Make no mistake, Dolores Atchison of Butte has been a good bowler for a good number of years. But being skilled at the sport has not been the most important part of it for her, nor is it the sole reason for her selection for the Montana State USBC (United States Bowling Congress ) Hall of Fame.
Induction ceremonies will be held Friday as the state women's bowling tournament gets under way in Anaconda at both Cedar Park Lanes and the Copper Bowl. Atchison is one of two area women who will go into the Hall of Fame this spring. The other is Anaconda resident Sandi Beaudette.
"I'm tickled with being recognized," Atchison said recently at Star Lanes. "I got an application, filled it out and was hopeful. When they told me I got it, it made me feel pretty special." Also pretty special is that her husband, Bud, is also a state and local bowling Hall of Famer. They are believed to be the first Butte couple to both go into the state Hall. Fittingly, they met bowling.
Dolores Atchison said she first rolled a bowling ball down an alley almost 55 years ago, at age 20. She joined a league for the 1964-65 season at the YMCA lanes, which no longer exist. Bowling buzzed in Butte in the '60s. Bowling centers dotted the landscape and Dolores Atchison went on to compete at Winter Garden Lanes, which is now the King Pin Lanes center, before going on to Star Lanes where she now participates.
She will turn 75 in July and continues to work at the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), where she has been employed for 20 years.
"It gives me something to do," she said of her continuing on the bowling scene. "I look forward to it. I work tournaments and I have for years. It is something I enjoy doing. I don't plan on quitting." The counting, pencil pushing, administering seemed, indeed, to be the pride and joy for Atchison. She admittedly relishes it. But the bowling hasn't been bad, either.
"When I first started at the YMCA, I was not very good at it," she said. "I got interested and joined a league. Once I joined a league, I never quit.
There was the 705 three-game series, the first 700 series by a woman in Butte, in 1985 at Star Lanes — on Feb. 15 in the Strike & Spare Mixed League. Her highest average for a season was 165 and it occurred before the big score years of more recent decades. She rolled a 258 game once. Her 705 set was accomplished with games of 204, 246 and 250.
"It came so easy," Atchison remembered. "I used a Columbia White Dot (ball). It was so easy to shoot that. I'd like to do it one more time. I haven't shot one (a 700) since, haven't actually bowled good since." Her highest tournament game was a 222, was on the third-place team in the 1985 city tournament and was half of the state doubles championship team in 1977. Atchison also placed third in the 1985 Jeanette Martinich 160-and-Over tournament.
"It was a very good year," Atchison smiled about 1985.
Bowling took her on the road, too. Though she wasn't on a pro tour of any kind, Atchison still saw plenty of places and highway pursuing her hobby, her game, her sport.
"I attended 43 state tournaments and was in charge of scorekeepers in 1977 before the automatics (automated scorekeepers)," she remembered. "I've gone to Great Falls, Missoula and Billings for state tournament — went to Reno twice for Nationals. " Atchison has competed in 45 open Montana tournaments, three state senior tourneys and three state mixed tournaments, as well as five national ones.
The persistence is notable. But the service has been extraordinary.
Atchison served as the women's bowling state director for nine years, has worked every state tournament held in Butte as either director or co-director and is currently a director on the USBC board. At the league level, Atchison has 38 years in as a mixed league secretary and 25 doing if for a women's league.
She has put in six years as the Butte association president, four as vice president and 24 years as a director.
"I've been a coordinator of the game just because I enjoy it," Atchison said. "I like the behind-the-scenes part, the administration.
Some hip and leg problems have hampered Atchison's bowling of late. Yet, her average of 145 to 150 is only a mark off the 165 she once maintained in younger years. They were golden years, at least for the sport and for it in Butte.
"I've seen a lot changes," she said. "The automatics have been upgrades for it. There's a lot of differences." She and Bud went through them together. They met shortly after Bud moved to Butte from Great Falls and joined a bowling league. They married, but had no children.
"I raised Bud," Dolores joked. "We've both been involved with the bowling organizations and we've stayed involved." They're still fixtures at Star Lanes. Bud works behind the counter, coaches junior bowlers and competes himself, having earned induction to state, local and the Young American Bowling Alliance Halls of Fame. Dolores can be found with her bound notebook of league ledgers and, of course, her bowling ball. Both bowled several times a week, though Dolores is now in one women's league that competes once a week and no longer is in a mixed league.
"I bowl now because I enjoy it," she said and smiled as she greeted other women's leaguers showing up to bowl.