One-Two-Three Strikes, You’re IN!
by Cate Murway
Bowling…. Catch the fever!
Bowling is one of the oldest, most popular games in the world with a rich and deep history, a “pin game” sport that can be dated back to circa 3200 BC. A simple ancient game of skill and luck where you really want an “X” to mark the spot!
The goal is to knock all ten pins down completely with the first ball, bowling a strike, rendering an "X" on the score sheet and a cool ten points.
The quest for a 300, the lure of mustard laden hotdogs and pretzels, or just good wholesome family entertainment has drawn millions of people to the dimly lit, raucous arenas of fun.
A perfect game in bowling only takes a total of 12 throws, but all need to be strikes, so bowling a perfect game is quite an extraordinary feat!
The pros deserve more respect, and the sport [not a hobby!] in general deserves a little more respect since much dedication is required, not just a decent pair of shoes, a good throw and a bowling ball.
Now, let’s address ‘BowlingSpeak’. The proper terminology for a bowling alley, or so say the bowling aficionados, is a bowling center. While we're on that, let's deal with the ‘gutter’ word. Are there no more gutters or gutter balls, only channel balls now? There, that sounds much better, right?
Imagine bowling is a bit like golf, with every lane a different hole where bowling balls are the tools, and the correct tools are required to knock the pins over.
So, “chemistry and physics” is as much a part of winning as speed and strength.
“The purpose of the Bucks County Bowling Association Hall of Fame is to perpetuate and honor those local individual bowlers who have displayed outstanding ability in the game of American Ten Pins, and/or who have contributed through dedication and meritorious service to the general welfare and progress of the game for the benefit of the game, the bowlers of Bucks County, and the sport of bowling in general.”
Francis Joseph “Fran” DiRenzo was an avid bowler, a member of the American Bowling Congress, bowling in many Bucks County leagues. He can document several 300 games, “I got a few of them, yeah”, in his Bucks County Bowling Association Achievements, starting from 1967 in the Jubilee Lanes.
His grandparents, Joseph and Mary DiRenzo immigrated from Italy to settle in historic Bristol on the Delaware. They raised their three daughters and five sons, including Fran’s dad, Frank Joseph DiRenzo, Sr. in their Lincoln Avenue home.
Fran’s father was the superintendant of the Bristol Water Works Plant and he also worked in the Borough Streets Department. His mother was a local Bristol girl, Nora [Frake], the daughter of William J. [Nora] Frake, the sexton of St. Mark’s Church who resided on Cedar Street.
Fran shared, “Always loved the town; my friends and buddies all lived in the neighborhood.”
His favorite sport was baseball. The games were won and lost in Memorial Field and Leedom Field, located “where Snyder-Girotti is now”.
As a teenager, he traveled with friends to Maple Beach for their ball games. “There were only fields and homes; no beach. I don’t know why they called it Maple Beach.”
Fran recalls seeing Senator Joseph Grundy in town at the “Italian Grocery store called Aita’s. His chauffeur would drop him off there all the time; he was a distinguished looking guy.”
He loved sports, but no High School sports. Father Judge was just too far from home for him to try out for sports. “We took the train, we hitchhiked, we took the bus” to get to school. Fran successfully graduated in 1957, “academic courses; algebra, trigonometry, all that good stuff.”
At times he and his friends rode to the Solly Avenue school in their buddy’s car. Jimmy Marino’s nine passenger green station wagon would fit ten of them. “When you’re a kid, you do anything.”
They found their favorite stores right in town. “Mill Street had all kinds of stores. Mill Street was a big deal. They had everything there.”
The Cesare’s restaurant was where they often met for after games noshing.
“Pizzas, steaks and hoagies..that was it and sometimes, the Bristol House for pizza.”
Fran recalls a beach by Radcliffe and Dorrance Streets with coarse sand that they dubbed “Dorny’s” and many of them swam in the River there when they were kids but “I never swam to the island, no.”
Oftentimes, they packed picnic lunches and boarded the boat to the 300-acre Burlington Island for $.10. They explored the “Tunnel of Love” and the “Tilt-a Whirl”, remnants from its amusement-park heyday. George Shultz was the sole inhabitant and the caretaker of the wells.
