Trio of seniors have bowled together for 40 years

When she travels to Reno today, April 29, for the United States Bowling Congress Senior Queens national tournament, Barbara Shaw will be making her 26th trip to the nationals.

With her will be Arlene Moody and Mabel Medlock, wisecracking teammates for more than 35 years, all of whom have been bowling since they were in their 40s.

Shaw, 82, the youngest of the trio, was born and raised in Coquille but has lived in Sweet Home for “quite a while,” she said, with her husband Ozzie.

Moody, 84, was born and raised in the small town of Antler, N.D., but has lived in Sweet Home since 1948. She’s married to Bill.

Medlock, also 84, is the only native of the Sweet Home area, born and raised in Crawfordsville. She and her husband Bill still live here.

“I’ve been here the entire time,” she said. “I’m a good old Oregonian.”

Shaw was the first to start bowling competitively, they agreed, beginning in 1953 on a team sponsored by Holley Woodworking owner Earl Counts. The bowling alley in those days was located in the building now occupied by Skyline restaurant.

“I bowled for Farber and Pickett and Ozzie’s partner John Crump,” she recalled, “and Mollie’s Bakery. I don’t know how many times I bowled for that. Several times.”

She said her first teammates were Charlotte Martin, Virginia Helvie, Jo Lutton and Wanda Vincent.

“I think I’m the only one left,” she said.

“Out of that bunch, you are,” Moody said.

Medlock started her bowling career in 1961, followed by Moody in 1969.

“I bowled with others,” Moody said, “but these two are the ones I remember bowling with back then. We’ve been bowling together since 1973.”

The three still bowl each Wednesday night in Sweet Home, except for the summer season.

They say the local bowling population has aged since they got into the sport.

“We had lot more teams,” Medlock said. “Things have gone downhill. Young people don’t want to bowl.”

“It’s mainly old people bowling,” Moody said.

Medlock joked that bowling’s still fun €“ until they “go home and think about it.”

“When you think about how you did, it’s not as much fun,” she said. “I think the lanes have run out of high scorers. There’s nothing but low scorers left.”

She said the highest score of her career was 259.

“I’ve gone down from that,” she said.

Still, they have plenty of fun. They bowl for Coldwell Banker in Sweet Home and Shaw and Medlock bowl for a Lebanon team called the Crying Crows, on which, Medlock said, she averages 153.

Their traveling team is the Nutty Five, a moniker they got from a license plate they spotted on a trip to Milwaukee, Wis. The other two members of the Nutty Five are former Sweet Home resident Shirley David and Giesela (Geese) Conner, who lives near Lebanon.

They said other bowlers used to compete at nationals from Sweet Home but they are the only ones left €“ “unless it’s in Reno,” Shaw said.

Her mother, Leona Stone, and Medlock’s sister, Opal Wanser, bowled with them for a while, but the three are the only ones still at the lanes.

Their trips to the nationals have included tournaments in Arizona, North Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Colorado, Washington and Arizona.

“I keep thinking we’ll have a tournament in Hawaii, but we’ve never had,” Moody said.

“We could go over there and bowl,” Shaw suggested.

The three said they’ve had a few adventures on their journeys, most involving airline connection problems or bad weather.

“I think we’ve been darned fortunate,” Moody said. “The worst thing I can remember is when they canceled our plane to Seattle when we went to Eugene. I think they took pity on us. We all got there anyway, to bowl.”

They said their biggest adventure came last year when they were in Detroit, Mich., and decided to visit Canada.

“We were driving around, trying to find something to look at when we came up to a tunnel or something, there on the border,” Moody said. “There was a guy sitting there and we asked him about going into Canada, asked him if we needed ID. He just said we needed a driver’s license.”

When they came back, though, they found out differently, she said.

“When we came back, we were stopped by the Americans. They wanted to see our passports. How long were we there?”

“A good 45 minutes,” Medlock said. “Shirley gave them the runaround.”

Fortunately, they said, one of them had a birth certificate and they were able to talk their way through.

“I don’t think they would have kept us there much longer,” Shaw said.

“It was probably getting close to dinnertime or something,” Moody said. “All we did was go in there and go into a little shop on the border.”

Shaw said that was out of the ordinary.

“We normally have a good time anywhere we go,” she said.

One of her favorite memories is when they went to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and traveled out to the tip of the Florida Keys.

“We looked out at the ocean and there was nothing but ocean,” she said. “That really impressed me.”

After at least four decades in the sport, they still enjoy it, they say.

“It’s fun, though I get mad at myself or get mad at lanes, said Medlock, who volunteers at the Senior Center in addition to her bowling. “I’m going to miss it this summer because I don’t bowl in summer. I usually rest up in the summer.”

Shaw, who served for years as a director on Oregon State Women’s Bowling Association, said she also takes the summer off €“ to play golf.

“I hack at it,” she said of her golf game. “It’s nice to get away and really nice to get back to it.”

They say they enjoy the camaraderie at the lanes.

“I think with bowling, I think the relationship with the bowlers and other people is nice,” Shaw said.

Added Medlock: “You meet a lot of nice people. They’re really friendly.”