Manteca’s Strike Zone bowling alley wouldn’t be the same without Charlotte Black who has been an integral part of the facility for 52 years and is still working 40 hours a week.
She signed on with then general manager Ben Renz early in 1960 along with her late husband Bill who died six and a half years ago. She and her husband later managed the old original Manteca Bowl for Dick Cross who was also a member of the Manteca City Council.
Charlotte is now in the position of desk supervisor after serving as manager for some eight years of her recent tenure before Bob Raymus took over the post.
Bill first worked as the custodian for the alley and became the bartender before working his way into management. Charlotte cooked in the original bowling alley, making her own choice chili beans, roast beef sandwiches and enchiladas.
“I still have some people coming in asking when I am going to be making those enchiladas again,” she chuckled.
Charlotte said she was in charge of running the restaurant for several years.
She remembered that their teenage son and daughter worked with her in the East Yosemite Avenue lanes. Son Delmar was a “pin chaser” and Bobbie was her mom’s right hand in the restaurant, also waiting on customers from behind the counter.
Bobbie took on her husband’s name when she was married – ironically it is “Bowling.”
Manteca developer Antone Raymus was the owner of the facility from its inception. She worked indirectly for him through the various general managers. Charlotte referred to him as always being a gentleman – saying every time she saw him he spoke to her.
There have been a lot of changes in Manteca since the early ‘60s in the fabric of the community and in the bowling alley, she said.
“Everybody was like family at the old bowl. You knew everybody by name. It was really a family gathering,” she said adding that she knew all the business owners in town and now you’re lucky to see somebody you know.
Bowlers from years ago who are still active include Vince Indelicato and Ed Sequeira who have been bowling since the old bowl was built as well as Marge Vierra of Ripon. She’s still the secretary of the Reno League.
Charlotte grew up on her dad Lloyd Higgens’ farm in Waco, Georgia, where she said the peaches were the best. Her family harvested cotton, corn and a little bit of everything. She met her future husband Bill when he was on a pass from his Army unit as a paratrooper. They had been married for 53 years when he passed away.
Her husband had been living in California when he went into the service, returning with his bride after his discharge.
She said the best part of working at Strike Zone is that it keeps her going and keeps her mind sharp, adding that she doesn’t have a chance to get bored.
“I like the people and I have made a lot of friends since I have been working in the bowling center,” she said.
Charlotte and Bill were both part of a traveling bowling league and would compete as far away as Hayward, Sacramento and Modesto.
It was in 2004 when Raymus reclaimed the day-to-day operation of the bowling alley that she worked directly for him, saying they always had a very good relationship.
Both of her children live in Manteca close to her. Daughter Bobbie Bowling has been the only bowler in the family. She added that she has six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
She has given up her home cooking chores for family dinners a half dozen years ago, saying she was through with the kitchen. Now she spends her spare time taking care of those great-grandchildren.