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Bowling Night

PARK RIVER, N.D. -- The downtown streets are full of cars and the lanes are lined with people week nights in Park River. About 70 people bowl at the Bowl-Mor alley on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Men and women come from a radius of 30 ...

PARK RIVER, N.D. -- The downtown streets are full of cars and the lanes are lined with people week nights in Park River.

About 70 people bowl at the Bowl-Mor alley on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Men and women come from a radius of 30 miles of Park River to bowl in one of the alley's four leagues, says Keith Berg who has owned the Bowl-Mor since 1981.

Meanwhile, about 30 young people ages eight to 18 bowl in a Saturday night league.

Berg, 52, has been bowling at the alley since he joined the Bowl-Mors' Northern League when he was 14-years-old.

"My dad bowled and I would come in with him," Berg says. Berg still recalls his first league game.

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"I didn't have a fill (strike or spare) in my first four frames, then I scored the rest of the way," he says. He ended up with a final score of 201.

Berg sharpened his bowling skills over the years, achieving an average in the 190s in the early 1990s.

"You've got to be consistent and have patience, too," Berg says. Instead of getting angry about leaving a pin standing, bowlers need to focus on the upcoming frame, he says.

In 1989 Berg bowled his best game, a 299 in the Miller Lite state bowling tournament in Enderlin, N.D. The lone pin that didn't fall sits in a place of honor at the Bowl-Mor.

Familiar look

The Bowl-Mor, a six-lane alley, is decorated in a retro style with six original Brunwick tables and mint-green and off-white lockers.

A lunch counter and eight red stools separate the grill area from the dining area. The Bowl-Mor's cheeseburgers, accompanied by orders of fries or onion rings, are popular fare for the bowlers.

The bowling alley equipment, including the pin setters, all is original and fairly low maintenance, Berg says.

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"Give them a little T.L.C. and look at them once in awhile, that's all they ask."

Social event

On a recent Thursday night the equipment was working in rhythm as the familiar thump of the ball on the polished alleys, the clatter of pins falling and the clunk of the ball rolling up the surface return provided background noise to the hum of the league bowlers' conversation.

"It's an outing" for the area bowlers, Berg says. "I've always liked to bowl."

Berg is only the second owner of the Bowl-Mor. Built in 1960, about 300 people bowled in leagues during bowling's heyday, Berg says.

"In the early '80s we used to have three leagues on Monday, three on Tuesday, three on Wednesday, two on Thursday, one on Friday and two shifts on Sunday.

We had a (waiting) list for the open bowling on Saturday."

Fewer bowlers

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Bowling leagues across the United States have fewer members these days.

Darin Bale, the owner of the Star City Lanes bowling alley in Velva, N.D., tried unsuccessfully last summer to give away his bowling alley through a tournament. He got only 11 of the 600 entrants he needed to make the tournament work.

A second plan to hold a tournament at 12 locations across the United States also failed, so Bail closed the alley in June 2006.

Berg attributes the decline in bowlers, in part, to the hectic schedules of today's high school athletes.

"People my age are chasing their kids."

Still, Berg has managed to generate enough interest in bowling to make his business profitable. During the recent holiday season the St. Thomas school rented the alley for a party, and last year the Bowl-Mor hosted 50 bowling birthday parties.

"One day we had seven," he says.

Ann Bailey is Recollections editor. Reach her by phone at (701) 787-6753, (800) 477-6572, ext. 753 or e-mail her at abailey@gfherald.com

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