Let’s Bowl!

By Heather Aveson  | 

Its the early 1950s. Its Saturday night. You’re looking for something to do with your sweetheart, a group of friends, or your sweetheart and a group of friends. You might head over to the movie theater to catch On the Waterfront or High Noon, but you may be just as likely to gather up the group and head to a local bowling alley. And you’d have plenty of choices. In the 1950s there were lanes in just about every town Waltham, Woburn, Burlington, Winchester, Cambridge, Somerville, and yes, even Lexington.

Bowling in Lexington

The Lexington Bowladrome was located downstairs at 1690 Mass Ave in Lexington Center, more commonly known as the building where Decelles used to be.

Frank Armstrong, veteran salesman at Michelson’s Shoes, remembers being a pinsetter there as a young teenager in the mid-1940s. If you were setting up, you’d sit on a board straddling two alleys with your legs tucked up. You had to keep your eyes open because sometimes pins would fly up or the balls would fly up. If a pin hit you, the bowler might slide a nickel or dime down the alley. Frank got paid six cents a string to set the pins and return the balls in those days. So the nickels and dimes came in handy when he headed back to the nickel coke machine that dispensed 6 oz. glass bottles. Frank says it was mostly men in those days, “After the war it was a place for guys to go.

Or you might have gone to the iconic Wal-Lex, just over the line in Waltham. At its height in the early 60’s Wal-Lex offered 60 lanes of candlepin bowling, roller-skating, billiards and mini-golf. Dave Breton grew up at Wal-Lex.  He started bowling there in kindergarten and took a part time job as soon as he was old enough. He bowled in an adult league there until Wal-Lex closed in 2002, and still has a great love for the place, Wal-Lex had a lot of leagues. After it closed some of the bowlers went other places, but a lot of people just gave up. It was a shame because now the kids have nothing to do. I still have the key to the front door in case it comes back.

Game Over

The Lexington Bowladrome and Wal-Lex weren’t alone in closing their doors. Alleys in Burlington and Winchester are also gone. Bowling hit hard times in the 70s and 80s as American life began to change. John Leverone, Manager of Lanes and Games in Cambridge, has followed its ups and downs over the past 34 years. When I was kid in Arlington there were buses that came around and picked us up and brought us here to bowl after school. Now there are more and more organized sports competing with bowling. There were also a lot fewer women working outside the home and they made morning leagues popular. Men usually worked an 8 hour day, finishing up around 5pm, leaving time to spend a few hours a week bowling on a league. Although statistics show a steady decrease in league play, the Bowling Membership Organization estimates there are still close to three million Americans participating in league play.

A League Of Their Own

I caught up with several leagues while visiting local bowling venues. And from what I saw I’d join any one that would have me. Bowling is about so much more than scores. There is friendship and camaraderie, friendly competition and in many of these leagues, a rich history, all of which are integral to enjoying the sport itself.

Vinnie Logrippo and Charlie Taylor go for a strike.

Sacco’s Bowl Haven in Davis Square was a traditional family owned alley for 70 years. Last summer The Flatbread Pizza Company took over the business creating an eclectic blend of old and new. You can sit in one of the original vinyl upholstered bowling benches and enjoy trendy and delicious pizza cooked in a clay and brick oven just across the bar from ten lanes of candlepin bowling. No computerized scoring here. Get out your pencils and mark the frames, spares, and strikes yourself. Wednesday afternoons at 1pm you’ll find the Somerville Senior Center League gathering. Many members of this co-ed league have been bowling for decades. And it reminds me that league play was often a company or club activity. Vinnie Logrippo is an outgoing guy, the unofficial greeter and ready with a story. I used to be in a steel company and we played other steel companies. Then at the end of the season we had a big party. We had strippers and somebody watched the door to make sure no one came in. Charlie Taylor is a little more reserved. He’s collecting dues, so I ask him where the money will go, prizes? No prizes, he says, they’ll host a banquet at the end of the season. But, no strippers.

