Disappointed Bowlers Grab Their Gear
John Miller, right, of West Lebanon, holds his bowling ball high after cleaning out his locker at Upper Valley Lanes & Games in White River Junction on August 17, 2013. Upper Valley announced on its facebook page on Thursday evening that it was immediately and unexpectedly closing. The property is currently up for sale. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
Ed Welch, left, of White River Junction, and Ron Stillson, right, of Hartland, leave Upper Valley Lanes & Games after cleaning out their lockers in White River Junction on August 17, 2013. Upper Valley announced on its facebook page on Thursday evening that it was immediately and unexpectedly closing. The property is currently up for sale. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
White River Junction — There was a solemn tone early Saturday as several dozen bowlers cleaned out their lockers at the recently shuttered Upper Valley Lanes and Games and drove off with their bowling balls and shoes, unsure when or where they’d roll their next strike.
Throughout the morning, bowlers trickled into the alley — which closed without warning or explanation Thursday night — and walked out carrying or wheeling bags filled with heavy bowling balls. (After the business closed, those who stored their equipment there were told they could claim their belongings between 9 a.m. and noon on Saturday.) One man carried two balls on his shoulder, while Justin Roy, 22, of Corinth, juggled three — clutching two with his fingers and trapping one under his arm.
“I don’t think this will be a big deal,” said Roy. “I think we’ll be back in a few weeks. But nobody knows for sure and I don’t want to leave my stuff in here just in case.” Roy said his bowling balls cost more than $200 each.
Thetford resident Ramhance Rampersaud told the Valley News on Friday that he is in negotiations to buy the building and would like to reopen it as a bowling alley. He also would like to replace the adjoining strip club and bar with a family-friendly restaurant.
Rampersaud said he expects to close on the sale of the building within a few days.
Reginald Jones, president of Valley Land Corp., which owns the building, said Saturday those plans are not final. Proof of that came Saturday when two men arrived at the property and hung a “for sale” sign on a fence.
“As soon as someone buys it, you’ll have to wait and see if they will do what they say they will, or do they have other ideas,” Jones said.
Jones would not comment on why business owners Dale and Naomi Lucas closed the bowling alley. The Lucases could not be reached on Saturday.
Val Jerry, 59, of Enfield, has been bowling since 1987 and is a member of a travel league. She said she was very concerned about the league until she heard that Rampersaud said he wanted to buy the building and keep it a bowling alley. But she still has a lot of questions.
Travel league teams need a “house,” Jerry said, that must be sanctioned by the United States Bowling Congress. She said she hopes any new owner takes the initiative to make sure the house is sanctioned.
“There’s a lot we don’t know,” Jerry said. “There is more we don’t know than we do know.”
Dennis Burnham, 37, of West Lebanon, was carrying four heavy bags filled with equipment while his wife, Melissa, 33, draped three bags over her shoulders. They had emptied out three lockers and were taking seven bowling balls home with them.
Dennis Burnham has been playing at the alley since he was 16 and his wife has been attending since she was 7. They met at the bowling alley and it’s where he has bowled all three of his 300 games.
The Burnhams came to Upper Valley Lanes and Games on Thursday evening, but they were stopped when they saw the sign on the door saying, “We are very sorry but we are closed due to a family emergency.”
“We’re just throwing our hands up in the air and wondering what’s next,” said Dennis Burnham, adding that he and his wife planned to travel to the Claremont area on Saturday and try out the bowling there.
The Burnhams have made many friends by playing in leagues, and as they spoke, Cindy McClelland, 51, of Lebanon, walked up to them carrying two purple bowling balls.
“Here, have a ball,” McClelland said as she swung a bowling ball into Melissa Burnham’s arms.
This year, McClelland joined a summer bowling league called Gambler’s Express, paying weekly dues to help pay for a trip to the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. The trip is planned for Aug. 25, but McClelland said she doesn’t know if it will take place.
“I’m taking the safe route and taking my balls and shoes and going home,” McClelland said. “It’s unfortunate because people are already thinking about going to Claremont.”
Bowlers who were unable to pick up their equipment on Saturday can call Valley Land Corp. at 802-295-3358 to schedule a pickup time.
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3223.