Bowling History Learned Through eBay Purchase

STORM CENTER

BY SPORTS EDITOR ERIC X. VICCARO

During the board of aldermen meeting on Aug. 27, city administrator Happy Welch noted several banks of bowling center-style seats sold for $54 on Ebay.

So, who had the winning bid?

City of Bloomsdale aldermen Brandon Shortt was the winner.

“It’s an offbeat thing (to buy these seats),” said Shortt, whose son Garrett Shortt is a freshman on the Valle Catholic cross country team.

“It’s oddball and it’s quirky,” Shortt continued, “but, I dabble in what’s quirky.”

Ste. Genevieve police chief Eric Bennett, Jeff Okenfuss and Shortt removed the seats, more than 50 of them, from the basement in city hall on a recent broiling-hot evening.

“I think I will keep some in my basement where I have a lounge,” Shortt said, “and I would like to donate a set to the museum.”

Shortt said he didn’t want to see the historic bowling seats discarded on some trash heap.

“I couldn’t let them get away,” he said of the seats once part of the atmosphere at Bud’s Bowl, “because once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Who knows? Maybe some of those seats will be in use at government meetings in Bloomsdale.

Don Pritchard said Ste. Genevieve TV (Spectrum Cable Channels 990 and 991) kept a small number of seats for its studios.

Bowling, while still somewhat popular on television these days thanks to a national contract between the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) and Fox Sports, has gone by the wayside here in Ste. Genevieve.

A HISTORY

The sport in Ste. Genevieve dates back to 1903, according to noted local historian Robert Mueller.

“There was a bowling alley set up in the Union Hall, which was on the northwest corner of Third and Merchant (Streets),” Mueller said, referencing a 1903 story in our own Ste. Genevieve Herald.

Ste. Genevieve even had a bowling squad those days, called “The Blue Ribbon Team.” Players wore blue caps and white sweaters, and they squared off against teams from Bonne Terre and Farmington.

The first bowling alley was located where the DuBourg Centre is today. Maybe you can still hear the echoes of the past, including the conversion of a nasty 7-10 split.

Bowling scores from centers across Ste. Genevieve were commonplace fixtures of sports sections for both the Herald and our old rival, the Fair Play.

In the 1940s, the Herald ran a series of articles called “Bowling the Right Way.” Lalumondier’s Recreation had leagues. Frank X. Siebert was the proprietor of an alley in the mid-1940s, in a building which later housed a tavern called, “The Jug.”

Friday, Aug. 17, 1951, was a historic day in Ste. Genevieve.

That’s when Bud’s Bowling Alley debuted — complete with six lanes — with Darius Sidney “Bud” Hunkins as the proprietor, with help from Hilda (Sis) Louise Sexauer Hunkins. Five professional bowlers traveled from St. Louis to put on a clinic and exhibition that night.

Bud’s was located in the basement of what was then called the Missouri Natural Gas Company — where city hall and the police department currently reside.

By the 1960s, bowling had become a high-tech operation at Bud’s, complete with automatic pin-setters, two additional lanes and air conditioning. Ahh, air conditioning.

Bud’s Bowl closed in 1976, with an appreciation event for the Hunkins on Aug. 26 that year. The business was part of the Ste. Genevieve way of life for three decades.

Genevieve Bowl opened up during the 1970s, a modern alley with 24 lanes and AMF-branded balls. The facility also housed Edinburg’s Lounge and the Angus Steakhouse.

Mueller reported Genevieve Bowl’s opening “proved to be the death knell for Bud’s.”

Genevieve Bowl was renamed Showboat Lanes and adjoining Shark Lounge in 1989. A fire at the Shark in May 1990 ultimately brought the end of bowling to the city.