Over at the Woburn Bowladrome on a recent Thursday night, I am welcomed by members of the Town Line Ladies. In the 1970s it was a group of Winchester friends, families and gal pals. It began as a way to get out of the house for a few hours. They’d bowl and then they’d play cards, says Joan Brownell. Her mother was an original Town Line Lady. Member Joyce Granara has been bowling for 60 years, and her daughter, Terri represents the third generation of bowlers on this league. The league moved to Woburn after the Winchester lanes closed and has expanded their membership to ladies from other local towns. Linda Durant of Lexington Financial Group is a newbie, joining just this season. They’re a great group of women. Once you start bowling with them you’re hooked, even if you do have a 61.9 average. They’re just so supportive. It’s just fun.

And you can’t help but get caught up in the fun these ladies are having, it’s like being at a sleepover with your BFF–there’s plenty of laughter, conversation and bowling. Joan’s got a bead on it. It’s really nice because people make connections. As we get older that’s really important. We all still the bowling, we all still love to win, but that’s not the most important thing. This league is all about inclusion. Their end of the season banquet used to include hand picked and individually wrapped gifts for every member, that doesn’t happen anymore, but they still make sure everyone is recognized. And everyone is proud of their sometimes notorious achievement. Elaine Callahan is quick to share her most coveted award. Three years ago I got a ribbon for Most Consistent for being Inconsistent. I think my low score that year was a 28 and my high score a 105.  Hmmm, I could be a contender for that ribbon.

The Next Generation

If the youth are our future, then bowling seems to be in good hands. At Lanes and Games on Route 2 you’ll find a great group of kids on Saturday morning bowling in the instructional league. Coach Bill and Coach Dave, our friend Dave Breton from Wal-Lex, are on hand to give guidance and support to the approximately 12 young bowlers here this morning. And on Sunday Coach Dave will take his traveling team on the road.

The Taranto family. Left-to-right: Marcellina, Gatetano and Isabella.

An unscientific survey of the kids showed most of them enjoy bowling because it’s fun and you get to hang out with your friends. Many siblings bowl in the league together. The Taranto family of Waltham has 3 children bowling this morning. Marcellina, 12, Isabella, 10 and Gaetano, 9. I asked them what their friends thought about bowling. In general their friends are supportive, but maybe don’t get it.

Gaetano offers, “They don’t like it because they’re not good at it. Big sister Marcellina adds “My friends usually tell me it’s not really a sport. It’s the only sport I’m doing now, but I’m doing track later.”

Well, Marcellina may have the last laugh there. According to the National Federation of State High School associations bowling is the fastest growing varsity sport for both boys and girls in the country. The number of varsity bowlers at the high school level has actually doubled in the last eight years, putting it just behind ice hockey and well above crew.

And for those looking for an edge in the college admissions game, that’s right–think bowling. More than 170 colleges and universities now have varsity bowling teams and thirty-nine offer bowling scholarships. The National Association of intercollegiate Athletics considers bowling an emerging sport sending it on its way to becoming a recognized NAIA championship sport.

These junior bowlers weren’t impressed when I shared this valuable nugget with them. There was a general shrugging of the shoulders mixed with New England pride and a general response that they probably all bowl 10-pin. Implying they spoke another language. But I think I caught a glint of interest in the parents’ eyes.

The Ultimate Test

I’d spent a bit of time around bowlers during the last week. And I was getting hooked. Now for the ultimate test. How hard would it be to convince a group of friends to head out for a Saturday night bowling adventure? One call to each of three friends and it was done. We had a group of eight ready to battle it out on the lanes. For this outing we decided to visit one of the hip new upscale bowling venues in the city. When we entered Lucky Strike, part of the Jillian’s complex on Ipswich Street we were greeted by polished wood panels along the walls and a stunning arrangement of fresh cut white hydrangea, lilies and roses at the door. Inside we found subtle lighting and lounge areas with low benches. I thought I’d walked into a Sex and the City episode.

Ken Willinger throws a strike.

