Former B.F. Goodrich workers among Miami's avid bowlers

Robbie Rhodes has been bowling in the same league at Miami's Playland Lanes for 31 years.

"It's the Industrial League," he said. "Back when I started and the B.F. Goodrich plant was still running, it was an industrial league, but now it's more friendly."

B.F. Goodrich's tire manufacturing facility in Miami closed in 1986, leading to many changes in the northeast Oklahoma town. The bowling league, however, still plays every Monday night.

"It's still some exercise," Rhodes said. "Bowling is more physical than people think. There's other things too. I really enjoy the camaraderie. It's social. I get to meet people."

About 400 people will participate in fall and winter leagues this year at Playland Lanes, a Miami landmark for approximately 60 years, said Darrell Harp, the owner of the bowling center since 2000.

"Bowling is about a lot of different things," Harp said. "It's entertainment. It's exercise. It's competitive. It's social. It's the only sport where everybody plays. Every score counts. No one sits on the bench."

Playland offers leagues for all ages, with league play ranging from $4 a two-game session for young people to $10 a three-game session for veterans like those playing in the Industrial League. A senior league costs $7 a session. Shoes, including a pair of socks the player keeps, go for $2.50 a night. Individual games can be played for $3. Playland has a small arcade and a full-service pro shop. Certified instructors are available for coaching. And the bowling center offers a menu made for bowlers pizza and beer are prominent items. The individual alleys are made of a synthetic material and scoring is done by computer.

"That's been something that has really improved bowling," Rhodes said. "Before we had computerized scoring it was hard to find someone to keep score, and for a beginner, well you had to have lessons."

The leagues, some lasting for as much as 32 weeks, seem to form a life of their own.

"Oh, I've been bowling for close to 50 years," said Sandra Fletcher. "But, I've been in this league for about five years. I bowl on the ladies side and my husband and son bowl on the men's side."

On Wednesday night, the three Fletchers, bowl on a team with two members of their church.

“This is something we do as a family, Fletcher said. “It's competitive, but it's competitive fun.