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Mother and Daughter Bowling Champs

the-lucky-strikes

The Lucky Strikes Bowling Team, circa 1950’s at Jim Crover Lanes (Perth Amboy Rec) on the corner of Market Street and Madison Avenue. (L to R) Eva Oakes, Helen Gasko, Tillie Zalari, Alma Korneski, Adele Rakos and Irene Zupko. The Lucky Strikes won many City, County and State Tournaments. Tillie Zalari, Alma Korneski, Adele Rakos and Irene Zupko were champion bowlers and were inducted into the Central Jersey Women’s Bowling Association (CJWBA) Hall of Fame. Irene Zupko was also inducted into the NJ State Women’s Bowling Association (WBA) Hall of Fame. *Photo Courtesy of Perth Amboy Free Public Library • Click to enlarge.

Irene Zupko and Barbara M. Skokan

By: Katherine Massopust

PERTH AMBOY – In the 9/14/16 issue of the Amboy Guardian, the Looking Back section featured a photo of a Women’s Bowling Team. When Perth Amboy Resident Barbara M. Skokan saw the photo, she immediately recognized one of the women as her mother. She soon identified all 6 women in the photo. (see photo) “The team was the Lucky Strikes. The Lucky Strikes won many City, County and State Tournaments. My mother, Irene Zupko is the one in front,” Skokan stated. “It was at Jim Crover Lanes (Perth Amboy Rec), on the corner of Market Street and Madison Avenue. (The upstairs of what was once Nichols Television, now the office of Lawyer Karim Azardi). Jim Crover was instrumental in starting the New Jersey State Bowling Association. My mother was the first secretary of that organization.”

She continued, “My mother started bowling at St John’s School which still has 4 lanes. When she started to throw, she wore sneakers. She couldn’t afford bowling shoe,” Skokan explained that her mother began competing at age 25 and continued to bowl until she got sick at around age 68 when she stopped due to health issues.

“My mother got involved with bowling at Jim Crover’s place. Jim Crover was a very good bowler. The New Brunswick Bowling Association heard about my mother and they wanted my mother to bowl against someone on their staff. This tournament was to take place in New York City. My mother took the bus or train back then to get there. When fans of my mother heard she was bowling, many of them went to see her in New York. They not only bet on each player, but on each bowl thrown. My mom won the match. They decided to do it again at Perth Amboy Rec (Jim Crover’s Place). My mom won again. This was before there was a New Jersey State Bowling Association.”

Barbara M. Skokan (R) and fellow bowler Marge Matthews (L).

Barbara M. Skokan (R) and fellow bowler Marge Matthews (L).

Skokan explained, “When the New Brunswick Bowling Association saw my mother, of course they asked her why she wasn’t wearing bowling shoes. She told them that she couldn’t afford them, but they explained to her that it was for her own safety to wear them, so she got a pair of bowling shoes. At first she didn’t like them, but she got used to them.”

Skokan explained that her mother began bowling in other alleys including Newark Rec, Stelton Rec, and other bowling lanes that are now closed. She bowled many times in Edison Lanes.”

When asked how she, herself got involved in bowling, Skokan told the story: “I was 18 years old. My mother was bowling in Newark. There was a woman bowling against her named Anne Noga who was a very good bowler. She was a rough looking woman. They were bowling and I asked my mother if I could throw the ball. She said, “Yes,” so I posed for a photo bending with the ball. Anne Noga said, “Your daughter looks like she’s going to be a good bowler.””

Barbara M. Skokan bowls.

Barbara M. Skokan bowls.

“So, I began bowling. Within 10 years, I started to bowl in Echo Lanes in Mountainside, New Jersey. One time I was bowling and Anne Noga was there and I bowled against her.”

“My mother and I bowled in single leagues in Edison Lanes and sometimes against each other,” she said. “One time we were slated to bowl against each other. My mom said, ‘Try to bowl the best you can. I’m not going to let up on you.’ I bowled a 288 (my best score up to that date). My mom was proud of me. I’ve bowled against her many times, but that time was special.”

Skokan continued, “My mother’s life was a prelude to what life would become of me, State All Events Champs, and for singles, doubles and all events.” Skokan explained, “All events are singles, doubles and teams.”

She went on to say: “I represented New Jersey in Washington D.C. Out of 50 women competing, I came out 13th. After that, I won State Single Events, Team Events and All Events. In the Senior Olympics, for 10 years I won the State Singles Event representing New Jersey in Nationals. I was 1st in the nation in Singles four times. I partnered with Frank Bonini and we bowled in the World Championship in St. George, Utah and won the Doubles for 3 years in a row. I won Singles for 3 years in a row. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 I went to the World Championships. 19,000 people competed from 51 different countries. I won Mixed Doubles (1 man, 1 woman on a team).

“I would have gone back, but I’ve had 4 hip replacements and 1 knee replacement and shoulder surgery.”

When asked if Barbara Skokan’s mother ever was discriminated against by her fellow male bowlers, Skokan replied, “No. They respected her because of her ability.”

Skokan stated, “My mother is in the County Hall of Fame (Central Jersey Women’s Bowling Association (CJWBA) Hall of Fame). 3 years ago I submitted her posthumously to the New Jersey State Women’s Bowling Association Hall of Fame (WBA). Both of us are in the County and State Hall of Fame.”

Barbara M. Skokan with an award from the NJ State Women’s Bowling Association

Barbara M. Skokan with an award from the NJ State Women’s Bowling Association

When asked what each best score was, Skokan answered, “My mom bowled a 715 which is a set (scoring for 3 games) I bowled a 300 in one game. My high average for a year is a 204. My high was a 744 for a set.”

Skokan stated that her son, John is a good bowler and her late husband, Steve was a good bowler as well. “John twice bowled a 300; his average is over 210,” she said. “My husband represented the NJ State Bowling Division in the Senior Tournament in Kansas. He came first in his age division in age 60-65 division.”

Barbara Skokan also is an experienced pitcher for softball. “Once you pitch (underhand), you never lose your speed,” she said. “When you pitch overhand you use different muscles. I pitch now just as fast as I pitched before. I played for the Greiner Girls Team in Woodbridge. We were in a State Tournament in Linden (in the fields by the airport). The Linden Arians asked 2 people from any team to play so they asked me to play. At 11 a.m. I pitched. We won; at 3 p.m. I pitched; we won;7 p.m. I pitched; we won; 10 p.m. I pitched. We won. I got done playing at 1 a.m.”

When asked what advice she had for young girls who are interested in sports, Skokan replied, “If you have the ability – don’t waste it.”

Barbara Skokan recently had major back surgery which prevented her from bowling this past year. When asked if she will return to bowling, she said adamantly, “I will and I am going to go back.”

xxbarbara-and-___

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