By DAVID GREEN
The first time Doris Powell traveled to the annual national bowling tournament was a momentous one.
The year was 1968 and the gals were flying to San Antonio.
“The five of us who went were the five scaredest kids you ever saw,” Doris said.
People didn’t hop on planes back then the way they do now, so it was a unique experience for the group.
She has the idea that perhaps the plane was about to overshoot the end of the runway and the pilot had to slow things down quickly. Passengers were bouncing around in their seats, food trays were flying out of the galley.
Back in those days, Doris said, pilots opened the doors and stood by as the passengers departed.
“I’ve got a question,” Doris said to her pilot. “Did you read the directions before you started this morning?”
San Antonio marked the first of 40 trips for Doris.
“I’ve been to each end of the country and from north to south,” she said.
She’s the only Morenci representative who’s made it to all 40 tournaments, so she’s had a mix of fellow travelers over the years—and they’ve always had a great time.
“We seem to have a little experience like that airplane thing on every trip,” Doris said.
She figures she’s traveled to tournament by about every means of transportation but bicycle and motorcycle.
One year there were five teams heading for the event in Hartford, Conn., and she arranged for a Short Ways Line bus.
The deal was made before Doris added, “There’s one stipulation. Our driver has to be Shorty Bachelder.”
The Short Ways representative balked, but Doris reined her in.
“He will be our driver or we won’t rent your bus.”
She got her way. Morenci’s Short Ways man was at the wheel.
“We just had so much fun on those trips,” she recalls.
But those tournament trips are all over for Doris. When she went to the United States Bowling Congress tournament in Charlotte, N.C., last year, that was her final year of competing.
How it started
Doris got her start in bowling in 1957 when Dick and Betty Arno converted the old car dealership into Mor-N-C Lanes. Some of the other veteran women bowlers—Jean Redlawski, Pat Arnett, Barb Elarton—probably got their start at Morenci’s other facility of the time, Shamrock Lanes.
Doris only bowled there during tournaments, but she did have another connection to the place. Her father, Harold McKee, sold his repair garage to John Kelly in the 1940s and that building was converted to Shamrock Lanes.
Doris wasn’t at all a natural bowler. She remembers Dick Arno saying, “I’m going to make a bowler out of you yet.”
Dick spent time working on technique with Doris and other bowlers and leagues formed and flourished.
Doris became one of the fanatics who spent four nights a week at the alley for many years. The Tuesday night league, the Thursday night league, the Friday night league, the Sunday Ma & Pa league.
Her husband, Lloyd, competed in a Wednesday afternoon league.
“I was running a business, too,” Doris said.
Dor-E-LL’s beauty shop started in the 1950s in the old Fauver building down the alley toward the existing city hall. Later it was moved to where the Pizza Box now operates.
Doris sold the business in 1979. She had to.
“I became allergic to everything in the shop.”
It was the Arnos who brought bowling with automatic pin-setters to Morenci in 1957. Twenty years later, Rod and Sue Renner bought the business and soon installed automatic scoring equipment and a lounge area.
Another 20 years passed before they sold the facility to the Hites. Among the changes they’ve made is the introduction of bowling as a high school sport.
That sounds like a good decision to Doris because bowling isn’t what it once was.
“We’re losing a lot of interest,” she said. “I don’t know what it’s going to be like in the future.”
How it’s ending
Doris isn’t exactly leaving the sport by choice. A doctor convinced her to ease up by using a 10-pound ball, but now it’s gone beyond that.
Knees, arthritis, balance—they’re all taking the fun out of it, and if it isn’t fun anymore, Doris doesn’t want to be part of it. She really wanted one more trip to the nationals to make it 45 years, but she put the ball down for good last year.
She’s finishing up her final year as president of the local women’s association, and then she’ll be out of it completely.
“I think I’ve done my share,” she said. “It’s just been a passion for me all these years.”
She’ll be left with a lot of memories, because the friendships are as important as rolling the ball.
“It was such a joy to have all those girls go to the tournaments,” Doris said. “We were trying something different, experiencing a different place. Some of these girls had never been out of Michigan. There are lots of stories I could tell.”
Many area women bowled for a few years, stopped for a while to raise a family or change jobs, then came back to the alley for more. Not Doris; she never quit.
“I started and I didn’t give it up,” she said.
At least not until now, 50 years later, when she’s finally about to make her exit.