The Early History of the Penna. State Bowling Assn.

By “Andy” Nicholas


Writing the early history of the Pennsylvania State Bowling Association takes back to the year 1935. Forces a scratching of the noggin and I am sure there will be many a fellow who has done plenty to put this association on its present high plane that will be missed. So I am asking for an early pardon.

When this association was first thought of and formed I was a member of the ABC executive committee. I found my extra state work was about all I should try to handle, so I resigned as executive director of the ABC, and Warren Chadwick took my place, and by the way he did a better job than I had done.

A story I have never told before is about the birth of the first discussion of a State Bowling Association for Pennsylvania.

The above took place in a Cadillac coming home from a national tournament at Indianapolis in 1935 or 1936. There were four of us in the car: Art Elliot, Dolly Walker, Sam Madonna and myself. At the tournament I had heard a lot of talk about state associations from various bowlers of other parts of the country, so the thought struck me that we in Pennsylvania had no such association that we could boast about, and when I mentioned it to the others we all decided to form an association. So it was left up to me to find temporary officers to serve until such time as later developments would permit a real election.

It was at this point that I really played the part of a Czar. I asked two of my friends in Pottstown to be president and secretary. They agreed, but no action. So I just told them they were out and I got two more from West Philadelphia with no better results. So I tried a couple Quakerites—still no work—so I went to the coal fields and there we got our man; Ed Jefferson, who not only was interested but started to work. It was about this time that we had more good luck. I had learned that another committeeman had been appointed in Pittsburgh. Getting his name and address from Milwaukee, we unearthed Herman Reider, who was a real sparkplug. His spirit and enthusiasm was contagious, and he and I visited many towns and cities. Now, when I look back over the years I feel that the later success of our association was due to Reider and Jefferson and their readiness to serve, and did a swell job.

I got a little ahead of my story. After Jefferson agreed to serve we thought a good way to let the bowlers know that we had a “Pennsylvania State Bowling Association,” was to run a “Sweepstakes.” So it was carried on at Old Forge. As this was put on by our association it had to distinctive, and while the big prizes were in the first ten places, we also had prizes at the 25th, 50th,; also the 100th and 150th. This went over big as we had more than 300 entries. So, the success of our first prompted a repeat. If I remember correctly we had 575 entries. So off we go to our first tournament which was scheduled for Easton.

I have always felt that the association was born in a Cadillac. It was christened in Hazleton and got its long pants at Easton, where Ted Bean really did a good job. No pay, then. In fact, it cost Ted money, but it was in this tournament that Pittsburgh showed to an advantage. Their twelve to fifteen teams really spelled success at our first show, and “trench” from Scranton won the all-events, while Art Elliott, one our boys tied in the singles and won the roll-off.

This yarn would not be complete unless I mention that every one of our leaders in the last 24 years has done a masterful job. No one fizzled, which is really remarkable, and of course some of our boys have gone on to bigger things, such as our own Pat Patterson, who is still ready to do his bit and a little more, and our secretary, Harry Gumpert, is sure doing a swell job. He is also an executive director of the ABC. And none of us can ever forget the good job that Vic Vecchiola did during his term as president.. We are especially proud of him, especially since he is the only man from Pennsylvania to become president of the “American Bowling Congress.”

The meeting at Easton, before the tournament started, was well attended. Brendlinger, of Reading; Wolf, of Allentown. I forgot the names of the men from York, Lancaster and Williamsport, but I’m quite sure Dr. Smith represented Erie. It was at Easton that Jefferson was voted in as our first president, and Joe Appel, as secretary, who succeeded Mike Bernstein, of Old Forge, who couldn’t find time to serve any longer.

Well, as records show, the second tournament went to Philadelphia, the third to York, the fourth to Pittsburgh, the fifth to Scranton and the sixth back to Philadelphia. Each of the tournaments was an improvement over the previous one, and that is where the success is due to good leadership. I can’t say enough good things about the boys who have really made the “Pennsylvania Association” one of the outstanding associations of the country

I’m sure as I write this history, that our twenty-fifth tournament at Hazleton will be another grand affair and success.

The Second Twenty-Five Years

In looking over the past history of the Pennsylvania State Bowling Association, we see signs of 25 years of organizing and planning for the next 25 years. Our organization must have been well founded to survive for 50 years. Our planning will never cease as new faces bring new ideas. Our main objective is to conduct an annual bowling tournament for the bowlers of Pennsylvania. We have gone through several phases of this event.

As we enter the second 25 year span we find the tournament being conducted on an A and B class system with a top prize of $500.00 for each class. All prizes were paid on the handicap system. In 1966, at the annual convention, a one class tournament with a booster class of 825 was proposed and passed. This must have been the right move as records show. Since the change, our low entry has been 1,123 teams under the one class system. In 1978 the booster class was discontinued. Our record number of entries was 2,022 teams, 9,980 bowlers in 1979 at Allentown. The host association entered 405 teams.

In 1961, we made our first try at machine accounting for the tournament at Bradford. Under the guidance of Tournament Chairman, Robert Thompson, and Bill Burgeson of Zippo MFG., a program was developed for the IBM tab machine. It was such a success that it was the first time in the history of the tournament that no mistakes were recorded or errors in the prize list found. The complete prize list was furnished three days after the end of the tournament. Since that time many other associations used the computer programs, until 1982, at which time PSBA purchased its own computer. Now, all phases of the tournament are handled on our computer under the supervision of Burle Lewis, Tournament Director.

