Photo By Cameron Wittig
Bryant Lake Bowl
If these walls could talk. Roger Engmark and John Ellingson, both in their 70s, are on the tail end of the demographic sweet spot we should probably start calling the “Bowling Generation.” They’ve both been near the heart of the sport for the last 30 years. Bowling gave them careers.
Ellingson used to own Lyndale Lanes, now he’s a semi-retired pin machine mechanic. He still bowls. Engmark was the pro at Bryant-Lake Bowl for 30 years, until he finally hung up the shiny 16-pounder a couple of years ago. (“Carried a 186 until old ‘Arthur Itis’ told me I couldn’t play anymore.”) He still works on the lanes four mornings a week.
Bryant-Lake Bowl was a Ford dealership in the ’20s before becoming an alley in 1935. “Pin setting was by hand here until 1960,” Ellingson says. Space is tight on the back end of the alley—I imagined heavy wooden pins exploding off the walls back in the hand-setting era. “Oh sure it was dangerous,” Engmark says. “A pin boy could get hurt. You couldn’t find a pin boy after ’67.”
Enter pin-setting machines. The eight at Bryant-Lake Bowl are American Machine and Foundry brand, built in Shelby, Ohio. They hold 20 pins each, switching out one set after each turn. They’re finicky, with complicated moving parts that require perpetual attention. Which is probably why Engmark and Ellingson will never completely strike out.