At 90, Jim Bovre continues to bowl three days a week
“I was brought up on a farm, and my dad would call me at quarter-to-five every morning, ‘Jim, get up and get the cows,’ and then he’d lay down and smoke a cigarette.” Bovre said. “I looked at him, and I said, ‘I’m never going to do that.’ I’ve never smoked one cigarette, not even one. My brother started smoking, and he had a heart attack at 49.’’
Last Saturday, a healthy Bovre celebrated his 90th birthday bowling with his friends and family, including his son, Jim, and daughter, Barbara.
“I don’t feel like (I’m 90), said Bovre, who possess a playful sense of humor and a sunny disposition. “A lot of people don’t believe me. I’ve been pretty active all my life.’’
Bovre bowls Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at RiversEdge. Last Friday, he posted a 570 series.
“That’s pretty good for me,” said Bovre, who worked at General Motors for 33 years. “I had a 586 (this season).”
Bovre played baseball for Evansville High School and Evansville’s city team in the ’40s and early ’50s. He played softball and mixed in some football, too.
“I was so involved in softball, that I played doubleheaders at night and played one game in Janesville and then (would) go up to Edgerton for the second game,” Bovre said.
Bovre started bowling in the early ’50s when he was about 30 years old.
“The first game I bowled was 73,” Bovre said. “I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Bovre was a fast learner. He became one of the better bowlers in the legendary Classic League at El-Ra, holding a 194 average.
“That was back in the days when the bowling was tougher,” said Bovre, who won the all-city title in 1973. “I won the singles, the doubles and the all events.’’
Bovre said there was not a lot of applied rocket science to his success.
“It just came natural,” said Bovre, who was elected to the Janesville Bowling Hall of Fame in 1988. “I’m no good at anything else.’’
Bovre said he didn’t practice much, but he had the basic skills down.
“I used to be a softball pitcher,” Bovre said. “It was the same movement.’’
While Bovre developed into a top-shelf bowler in Janesville, he could never claim to be perfect. A 285 is his best game.
“At Franklin Gardens, I started out with 10 strikes in a row,” Bovre said. “Everybody came and stood behind me, and I made the mistake to turn around and look, and then I choked and got five pins (on the 11th ball). But I got a 285.’’
Bovre has fond memories of the old Franklin Gardens.
“I bowled there better than any place,” Bovre said. “The owner was kind of a drinker, and he had his dog running across the alleys.’’
Bovre may have missed his 300, but he rolled his highest series, 731, at El-Ra.
“I was in my 70s then,” Bovre said. “We had the second highest (team series) ever bowled in the city of Janesville that night, and I was high man.’’
Bovre and Larry Baker each hit the 700 mark that night. It used to be a big deal.
““When we started, if you got a 700, your picture was in the paper,” Bovre said. “Larry Baker and I were on the same team, and we both had 700 and got our pictures in the paper. That was really something special. Now, heck, them guys are getting 700s all the time.”
Bovre enjoyed bowling with Baker, Al Marsden of Edgerton and Wayne Woodstock.
“Bob Brose said Al Marsden could hit 600 on cement,” Bovre said. “He was terrific.’’
Bovre keeps on rolling along, bowling all year long.
“What else am I going to do?” Bovre said.
Jim Bovre has made it to 90 years old without smoke or mirrors.