A meme from a different era

Jack Hammill - Guest Columnist

“Men wanted to be him, women wanted to be with him.”

Clearly the above is a reference to Bond, James Bond. He was the brilliant creation of Ian Fleming and for our purposes today, conveniently played by different men over the years.

In explaining the mystique of Bond over the years, Fleming would at different times point to not simply Bond but to the aura, the excitement that he created.

In recent weeks, different individuals who have made an impact upon the bowling scene have been on my mind. Last week I mentioned one of the greatest of all-time, a group in this case who were and perhaps in their own minds, remain Bond-like – The World Famous Gators.

Fleming would have loved these guys, they fit the opening bill of today’s column and more importantly the fit who Fleming believed Bond really was. While Bond liked his martini shaken, not stirred, this group of incredible young men (at the time anyway) did not want their PBR or (on one fateful night package screwdrivers) shaken at all. They wanted to have a good time and bowl and to assure that all around them had that same opportunity.

John Dailey and Roger “Hawk” Hoffman had a great deal of input into this report – two of the original gators.

Dailey led off in this conversation, as I recall he bowled anchor on the team! “We were originally Bill Smith Bowling and trophy, and then we became Southgate Lanes #2. [As an aside Dad’s [Jim] team was Southgate #! and nothing was going to change there lol]. We needed something different and we became the Gators.” [interestingly enough Gaters did not last long in conversation as an option.

Dailey and Hoffman agree as to the initial three Gators – John, his brother Dan aka “Fats” and the Hawk.

The debate comes with who were the other two original members. Hoffman was quick to recall Mark Kleman and John Dunifon while Dailey had a list of another two or three, Steve VanAtta (Dog or Scannie) Rick (Rocket) Bassitt were all options and at one point or another were all Gators.

I could almost see the grin through the text line when Hoffman chimed in next, “I am sure that King Dunnie was there – maybe it is the PBRs that are blinding our memories.

Ultimately I think the duo agreed on Rocket and The King as the final two.

The meme holds true in that men wanted to be them and over the years others were anointed as Gators,

Again according to Dailey, “Carl Neely, Don Boyed and all the Ottawa bowlers at one time or another were part of the group! As for the originals, I guess the mystery will linger for awhile and the legend will live on.”

A footnote here – not all Ottawa bowlers, but certainly those named Schroeder, Meyers, Beach and the others who have made the trip over the years.

The legend of the Gators was extended when the original group or so took off for the highways and byways of the world to compete. A team that I rolled with shared a high rise hotel with the Gators as they were becoming more World Famous. An example of the notoriety was when of the core five decided to see just how sturdy Samsonite really was and tossed it out of a sixth floor window to the ground below. They loved to have a great time. It has always been rumored that Samsonite paid off.

Fleming is served in another way. Remember he believed in the aura and the excitement of Bond and what his character did for the culture of the time.

We are now 30 – 40 years beyond the largest heyday of the original World Famous Gators, yet people still want to be them. The Landsharks, a group of incredible young ladies led by our new Hall of Fame member Onalee Lehman have continued the excitement of the Gators. Suddenly the women want to be them now.

The Gators still reign although most of the faces have changed, John and Fats are still there but they are now flanked by Dean ‘The Mayor’ Meyer, Jake Schroeder, Nick Smith, Zac Gay, Bob Hermiller and Tom Forster. The names have changed and it just seems that the excitement cannot be the same – I mean is anything ever as good as the original.

What is true however that the influence of this group is still what makes Southgate Lanes a little slice of Heaven and a positive experience for Derek and the Bean.

Thomas Dalton and Cameron Flores … bowlers of the year – next week we go deeper


Jack Hammill

Guest Columnist

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