He thanked some “wifely advice” and the assistance of longtime youth coach and bowling buddy Ken Smith for fixing his form when things go astray and plans to continue knocking down pins. “I’ll continue to show up and keep plugging away,” was his pledge.
Cortland’s Teeter and Masonic Lanes proprietor Marshall enter the Hall of Fame in the Service category.
Hall of Famer Leo Riley, who passed away this past year, convinced Teeter to submit his Hall of Fame resume for consideration. That resume includes some 47 years of service and success, including being a league president for 35 years and sponsoring numerous teams under the Cortland Granite banner — not to mention being a legislator in local government for 30 years.
Marshall was just named Seven Valley USBC Youth Coach of the Year for the third time this past spring, and his work with young keglers has been a highlight of his 50-year career. And he could teach by example, having several 700 series and a high 297 game to his credit.
Those honored provided the ideal icing to his birthday cake of an evening before Smith, who is stepping down from association duties after 39 years but will continue his true passion of being a youth coach, provided the final benediction.
As Angel noted: “The greatest thing to me is when your peers recognized you for the things you’ve done.” And in Cortland, things have been getting done for 75 years now.