Victoria bowlers share love of game, friendship
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Danny Reissig, 39, grew up on Victoria bowling lanes.
He started bowling when he was 4 years old and joined the Thursday night Sundowners, the local mixed, split league, when he was 17.
On the lanes, he's experienced victory, bowling a perfect 300 in 2010. He's also learned how to cope with defeat.
"This is really a mental game. If you throw a bad shot, you can't just sit there and think about it, or it will affect the rest of your game. It's like life in that way," Reissig said.
Reissig's team, Fullhouse, got its name from the makeup of the original five members: three Reissigs - Danny, his mom and dad - and two Hendrixes, Jimmy and Lanell.
Reissig's mom, Christy Reissig, doesn't bowl anymore because of bad knees. But Reissig and his dad, Harol Reissig, have continued the Fullhouse team, which now consists of family friends Steve Dickenson, John Blaylock and Nancy Schmidt.
For Reissig and his dad, bowling has always been a chance to see familiar faces, catch up on the news around town and work out a competitive bug.
The Victoria league has seen a drop in numbers during the past several years, yet Fullhouse is among the 22 teams that continue to mark their Thursdays with the rhythm of the lanes.
If a bowler leaves pins on the lane, he or she gets a fist-bump. If a bowler makes a strike or picks up the spare, he or she gets a high-five. And if he or she bowls the highest series of the week, he or she gets a free enchilada dinner at VeraCruz.
In addition to alleywide traditions, each lane is like its own episode of "Cheers," with recurring jokes, jargon and characters.
On team Fullhouse, if a bowler gets too many fist-bumps, Schmidt, who punctuates every sentence with "baby," will start betting him $1 that she'll out-bowl him in an attempt to get him to up his game. Meanwhile, Donald "Do' Lee" Knowlan's team adds ongoing jokes in black Sharpie to its mascot, a 1976 bowling pin and relic from Victoria Bowling Lanes, which closed down in the early '80s.
"It was one of the last set of pins that was never used. I was going to make a lamp out of it but never got around to it," Knowlan said.
At one time, Victoria had three bowling houses. Now, only Century Lanes, on John Stockbauer Drive, remains.
In the late '70s to early '80s, there were about 1,500 male bowlers and 900 female bowlers in Victoria, said Abel Garcia, who has been an active sanctioned bowler since 1955. National bowling league membership began declining in the early 2000s, but it's been the last four years that Victoria has seen a sudden drop. About 800 bowlers make up the league, he said.
Garcia attributed some of the decline to a price increase in bowling, both for membership and for the cost of equipment. A good ball might have cost $50 back in the day, he said. Now, it can cost up to $250.
But more than the price, Garcia thinks there's been a shift in culture.
"More people see bowling as a recreation rather than a sport," he said.
A lot of the people who bowl in the league at Century Lanes used to bowl at Victoria Bowling Lanes in the '70s, Knowlan said.
"Most bowlers who start bowling as youths or young adults continue to bowl throughout their life until they can no longer physically bowl anymore," he said.
But the problem is not a lot of young people are being introduced to the game, Garcia said. There is no longer a youth league.
Reissig, a senior designer at Maverick Engineering, has the fancy ball - a $225 Storm Tropical Breeze that leaves his hands smelling like coconut. But he also has a lifelong love of the game, which he hopes to pass down to his two sons.
One of the happiest moments of Reissig's life was when he scored a 300, he said. He remembers his friends picking him up and giving him high-five after high-five.
"Talking about it right now, I'm feeling all those emotions again. I'll never forget it," he said.
A week after Reissig got his 300, his dad scored the highest game of his life, a 268.
"Everybody kept saying, 'like father, like son.' But I wasn't quite that good," Reissig's dad said.
Reissig likes to bowl because he's good at it. He grew up playing tennis and baseball, but he's excelled most at bowling, likely because he's done it the longest, he said.
But what brings him back to the Victoria league is less about the game than it is who he plays it with.
"It's a chance to see friends and family. A lot of the people you don't see throughout the week. It's all kind of one big family," Reissig said.