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Shelburne Falls’ bowling alley a ‘treasure’ says Yankee Magazine

SHELBURNE FALLS — This month, Yankee Magazine is telling folks something most locals already know: The 1906-built Shelburne Falls Bowling Alley is a “local treasure.”

The 108-year-old candlepin bowling alley got its own two-page spread in the January-February edition of the magazine.

“We were really excited when we saw it,” said Joanne Gaulin, who owns the eight-lane bowling alley with Tammy Dubuque. “When Aimee (Seavey, the author) came out, she said it was going to be ‘a really small blurb.’”

The article is called “Through the Alley to the Alley,” because the main entrance to the place is through a 4-foot-wide pedestrian alley off Bridge Street, not far from Memorial Hall.

“We use that (saying) in our ads, because we don’t have parking. So people have to park on Bridge Street or in the town lot and walk through the alley,” Gaulin explained. “When people find us, they tend to want to show someone else — because we’re tucked away. Even though we’re not on the main drag, we do get noticed.”

The article notes that the bowling alley opened just 26 years after candlepin bowling got its start in Worcester.

“We believe we are the second-oldest bowling alley in the country — candlepin or 10-pin,” said Gaulin.

Yankee Magazine points out that candlepin bowling, with its small bowling balls and pins, is a lot harder than it looks.

“It’s a much lower-scoring game than 10-pin, because its harder to knock down all the pins,” she explained. “A perfect game has never been bowled in the history of candlepin.”

Gaulin should know, because the bowling alley has league results and scores going back all the way to 1907.

Local articles about the bowling alley’s grand opening in 1906 can be found on its website: www.shelburnefallsbowling.com

“C.W. Ward’s amusement annex which was opened to the public last week, has become quite a popular rendezvous for the young people of both sexes,” announced the Greenfield Gazette and Courier on Jan. 13, 1906. “Every evening the place is crowded and ladies’ night of this week found about 20 young women with their escorts there trying their skill at bowling and pool.”

Shelburne Falls Bowling Alley is open from September through mid-June, with adult leagues Sunday through Thursday and youth league bowling on Saturday afternoons.

In keeping with its historic image, bowlers here still keep score with paper and pencils, sitting on wooden benches between frames. The walls show pictures of current leagues, along with old snapshots of pinboys and bowling alley memorabilia.

“It’s just about the bowling here,” Gaulin says in the article. “In 1906, they came down the alley and bowled here and they’re still doing it today.”

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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