Monroe man discusses induction into state bowling group's hall of fame
Eley, of Monroe, lost three fingers in a butchering accident in 1945 when he was 15. He survived the accident, and went on to thrive in the world of bowling.
Eley was inducted into the Wisconsin State Bowling Association's Hall of Fame on Jan. 8 in Waukesha. Eley, just the 18th person inducted into the WSBA's meritorious division of the Hall of Fame, was inducted for his meritorious service to bowling.
"It was pretty hard to fight back the tears," Eley said. "I worked hard at it. It's just a great honor. You have to earn it."
Eley has been involved with bowling for more than 60 years. He started setting pins as a teenager in 1947 at Redmons, a bowling alley on the Square where Flanagan's Shenanigans is now located. He started bowling in a league in 1948.
After the butchering accident, he consulted a doctor who advised him that he would have to bowl left-handed.
"I didn't think I could bowl," Eley said. "The doctor told me you don't have enough off and I could bowl with my right hand."
Eley went to Madison and had a special ball drilled for him by Connie Schwoegler. Eley said a hole was bored from his fingers to the center of the ball.
"That was so the ball would not pop out when I released it," he said. "I was surprised I could find a ball. I was surprised I could still bowl."
Eley has succeeded with the fitted ball. He has a 180 average for his career and a best game of 265.
"Bowling is really a game of concentration," Eley said.
Eley was elected to the WSBA board in 1982. He worked on all of the state board committees and was president in 2001. As a director, he spearheaded a drive to make a separate prize fee for the scratch division, which increased the handicap division's prize by more than $30,000 for the year and increased the winnings for the scratch division.
Eley said since 1982, he has driven an estimated 500 to 600 miles a year for bowling.
Eley served as league secretary for 35 years, was one of the association's lane committee members and has been a league representative to the association for more than 50 years. He helped manage the city bowling tournament for more than 30 years. He has served each of the association offices including a five-year stint as association secretary.
Eley has been a supporter of Monroe's youth bowling program.
"That is our future of bowling," he said of the youth program.
He has also competed in 30 state tournaments, bowled in two national tournaments and has been a delegate to the national convention in Reno, Nev., in 2001.
The best aspect of bowling is meeting new people, he said.
"It's a good sport to get involved in," Eley said. "It's a clean sport. It's not a dirty sport where there is a lot of illegal stuff."
He bowls in a mixed league at Turner Hall every week and is gearing up for the state tournament in Waukesha.
"I want to bowl decent," he said of the state tournament. "I would like to get good scores. I would like to get a 600 for a change in the team event. We have four other guys who are good bowlers."