The Free Press, Mankato, MN


April 28, 2012

Waseca octogenarian suddenly a man without a lane

Siems, others take in last league night at Waseca Bowling Center

WASECA — At 80-years-old, Waseca’s Don Siems has outlasted a lot of things in his lifetime, most notably a number of friends and relatives.

On Wednesday, the still chipper senior citizen outlasted another entity — this time of the brick and mortar variety. After 42 years in business, the Waseca Bowling Center closed its doors and Siems and a few other area bowlers were on hand to compete for the final time.

“It’s too bad because, in its heyday, this was a bustling place,” Siems said as he and his team — Thrivent Financial — prepared to bowl for the city championship. “I was here when they opened the doors.

“They brought over six lanes from Lake Crystal and then added another six from Minneapolis somewhere. They ran some pipes underneath each lane to lift them up and carried each one right through the front door.”

Over the years the “house,” as bowlers like to call bowling alleys, has gone through five or six ownership changes. It’s seen its share of ups and downs but, when the Deml Ford dealer next door made the current owners an offer too good to pass up, they decided to take it. The building is expected to become an indoor showroom for Deml.

“It’s one of those things you can’t control,” Siems said. “You can’t cry about it, you have to move on.”

Despite his age, Siems is still going strong. Two weeks ago he averaged 181 for a six-game series, which is considered a difficult feat for bowlers half his age.

The retired industrial arts teacher in Waseca has seen the sport of bowling evolve over the years. The biggest changes have been in the bowling balls themselves and the way they oil the alleys.

“When I first started bowling, there was a guy using a two-hole, wood ball,” Siems said. “That’s how far back I go.

“It used to be everybody just had one ball. Now guys have three of four balls to pick up different spares.”

Siems graduated from Mankato State Teachers College in 1959, taught for awhile in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and also in Lake Crystal and served a stint in the military during the Korean War.

He landed in Waseca in the 1960s and taught for 34 years before retiring. Retirement hasn’t slowed him down very much. He was into woodworking for a long time but finally gave that up.

He’s still on the planning commission for Farm America, dabbles in photography and does a lot of genealogy research on the Internet. He and his wife also love to go cruising. They’ve been on nine cruises so far and are plotting their 10th.

“He’s got more irons in the fire than I do, that’s for sure,” said bowling teammate Ted Hammond, who is about 15 years Siems’ junior. “He’s a hard, hard guy to keep up with.”

Tom Piche, Andy Miller and Dan Jensen are the other members of the Thrivent Financial team. It’s obvious watching them bowl they’ve built strong bonds over the years.

“One of the main reasons I started bowling was to meet different people from the teachers I worked with every day,” Siems said. “It worked pretty well. I’ve made some good friends.”

For the record, on the final night of the final season of bowling at the Waseca Bowling Center, The Willows captured the city championship. The Willows, which includes Tom Hindt, Jim Brunk, Jim Kerekes, twins Mark and Marshall Robeck and son Nate Robeck, rolled a 3,329.

Investment Solutions finished second with a 3,040 and Thrivent Financial came in third at 2,884. Siems bowled a 197 in his last game at the center.

“It sounds like our hole league is moving to New Richland to play next year,” Siems said. “We’re still having fun so we’ll try to keep it going.”

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