Gone were the curved plastic bowling banquettes, replaced by elegant leatherette sofas facing low cocktail tables. Plasma screens lined the wall at the end of the alley, keeping score, giving bowling tips and cheering or jeering your latest roll. This was definitely not our father’s bowling alley.

After a few tentative frames we got into it, we cheered each other on and played up casual rivalries. Lexington Resident Ken Willinger bowled a suspiciously high 141 his first game and an equally overwhelming 132 for the second string. Turns out Ken’s father had owned an interest in Wal-Lex and he’d spent quite a bit of time there as a kid. Florence DelSanto admitted that the last time she’d bowled when was she and Ken were working in Moscow because there was nothing else to do. It made me think that just about everyone has a bowling story.

And our teammate Suzanne Rothschild of Arlington didn’t care how many other entertainment choices we had, she knew fun when she saw it. We should do this every month. Her husband John Baynard agreed, as long we could get bowling shirts.

As we headed out the lanes were filling up with groups of college kids and twenty somethings ready to take up where we left off.

All in all, I’d say it’s about the best eleven dollar deal around. Where else can you spend a couple of hours having a great time with friends or family, get a little exercise and wear cool shoes?

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The first annual Lexington BBQ Battle draws huge crowd to support LABBB Program



 A tasty way to raise funds for the great LABBB program at Lexington High School.

Photos by Jim Shaw.


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Open House with Jay Kaufman

 Thursday, May 19  |  7:00 – 9:00 pm

OPEN HOUSE with Jay Kaufman: Many hoped that the election of Barack Obama as President signaled the end of racism in the U.S.   However, there is ample evidence, nationally and locally, that we must continue to be vigilant about racial tensions and prejudice in our midst.  Join with your neighbors for a difficult but important conversation about issues of race in our community.  Share your experiences of insensitivity, intolerance and discrimination.  What impact has it had on your life?  What can or should we, individually and collectively, do about it?

Depot Square, Lexington, MA

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Lexington Reads

By Judy Buswick  | 

Record snowstorms may have barricaded us indoors, but there’s more to nature than snow!  As the 2011 season progresses toward spring, Cary Memorial Library will have programs on what Nature teaches us. We can find, as William Shakespeare reminds us, that there are “tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” (As You Like It, Act II, scene i) 

This season’s Lexington Reads events come into blossom throughout March, growing around a “Let Nature Be Our Teacher” theme. Residents may join in discussions with an animal naturalist, a treasure-hunt explorer, and a nature photographer, and view the wilderness movie Alone in the Wilderness about Richard “Dick” Proenneke. Alone in the Wilderness, was produced in 2003 from Dick’s own film footage. Special Children’s programs are guaranteed to stimulate a sense of wonder.

Literary elements this year include nature-journaling tips and also the reprise of our 2007 “Evening of Poetry Reading.” Our Community Book for Lexington Reads 2011 is Chet Raymo’s non-fiction title The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe.  Mr. Raymo will bring the “Let Nature Be Our Teacher” series to a close with a nature lecture and discussion of his book. Multiple copies are available at Cary Library. [Read more…]

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New Fund Honors Lexington Writer & Educator

Bill Tapply

By S. Levi Doran  | 

The William G. Tapply Memorial Fund Will Support Sophomore Writing Program

Friends of a longtime Lexingtonian are merging with supporters of a high school writing program, to fund an important piece of the sophomore English curriculum.

Bill Tapply spent his childhood here, and graduated from the High School in 1958. He later became well-known for his mystery novels, and published thirty during his lifetime – in addition to at least ten nonfiction books which mostly deal with fly fishing. And within Lexington, he was also admired for his abilities in the classroom – as a teacher. He returned to town for a quarter-century as an English and social studies teacher, and house master, before moving on to Emerson College, Clark University, and a home in Hancock, N.H.

Tapply died of leukemia in July of 2009, and almost immediately, his high school classmates began thinking of how they could honor him within the town. The LHS Class of 1958 is closely knit, and Tapply was a prominent member. There were much smaller classes then, with about 200 seniors graduating in ’58. [Read more…]

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Traces of the Trade

By Laurie Atwater  | 

CommUNITY programs to address issues of race

Imagine your joy at discovering a family history actually compiled by your grandmother only to have it turn to horror and disgust as you unwind a story that reveals your ancestor to be the most successful slave trader in America.

