Baltimore's Charles McElhose is passionate about duckpin bowling.
"I feel that that plenty of people love the game of duckpins," he said. "This game is going to be around for a long time in general and, specifically, it's going to be here at Patterson for a long time."
The Patterson Bowling Center he's just acquired has been operating on Eastern Avenue, a few blocks from Patterson Park, for more than a half century. Long enough that if you wish to see bowling lanes without dots and arrows you better hurry to the East Baltimore landmark for a last look; pretty soon those unmarked lanes will be replaced with the standard updated markings. If you would like to keep score with a paper and a pencil, this is still the place to do it -- no telescores yet.
A duckpin bowler since a teen-ager, Elhose is now proprietor of Mack Security Systems and operator of the Duckpin Bowlers Tour. He bought the organization in 1994 and now, with an event each weekend in the Baltimore-Washington area, it's among the top in the nation. He plans on upgrading Patterson center.
"The renovation is going on right now," he said. "It's going to transform the old place. One lane will torn down on each floor, leaving six lanes down and six up. New lane approaches are being put in and a snack bar will be added. And overhead telescore units are being installed."
The usual cosmetic items will be added: new masking units, drop ceilings, painting, the replacement of some windows and a new control counter.
"We'll be open for the start of the 1995-1996 season," he said. "And we'll be open every day from 9:00 a.m. to midnight."
What possessed a hard-headed businessman to even think about buying a dying relic of a bygone age?
"I felt strongly about saving an old center," McElhose said. "There was a time when you couldn't move through Baltimore without finding a neighborhood duckpin center every few blocks. Now many of them are gone. I didn't want to see the Patterson leave, too."
He knows that it will take hard work and new ideas to return the old center to glory.
"I'll be in touch with every church, business and civic organization in a three-mile area," he said. "What many people don't understand is that this area surrounding the Patterson Lanes is feeling pressure from the resurging Fells Point, Broadway and Johns Hopkins areas. Sure, there are many people living here that have been here for years but new, young, affluent folks are moving into this neighborhood.
"For example, I expect to have, for the first time, a strong Saturday morning youth league in action. Of course, all the senior leagues that currently bowl here will continue to have a home in the new Patterson, it'll just be a little more modern, a litle more up to date. But we'll still have that old-fashioned courtesy. The Patterson will still be a family-run and family-oriented operation."
This season there will be leagues for everyone -- seniors, youth, scratch and handicap at the Patterson Bowling Center and, of course, the Duckpin Bowlers Tour will be held there on a date to be determined.
Next week the Duckpin Bowlers Tour wil be at Fairlanes Southwest. The singles event -- July 21-23 -- will pay $1,000 for first place.
July 28-30 the DBT will be at Fairlanes Pikesville. This event will be a doubles format with $1,200 for first place.