About · The Creation of SSJBA

 Thank you Ken Roetzel for this commentary.


           The feeling of the youth bowlers in Central Arkansas during the 1976-77 bowling season was that there were not enough tournaments, especially scratch tournaments, for youth bowlers. At the time, there were three such tournaments, Donelson Pike (Nashville) in June, Park Lanes (Memphis) In August and Rebel Lanes (Tupelo) in late December.

             In July of 1977, Ken Roetzel created a scratch tournament at Pike Lanes (North Little Rock). He proposed the three summer tournaments ban together and form the Mid-South Triple Crown. An award would be presented to the youth bowler (boy and girl) who bowled in all three tournaments and had the best overall record. The scoring process was Champions got zero points. All other bowlers got points assessed against them by taking their place in the tournament divided by the number of entrants times 100. Add the three scores together to determine the bowler’s Triple Crown Score. As in golf, the low score won. 

             The bowlers accepted the concept very well. Two bowlers in the Little Rock area, Joey Lewis and Ken Roetzel, continued to discuss the “more tournaments” idea with their fellow bowlers. Both bowlers hosted other tournaments in the Little Rock area.  

             In August 1977, Lewis and Roetzel got a group of 12 youth bowlers (2 from each of the 6 bowling centers in Central Arkansas) together to form the Greater Little Rock Youth Leaders. Roetzel served as President and Lewis was the group’s Secretary. This group was the model AJBC used to create the National Youth Leaders Program where youth bowlers would take an active role in their local associations and tournaments. More on that later.

             At the first meeting of the GLRYL, a motion was made to inquire of the Arkansas Gazette, the largest newspaper in Arkansas, why they did not have a bowling column in the state-wide paper. Ken Roetzel was hired by the Gazette to write a weekly column for their Sunday paper.  His first column appeared on August 27, 1978.

             This showed the bowlers of the GLRYL what could be accomplished if they worked together. The group went on to create an Arkansas Youth Bowler Hall of Fame, monthly scratch tournaments, social events, a year book and an Arkansas Youth Travel League. Lewis acted as the Director of the events, Roetzel publicized the groups actions in the newspaper column and the other members of the GLRYL helped to run the events. 

                         The group earned enough favor with the adult bowlers in the area that Lewis was elected the secretary-treasurer of the Greater Little Rock Junior Bowling Association in August 1978. He was only the second current youth bowler to hold the position.  

 Roetzel was selected as the chaperon for the Arkansas delegation to the National Pepsi tournament in Washington DC in 1979. When one adult criticized the pick of chaperon, the President of the State Proprietors Association responded that “The Greater Little Rock Youth Leaders, a group made up of a bunch of kids mind ya, has done more for youth bowling – no, make that more for all bowling in Arkansas than any adult or group of adults that I can think of. Ken will be a great representative for the state of Arkansas.” Roetzel was the youngest person to be a chaperon in the tournament’s history and the only current youth bowler at the time he served as the chaperon in the tournament’s history.

 Later in the summer of 1979, August, the current President of the Arkansas State Junior Bowling Association was diagnosed with leukemia and stepped down from his post. Before the afternoon was over, Lewis, 20, the only State Director who was a current youth bowler was elected President. Lewis was the youngest State President in the nation and the only current youth bowler to hold the post in the State of Arkansas. 

 A year later Lewis got a call from Johnny Watts, AJBC Field Rep. Watts was going to attend the Arkansas State Junior Bowling Association annual meeting the next weekend. He asked Lewis to suggest a restaurant and make reservations. He wanted to discuss what would be covered at the meeting and be up to speed on the issues.

 Lewis got to the restaurant early and was sitting at the table when Watts walked in trying to find the Arkansas President. He searched the whole restaurant by didn’t see anyone that fit the description of a typical State Junior Bowling President. Lewis got up, walked over to Watts and the 21-year old President introduced himself. Watts was shocked that someone so young was the President. Watts told Lewis “You’re going to have to tell me the story behind you becoming the President.”

 Lewis shared his story, Watts took the information back to Greendale, Wisconsin and the following year AJBC announced the National Youth Leader Program based on the GLRYL. 

