Bowling a part of Evans' life for more than 50 years


By: Lanny Stewart

For 52 years, bowling has been a part of Larry Evans' life in Neepawa. Whether it was new equipment, the creation of a new recreational league, or chit-chatting with the regulars, the 70-year-old enjoyed his lengthy stint as the owner of "Evans Bowling Lanes".

Now, Evans is looking forward to the next stage of his life after announcing late last month that he has announced his retirement and has put the bowling alley up for sale.

"I think it's time to enjoy the rest of my life," said Evans. "Basically, it was just time."

Evans' life in bowling began when his father Tony opened the bowling alley in 1962 – and its his vision whom Larry credits when describing the beginning stages of the business, which is located at the corner of Highway 16 and 5 in Neepawa.

"He [Tony] felt it would be a nice lifestyle for our family," said Evans. "His thoughts were that he'd build a big enough building where the lower level would be 10-pin and the upper level would be five-pin. But in the end, there wasn't enough business for both, so we just concentrated on the main level."

The 'main level' – i.e. the upstairs level of the building where the bowling alley is situated – has seen its transformations over the years, such as the use of school kids in the evenings to hand-set pins early on to what Evans describes as the 'cadillac of bowling equipment', the Schmidt CA-1 pinsetter machine, which was installed years later. After years of having both 10-pin and five-pin, Evans eventually settled on five-pin as the business' bread and butter before closing up shop late April.

Meanwhile, the downstairs area of the building was, at one time, used as a roller skating arena,  but would later be transformed by Larry into a banquet hall which accommodated approximately 250-275 people on any given night.

Looking back, Evans has several fond memories of the bowling alley, such as a district league, which included farmers from the area.

"They would come every Wednesday and they would sit in the lobby and visit. They were supposed to start bowling at 8 o'clock and we ended up having to install a buzzer to get them going," said Evans with a smile. "It was the most well-run league we had. When it all ended, I don't remember what year – it must have been six or seven years ago – they wanted to have a farewell finish.

"I donated my banquet room to them," he continued.

The bowling alley has also hosted several events, including a western Manitoba youth bowling championship years ago which saw large attendance numbers, Evans says.

"The kids came over in bus loads. There would be three or four bus loads of kids bowling all weekend long."

He says although the numbers have dwindled when it came to youngsters coming to the bowling alley the past few years, he did see a resurgence of sorts recently. He says schools in the area were bringing kids to the bowling alley for gym class.

"My hat goes off to the schools who are starting to get more involved," he said. "It was nice to see."

Evans is hoping this isn't the end of the bowling alley in Neepawa and would love for nothing more than to see the business continue in the area.

"That's my preference. Obviously whatever happens is out of my control," he said. "Neepawa should be able to support a bowling alley. Neepawa and area have been very supportive over the years. Whether it was Gladstone, Plumas, Riding Mountain, Glenella, Brookdale. The surrounding area has been very supportive. We even draw from Austin."

Evans says several smaller communities in western Manitoba have community-owned bowling centres and believes Neepawa can support a bowling alley for many years to come.

"If people in Neepawa could rally and get behind it – the key thing is that it's one thing to want it (bowling), it's another thing to support it. If it's sold to Neepawa people or whomever who want to run it as a bowling alley, they got to get out and support it."

Looking back, Evans says the biggest thing he'll miss about the bowling alley are the people and the countless friendships he's made over the years.

"You meet people from all walks of life. Everybody has always been very pleasant.

"It's been my life for 50 years," he continued.

Now that Evans has more time on his hands, he says he'd like to go on a winter holiday with his wife.

"I've only been on one winter holiday in 50 years and it was about a year ago and we went to Mexico. We really enjoyed ourselves. It was hard getting away, but I did and I rather enjoyed it."

It's safe to say Larry deserves the time off after all his hard work.

Anyone wishing to purchase Evans Bowling Lanes are to contact Jim McLachlan at 204-724-7753.

In photos: A family dedicated to bowling in the Neepawa area. Larry Evans (shown in photo) shows off a large photo of his dad that was hung up at the bowling alley, which memorializes Larry's dad Tony who opened the bowling alley in 1962. Bottom: a view of the bowling alley.

Photo by Lanny Stewart