The coffee club is an inflation-proof tradition that goes back to the early ’80s — everything from the price to the people has largely remained the same.
Joe Vaccare, 87, first brokered the deal, and I met him last weekend between strikes. He was making his triumphant return after a few weeks off. A bout with pneumonia kept him off the lanes for a few weeks, and his friends were happy to have him back.
“[The illness] brought you closer to your family,” Dave Hansen told Joe.
“Yeah, but they’re mad at me. I was supposed to be done at 11,” Joe replied.
For $1.25 a game, bowlers can crash pins beginning at 9 a.m. There’s a limit to the number of games at this reduced rate, and for the 30 years he’s been enjoying the outing he founded, Joe says he’s seen the place packed nearly full on some weekends.
His tight-knit crew of leaguers uses the opportunity to get in a little practice and catch up with one another.
“It’s nice because you can bowl eight games for ten bucks — you can’t beat that,” said Don Smallwood.
Don is a 14-time league winner. He says the Sunday practice pays off for a game in which “you can barely breathe coming down the stretch.”
It’s true. Bowling gets a bad rap. The stigma is that it’s too simple a sport, or that there’s no athleticism to it. There’s a build-up as your ball rolls down that oily lane — a soldier’s drum roll before the cannon goes off. And in that explosion when ball and pins make contact, a satisfying crash ends the tension. You’re either a strike, or you’re dead in the water.
From the looks of things, this crew has seen its share of victories. I peruse the plaques at the far end of the alley, and of the dozen or so bowlers in this corner of Pickwick today, many of their names appear next to some hefty accomplishments. Vance has bowled 14 perfect games, according to the wall.