50 Years of Women's Pro Bowling Exhibit completes IBMHOF

    10/05/11

    Column

    By Mark Miller for BNN

    201IBMHOFLogo.jpg As they walked through the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame during its grand opening in Arlington, Texas, in early 2010, Jim Goodwin, John Sommer, and a few others immediately noticed that something important was missing.

    It didn't take long to figure it out. As modern and interactive as the new facility was, as much past and present information as it contained, there was nothing there to honor the long legacy of professional women bowlers.

    A few weeks later, after many emails and conversations, IBMHOF vice-chairman Keith Hamilton asked Goodwin, who worked with Sommer on the two major women's pro tours for more almost two decades, if he would chair a committee to change that. They spotted a meeting room in the middle of the 18,000-square-foot complex that could become new exhibit space, and the seeds for the IBMHOF's newest exhibit were planted.

     On June 29, 2011 as part of The Night at the Campus event during International Bowl Expo, 50 Years of Women's Pro Bowling was unveiled to the world. Over 2,000 people, including a good number of the women being honored, went through the exhibit.

    All seemed very impressed with what they saw. And all were overjoyed an exhibit of such magnitude finally was a part of the new museum.

    "There were several setbacks along the way, one of them being an initial denial of our building permit late in the game; but we resolved that problem and many more that always occur in a project this size," Goodwin said. "We got the job done on budget and on schedule."

    As much as Goodwin knew about the history of professional women's bowling, he knew he couldn't do such an exhibit alone. So he asked others who shared his passion to join him on the committee.

    "We had an incredible committee working together," Goodwin said. "John Sommer, Fran Deken, Joan Romeo and myself all brought individual strengths, passion, and common respect for history to the project, and we could not be any prouder of the result."

    "IBMHOF Chairman Pat Ciniello and Vice Chairman Keith Hamilton gave us everything we needed to get the job done; and every aspect that we envisioned in the planning stages became a reality."

    Goodwin, who lives nearby in Rockwall, Texas, and Deken, the former women's pro tour director and historian who resides about three hours away in Coweta, Okla., spent numerous hours pouring over documents, photos, films and videos at the International Bowling Campus.

    Sommer, a IBMHOF trustee and PWBA's owner until it folded in 2003 lent his tour memories and business sense; and Romeo, a longtime marketing expert and mother of two pros herself, served admirably as the fund raising manager on the project.

    Working with Dallas-based Museum Arts, the company that designed most of the other exhibits, the committee put together an impressive visual and audio display that should make anyone who visits quite proud.

    One such group was Station Casinos in Las Vegas which agreed to become the presenting sponsor the exhibit once they saw its size and scope.

    "We are also proud of the many new contributors to the museum we attracted because of this exhibit," Goodwin said. "Dozens of new donors were generated, and they will likely continue to give on an annual basis for the foreseeable future."

    "Besides all of the individual donations, we have to thank David Garber and Station Casinos Lanes for stepping up to be the presenting sponsor; and their involvement is a 10-year commitment that will also bring a new tournament to the industry that will be announced soon."

    Visitors reaching the exhibit are greeted with a large photo mural of Bowlers of the Decades Marion Ladewig, Betty Morris, Lisa Wagner, Wendy Macpherson and Carolyn Dorin-Ballard.

    Once inside, they learn that the first meeting to discuss forming a women's pro league similar to the fledgling Professional Bowlers Association for men took place in December 1959, organized by the Chicago Women's 700 Bowling Club. The meeting was chaired by club President Mary Bundrick, whose idea it was to start a women's pro group, called the Professional Woman Bowlers Association. The 23 charter members chose Georgia Veitch as the first executive secretary.

    Next are the first of six panels highlighting the best players of each decade. Trailblazers Floretta McCutcheon, Marion Ladewig, Sylvia Wene Martin, LaVerne Carter, Shirley Garms, Helen Duval and Louise Fulton are honored in words and photos on the initial panel. Ladewig is specially noted for winning the first event in 1960.

    The next two panels cover The Early Years: 1960s and '70's. They include Joy Abel, Bev Ortner, Millie Ignizio, Dotty Fothergill, Jean Havlish and Gloria Bouvia Simon. The 1970s panel features Betty Morris, Judy Soutar, Pat Costello, Virginia Norton, Pam Buckner, Patty Costello, Donna Adamek, Lorrie Nichols and Vesma Grinfelds.

    The Modern Era, 1980s through 2000s is shown in three colorful panels. Lisa Wagner, Nikki Gianulias, Aleta Sill, Robin Romeo, Cindy Coburn-Carroll and Jeanne Naccarato are the featured players from the '80s.

    The 1990s continues with Wendy Macpherson, Tish Johnson, Leanne Barrette, Dede Davidson, Kim Adler, Kim Terrell-Kearney, Anne Marie Duggan, Marianne DiRupo, Carol Gianotti, Dana Miller-Mackie and Cheryl Daniels.

    The last of the decade panels are the stars of the 2000s. Included here are current stars like Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, Liz Johnson, Cara Honeychurch , Kelly Kulick and Michelle Feldman.

    All that reading might make a visitor ready for a video; and the exhibit obliges with a comprehensive 15-minute looping piece that captures women's pro bowling from its beginnings to today, shown on a giant 6'x8' foot screen. The film is produced by J.T. Townsend, former director of women's pro telecasts. The script was written by Fran Deken with input from the committee; and Matt Lawson of USBC worked with Townsend on the voiceover.

    The next two spotlighted panels display the winners of the major events in women's pro bowling from 1960-2010. They include the six women who won the Triple Crown (Queens, All-Star/U.S. Open and Tournament of Champions/Sam's Town National Invitational) – Fothergill, Adamek, Sill (twice), Wagner, Macpherson and Dede Davidson.

    Next is a glass-enclosed display case of artifacts that includes an Ortner shirt, Norton book, Strike Force playing cards, Professional Women's Bowling Association and Ladies Professional Bowlers Tour autographed pins, and a PWBA cookbook.

    Another glass display in the middle of the room contains the 1964 PWBA Championship trophy won by Betty Kuczynski, a colorful Sylvia Wene ball bag and green shoes, and the award for Helen Duval's first 300 game. Comfortable benches provide visitors a place to sit while watching the video or soaking up the history.

    Visitors are then greeted by a large Timeline panel with year-by-year milestones of the 50 Years of Women's Pro Bowling. Following that is a panel recognizing the 23 charter members plus Veitch and PBA founder Eddie Elias as the group's legal advisor.

    Under the Founders panel is an interactive touch screen monitor where fans can find all sorts of information including tournament histories, performance records, "tourbits", and other fun facts about the greatest women bowlers in the world.

    Next is a large photo montage called Life Off the Lanes with another HDTV Slide Show of the display photos and memories of players. That leads to the final display that features a 2000 U.S. Open record scoresheet, a 1993 Davidson glove and the ball Feldman used in the first televised women's 300 game in 1997.

    With the women's pro exhibit now in place, the IBMHOF truly is complete and truly ready for anyone interested in the entire history of America's oldest sport.