Curtis Lanes has seen professional bowlers pass through town, a few renovations, staff members come and go, and even a wedding throughout its 52-year history.
Jill Losch has been there for all of it.
The 91-year-old has been a Curtis employee since the day it opened in 1961, and she said she has really seen it all.
“Jill is a few generations into people at this point,” current owner Chuck Dimick said.
That is not an exaggeration. Losch recalled a recent moment where she was approached by the son of a man she knew from Curtis during the 1970s.
“He said, ‘I remember you, but you don’t remember me,’” she said. “He told me his name, and as soon as he said that, I knew his dad was Jeff Walker. He would always come to the Lanes wearing this big hat. My memory is going, but I can remember the old-time bowlers.”
She has certainly met a lot of them, from local amateurs to nationally-touring professionals. In 1974, Curtis hosted some of those professionals when their tour passed through Ewing.
Dimick said Curtis was the talk of Ewing at the time.
“The tour was a big event for the whole town,” he said. “Everybody was so excited to meet the professional bowlers.”
Losch said that was back when people bowled solely for the love of the game. Now, she said, bowling has changed.
“Bowling is a recreational sport,” she said. “Now they all take it too seriously instead of coming out and enjoying it like they should. We had a lot of fun in our days. It’s all about money now.”
Losch said several “originals” still come out to the lanes.
“We still have our share of seniors that come and bowl in the afternoon,” Dimick said. “They come and hang here because they’ve been bowling here for most of their lives. There are still people who will tell you stories from what happened here on day one.”
The families of the old-time bowlers come to the Lanes, too, despite what Dimick said is an increasingly competitive entertainment market.
“There are fewer bowling centers around, but there is competition elsewhere,” Dimick said. “There’s more for people to do, but people still come here.”
Losch said Curtis’ customers come back so often because little has changed at the facility in its 52 years of operation.
“We always tried to make this a family business,” she said. “We always kept a family atmosphere. I think the children drive this business.”
“If you put a bowling ball in a child’s hand, then you’ve got him,” he said. “There’s something about throwing a ball down and knocking pins over that just grabs them.”
Dimick said Losch loves interacting with people in general, but she gravitates toward children. Losch bowled up until two years ago when a car accident forced her to quit the sport, but when she bowled, she could always be found helping a child correct his or her form or teaching strategy.
“Everybody’s got a story about her,” he said. “Even people now who are older will talk about how she corrected their bowling when they were younger.”
Many of the children Losch taught are adults now, and she said the passage of time is a little disconcerting.
“I see these kids and I think, ‘Where did my baby go?’” she said. “They grow up, and it happens so fast.”
For most of them, decades have passed, but they still call Curtis home.
Dimick said this is because the center is so similar to what it was on the day it opened.
“I think it’s an institution in Ewing,” he said. “Anybody and everybody will tell you stories about growing up around Curtis Lanes. I hear them all the time. We still do a lot of the same things. I think most people have nice memories of being here at Curtis.”