Three years ago, Allyn Joy was inducted into the International Candlepin Bowling
Association’s Hall of Fame. Last year, his wife Valerie, joined him. It was the final recognition for two long and successful bowling careers.
Allyn started bowling as a child in a league run by his next door neighbor. As he got older, he stepped in for his father in a couples’ league, bowling with his mother. Later, when he was playing in a league at the Big 20 in Saco, the owner took notice as he started to bowl high scores. His career took off from there.
For Valerie, bowling started when she was in her 20s and married. She started out subbing in a couple of different leagues. Dave and Carol Little, who owned Beacon Lanes in Raymond, were instrumental in the beginning of her career, she said. When they saw that she had some talent, they connected her with leagues and tournaments to get her started.
Allyn and Valerie won the first tournament they bowled together, long before they were a couple. “It was one of those things,” Valerie said. “We met bowling, and after a while we got together and will be married 25 years this month.”
The Joys bowled in tournaments from the 1980s to the early 2000s, traveling in Canada and throughout New England. The couple bowled on a pro tour called the WCBC that is no longer in existence.
In most leagues, Allyn said, there aren’t more than four averages over 120. Allyn’s average often reached over 130 and Valerie’s average was typically around 120. Bowling a 200 string in candlepin is difficult, towards the top of the range, Valerie added. Allyn bowled 200 seven times, and Valerie also achieved that score. “It’s something that not a lot of bowlers can do,” said Valerie. “A lot of people are happy to bowl 100.” Allyn was the Maine state champion four times in his career, and Valerie won that title twice.
Both of the Joys made some television appearances while they were competing, and Allyn had a long run on a show for a local cable station. In 1981, Florence Greenleaf wrote “The Game of Candlepin Bowling.” That was one of the years that Allyn won the state championship, and his picture and name showed up in the book.
To be inducted into the hall of fame, a bowler must be nominated. They must be over 50 years old, and provide documentation of records, wins, TV appearances and more.
For the Joys, getting into the hall of fame is the culmination of two great careers. “We’re all done bowling, so that’s your final award,” said Allyn.
“I hoped at some point I would get in because I thought I was a really good bowler,” Valerie said. “You never know if you are going to make it because there are a lot of good bowlers, and a lot of bowlers come out of Massachusetts. For Mainers to get recognition is really nice. It sort of puts a stamp on the end of a career,” she said.
After long and satisfying bowling careers, the Joys said they left at the right time for them. “We didn’t hang around and embarrass ourselves throwing low scores and not being competitive,” said Valerie. “I think we both have a competitive spirit and we wanted to keep winning. You reach a point when you think it’s time.”
Physical difficulties, family dynamics and the cost of bowling all played into their decision to end their careers when they did. “Bowling was getting more expensive and the prize money was going down, and the numbers were dwindling – it was just the right time to take a step back,” said Allyn.
After they stopped bowling, they began to explore other hobbies, like history, antiquing and golf. And because weekends were often filled with bowling, they found that they enjoyed having the time to just relax at home. “It is so nice to be able to sit home and watch a full football game,” said Valerie with a laugh.
The Joys have an area in their home that celebrates their accomplishments. The walls on each side of the stairwell are dedicated to plaques they have received, and their hall of fame plaques hold a place of honor in the center. “We met a lot of good people over the years,” said Allyn. “We’ve seen a lot of good bowling.”
While there is no physical structure for the hall of fame, a list of those inducted is on the website www.candlepinbowling.com.