Bowling is a big part of their longevity – Empty Nest by Curt Swarm


On Fridays they bowl, at 1:00 p.m. No napping for them! They are part of the 55+ League at Champion Bowl in Ottumwa. There are 60+ members of the over 55 league. Teams are cleverly named: “Sparetimes,” “Ma’s,” “4 Splits,” “Left Overs,” “NewBIES,” “Hi Hopes,” “Lucky Strikes,” “Has Beens,” “Lonesome Four,” “Unpredictables,” “Vacant,” “Pin Lips,” “Rosebowlers,” and “Guiter Kids.” No, that’s not the “Gutter Kids.” I’ll explain later.
Of the 60-plus members, three of them are over 90. Dick Crowe, Eloise DeMoss, and Bill Kramer, all from Ottumwa, can, “Show them upstart 80-year olds how to bowl, by golly!”
Dick Crowe, age 91, has been bowling since 1949. His average last year was 171, and his best game ever was 299. Dick bowls four times a week—twice on Friday. He will go to the state tournament on Saturday and the national tournament in Las Vegas in May. It will be his 39th year at the nationals. Beat that Millennials!
Eloise DeMoss, at 92, is the senior of the trio. She started bowling when bowling alleys had those little round pins called duck pins, the balls didn’t have finger holes, and the pins were set up by hand. She’s on Ma’s team, but she isn’t Ma. Ma preceded her, and no one knows for sure who “Ma” was. It doesn’t matter. Her secret to longevity is, “Get going, keep moving, and don’t sit down.” She bowls twice a week, and loves to beat the men.
Everyone knows Bill Kramer. He’s “ninety-and-three-quarters” and was a popular high school teacher and coach at Seton Catholic School in Ottumwa, coaching everything from football and basketball to wrestling, golf, baseball and track. He’s been bowling at least 60 years. He is very familiar with Eloise DeMoss, as she was a school secretary, “And a good one!” Bill also bowls on two leagues.
The health benefits of bowling, both physical and mental, are well documented. A quick glance at the members of the Over-55 League shows very little obesity within the group. Compare that to a cross-section of our population today.
The best part about bowling is that there are almost no limits as to who can bowl. It is low impact, easy-to-learn, and a great activity for all ages (witness the 90-year olds). Bowling burns from 175 – 300 calories per hour. The 14-pound bowling ball tones the shoulders, arms, chest, legs, hands and fingers. The twisting, lunging, and stretching that bowling requires improves balance and flexibility. Hand-eye coordination sharpens. A bowler throws a bowling ball further than an NBA basketball player going for that game winning shot from half court. And, during a three-game series, a bowler throws that ball 54 times. Most importantly, bowling is a social sport. People who socialize even once a week tend to have a stronger immune system, and are less likely to suffer from depression and certain types of cancer. The physical exercise and socialization from bowling far outweigh any negativity associated with the occasional gutter ball.
Speaking of gutter. There was a family of four bowling with the 55+ League, three brothers and one sister, the Guiter family—Jack, Bob, Dick and Jo (Jody Petermann). They have their own team, the “Guiter Kids,” and have been bowling together for years. Imagine that. A family that gets along well enough to play together routinely. I kept hearing what I thought was “gutter!” It was, “Guiter!” They were throwing strikes and spares, and having a “ball.”
The bowling ball is a sphere, the shape of the world—everything in order, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at or visit his website at

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