In every city in Canada, there’s a five pin bowling alley that’s been operating for a few decades. Bonnie Doon Bowling Lanes in Edmonton first welcomed customers in 1959. In Winnipeg, Rossmere Lanes was established in 1960. Toronto’s Shamrock Bowl opened in 1952 to ease the protests of locals who were concerned about a bar opening in the basement of the Shamrock Hotel called, “Underworld”.
A Canadian invention, five pin bowling was created by Thomas F. Ryan in 1909 after the patrons of the Toronto Bowling Club complained about the strenuous nature of the ten pin version.
I’ve friends who frequent lanes in Edmonton every Friday night, spending hours perfecting their craft. No matter how many times the newbies land their balls in the gutter, the seasoned bowlers are always supportive. I’m one of Canada’s worst bowlers, and yet, I’ve found myself giggling about a particularly pathetic lob or high-fiving one of my more experienced pals after a fluky strike.
Fort Bowling Lanes opened in the Energetic City over forty years ago. Learning this, I pictured a bowling alley in the late 1960s, overhead speakers playing Sly and the Family Stone or Creedence Clearwater Revival, fun-loving families sliding across maple floors, tossing rubber balls at miniature pins. The lanes are still a popular spot for Fort St. John residents, hosting several league teams and full houses on Friday and Saturday nights.
Fort Bowling Lanes has seen its share of owners, including Lucien and Deb Aubin, and Paul Rondeau. Four years ago, Kevin and Susanne Alexander purchased the lanes and decided to keep it open as long as possible. Even their keen nine year old grandson has expressed interest in running the business after his grandparents retire.
Talking with Kevin Alexander about why he decided to take ownership of one of Fort St. John’s oldest recreation centres, I was surprised to learn that he and his family were never avid bowlers. The year that Kevin started bowling, he learned that the alley was up for sale. Always wanting to own their own business, he and his wife decided to jump in and become bowling alley proprietors. Kevin spent the next two years under the guidance of the previous owner, learning the ropes – or rather, the pins.
Kevin was born in Dawson Creek, moved away to Vancouver Island and then moved back to the Peace Region. He was briefly a cook and carpenter, but mostly worked in the sales and retail industries, taking on various roles.
I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He didn’t think he’d ever be a bowling alley proprietor, but his goal was “never having to work for anyone else.” He explained that during all of his jobs, he was “always on the lookout for something different.” Having found the thing that he was looking for, Kevin appears completely ease at the bowling alley, joyfully helping patrons or quickly fixing a stuck pin in the mechanical room.
Talking with Kevin made me contemplate the idea of a traditional career path – you figure out what you want to be, then you learn how to be it, and finally you become it and stick with it. Then, after you retire, you start a couple of hobbies that you never had time for while you were becoming the thing you wanted to be and then you die happy. The whole thing is dangerously linear – it implies that the path never diverts off into unknown directions, especially later in life.
It seems that, for some people, the non-traditional career path is the most logical. While professional goals are pursued and developed, sometimes unexpected forks appear in the road. Sometimes the path is never clearly defined; in other instances, a person may know exactly where they want to go at a very young age. Sometimes the path diverts widely, exploring different and unexpected terrains.
Each person has their own unique experience finding their way. And, no matter how short, each path is long and exciting. After helping my ninety-three year old grandmother move into a seniors’ home, my mom said, “Well grandma, life’s an adventure.”
So, forget it, dude. Let’s go bowling.