Of all the different activities that are offered to youngsters by the Weehawken Recreation Department, the one that might just fly under the radar screen is bowling.
There isn’t a lot of hoopla about the bowling program. Some residents don’t even know it exists.
But for the last 17 years, Weehawken youngsters ages seven through 13 have been getting the chance every Saturday to go to the Bowl-Rite Lanes in Union City and participate.
They get transportation to the lanes from three locations in town, and then get shoe rental and three games of bowling for a minimal fee.
Under the guidance of bowling coordinator Bob Montanile and assistant Marie Hablitz, the kids get the chance to receive proper instruction on how to bowl and enjoy a different sport than most of those offered by Weehawken Recreation.
“The kids have a good time,” Montanile said. “The younger kids use the bumpers [the rubberized strips that prevents the ball from going in the gutter and keeps the ball on the lane] and the older kids bowl regularly. We offer instructional bowling for those who want to get better. We’d love to have enough kids to form a league, but the kids we have still have a lot of fun.”
The Weehawken Recreation bowling sessions last for 15 weeks. It concluded last week with a special pizza party, with Mayor Richard Turner and Councilwoman Carmela Silvestri Ehret attending the ceremonies.
“I used to bowl when I was a kid,” Turner said. “I loved bowling. It’s just another activity that we offer on Saturdays, which is a very busy day for us. Whether it’s archery, gymnastics, basketball or arts and crafts, we keep the kids busy. Bowling is another one of those activities. It gives children the chance to learn another sport.”
“The kids really like to see the mayor come out,” Montanile said. “He spent time with them and jokes with them. I know the kids appreciate that.”
Montanile said that the township has some aspiring stars in the sport of bowling, like Jimmy McCall, who is already the town’s resident top archer.
The 13-year-old McCall rolled a season best 203 three weeks ago and has a unique style, because he doesn’t even put his fingers inside the ball.
“He just palms the ball and really gets a great spin and curve on it,” Montanile said. “I don’t know how he does it, but he throws a beautiful ball.”
Justin Hablitz and Cody Condello are also rising stars in the sport.
“They both have a lot of promise and love bowling,” Montanile said. “Justin is really getting good at it, getting into the 150-to-160 average.”
Montanile also credited the work of Pearl Lee, who has been rapidly improving among the girls.
“She is there every week and wants to get better,” Montanile said. “She works incredibly hard at her bowling.”
Montanile is hopeful that the youngsters participating in the bowling program continue on in the sport.
“We’re hoping that a lot of these kids continue to bowl in high school,” Montanile said. “We like to be a feeder system for the high school bowling team. There are some who come just for the fun, but there are others who take the sport seriously. There’s room for everyone.”
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org