Southgate Lanes, Bluffton’s only — and best, of course — bowling alley, is opening for its 51st season. Seems like eons ago that Jim Dailey handed me a pair of bowling shoes that fit so well I fell in love with them. I begged him to sell them to me. I was in high school and I wanted to wear those shoes with my jeans.
Wait, oh, it was eons ago…the early 70s…when my friends and I started hanging out at the bowling alley. We were definitely not very good. But a few years later, during the HUEX years of my tenure at Bluffton College, I took bowling. Really. It was a course. We bowled. Jim, ever a patient and kind teacher, somehow managed to morph us from truly bad bowlers into presentable ones. We even got strikes. Sometimes more than one in a game.
I haven’t bowled in years, but recently stepped inside an alley where my husband was directing a Big Brothers Big Sisters fundraising event. The swoosh of the balls rolling down the lane, the clatter of the pins hitting the floor, made me want to pick up a ball again. But when I do that, it’ll be at Southgate Lanes. Only now, it’ll be Jim’s son, John, greeting me. Father and son — same easy smile, cheerful hello. Pieces of Bluffton history that make my town a good place.
So…ten pins. Once…long ago, I knew how to hold a bowling ball, and how to put the right spin on it so it would knock down a good number of pins…even 10, if I was lucky. Wonder if it’s like riding a bike…you never forget how? Can’t hurt to try, right?
Speaking of ten pins, there is another Ten Pin among my favorite places to hang out. About 10 years ago, I began recruiting students to Bluffton’s bachelor degree completion program at Northwest State Community College near Archbold. The route to NSCC takes an hour — depending on which route one chooses. To keep from being bored, I often changed up routes. No matter. Each one ended up with me driving through Ridgeville Corners, a tiny burg just a mile or so from the NSCC campus.
Along the way, someone introduced me to the Ten Pin, technically a bar, but known also for its great, home-cooked food. In my case, I was drawn to the Ten Pin for the best brewed iced tea outside my own kitchen. Servers bring a big Tupperware pitcher of it to the table. A couple glasses of that and their soup of the day got me through many afternoons. I’m sure there’s a history to that building; judging by the long room with hardwood floors, I’m guessing it was a bowling alley at one time.
Since I no longer cover the Archbold area, I can only hope the Ten Pin remains open for business. Like Southgate Lanes, it’s an establishment with a history of immense proportions to its customers.
So if I can’t hit ten pins at Southgate, guess I’ll have to take a road trip to the Ten Pin. Console myself over a tall glass of iced tea.