The first car he owned was a used 1950 green 2-door Chevy. “It was a real gem. The price was right. I think back then about $125.00.” Fran’s first new car purchase was a classic 1964 Pontiac Grand Prix.
It was after graduation that he took to the alleys. His favorite sport quickly became bowling.
“We started as teenagers, open bowling on Friday nights. The bug bit me and I really liked it.”
He, along with his black 16-pound Ebonite Manhattan ball, and quite a few years of excellent bowling in tournaments, is named to the Bucks County Bowling Hall of Fame.
[January 30, 1961, The Bristol Daily Courier]
Two teams, including the team of Charles Murray and Frank DiRenzo, from Bristol, moved into contending positions over the weekend in the next-to-last series of matches in the N.J. Handicap Doubles Bowling Tournament.
“I won about 12 in Bucks County and bowled in Trenton and Philadelphia over about 40 years.”
Fran bowled in several Leagues, including the Bristol Majors, Mercer County Majors and Jubilee Majors and he still proudly wears his Hall of Fame ring, and the one for his first 300 game.
Everything wasn’t a game. US Coast Guard Seaman First Class DiRenzo is a veteran.
[December 11, 1961, The Bristol Daily Courier]
Francis DiRenzo of 22 Penn St., Bristol, completed basic training with the Coast Guard at Cape May, N.J., last week and is awaiting transfer to a specialty school.
“I would have been drafted into the Army but I thought I’d like the Navy or the Coast Guard better.”
The Vietnam War began right after he completed his service hitch. Fran was involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis, stationed on the USCGC Rockaway [Coast Guard Cutter Rockaway].
“The Rockaway was in place, in the blockade, along with numerous other ships. The American Navy, including the US Coast Guard, in place across the Russians path, created the Cuban blockade – the “Cuban Missile Crisis.”
Coast Guardsmen and their forefathers have fought in every conflict since the Constitution became the law of the land.
Fran’s work career spanned a short gig in a Levittown super market before he landed a position in the U.S. Steel maintenance department.
Sports had been a huge part of his life and he continued playing some softball in various leagues as well as on the Steel Mill team. “There was a lot of ground by the Union Hall.”
His entire family, including his children, Bruce, Christina Lopez and Jeffrey “were into speed skating and roller skating and were very good at it.” All three children competed in National championships.
They often zipped around playing roller hockey at the rink in Cornwell Skating Center on Bristol Pike.
“When I was in my 30’s, I was still playing hockey.”
Fran and his former wife, Susan [Earnest] were skate dancers.
Home for Fran has always been 19007. Although retired, he still labors diligently for the Borough as
Secretary for the Bristol Borough Water & Sewer Authority; as a member of the Environmental Commission and Parking enforcement, as a diligent Crossing Guard at his Jefferson & Pond post, while he maintains an Officer position on the Board of Governors in the St. Ann Athletic Association.
“Lately, things are looking really good. It’s a close knit town with the river as an asset and you can walk anywhere you want to go.”
Apparently for Fran DiRenzo, “anywhere you want to go”, as long as the walk is still in his beloved historic Bristol on the Delaware.
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Patricia A. Foraker-Detwiler of Langhorne, died Tuesday, April 14, 2015, in Attleboro Nursing Home. She was 84.
Born in Bristol, to the late Francis and Nora (Frake) DiRenzo, she was a homemaker who enjoyed auto racing and loved animals.She is survived by her children, Diane Williams (Andrew) of Philadelphia, Valerie Quinn (William) of Bensalem and Dawn Tosti (Arthur Radue) of Fairless Hills; four grandchildren, Francis and Andrew Williams and Mark Jr. and Michael Tosti; two brothers, Francis and Joseph DiRenzo; and a great grandchild, Declan Tosti along with many nieces and nephews.Family and friends are invited to attend her viewing Thursday, April 23, from 6 p.m. to time of her service at 7 p.m. at the Molden Funeral Chapel, 133 Otter Street Bristol.