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Crook’s Lounge reportedly not going to open bowling alley this fall

By Staff | Sep 16, 2009

Afternoon and evening bowling leagues have been a part of the fall and winter activities scene in Rugby for as long as many residents can remember.

However, Crook’s Lounge and Lanes, reportedly has decided to close its six-lane bowling alley – at least for now.

Attempts to reach Virgil Lemar, owner of Crook’s Lounge, for comment early last week were unsuccessful.

Holly Niemi, who has been participated in local women’s and mixed bowling leagues for several years, was among the many local bowlers who were disappointed to learn of Crook’s decision not to keep its bowling alley open.

“Most of us who like to bowl are looking at playing in leagues in other towns,’ she said. “Some are going to Harvey, Bottineau, Cando, even Minot or Devils Lake.”

Niemi said the local women’s league did have several coming over from Leeds and Towner to play. “And often they would come over early (before they bowled) to shop,’ she said.

The closing hurts the community, it’s one less activity for children and adults to do, especially during the winter months, Niemi said.

Steve Mueller and a few others plan to drive to Harvey to participate in the men’s league there which features 16 teams.

The number of teams and bowlers has dwindled over the years, Mueller acknowledged. Some simply didn’t have the time, or became involved in other activities. Still others weren’t satisfied with condition of the lanes and quit playing.

It’s debatable just how long there has been organized bowling leagues in Rugby, but from 1950 to 1971 William Crook and his wife Verna operated what was known as Crook’s (Lounge and Lanes). The couple purchased it from William’s father, Ed.

“It was about this time of year when William would be zipping up down the country roads in his Rambler giving cold beer to farmers in the fields and reminding them to come in and bowl in the winter,’ Verna (VanOrny) said. “He certainly promoted it.”

Crook owned the bar and soon would the four-lane bowling alley. Soon after purchasing it he would add two more lanes in the early 1950s which is also when the automated pin setter were installed, replacing the ‘pin boys.’

Verna recalls there was a little lunch counter up front at the alley that served coffee in the morning and lunches. “Many of the men downtown would come in for coffee,’ she said.

The hey dey of bowling in the community was during the 1960s and 1970s when there were leagues playing nearly every week night as well as a few afternoons. Hundreds of residents participated and it was quite a social outing, recalls Verna, who also bowled in the leagues.

“We had teams from Wolford, Rolette, Towner and Leeds who would come over,’ she said.

The lanes would also feature several tournaments which would draw bowlers from a wide area, including from Canada. “That’s was our life for many years,’ Verna said.

William passed away in 1969 and the lounge and bowling alley was sold to Jerry Bertsch a couple years later.

“Jerry had it for many years and he also did a good job of promoting bowling in the community,’ Verna said.

However, over the past 15 years the number of residents playing steadily dropped and soon there were fewer and fewer teams signed up.

Last year there were only three leagues in play – a Tuesday evening women’s league; a Wednesday afternoon women’s league; and a Wednesday evening’s men’s league.

Like many others in the community, Verna is sorry to see the bowling alley closed.

“It’s too bad because there are people around who enjoy bowling,’ she said.

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