"Even the 80-, 90-hour work weeks don't really bother me," said John Crunkleton, proprietor of Edgemere Bowling Center, a 12-lane duckpin house. "I love this game and I love being around it."
And Crunkleton has been around duckpins since he bowled at the Guilford lanes on Greenmount Avenue as a teen-ager.
Born in Baltimore City and a resident of Edgemere for 11 years, he has devoted his life to duckpins as a bowler and as a proprietor.
"Toni [his wife] and I wouldn't be happy away from ducks," he said. "Bowling has been such a big part of our lives."
Toni was co-founder of the Women's National Duckpin Association in the early '80s and is a third of the women's triples team that holds a world record. On Nov. 21, 1990, Toni Crunkleton, Sharon Hartley and Cathy Biondo, bowling at Edgemere, set the record with a 1,366 pinfall. Toni continues to average in the 130s.
John continues to bowl in two leagues at Edgemere and the Men's Major Traveling league. Over the years, he has dropped the weight of his duckpin balls to 3 pounds and 10 or 11 ounces and his average has declined from a high of 150 to 140.
With Jeff Ferrand, at the old Colonial Lanes in Annapolis, on March 8, 1990, he set the world record for men's doubles for a five-game set: 1,739.
"We hold the record," Crunkleton said. "But Jeff did most of the bowling. I think he shot 934 for the five games."
On Nov. 4, 1992, at Fair Lanes Westview, he teamed with Anita Rothman to set the mixed doubles five-game series world record with 1,657.
His career-high single game is 246, his high three-game set is 559.
Edgemere Bowling Center was built in 1948 and 11 years ago the Crunkletons had a chance to purchase the center. They jumped at it.
"I couldn't have made a success out of the center without the people of Edgemere," Crunkleton said. "This is just like a small town here and I can walk down the street and see faces everywhere I look that I know. These folks have dropped into the center and help paint the place, on a snowy morning I'll find a bag of salt by the front door.
"My neighbors want a local duckpin center and I'm glad I can provide it. On Saturday mornings I'll have 150 youngsters in here bowling, it's just great.
"We just want a place that our neighbors can walk into and feel at home," John added. "We try to give a personal touch, to give folks their money's worth. We never forget that bowling is supposed to be fun."
From the pro shop
The Bowler's Alley Pro Shop is easy to find. Turn left off the front concourse of Fair Lanes Dundalk on Merritt Boulevard and you're there. Probably the first person you'll see is Randy Ruckman.
"I opened the pro shop in August 1991 and moved here a little while ago," Ruckman said. "My shop is smaller than a lot of pro shops but I'm in a great place because bowlers can find me without any trouble."
A truck mechanic before he opened the shop, Ruckman continues to bowl three times a week -- Monday in the Bud Lite Classic at Country Club Lanes, Thursday in the Major Men's at Edgewood and in the Saturday Bee's Buddies, a mixed league, with his wife and business partner, Debbie, at Dundalk.
Currently averaging 208, Ruckman has shot three 300 games and just missed an 800 set with a superb 791 series.
It figures that a bowler who also owns a pro shop would have a complete line of bowling balls in his bag.
Ruckman said, "I use a Black Hammer at Country Club, the resin Weapon at Edgewood, and at Dundalk, I'll use a Ninja or a Weapon or whatever it takes that night. The Dundalk league is mixed and I can relax a little bit while I'm bowling and try different things."
Bowling since he was 13, Ruckman has seen many changes in the tenpin game.
"Scores have jumped, lane conditions have changed and there are so many new balls hitting the market that it blows your mind," he said.
The Bowler's Alley Pro Shop Club Tournament is conducted every Saturday at Fair Lanes Dundalk. It's a handicap event with a $400 first prize based on 50 entries.
Information: (410) 282-2000.