The Semi-Senior Invitational League has become one of the area’s prominent leagues despite its youth in bowling years. The brainchild of Leonard Hampton (he also created the Free Enterprise League), is completing its 8th year. The late Al Ellis’ 40 & Over Summer League was the inspiration for the Semi-Senior. Ellis recognized the culture conflict between the older and the younger bowlers. He formed a league with a minimum age the central requirement.
Membership in the Semi-Senior is limited to female bowlers who have attained 45 years of age and male bowlers who are at least 50 years old. Along with the age restrictions there are innovations that will surely radiate to other leagues. The president is limited to two consecutive years. Hampton served the first two seasons; Charles Hrobowski the second; Duke Lawson was the third president and Charles Branch is completing his final season.
Forty percent of the bowlers are female. It is time for a female president! Jackpots are capped at $35 weekly. Each game pays two positions. The mixed doubles pot is $10 and pays four places. The emphasis is team performance not winning the jackpot.
League officials instituted a jackpot specifically for lower average women to address the disparity in averages among the females. It became an instant hit. The first year the league attracted 13 teams. The next season it grew to 42 teams as bowlers flocked to join. Women, who were 35 years of age, overnight, became 45 years of age. The third years the league attained its current size of 54 teams. The League is not limited to Detroit area bowlers. There is a small Flint, Michigan contingent that makes the weekly round trip to compete. It is composed of Hall-of Fame member and former Rhodman Singles champion Lena Redmond, Willie Brown, Aaron McGee, Anthony Cheatham, Marion Mumford and Venita Coleman.
Local women include Hall of Fame member and former Rhodman Singles champion Carmen Allen, Consuelo Cleveland, Sheree Jones, Gwen “Big Star” Finley, Theresa Grner, Sheila Temple, Lavenda Dixon, etc. (I will hear about this). The local men are too numerous to mention, plus my boxing skills have waned considerably.
Since its inception the league has bowled at Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park, Wednesdays at 6:15 p.m. The dues are $20 per week. The first two seasons the Center manager, Vicki Ingram, performed the jobs secretary/treasurer. But once the league ballooned to 54 teams it conflicted with her primary responsibilities. The league was now faced with a cost that would reduce the prize fund by a considerable amount. Again, league officials came to the rescue with a 50/50 lottery. Tickets are sold with half the proceeds going to the winner and the other half placed in the league treasury to defray the cost of operating the league. Participation is not mandatory.
The League now boasts some of the area’s most talented bowlers. Many maintain the skills honed in their younger days.
During a recent session Charles “Ski” Hrobowski left a seven pin on his final shot of the second game for 299 (He was denied his first career 800 series when he left a 4-9 split on his final shot of the session for a 798 series. The bowling alley owes him a kiss). Before the “Ski” celebration ended, a shout went up and down the lanes, signifying Jennings’ perfecto. That was followed by a groan, shortly after, as Bobby Christian left a hard ten pin on his last shot for a 299, also.
Lawson has the high game for women at 300. There is five way tie for second place among Allen, Jones, Dixon, Cheryl James and Rita Jackson at 279. Finley has the high series of 767 followed by Debra Dickerson, 738 and Sylvia Hill, 729. Larry Wilson has the men’s high series of 801, Hrobowski 798, Lenard Ford and Charles Hall 793.
This year’s League officers are Charles Branch, president; Vera Johnson, vice-president; Bee McNair, treasurer; and Rose McCall, secretary.
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