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Winnipeg’s last Jewish men’s bowling league celebrates 100 years of camaraderie and friendly competition

BOWLINGBy MYRON LOVE On June 15, the Recreation Men’s Bowling League held its annual wind-up banquet at the Glendale Golf & Country Club. As per usual, the wind-up is the venue for handing out the awards for the year just past.Once again, for the tenth year in a row, Terry Robinson won the W. Harry Zimmerman Memorial Trophy for Highest Average, a feat that the largely Jewish Recreation Men’s Bowling League’s current secretary has achieved for 16 of the past 20 years.

The Norm Lachter Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship was awarded to league treasurer Harvey Appelle for the fourth time – one more than Robinson.
Art Greenspan was recognized with the Jacob Memorial Trophy for most improved bowler.

Among the team awards, Robinson’s team (including Chad Selk, Andrew Feniuk, Sam Binder and Gary Verin) won the Larry Rosenberg Memorial Trophy (Aggregate Team Winner); the Spigelman Team (Avery Spigelman, Aaron London, Evan, Roitenberg, Sheldon Zipursky, Danny Gunn and Stu Slayen) received the Joseph Kay Memorial Trophy (A Roll-Off Team Winner); and Magorel Team (Garry Magorel, Saul Greenberg, Frank Dahl, Mel Verin and Brian Greenberg) earned the Sam Greenspan Memorial Trophy (B Roll-off Team Winner).

Robinson notes that the league currently consists of eight teams with five bowlers per team – a number that has remained fairly consistent over recent years – with members ranging in age from 18 to 92 (the oldest members being Joe Elfenbaum and Rube Helman). The men bowl at Chateau Lanes Wednesday evenings from the beginning of September through April.
The league itself is part of the Manitoba Tenpin Bowling Association.

Bowling has been a popular pastime in our Jewish community as long as bowling alleys have existed here. Several members of our community have had leadership roles in the sport over the past 100 years. The most impactful was the late Harry Zimmerman.
The businessman served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Manitoba Ten Pin Association for 36 years – from 1927 to his death in 1963 – and also treasurer of the Winnipeg Bowling Association for 21 years from 1942 to 1963. He was instrumental in the organizing of 5 Pin Bowling in Winnipeg. As well, he organized an annual high school tournament in the city of Winnipeg to introduce the sport to new members.
In his listing in the Manitoba Bowling hall of Fame (he was inducted in 1989) it is noted that “even in the lean years when the sport had only one house in addition to the clubs, Zimmerman never despaired and showed great optimism for the future.

Nate Lexier, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990, may have been the finest bowler Winnipeg has ever produced – according to the Hall of Fame citation. During a career that spanned 50 years – starting in 1932 when he was 13 – he averaged a score of 200 or better for seven consecutive seasons and was a member of the Senior League Championship Team eight times.
He also served on the Winnipeg Bowling Association for 14 years, including 11 seasons as President from 1942 – 53.

Of more recent vintage have been Elaine Yamron and Harvey Zimberg. Both have been leaders in the world of bowling locally, nationally and internationally – for 50 years, beginning in the early 1970s. Yamron even competed for Canada at the 2001 Maccabi Games.
Over the decades, there have been several different Jewish bowling leagues – with board members and scores posted weekly in what was formerly The Jewish Post – in the club and social news section – and, in more recent years, at the end of Harvey Rosen’s sports columns.
In the April, 19th, 1951 edition, for example, in the paper, there is a report on the results for the Bnai Brith Ten Pin league bowling results for March 3.
In 1961, one can find details on the Classic Ten-Pin League as well as B’nai Brith Ten-Pin Bowling, in addition to the Recreation Ten-Pin league.
In 1978, the Post reported the scores of 12 Jewish bowling leagues – men’s women’s and mixed. In 2001, there were Post reports on the Gateway Mixed Bowling league, Jewish Women’s International League and Recreation League.

Terry Robinson is the longest serving member of the Recreation League. “I have been bowling for 47 years,” says the grandson of Sydney I. Robinson, who worked in the sporting goods industry for most of his career. “My father was a bowler. Just after I got married in 1975, my dad let me know that there was an opening in the league and invited me to join.”
Saul London and his wife, Caroline, started bowling together more than 30 years ago in a league with many Jewish members who bowled Sunday evenings in the basement of the German Club. When that league folded, the retired accountant joined the Recreation League.
For many years, London was the Recreation League’s secretary and the individual who sent in the regular results to what was by then The Jewish Post & News.
At the time London joined, he recalls, the league was bowling at Empress Lanes. When that bowling alley closed, the men moved to Chateau Lanes – where they currently bowl.
Al Rosenberg has been president of the Recreation League for the past eight years. The businessman (advertising and marketing) was recruited by London.
“Mel Verin , who was one of my best friends, was also a member,” Rosenberg says. “I really enjoy the camaraderie.”

Robinson also comments on the social experience. “We have a really good group of guys,” he observes. “I also enjoy the competitive aspect.”
Harvey Appelle, the League’s long time treasurer, reports that while the number of League bowlers is not quite what it was – there used to be almost 50 participants – the group has been able to retain 40 for several years now.
He laments though that the league membership is getting older. Robinson agrees that it would be nice to be able to attract a few more younger bowlers.
“It’s understandable though that younger people would prefer to bowl with their friends,” he observes.
Nonetheless, all the League participants are eager to get going this month for the Recreation League’s 101st season.

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