In 1964, the state was divided into three zones: East, Central and West, for a basis in awarding the annual tournament. In 1967, a change was made in our director system. Each zone elected six (6) Area Directors for a staggered three year term from the delegates of their own zones. There are 18 Area Directors plus nine Line Officers, which became known as the Board of Directors. These 27 men present their ideas and recommendations to the Council of Delegates for final approval.

The Board of Directors meet Friday evening and Saturday morning, while the Council of Delegates meets Saturday in the late afternoon and Sunday morning. An ABC workshop is held Saturday afternoon for updates from the American Bowling Congress.

Saturday evening is the highlight of the convention with the President’s Party. The awarding of the annual tournament champion trophies, the induction of the Hall of Fame Electees and to honor the outgoing President. The Balance of the evening is turned over to the associations who are bidding for the upcoming tournaments.

During 1969, with completion in 1970, a workbook manual came into being. This workbook defines our by-laws and establishes how, when and why the by-law became valid. The duties of each officer are defined in the Officer’s Manual; the complete instructions for handling of the tournament are in the Tournament Manual; the Committee Manual state who the chairman will be and the duties of each outstanding committee; the Seniors Tournament Manual covers the operation of the Seniors Tournament and the Hall of Fame Manual cover the complete operation for this program. Of course, updates and/or changes are made as necessity dictates.

In 1977, a new innovation to the annual convention came in to being. A mini bowling tournament was proposed by Daniel H. Holter. This to be a handicap bowling tournament open to the Board of Directors, Delegates, Alternates, Committee members, and Association Secretaries and convention guests. It was to be conducted at an establishment close to the convention site. In 1982, a ladies division was added for the wives and friends of the attendees. It now bears the name of the sponsor, the Daniel H. Holter Mini Bowling Tournament.

The 1980’s have seen no major changes in the structure except for updating manuals. They were re-written by Albert Snite and his committee during 1984-85. We did change the logo for the State emblem, from the outline of the Keystone to the outline of the State. A State patch was also introduced at our State tournment. A burgundy monogrammed P.S.B.A. tie for the Line Officers and the Board of Directors. A blue monogrammed tie for the Past Presidents to wear with their white coats and blue trousers.

Frank W Coomis          Robert Thompson       Bruce J. Therminy

The Third Twenty-Five Years

In looking over the past history of the Pennsylvania State Bowling Association, we see signs of 25 years of organizing, planning for 25 years, and the last 25 years had the most changes. Our organization must have been well founded to survive for 75 years. Our planning will never cease as new faces bring new ideas. Our main objective is to conduct an annual tournament for the bowlers of Pennsylvania. We now have four tournaments a year which include the Championship, Seniors, Mixed, and Scratch Masters Tournaments.

Our Annual Championship Tournament is now awarded on a bid selection delegates voting at the Annual Convention. The record of 2022 teams and 9980 bowlers is still held by Allentown in 1979. Beginning in 1992, women were permitted to bowl in all our tournaments. The Seniors tournament has seen the additions of a team event in 1996 at Williamsport and two new age divisions, 75 and over and 50 to 54 years of age. The last two tournaments are new additions within the last twenty-five years. The mixed tournament began in 1992 at Williamsport with teams, doubles, and all-events. Stan Chaya served as Tournament Director and Mary Chaya as Tournament Director on Site for the first six years. Mary then assumed the role as Tournament Director for the next four- teen years having just retired in 2011 following the 20th Annual tournament in Sunbury. Susan Schickel is the new Tournament Director beginning with the start of the 75th Anniversary. The Scratch masters began in October 2011 and offers a singles scratch challenge for the best of the best bowlers across the commonwealth. With a successful start, the PSBA is looking forward to growing this tournament as the years progress.

Another large addition for the PSBA was the establishment of the Pennsylvania State Bowling Association Scholarship, The scholarship benefits graduating high school bowlers annually with the winners being honored at the PSBA Annual Convention. The first year, two scholarships of $500 were given and the fund has grown to this year with six recipients at $1,500 each. The fund has grown through donations and fundraisers such as; 50/50 drawings at the President’s Dinner and for the past twelve years the Scholarship Scramble Golf Tournament run by Bill Barr and Corey Wert. Applications for the scholarship available in November with a submission deadline of March 1st. Each applicant is evaluated in the following categories: bowling ability, academics, community activities, and financial need.

Other changes include the implementation of technology at meetings with the use of laptop computers and presenters for ease of displaying information. Also, PSBA has a website, Facebook and Twitter accounts as ways to introduce 21st Century Social Media to the development of the organization. Area Director training time has been added, since 1990, at the Fall Board Meeting Weekend with the hopes of developing well-rounded Area Directors.

In 2005, ABC, WIBC, and YABA merged to form the USBC and PSBA voted to be a non-merged association. At that time, PSBA re-incorporated and hired Don W. Swartz as Association Manager. The Annual Convention remains similar with a Board of Directors meeting on Friday evening, while the Council of Delegates meets Saturday in the late afternoon and Sunday morning. Saturday evening is the highlight of the convention with the President’s Dinner, the awarding of the Annual tournament champions’ trophies, scholarship presentations, induction of the Hall of Fame electees, and honoring the out-going President. The balance of the evening is turned over to the tournament-bidding local associations and candidates for Fourth Vice President in form of hospitality rooms providing fun, food, and fellowship.

19 Years of Presidents



Rear from left: William Weaver, David Barshinger, Raymond Nester, Mike Shenesky, Don Swartz,Harry Walls, Jim Bowser, John Zukas, John Averill, and Robert Schnepp.

Front from left: Frank Canalichio Jr., Michael Carrocia, John Starzyk, Kenneth “Tucker” Smith,Michael Wolfrom, H. Ralph Fisher, Bruce Therminy, Dominick Amato, Rosario “Sidy” Surano