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Oldest tenpin alley in Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 09:36 02 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:30 30 June 2010

Over the last 30 years Cindy Comer has certainly grown accustomed to the sound of clunking bowling balls as she works in the country's oldest running tenpin bowling alley.

Over the last 30 years Cindy Comer has certainly grown accustomed to the sound of clunking bowling balls as she works in the country's oldest running tenpin bowling alley.

Ms Comer is the manager of Regent Bowl, in Great Yarmouth, which will be celebrating its 47th anniversary on April 5.

And as she reflected on her rise from a humble bowling shoe assistant to manager of a 15-strong team, there was another milestone to be heralded - a friendly American invasion exactly 50 years ago, which saw the first tenpin bowling alley open in Britain in 1960.

Since the first London alley sprang up, there are now more than 300 in the country with the family run Regent Bowl in Regent Road being the oldest still running.

And as it prepares to celebrate its 47th birthday, Norwich's Hollywood Bowl at Riverside should be re-opening its lanes later this year after it has been closed for more than two years due to structural problems.

Regent Bowl originally had 12 lanes, but due to the sport's popularity the number has grown to 22 lanes, which see up to 130 people playing at peak times.

When Ms Comer joined Regent Bowl in 1980 she spent her first day handing out bowling shoes for seven hours.

Glancing at today's hi-tech scoring boards and state-of-the-art lanes, she recalled how in the 1980s people had to collate their scores with a paper and pen and watch the occasional stray balls trundle across lanes.

Over the years she has also had to use icepacks to free trapped fingers and thumbs from bowling balls and even averted her gaze for a streaker.

Explaining the Regent Bowls' longevity, Ms Comer said: “We are always trying to update and modernise so people in Yarmouth, holiday makers and league players enjoy coming here.

“Tenpin bowling is popular as families can play it together and children can beat their parents.”

Ms Comer said she was proud to have been associated with the nation's oldest running bowling alley and introducing thousands of people from the borough to the American sports craze.

The Regent Bowl has been owned by the Peck family for the last 46 years. In that time it has had several major facelifts including being renamed Pex for a short period of time.

In 1995 it became a 22-lane alley and in 2008 a quarter of million pound investment saw a new scoring and online booking system installed.

Carol Hart, 61, from Bradwell, had been playing at the Regent Bowl for 10 years. She said: “You always get a really good atmosphere here. It is good to see so any people having a nice time out.

“I enjoy playing as you don't need to rely on strength, but skill and technique. My only gripe is that tenpin bowling should be shown live on television.”

For information on Regent Bowl visit www.regentbowl.co.uk or call 01493 856830.

Tenpin bowling factfile

It is estimated that 100m people in the world play tenpin bowling with nearly 30m people in Britain having played the sport.

In Britain, £286m is spent every year in bowling alleys with 13 million games played annually.

The first ever game was played by the mountaineer Sir Edmund Hilary and boxer Sir Henry Cooper at Stamford Hill, London.

Every year, about 300,000 bowling shoes are worn out in Britain with the most popular size being a seven.

In 2006, 12-year-old Elliot Crosby, from New Malden, Surrey, became the youngest person in the country to score a perfect game of 300 with 12 consecutive strikes.

Celebrity tenpin bowling fans include American president Barack Obama and singers Lady GaGa and Rihanna.

The longest game of tenpin bowling was played last year when New Zealander Stuart Ridley spent 122 hours on the lanes.

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