Area Bowling: Jonesville proprietor celebrates 50 years
April 20, 2010, 12:52PM
By Bob Bowen
For The Jackson Citizen Patriot
On Easter, Frank Molinaro's family surprised him with an inscribed crystal bowling pin, honoring him for 50 years as a bowling proprietor in the Jonesville area.
He placed it on a shelf behind the counter at the 12-lane Litchfield-Jonesville Bowling Center, under a 25-inch mounted fish he caught in 1998.
"I'm proud of the pin. It looks good standing there, but my wife told me to move the fish," Molinaro said. "We'll find another place for it."
Several plaques adorn a wall nearby, recognizing him as a board member of the Bowling Proprietors Association of America and president of the Michigan Chapter, BCAM, for several years.
Molinaro went to Arlington, Texas, last week for a meeting of the BPAA Board, a few days after an April 10 celebration of his bowling career that started in a six-lane house in downtown Jonesville. He took over that center in April 1960 and ran it until December 1974. As a sports announcer for a Hillsdale radio station in the late 1950s, he got to know the bowlers and changed careers for good.
In 1974, looking for a bigger place, he acquired some farmland on M-99 between Jonesville and Litchfield. His goal was to double the size of his facility, with plenty of land around it for other sports.
"I wanted a place where I could build and also get a liquor license," Molinaro said. "I had to get it by the Scipio Township ballot, which consisted of people who voted for secretary of state. It was hard, I had to knock on many doors and explain the situation. I got enough people to sign it and put it on the ballot. Thankfully, the vote came out in my favor. We have a lot of friends here.
"It's more of a family atmosphere than a business one."
He opened Jan. 6, 1975, and his license was granted Feb. 22.
The little place in Jonesville is long gone now, an asphalt driveway for a bank.
He started out with 12 lanes and a bar before building softball diamonds in 1980, and has a league that plays all summer. He also added sand volleyball courts and batting cages.
"We're not just tied into bowling, we even sponsor a golf tournament at Whiffletree," Molinaro said.
He has more than 700 sanctioned bowlers in 14 adult leagues, plus a youth league and two family leagues, where kids bowl for prizes. He was the first to institute a summer bowling league in Hillsdale County. Four years ago, he brought high school bowling leagues into the county as well.
Molinaro's two sons have helped him run the place for a long time. Mark, the oldest, is the general manager, and Matt is the manager. Frank is president of the corporation, while Mark is the vice president and Matt is secretary-treasurer.
Molinaro stopped bowling when he had foot surgery a few years ago. His granddaughter, Lynsey Molinaro, is a junior at Jonesville High School who recently was named all-area Bowler of the Year.
The Greater Jackson USBC city tournaments came to a close, as the last of the team squads bowled at AMF Summit Lanes over the weekend. In the Women's Tournament, Charlene (Chuckie) Ludwig, who won the all-events actual with 2,111, will receive an entry into next year's Michigan USBC Women's Tournament.
Mama Boody's Girls won the team handicap event with a score of 3,535, and Billie's Girls won the team team actual event with 3,107.
In the Open Tournament, Full Tilt took over first place in team actual with 3,373, while Klavon's dropped to second and Waito to third. In team handicap, The Mixers are first with 3,824, Barb's Country Kitchen second with 3,781 and Full Tilt third with 3,713