For some, bowling isn’t just exciting — it’s a way of life.
Four Pine Bluff residents — Albert Adams, Joan Hendricks, Ann Johnston and Olen Bearden — were recently inducted into the Pine Bluff Bowling Hall of Fame.
Their life-long passion for knocking down pins with a three-holed ball knows no bounds — they don’t play with bumpers.
Adams died in 2009 at 62, but his love for bowling lives on through his children and grandchildren. His wife, Vicki Adams, said he instilled his ardent passion for the game in them, bowling constantly with them from age 5 to adulthood. His granddaughter Jasmine Adams graduated this year from Texas Southern University, where she received a four-year scholarship to bowl.
She still carries her grandfather’s first bowling jersey in her bowling bag at all times.
“He loved kids,” Vicki Adams said. “They and bowling were his heart. If he wasn’t working, he was bowling. Every picture we have of him he was bowling. He could talk about it all day and night.”
She said she started playing before him, and then he decided to give it a try in 1978. Since then it was true love.
The two bowled together often, traveling to New York, Cincinnati, Las Vegas and Reno for tournaments.
Vicki Adams said her husband couldn’t help but show beginners at the bowling alley “what they’re doing wrong” and teach them the correct form.
She said her husband bowled every day the bowling alley was open.
“It makes me feel so great and surprised he’s been included in the Hall of Fame,” Vicki Adams said. “Our kids are going to be so happy.”
The Adams family still hold their annual Southern Tournament every year, where they all gather at a selected location and bowl for enjoyment — and competition.
Bowling has been a family affair for Hendricks too.
Hendricks, 78, a life-long Pine Bluff resident, said she’s bowled for 52 years and competed in state tournaments for 47 of those years.
“We started bowling just so me and my husband could have something to do together,” Hendricks said. “Then I had five children, and we all bowled together too.”
Hendricks bowls on a mixed team named Mama Made Us with her son-in-law and other friends. The origin of the name: growing up her kids insisted they bowled only because she made them.
Hendricks bowled in three leagues last season, and 20 years ago she said she was the secretary, “before they used computers to keep the records,” of 14 teams on Wednesday, 18 teams on Thursday and 12 teams on Friday.
“I’ve been dabbling in bowling my whole life,” Hendricks said. “I love the competition and getting to be around people you’re not ordinarily around. That’s what it’s all about.”
Two years ago Hendricks’ team, The Queen Pins, went to bowl at nationals in Reno as the only team to represent Arkansas in the Women’s League.
“We won the Classiest Dressed Award,” Hendricks said. “We walked out wearing tiaras and had on glittery shirts. We put on a show to represent Arkansas.”
Hendricks said she couldn’t believe it when the board selected her to the Hall of Fame, and she tried to turn it down because there were others she felt were more deserving, “but they weren’t hearing any of that, so they went ahead and put me on it.”
Johnston, 94, started bowling in 1950 while she was working as a clerk for an ammunition depot in Camden. When she moved to Pine Bluff in ‘54, she bowled at the old bowling alley on Martin Street before Thunder Lanes opened in the ’60s.
Throughout the years she’s played on as many as four leagues at once. She currently bowls for the Roadrunners, “named after the bird,” in the Coffee Cup League.
“I enjoy the people I bowl with, and it’s great exercise,” said Johnston, who had still bowled twice a week for the past 15 years, though, now for the first time she has cut back to only once weekly.
“I appreciate the honor, but I certainly wasn’t expecting it,” Johnston said.
Bearden, 88, said he’s been bowling for a “whole long time,” and he was even employed at the bowling alley for 11 years, working as everything “from the handyman to the general manager.”
Bearden moved to Pine Bluff after he served in the Navy from ’43-’45.
Bearden said he used to bowl five nights a week, but now he bowls only twice weekly during the summer and once during the winter. He bowls for Olen’s Bunch and Olen’s Team.
He said there’s nothing as enjoyable as the “clean fun” bowling provides and getting to enjoy fellowship — and more importantly competition — with others.
“I consider it a great honor, but there are still a lot of people in the association who bowl as much as I do and are as well deserving as I am,” Bearden said. “I hope one day when I grow up I can be as good as some of the other bowlers in the association.”
“I think the association did a wonderful job of selecting the four bowlers they did,” said Brenda Dokes, president of the Pine Bluff Bowling Association.