(This is the second half of a two-part story on the bowling lanes at remote Holden Village. The first part is available at this link.)
The B-10 pinsetting machines at Holden Village are classified as “semi-automatic,” meaning humans take care of loading the machine with pins. When triggered (also by human power), the machine lowers the pins to the lane, sets them up, and rises back up and out of the way. The B-10s were introduced in the late 1940s, which means that they weren’t in place when Holden was originally built as a mining town. The machines were likely inherited from Chelan Lanes in the 1950s when that center converted to the automatic models.
Holden is one of a handful of locations in the U.S. where the pins are still set by hand, with the lanes and machines giving the space an almost museum-like air.
(The lanes were last refinished around 1992. Holden Village founder Wes Prieb maintained and oversaw the bowling area himself for many years, ending in the late 1990s.)
Wes Prieb, the man whose persistence led to the establishment of Holden Village in 1960, oversaw and maintained the pool hall and bowling area himself until the late 1990s. With Prieb’s death and Holden’s reliance on volunteers who sometimes come and go, the institutional memory slowly faded. No longer were the lanes regularly oiled, a practice which lubricates the wood surface and softens the impact of landing bowling balls. The wood became worn and individual boards separated and split in several places. The bowling balls, pins and shoes needed replacement after many years of use.
(Afternoon sunlight falls across the lanes during a recent visit.)
In a place like Holden, things that normally seem out of reach become possible through volunteers. One of them was Shawn Bergstrom, known to his friends as Bergie.
Bergie and his wife Dinah were Kansas natives and had moved to Seattle during the 1990s, when Bergie accepted a job as youth director of the Ballard First Lutheran Church. Dinah took a position as assistant director of admissions at the Seattle Art Museum, according to an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
(Dinah and Shawn Bergstrom. Photo courtesy Holden Village.)
Along the way they visited Holden Village and fell for the place, as so many of its visitors do. They retreated to Holden often, and brought youth groups from their Seattle church. Eventually, Bergie — who had spent his summers in college working for a bowling lane refinishing business — entertained the idea of bringing his former colleagues to Holden to refinish its lanes after years of neglect.
Tragically, Bergie, 34, and Dinah, 28, were killed in August 2005 when their car collided with another vehicle in Wyoming. They were returning to the Northwest from a visit to Kansas.
“[Bergie] gave kids a model for how to live and how to treat people,” one church colleague told the Post-Intelligencer after the crash. “He had the biggest heart. It must have been the size of a basketball.”
A decade later, friends of the Bergstroms and Holden Village were trying to think of ways to honor the couple at the 10-year mark of their passing. They settled on a plan to carry Bergie’s idea to completion, and restore Holden Village’s bowling alley.
The fundraising goal was set at $25,000. Since the start of the campaign a year ago, over $15,000 has been raised, according to Josh Post, a friend of the Bergstroms and himself a longtime Holdenite who currently serves as president of Holden’s board.
The repairing and refinishing of the lane beds is scheduled to take place before mid-October, Post said. As funds come in, other tasks on the “to do” list will be tackled. Major goals include restoring the B-10 pinsetters; replacing bowling balls, pins and shoes; repairing worn parts on the above-ground ball returns; and general painting of the bowling area.
(Repairs to the Brunswick above-ground ball returns are on the “to do” list. Some have worn and missing parts.)
Post said he’d also like to see the foul lights and sensors working again, and maybe even equipment added for glow-in-the-dark bowling, which he hopes will increase appeal for Holden’s teenage visitors.
Bowling has existed at Holden for nearly eight decades, and the Bergstroms’ friends are ensuring that balls will continue to roll and pins will continue to fall for generations to come. The spirit of volunteerism and stewardship seems extraordinary, refreshing, palpable.
It’s just another day at Holden Village.
Story, video and photographs © 2016 by Kevin Hong.
To donate to the Bergstrom Bowling Project:
Follow this link. Under “Designation” select “Bowling Alley”
Donations by mail: Holden Village, attn: Contributions, HC O Box 2, Chelan, WA 98816