SCRANTON — If you pull into Idle Hours South on a Tuesday afternoon you may see dozens of cats moving about the lanes. They aren’t of the feline variety, but women – many from the Abingtons – who are part of the Alley Cats bowling league.
What began as a Welcome Wagon activity became a well-established ladies’ bowling league by the 1960s. The Alley Cats met weekly at Abington Lanes in Clarks Summit until the business closed in 2000.
“I had never bowled before. The person who we bought our house from in the 1960s was in the league, and she invited me to the bowling alley. It felt natural to me,” Maxine Gilligan said. “At that time, the Alley Cats had 14 teams of four. There were no automatic scoring machines. I was secretary then and had to check all hand-written score sheets for 56 girls bowling three games. I am still secretary, but it is so much easier now.”
Gilligan has been with the Alley Cats since 1965. The Cats continued even after Abington Lanes closed, moving to Green Ridge Lanes for their weekly matches. That location closed in 2009 and the league has played at Idle Hours South in Scranton for the past ten years.
Presently, the Alley Cats have seven teams of four women each. The teams all have names of cats: Bobcats, Calicos, Lynx, Manx, Siamese, Tigers and Wildcats. Players pay dues each week and the money funds the cost of the bowling alley, the Alley Cats prize fund and an awards luncheon each year.
The Alley Cats hold a Christmas party and a bowling luncheon at the end of the season. Team and individual prizes are handed out. Pin awards are given to individuals with the highest yearly game, series, average, most improved, perfect attendance, 200 games and the bowling champions for the season.
“Idle Hours South is so good to us,” Gilligan shared. “Emma Preambo, the front desk league rep, and manager, Steve Talarico, are so helpful to us. Emma in particular is a great help to me. And it’s not only about bowling, but it’s about lunch too. The restaurant at the bowling alley has great food and cooks for our year-end luncheon.”
Chocolate candy was passed around as the women laughed, chatted and enjoyed friendly competition during their weekly bowling games. They enjoy lunch together, too, purchasing burgers and other food from Idle Hours South.
Mary Jo Long is president of the league.
“I love bowling. I love to watch it and I love to bowl. These women are my friends and the nicest people. We have a good time. You walk in with your problems and you forget you have them,” Long said.
Long serves with the officers of the Alley Cats League – Vice President Mary Kay Nealon, Secretary Maxine Gilligan, Treasurer Andrea Jones, Sergeant at Arms Carole Hamersly and Sub Chairperson Linda Sproul.
“I bowled in high school,” vice president of the Alley Cats, Mary Kay Nealon said. “I didn’t bowl again until a friend invited me to join the Alley Cats. There is a great camaraderie and we enjoy each other’s company.”
Many of the Alley Cats are retired teachers and the Calicos have three.
“I can remember my children being little and running around at Abington Bowling Lanes,” Barb Borek, captain of the Tigers said. “ I worked in teaching for years and then I came back to the Alley Cats nine years ago. That was one of my goals when I retired. I wanted to get back to bowling.”
Linda Sproul, who organizes subs when league members miss a week, said that she is committed to her team.
“I would come, even if I’m on my death bed.”
With two Alley Cats members in their 90s, these bowlers show what true tenacity and vibrancy looks like. Still active and giving their all for their team, the ‘cats’ come back week after week to send pins flying and enjoy a good time with friends.
No matter what age you are or what your bowling skill level is, the Alley Cats welcome all women. The league hopes to gain more members to add an eighth team.
The league bowls 32 weeks out of the year on Tuesdays at noon. For more information, visit bit.ly/2oxwsjM.
“The Alley Cats league is like family,” Gilligan shared. “We help each other if someone needs a ride, send cards if someone is ill or there is a death in the family. There is a great sense of camaraderie among us. We could call on anyone in this league if we needed help.”