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Corps of Engineers bowling league rolling since 1938Originally Published April 18, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated April 17, 2013 at 11:33 a.m.
MAUMELLE When Jerry Noggle of Bryant started bowling with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock Bowling League 48 years ago, the league was made up of 12 five-man teams.
“When it started, there wasn’t a lot to do in Little Rock,” Noggle said. “We’ve bowled in almost every bowling alley in [Little Rock]. Some of these bowling alleys don’t even exist anymore.”
Noggle said the league has been a way for him to stay connected with the Corps.
“The Corps got cut so much along the way, we felt like [the league] was something we needed to keep going,” he said. “I get to visit with old friends, and I get to know people in different sections and divisions of the Corps.”
Noggle met his wife, Bonnie, at the bowling alley, and the couple still bowl together.
Bonnie was the first woman to join the league.
“I’ve bowled every year since I started in 1972,” she said.
Although Jerry has retired from his duties as a materials engineer, his time off has given him an opportunity to spend more time with his wife.
“[Bowling] is a fun thing to do,” Bonnie said. “We get competitive, but it’s all in good fun.”
The league, which has been hitting the lanes in central Arkansas since 1938, now meets every Monday night at Millennium Bowl in Maumelle to play three games.
“Bowling is a way to come out, socialize and have fun,” said Jay Woods of Cabot, public affairs specialist for the Corps. “We get to hear stories from the past.”
He said the league started bowling at Pla-Mor lanes in Little Rock in 1938.
“After that, the league moved all over town,” Woods said, and since 2005 has met at Millennium Bowl.
“We bowl every Monday from the end of August to the first of May,” Woods said.
The league started as an all-men’s league, and in the 1970s, Woods said, the league allowed women to join. Bowlers in the league range from 30 to 70 years old.
The league doesn’t have an official name, but the six teams that bowl in it have team names that range from Spare Us to Just for Fun. Before the teams had the bowling-related names, Woods said, the teams were named for the division of the Corps where the participants worked.
“The only original name left is Survey,” he said.
Woods said five former members of the league made it all the way to the Central Arkansas Bowling Association Hall of Fame.
Some of the league members have been bowling together for more than 40 years. Participants in the league either work, or have worked, for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock division.
Leon Gray of Conway has been bowling with the league for 43 years.
“I love to bowl, and I love these guys,” Gray said. “We’ve had a good, long career together.”
Gray was a computer programmer at the Corps before he retired, and he said the league gives him a chance to hang out with his former co-workers.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Gray said. “[My wife and I] drive from Conway every Monday.”
Jay Townsend of Maumelle is the league’s newest member. Townsend, who is a public-affairs specialist for the Corps, said bowling is a way to connect with current and former employees.
“Some of these people built our country’s infrastructure,” Townsend said. “Maybe I can learn something from them.”
Family members and spouses of Corps workers are also invited to bowl with the league.
Townsend said he and his wife use the weekly bowling night as a way to spend time together, too.
Gray said he will be 80 years old next month.
“I plan on [bowling] as long as I can,” he said.
Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501)244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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