WINDHAM — Ten o’clock on a Wednesday morning finds John Remillard of Salem among 144 bowlers occupying the 36 lanes at Park Place.
Remillard is closely watching his sister-in-law, Betty Dooley of Metheun, as she launches a ball, which lands with a thump a few feet in front of her, before rolling straight at the pins.
“She’s a lobber and she comes off her left leg,” Remillard observes, commenting on Dooley’s delivery.
Dooley’s roll takes down six pins in the middle, leaving a split. Two pins are left standing by the gutters on either side of the lane.
She puts her second and third balls in the middle, failing to pick up the spare or any other pins.
“She has a hard time on corners,” Remillard says. “I do, too.”
They regularly playing in the senior league, one of their amusements in life.
“It’s just an enjoyment. We’re all seniors here,” Remillard said. “This is a fun thing to do.”
Candlepin bowling is one of “603 Reasons” readers said New Hampshire is special.
“I like the challenge of getting a good score,” said Dooley, who is averaging 88 this year. “I was doing way better last year. I’m in a slump now.”
Her brother-in-law averages 82 a string and admits transitioning from tenpin bowling was a challenge.
“You’ve got to be consistent. You’ve got to hit your mark,” Remillard said. “You don’t shoot for the pins.”
“You know the dots?” he asks, gesturing to the lanes. “That’s what you shoot for.”
Remillard sounds like the pitching coach for the Red Sox.
“You’ve got to control your speed and your arm,” he said.
Linda Waites of Derry is working the counter at Park Place Lanes, signing in the seniors.
She wasn’t surprised people regard candlepin bowling as one of “603 Reasons” New Hampshire is special.
“This is definitely a New England thing,” Waites said. “People who come in from California will say, ‘Take our picture.’ It’s amazing.”
Seniors, kids, men, women, they all love candlepin.
An average to good score is around 100. The best are in the 120s and up.
“Anybody can participate and do well, from toddlers to senior citizens,” said Charlie Reed of Londonderry, who has worked at Park Place for 14 years.
The place is open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.
Bowlers come after work during the week. Families take over on the weekend. It’s a year-round game, but peak season is after Labor Day through early spring.
Park Place draws bowlers from throughout the Merrimack Valley region.
“If they live this side of the Merrimack River, they will come this way,” Reed said.
Some candlepin bowlers are truly dedicated.
“They bowl three times a week,” Waites said.
One of them is Emma Chahanovich of Salem, who describes herself as “a great grammy” who will turn 89 in January.
“I like candlepin bowling,” she said. “It’s good exercise and I need it.”
“A long time,” is how long Chahanovich said she has bowled.
That’s long enough to be very good.
She averages close to 90 a string, but rolled a 144 a couple of weeks ago.
On a scale from a jog in the park to downhill skiing, players said candlepin ranks on the more affordable end.
“We supply shoes and bowling balls,” Reed said. “Everything is here for you.”
Candlepin bowlers regard theirs as the more challenging form of bowling than tenpin.
The balls are softball-sized, bowlers roll three of them, the downed pins remain in play.
“With wood being left on the deck, it’s playable,” Reed said. “There is more skill involved with how to play a shot.”
“It’s so much more challenging,” said Rachelle Bedrick, who plays in the misnamed “Newcomer’s League” from Windham.
Some of the women have bowled for many years. Bedrick is one of them, competing for 22 years.
“We do it for friends,” Bedrick said. “It’s fun. It’s good exercise.”
Barbara Dorr has been in the women’s league for 15 years. She said the smaller balls just work better and having the deadwood in play adds to the strategy.
“There is more of a challenge trying to use what’s left on the lane,” she said.
Candlepin is a great way for a family to get out and do something, Dorr said.
“You can have fun, be competitive and go home without being angry about it,” she said.
A mother, Dorr said kids find it easier to hold the smaller ball used for candlepin.
“Any kid, you put a ball in their hand, they are going to throw it,” she said.
For Chahanovich, it’s just a great game anyone should be willing to give a try.
“Candlepin? That’s ideal,” she said. “It’s the nicest thing.”