By Kenn Oliver
Every Wednesday at St. Pat’s Lanes in St. John’s, Clementine Smith dons the same pair of bowling shoes she’s worn for the past 37 years.
“I’ll need a new pair of shoes soon,” she says.
And every Wednesday, Smith takes her place among the other Ladies of the Morning, some of whom she’s bowled with for as long as she’s has donned her old-fashioned footwear.
The Ladies are a group of women who have gathered at St. Pat’s Lanes — first at its Bonaventure Avenue home and now at its Blackmarsh Road location — for nearly four decades to take part in a weekly 5-pin league. Some of the ladies hail from the St. John’s area, while others make the weekly commute from Conception Bay South.
“Over the years, it’s been a lot of fun,” Smith says. “We’ve seen a lot of people come and go. People have passed on and new people have come on.”
The ladies are Rosalind Hollett, a recent retiree who moved back to her native province from Ontario, and Ivy Fraize, a long-standing member who suffered a stroke last year.
Fraize was back at the lanes this season, rolling from her wheelchair and eventually moving on to a walker.
“If there’s any way of doing it, she’ll do it,” Carole Parker says of Fraize.
The group wasn’t always known as the Ladies of the Morning, but some years ago one of the league bowlers attended a league Halloween party dressed as a ‘lady of the night’, thereby inspiring a new name for the league.
Millicent Morrey, who has been a Lady of the Morning for what she figures is close to 34 years, started as spare but before long became a regular bowler.
“We treat each other as good friends and as family,” says Morrey.
“Which means we can say what we like to each other,” interjects Annie Stafford, one of the league’s longest-tenured members at 37 years.
While the league is meant to be non-competitive, the pair have actually developed something of a friendly rivalry.
“Annie and I compete sometimes, just the two of us,” says Morrey.
“I’m already at 226 in the ninth on a strike, so I think I beat her this morning.”
The duo agree a big reason as to why the league has endured for so long has a lot to do with St. Pat’s co-owner Fred Hawco.
“It hangs on because of (him). He’s like family,” says Stafford.
“He treats us really well,” adds Morrey.
The relationships cultivated while bowling aren’t limited to the lanes. The ladies celebrate the holidays together, host card parties and dine together every Wednesday.
“We’re all a good bunch,” says Morrey. “We just have some fun together.”