             The Little Rock group began sharing their ideas with other youth bowlers in the Mid-South. Other tournaments were created. Then in the summer of 1981, Lewis got the idea of joining together monthly tournaments throughout the school year. He shared his idea with the GLRYLs and the planning and scheming began. What holes there were in the Mid-South schedule of monthly tournaments were filled and in September of 1981, the Southern States Junior Bowling Association kicked off its first tour. Lewis served as the tour’s Commissioner in those early years. 

             Lewis wrote in the GLRYL’s yearbook – 

             The junior bowlers of the Mid-South have taken another step in proving they are probably the best group of juniors in the country. They joined together to form a scratch tour for juniors and call it the Southern Scratch Junior Bowling Association. 

             Ten tournaments made up this year’s SSJBA season with stops in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. Each tournament paid a $10 membership fee to join the circuit which enabled them to be included in all newsletters and pre tournament publicity. 

             Individual membership was open to any junior bowler who paid a $5 membership fee. By the season's end, some 70 juniors joined to make the inaugural year a welcomed success.

 The SSJBA was controlled by a board of directors which was made up by the tournament directors. Bylaws were established for the individual members, tournament members and also the Super Bowl. 

             Each member who participated in an SSJBA tournament received points depending on where they finished. First place was worth 25 points to both the boy and girl winner, while last place netted 1 point. 

             Bonus points were also awarded for high scores and also 5 strikes in a row. 

             The SSJBA stayed in line with all AJBC rules, but added one strict rule which dealt with obscene language and misuse of equipment. Any member who flipped off the pins, shouted loud obscenities or hit the ball return, scorer’s table, etc, were fined 5 points. Any member fined 15 points were disqualified from further SSJBA competition and ineligible for the Super Bowl. 

             The top 20 boys and 12 girls who competed in at least 3 tournaments and accumulated the most points, received invitations to the Super Bowl. This end of season championship consisted of a round robin match play with 30 bonus points for the winner of each match. 

             The bowler with the most points was named the SSJBA Super Bowl I Champion. The ‘82 Superbowl was held in Little Rock Arkansas at Park Plaza Lanes. 

             Little Rock’s own Joey Lewis founded the SSJBA and served as its commissioner. Joey formed the SSJBA so as to give the bowlers who didn’t make the cut in some event, something to look forward to. Most bowlers who didn’t qualify would go home and wait for the next event. With SSJBA, non-qualifiers still received points and could therefore still make the Super Bowl. 

             While the board governed the SSJBA, all decisions were carried out by the commissioner. His duties included sending newsletters to each member, keeping individual statistics, recording bonus points and issuing fines. 

             The SSJBA tournaments for the 1981-82 season were:

             September     West Tennessee Invitational                                   Barlette, TN

            October          Olive Branch Invitational                                         Memphis, TN (Imperial Lanes)

            November      Junior Pro Bowl Classic 5th Annual)                       Little Rock, AR (Park Plaza)

            December      All American Singles Classic (6th Annual)              Tupelo, MS (Rebel Lanes)

            January          Wynne Lanes Classic                                               Wynne, AR (Wynne Lanes)

            February        Razorback Alibi Classic (6th Annual)                    Little Rock, AR (Park Plaza)

            March             Trophy House Professor Classic (2nd Annual)       Little Rock, AR (Professor Bowl)

            April                Louisiana Championships                                       West Monroe, LA (Western Lanes)

            April                Fort Smith Open (4th Annual)                                   Fort Smith, AR (Midland Bowl)

            May                 Bruno Open                                                               North Little Rock, AR (Pike Lanes)

            May 22 & 23   Super Bowl                                                                Little Rock, AR (Park Plaza Lanes)

 Super Bowl Champions were Robbie McClain, Hot Springs, AR and Kim Allbritton, Memphis, TN

             SSJBA is the Mid-South’s answer to the junior bowler crises. More bowlers will now stay in Youth leagues to compete on the tour. The experience gained is well worth the wait. 

 Note: The tournaments were eight games of qualifying (2 four game blocks). The top 10 boys and 6 girls advanced to a round robin match play plus a position round last match on Sunday. The Razorback Alibi Classic changed it’s format to the eight games of qualifying (bowled in 2 four game blocks) to match the other SSJBA tournaments but kept it’s alibi heritage by having the bowlers drop their lowest score of each block. 

             The formation of SSJBA was accomplished by a lot of people working together behind the lead of Joey Lewis. It’s also a story of young people discovering they can make a difference if they apply themselves and work as a team.


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