For more than 40 years, Terry Hogue found his form at the AMF Bowland Lanes in Granite City. But his game suddenly was over early last week.
On July 9, the bowling center's parent company, AMF, shut down the business at 5050 Nameoki Road. Without another alley in town, Granite City area bowlers hungry to make one more strike are scrambling to find another place to knock the pins down.
"Nobody got any warning or anything," said Hogue, 72. "They came in (last) Monday and told 'em to shut it down."
Now he's wondering what will happen to his Hogue's Route 66 Pro Shop, 103 Lenox Ave. in Mitchell.
"I've got folks that still come into the shop," he said. "They don't know where they're going to bowl."
Tom Bennett, general manager for Bowland, said the Granite City bowling center was one of a number of locations AMF closed because they were underperforming.
"It wasn't meeting their expectations," Bennett said. The center's last day of operations was July 8, a Sunday. "They came in and made the announcement Monday morning."
The bowling center had 15 employees. Six were full time, including Bennett. He is among those who lost their jobs.
In October, the bowling center would have celebrated its 55th anniversary, Bennett said. At the time the center closed, there were about 20 leagues.
"The emotions range from shock to anger," Bennett said. "We have a lot of customers that have bowled here their entire lives."
The angry include Hogue's wife, Rosemary Hogue, 68, who was secretary of the a women's bowling league at Bowland. She said Bowland was doing well enough and didn't have to close.
There was a community of bowlers and bowling center workers at the alley, Rosemary Hogue said.
"It's going to split it up big time," she said. "I'm going to lose a lot of friends that I'm not going to see often."
At one time, there were three bowling alleys in town, according to Rosemary Hogue.
Nearby lanes include the AMF Dick Weber Lanes in Florissant, Mo. and the Camelot Lanes in Collinsville. A new business, Edison's Entertainment Complex in Edwardsville, features "Boutique Bowling."
Rosemary Hogue definitely won't go to the AMF Dick Weber Lanes, she said, because it's also owned by AMF. She's checked the Red Bird Lanes in Cahokia and decided they're too far away.
Among the bowlers who are looking for a new home are members of a senior men's league that has played for years at Bowland.
"We're not happy, of course," said league president Richard Jaros, 69, of Edwardsville. "We're going to have to find another place. We're looking at possibly going to Collinsville. We've closed several bowling alleys."
Since Jaros started in 1998, the league has played at the Montclair Bowl in Edwardsville, the Wood River Bowl and Bowland. All three are now closed.
In Collinsville, Art Hartman, proprietor of the Camelot Bowl, said he expected to have some additional business from former customers of Bowland.
"We've had some inquiries. We've had some people stop by, and phone calls," Hartman said. "I'm sure that some of their bowlers will be on their way here."
Contact reporter Jim Merkel at 618-344-0264, ext. 138