Looking back 50 years at Tiffin, the world and the sport of bowling

The year was 1968. I was a senior in high school and the thought of bowling for 40 years and eventually writing a column about the sport had not even entered my head.

As I perused old copies of the A-T for January of that year, I was struck by a number of thoughts, not the least of which is how quickly the time has passed. I was running up and down the hardcourt in those days, playing basketball for coach Glenn Brooks and the Attica Eagles. It’s a bit ironic that I ran into my outstanding former coach just a few days ago.

1968 was a great year for basketball in Seneca County as eight players from the league garnered All-Ohio honors. My alma mater won the Seneca County League and a sectional title — going 19-3 — before losing to the eventual state champion (Mansfield St. Peter’s, which should not surprise anyone who watched sports in that era) in the district tournament.

A picture appeared in the A-T of an Attica player who happened to be the high scorer in a game against Old Fort. No, it was not me, but my best friend Al Falter. He scored 26 points that night, which was a little surprising; not that he couldn’t score mind you, but defense was his forte.

Another basketball story caught my attention and it involved a college player. It seems that Kenyon College’s John Rinka scored 55 points in a 133-94 win over Kentucky Southern. I read that article in high school not realizing that our paths would eventually cross.

I had the pleasure of playing against Rinka twice, including his final home game. I recall Kenyon’s gym as being a big old barn. People were literally hanging from the rafters to watch the man play one last time. Kenyon beat my Hiram team that night 116-110. Rinka scored 52 points — including 20 for 20 from the free throw line — to my four. Perhaps there was a little difference in our games!

For years I told people that I was “in” the National Basketball Hall of Fame … thanks to John Rinka. He won the Naismith Award for being the best player in the country under 6 feet tall — in any division. After graduating from college I visited the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, and saw his jersey. Nearby, a box score from his final home game showed a guy named Stephenson from Hiram with four points.

Rinka was the most phenomenal athlete I have ever seen play and I observed him up close and personal. One does not usually use the term pleasure when referring to playing in a losing game, but it was a magic moment that I will never forget. When he was removed from the game with some 20 seconds to go, the place erupted. All of our coaches and players walked down over to his bench to congratulate him. The scene was incredible.

Everett Hodkinson was the sports editor of the A-T in those days and wrote a column called Hodge Podge. I read one he wrote about Gerry Bookmyer, who was an outstanding harness horse driver. I’m guessing many of you remember both of them.

So what was 1968 like? Well, let’s look at some numbers that may thoroughly depress you. A new house would set you back a little less than $15,000 whereas a new car that you could get at Koontz Motor Sales or Economy Motors would run about $2,800. Of course to put gas in the vehicle would cost 34 cents a gallon!

Interesting numbers, but remember the average yearly income in 1968 was $7,850. The minimum wage was $1.60 per hour. You would have to work nearly an hour to go to the movies as a ticket cost $1.50. The Big Mac made its debut in 1968 and an hour’s work would get you three of them as they cost just 49 cents!

One of the first articles I came across was one about the weather. The temperature dropped to -4 degrees on Jan. 4, 1968. The story suggested there would be no relief from the bitter cold for another four days. Don’t tell me history does not repeat itself!

The primary purpose of researching January 1968 was to check the bowling honor rolls. I did just that and some familiar names popped up. Gentle Giant Howard Cook was the high scorer in the “C” League. Ever a gracious man, he was one of my favorites. He always had a kind word for everyone.

Some other bowlers that I ended up bowling against who appeared in the A-T in 1968 included Bob West, Ron Yentzer, Willis Feasel, Paul Bernard and Larry Frankenfeld. From the results of the lady keglers, efforts by Sue Barlekamp, Jean Shuff and Flo Lofay stuck out.

There was so much information that I will have to extend this column for another week. Here’s a look at this week’s local efforts on the lanes.

Rocket League: Tom Tiell 635, Mike Distel 628, Rodney Ohms 599, Chris Agerter 589, John Klinshirn 578 and Jon Distel 575.

55 Plus: Jim Ruess 545, Dick Gabel 533, John Manual 515, Paul Gosche 499, Jerry Gillig 472, Dave Everhart 463, Bob Reinhart 461, Jim Ferstler 450, John Ferstler 448, Paul Fey 427, Jerry Coleman 414 and Jim Donaldson 383.

Senior: Bennett Paulus 599, Doug Snyder 568, Scott Kromer 527, Ken Ritzler 523, Denny Reamer 520, Tim Gassner 517, Jason Smyser 510, Kurt Smith 503 and Alex Reamer 500.

Allen Eiry: Joanne Elchert 339 (171 game), Bob Reinhart 312, Harry Smith 307, Betty Sendelbach 294, Phil Miller 288, Paul Fey 285 (185 game), Ed Wise 263, Sandy Smith 254, Jeanette Lynch 249 and Jim Donaldson 241.

Al Stephenson is the bowling columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.

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