Now imagine that you are a nice white girl from Bristol, Rhode Island with a highbrow name like DeWolf in your family tree as you begin to grasp that reality. Katrina Browne (a distant cousin of DeWolf) uncovered this ugly family history over fifteen years ago and she was so moved by this unknown history that she was inspired to bring it out from the shadows and has been using her knowledge to educate and inform every since.

DeWolf Family
Above: Family of Ten—at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, July 2001. (Top, left to right) Dain Perry, Elizabeth Sturges Llerena, Katrina Browne, Jim Perry, Holly Fulton, Ledlie Laughing, Keila DePoorter. (Bottom, left to right) Tom DeWolf, Elly Hale, James Perry. (Photo by Elly Hale)

[Read more…]

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Lex is More

Shop Locally!  Click on the Lex is More -shopping bag and find out more!

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Lexington Film Club to Hold First Annual Film Festival

The Lexington high school film club will be holding their first annual film festival at the Lexington Venue on Massachusetts Avenue, May 24th from 7-930 p.m. The festival is cosponsored by Lexington High School’s Television Production program, the LHS Tunnel Vision Film Club and the Lexington Venue.

Attendees will be treated to a variety of short films in a number of different genres. Lexington Venue owner Peter Siy has generously donated his theater for the evening. The PTSA has made a contribution to the festival that will cover the rental of a digital projector. This two-hour evening event features student written, directed and acted films. The event’s MC for the night will be former LHS student and present Emerson film student Sam Ruocco. Drinks and food will be offered by the Lexington Venue and DVDs with all of the movies shown for the event will be sold to the public.

LexMedia will be funding cash prizes for the winners. “Two areas of great interest to us are Youth production and working with the school system,” says Florence DelSanto, Director of LexMedia, “So naturally we jumped on the idea. This festival gave us an opportunity to work directly with the LHS media class and for them to learn about LexMedia and the equipment and resources we have to offer,” she says. “It’s also very special to have a privately owned movie theater in the center of town and it’s nice that the high school can take advantage of that community asset as well. I look forward to being on the judging panel and seeing the exciting and diverse entries and to a successful and fun event.”

It is expected that up to 100 films will be entered into the competition. All entries will be screened by members of the Lexington High School film club and group of finalists will be selected from the original entries. Volunteers have been selected from the community to serve as festival judges and each judge will be supplied with a compilation disc of the shorts to screen and to rate.

Lexington High School TV production teacher Mary Pappas is very excited that her small program has developed to this level. “I always wanted to have a film festival,” she says. “It just came together this year. “A number of my students are very passionate about film. They started Tunnel Vision which is the film club in October of ’09. They really wanted to have a film festival, and I said, ‘If you guys will work with me, we can pull it off.”  The club started brainstorming, they did research: should we have an angle, should we have a theme? And we don’t,”  Pappas says. “That was deliberate. What we really wanted was a number of different types of films of different films in different genres that are really good quality. We are stressing quality and not the length, or the genre of the films.”

“I really can’t believe we’ve come this far,” Pappas laughs. “When I started here there were only two computers in this room! The first year I wheeled equipment around on a cart into the elevator and upstairs to the computer lab every day!”

Pappas talked with then-acting principal Van Seasholes and he recommended that she apply for a Lexington Education Foundation grant. “He really helped me with it. and I got it,” she says. “The grant was for 12 computers and a couple of pieces of equipment for the control room. Then, the PTSA gave me a grant for a number of cameras. I’m so grateful to these people because that really was the start of the program.” Since then FOLMADS has funded items like Final Cut Express software, several instructional videos and DVDs a Sony Cybershot still camera, and podcasting bundle.

