Bill Grable rolled the bowling ball down memory lane with old friends Sunday, when he was inducted into the Clark County Bowling Hall of Fame, at Club Green Meadows in Vancouver.
“My mom and dad are both in the Hall of Fame, so it was always one of my goals to join them,” said the 60-year-old lifelong Camas resident. “If they’re looking down on me today, I hope they’re proud.”
From the moment he could pick up a bowling ball, Bill Grable has been knocking down pins, picking up splits and rolling 300 games. The former Riverside Bowl building, in Camas, was like a second home to the Grables before it closed in 2007.
“Mom and dad spent a lot of time at Riverside. They were not just bowling in several leagues, but they were also secretaries of a lot of leagues, even if they didn’t bowl in them,” Bill said. “My mom used to roller skate down there, back when it was called the Wagon Wheel. My mom and dad met at the skating rink in Aberdeen.”
Just like his father, Bill has been working at the Camas paper mill since graduating from high school in 1975.
“My grandfather spent almost 50 years at the mill. My dad spent almost 40 years there. Now I’ve been there 41 years,” he said.
After enduring his parents’ deaths by cancer and his own battles with the disease, Bill still turns to bowling to stay connected with friends and enjoy the thrill of competition.
“Years past, it was all about the game. I’ve been an athlete my whole life, so that’s where the competition comes from,” Bill said. “Now, my average is not near what it used to be. I go down there now just to enjoy the camaraderie. Even when I go up against a player I don’t know, it doesn’t matter. I play because I still love the game.”
Bill Grable is now in good company. His family Hall of Fame bowling reunion continues to grow. Ralph Krout, Bill’s uncle, was the first family member to be inducted in 1978. Raymond Grable, Bill’s father, joined in 1994. Lorraine Grable, Bill’s mother, followed in 1999. Mary Lewis, Bill’s cousin, entered in 2008.
“Mom and dad are a big part of it, but there are so many people along the way,” Bill said. “Ray and Rusty Wright let me practice at Riverside for little or nothing. I would bowl like 50 something games a week, back then.”
He recalls one crazy night at Riverside: After the league games had finished, Bill and his buddies were trying an assortment of trick shots, and he started bowling between his legs.
“I threw three or four strikes in a row, and then somebody said, ‘Hey, let’s keep score,’” Grable said. “I threw 11 more strikes, and then on the final frame, I left a pin up.”
Although Grable couldn’t officially call it a 300-game bowling between his legs, it was still a night to remember.
“I was probably in the my late 20s, feeling like a little kid again,” he said.
Grable added that he has rolled close to two dozen perfect games in his career. His highest three-game series is an 846. Grable played in the Pro Bowler’s Association for about 17 years. He won a Pacific Northwest regional tournament in Wilsonville, Oregon, back in the 1990s, and that gave him the opportunity to represent Camas at a national tournament in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“That was probably the highlight of my career,” Grable said. “It’s the only regional tournament I’ve ever won.”
Grable has found a new bowling home at Hazel Dell Lanes. He sometimes makes the rounds and bowls at Allen’s Crosley Lanes and Big Al’s, but nothing will ever replace Riverside Bowl in his heart.
“Oh yeah, it was heartbreaking (when Riverside closed),” Grable said. “A lot of good memories down there. A lot of people we bowled with from work. That kind of broke that part of it up, but I’ve been bowling with some of the guys that retired from the mill at Hazel Dell.”
Grable doesn’t like to use the term “washed up.” He vows to keep throwing the bowling ball down the lane as long as he can keep it out of the gutter.
“It always feels good when you do everything right and it works out and you still get a strike,” Grable said. “I still enjoy that thrill. It never gets old.”