Sunday, December 9, 2007

Pastime keeps seniors fit, happy

Telegram Staff Writer

She wants to be at the bowling alley when it's her time to die.
'If it happens that way, that would be great,' said 90-year-old Hazel Machalek of Temple. A smile was on her face.
Her wish isn't out of the realm of possibility. She visits Action World Bowl Center fairly often. Miss Machalek routinely plays for the Tuesday and Friday bowling leagues, the Silver Strikers and the PrimeTimers.
The Law of Averages may very well align itself with Ms. Machalek's request. Her bowling average - 128 - after all, is very much in her favor.
She's not alone in wanting to die with bowling ball in arm and body in ready stance. There's several silver-haired bowlers at the Temple bowling alley who say they think the same way. The oldest of them are Bill Green at 90 and James Hodous at 95.
'They're all so precious,' said league bowler Ruth Mikeska of Temple, talking about the two men and Ms. Machalek. 'They're pleasant, but they're out to win.'
The trio undoubtedly suffers the aches and pains that come with age, but their isn't a game day when the three don't show. They are a source of inspiration for the younger senior bowling league members - those 50 to 89.
'They're all real incentives for the rest of us,' said Vernell Wiemers of Temple. 'If there's a day I don't want to get up and bowl, I just have to think of those three, and I'm up and gone.'
Green's still at it, despite his never-ending struggle with bone cancer.
'Not much brings me to town, except bowling,' Green said. 'I just like to bowl. You meet nice people here.'
Bowl he does, said his son, Buster Green, 63.
'I should know,' the son said. 'I'm the one who gets him to and from the bowling alley. He got to playing on so many leagues that it made no sense for me to go home after I dropped him off. I was always on the road. So I play with him now.'
The elder Green's poor eyesight prevents him from driving. Father and son bowl in three leagues, the PrimeTimers, the Silver Strikers and the Fab Fifties.
'Bowling is the only thing he does,' Buster Green said about his dad. 'Otherwise he would just sit.'
The only thing that ails Ms. Machalek is a bum knee.
'I'm happy, and I'm lucky to be healthy,' Ms. Machalek said. 'I'm on no medications.'
It's exercise and her willingness to try new things, she said, that helps her stay that way.
'I will be here at 91,' she said assuredly. 'Not just alive, but here, at the bowling alley. It's just 9 months away.'
She's been bowling for 50 years.
'There were some people I worked for who bowled,' Ms. Machalek said. 'They invited me out, and I've been bowling ever since.'
The sport is her main form of exercise and entertainment.
It's also given the childless woman a family.
'I've got wonderful friends,' she said. 'I've found a home here. We have wonderful fun.' (Her friend, Ms. Mikeska, added that part of that fun is a poker game twice a month.)
The active woman lives independently. Ms. Machalek still drives, and she does her own shopping and her own housework.
'And I prefer it that way,' Ms. Machalek said.
As for bowling, her favorite thing about it is getting a strike.
'The hardest thing is picking splits,' she said. 'When there's only two pins left, but one is at the right corner and the other at the left. ... It's challenging, for sure. But I've managed to pick up a few spares that way.'
Ms. Machalek wasn't bowling on Nov. 16, the day the bowling alley celebrated Green's 90th birthday. She said her knee was acting up.
There was no reason for her to stay home, though. She didn't have to bowl to be involved.
She kept score, visited with friends and helped serve snacks and drinks.
'I'm here for moral support too,' Ms. Machalek said.
The no-bowl days are few and far between, she said, not worried.
'I will be bowling as long as I can bowl with both hands.'Set 'em up, knock 'em down
Hodous - the 95-year-old - is a bit of a celebrity.
'He's the oldest active league bowler in Bell County,' said Barbara Carter, team captain of the Rockin' Seniors. 'I called all the bowling allies to find out.'
The attention the title brings makes Hodous blush.
'I know I'm doing something,' Hodous said, laughing. 'Just don't know what it is.'
The gentleman said he's been bowling forever.
'When I was 14, I worked as a pin setter in Chicago,' Hodous said. 'That's the guy who picked up the pins after someone else knocked 'em down. It hasn't always been automatic, you know.'
Having had three heart attacks, Hodous has missed some bowling time in the last couple of years.
But his time away didn't hurt his bowling average; it remains a solid 102.
'I didn't miss much,' he said. 'It's not quitting time. You've got to keep with it.'
For 10 years, he's volunteered at the senior center in Temple.
'He serves meals there,' Ms. Wiemers said. 'He makes sure his friends - everyone is his friend - eat first. Then he sits down.'
After he cleans the tables, Hodous collects the unused packages of sugar, salt and pepper and gives them to Ms. Wiemers to take to Martha's Kitchen.
He exercises both on and off the bowling lane.
'I exercise everyday. I exercise with my body, no mechanics,' Hodous said. 'Isometric exercises just like Charles Atlas the body builder.'
Atlas was a body builder famous 1920-1940. He created 'Dynamic-Tension,' an exercise program he said could transform scrawny schoolboys into buff men.
'You have to do something to stay active when you get old,' Hodous said. 'Or you'll end up shriveled like a leaf.'

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