Pappas was a television producer in New York City with ABC News before moving to Boston where worked for the Discovery Channel in the 90s. After she had her first child, she decided to change careers and went back to school. “I was always interested in computers, so I enrolled in a program for technology integration in education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. The program stressed all different kinds of technologies and how to integrate them into the schools. I loved it!” It was a two-year program and Pappas went to work for the Weston Schools in 1997. When the TV production job at Lexington High School opened up she applied.

“I really wanted the position because it is the combination of everything I have done. And I love it. And the kids love it. Whatever you do today you’re going to have to know technology, space and you’re going to be using video whether you like it or not. What kids learn in this class will be really valuable to them in the future.”

Working on a film festival has given members of the television film club a look into the business side of getting films out to the public. Rae Aggerwhil and his friend Kevin Choi were instrumental in the formation of the film club. They brought the idea to Pappas and she was supportive.

“Everyone thought it was a great idea, we were all amped up,” Rae says. “When Peter Siy agreed to let us hold the festival at the Lexington Venue, the idea really took off. Everyone wants to see their work on the big screen,” Rae says.

Julia Friedman, another club member agrees. “It’s a really cool feeling to see something you do on a big screen. Now with everything on MySpace, we’re taking movie theaters for granted.”

These film students are really excited to have the opportunity to showcase their work. “We have lots of singing and acting and art here at Lexington High School, but we don’t have a place to showcase filmmaking. This film festival will give kids who want to be filmmakers a chance to show people what they can do,” Friedman says.

Magdalena Bermudez says that she finds film to be a very intellectual pursuit. “LHS produces a lot of intellectual students and film making gathers all of those skills together. It gives students a chance to reflect what they are learning here.”

Magdalena is interested in documentary filmmaking, but for this project she has chosen to interpret a friend’s dream. “It’s very surreal and dreamlike and I wanted to edit it in a style that’s like French new wave film.”Leo Gaskell comes to filmmaking from photography. The film that he has been working on for the festival is based on Ernest Hemingway’s short story Hills Like White Elephants. “I’ve been working on this for maybe a year now,” Gaskell says. “I’ve had lots of time to think about the techniques I want to use. Ideally, I’d love to shoot in 16mm—I have kind of an attachment to the actual medium of film—but, I have to work with what’s available.”

Leo has found that limitations have led him to think more creatively about his project. “It’s like when you’re writing a poem,” he explains, “if you want to make two lines rhyme, just making them rhyme will take you to a place that you wouldn’t have thought of.”

Leo has taken advantage of the facilities at LexMedia. DelSanto and her staff have encouraged all the members of the club to come in and use the editing equipment and the studios. Leo made use of the green screen in studio A to shoot some of his film.

During our meeting the students had a vigorous debate about film versus video. The ease, accessibility and relative low cost of shooting digital have made the medium more accessible. However, Kevin Choi talked about the “almost therapeutic” aspect of actually working with the film. “Now your only investment is time. Before, there was a huge investment in materials.”

Working in digital makes it possible to shoot endless amounts of footage. It’s something that the students seemed to view with mixed feelings.

Tyler Vendetti is working on a documentary video about Lexington firefighters. “With digital you can be less disciplined,” she says. “You can be excessive. Before digital you’d probably spend more time planning.” Tyler loves working in film because it allows her to bring her ideas to life. “You can write something down and then you can get actors to come in and make it come to life just as you visualized it. You can show your thoughts and your emotions. I like that whole aspect of filmmaking.”

Kevin Choi is working on an animation for the festival. “Recently I’ve been attracted to motion graphics and animation,” he explains. “With this new technology you can do an entire frame with the click of a button. It saves so much time. You can make a choice of having thirty frames or six—each frame is very valuable. You have to respect each frame.”

Kevin’s fellow founding member Rae Aggerwhil is immersed in film. He describes a project that he and some buddies worked on. They each took the same footage and edited it into three or four minutes. “We all had the exact footage and everyone edited it completely differently!” For Rae it’s a great form of self-expression. “Everyone has a different perspective,” he says.

All of the creative energy from these students makes me really look forward to the First Annual LHS Film Festival when the Lexington Venue will be transformed into our very own Sundance for a night!

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