The Riviera Beach area has changed. It's easy to say that everythinghas changed, but it's not always true. Some things even while changing remain pretty much the same.
The bowling center was called AlexSandusky's Riviera Bowl 30 years ago when Sandusky bought the centerwithin a year of its construction. It's called Riviera Bowl now, buta Sandusky is still in charge.
Steve Sandusky was raised in the Riviera Beach center, and he learned the business from the ground up.
"When I was a youngster, Dadmade me learn the business," Sandusky said. "I remember him telling me to get down behind the lanes where the pin-setting machinery was and making sure that I knew how they worked and how to fix them."
Alex Sandusky retired to Key West, Fla., a few years to devote his time to fishing and golfing, but his lessons remain in force. Steve still can fix a broken pin-setting machine, and he still runs a family-type bowling center.
"That's what Riviera Bowl has always been," Steve said, "a family place. We don't have a lot of high-powered, high-scoring leagues, but we have a lot of very faithful bowlers, families.That keeps them coming back year after year.
"I don't bowl, but Idon't think that it's necessary to bowl to run a bowling center. I'ma businessman, and I know that my business here has been, and will always continue to be, a family-type operation. The folks who are hereon a day-to-day basis know their jobs and know bowling."
Glenna Grimes, manager, has been bowling for over 25 years and is one of the top women bowlers in the Baltimore area. Betty Switzer has been running the snack bar for 14 years, and while she tried to stay away one time, it just didn't work out.
"I couldn't work anywhere else," Switzer said. "Everybody's like family here. I can remember that we had a league one time with four generations of the same family bowling onit. When I was away from here for a little while, I just couldn't wait to get back."
Kenny Shallue is just stepping down as lane mechanic. He's retiring to Florida after more than 20 years with Riviera Bowl. His replacement, Dave Wildey, probably will be here that long.
So things change, but at Riviera Bowl, they also stay pretty much the same.
"Sure, there have been changes in the duckpin game," Sandusky said. "After all, over a 30-year span there's bound to be changes in any sport.
"The biggest changes, I feel, have been in the pins and in the lane surfaces. There's been a lot of research on pins, their construction and weight displacement. Right now we're using a solid plastic pin with a bit lower center of gravity. It's been in place for less than a month, but it appears that the scoring will be higher with it.
"The new polyurethane finishes on the lane surfaces level out the surface better than the old finishes. It gives a more durable, smoother surface. It doesn't protect the lane from an illegallylofted ball, but it protects against normal wear-and-tear."
How do you stop bowlers from lofting the ball so far down the lanes that they damage the surface?
"I finally painted a red mark on the ball returns down the lane and told everyone that any ball that was in theair past that line had a bad loft," Sandusky said. "I told everyone that when they saw a ball being lofted to simply tell the bowler who threw it to stop doing it. After all, when the lanes are damaged fromlofted balls, everyone that bowls on those lanes suffers from the effect."
What is going to happen in the next 10 years in duckpins?
"Well, I expect things to be just great here at Riviera Bowl," Sandusky said. "This area is still growing, and since I'll always run a family place, I think that duckpin bowling will be alive, well and growing.
"Duckpin bowling is supposed to be fun. It's business for meand the other folks who operate bowling centers, but for the public it's a sport, and it's supposed to be entertainment, just fun. I wisheveryone would remember that simple fact."
Donald G. Vitek's Bowling column appears every Thursday in the Anne Arundel County Sun. Bowlers are urged to give Don a call with scores and tidbits at 247-0850.