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Celebrating 44 Years of Community Sports Service

The Portland Community Bowling League

Color Bar

In the beginning…

The Portland Gay & Lesbian Community Bowling Association (PCBA) was begun in 1979.  It sprung forth from the annual Terrific Tournaments that were begun in 1976 by Tom “Terrific” as a Imperial Rose Court Events.  (In the 70’s to 80’s the primary organization in the Portland Gay community was the Imperial Sovereign Rose Court (Emperors & Empresses), a non-profit community fund raising activity and entertainment.) For the first 20 years while Tom was Executive Director, the PCBA was the original name given the League, until a separation left the PCBA name the parent for the Rose Bowl Classic and PCBL (Portland Community Bowling League) became the League name.

As Tom tells it, when he first came out on June 13, 1973 (he still remembers the actual date, place and time), it was like being reborn. It was an entirely new life.  But something was missing.  "At that time, gay men and lesbian women never got together to do anything.  Essentially, women who came to men's bars were ignored, while men were not welcomed and physically escorted out of women's bars," remembers Tom.  Within three years, he struck out to change that.  Tom envisioned that a sport such as bowling might fill the void and get the two elements communicating.  At the time, Frank Ivancie was Mayor of Portland, and he was inherently anti-Gay.  Tom felt that the community needed to be more united.  Bowling leagues would be a first step.  "After all," as Tom put it, "what else do you have to do between frames - have a drink, socialize and talk with the people on the lanes next to you.  It was a perfect solution to a mixer."

It all began in  May of 1976 when Tom "Terrific" (a name he became known as) ran for a court title called Imperial Crown Prince. It was typical at this time for titled individuals to come up with events to entertain the community and fund raise for causes.  Tom's first event as Prince was a "Terrific" Tournament held in August of 1976.  It was held at Grand Central Bowl at a cost of $5.00 each.  The event was held the morning after announcement of candidates for Emperor and Empress of the court system.  Around 28 people tried the event and had a blast.     The first winners came from the bar known as The Half Moon Tavern, owned by Ray Wilston.  Tom carried on the tradition through 1977 to 1979 as a once year event.  It became a regular event during the campaigns that were waged for the titles of Emperor and Empress of the court system in Portland.  

In 1979, after several people in the community requested it, a newly formed league held once a month Sunday bowling events at Grand Central Bowl on 8th & SE Morrison.  Once a month, with friends along, Tom would blanket all the bars with flyers and talk up the bowling events.  If nothing else, it was a good excuse to go out and party (not that you needed one in the 70's).  Few local bars and organizations entered teams in the beginning.  In the 70’s, Sundays in Portland were one of the biggest party days.  The creation of an event that took away bar patrons was not looked upon favorably.  The first season culminated with a picnic/pool party at a private residence.

The goal of the PCBA was to create an environment of fun entertainment for the women and men of the Gay community.  Previously there had been limited interaction between the two sexes due to what at the time, appeared to be obvious lines of preferred interplay.  

 The 80’s…

By the early 80’s, bowling had caught on.  It was the in thing to do on Sunday mornings.  In fact it brought in so many new participants, that most bars and organizations jumped on the bandwagon to have representation at the now every-other-week Sunday party on the lanes.   After each Sunday of bowling, a Bar Appreciation was held at a different watering hole to allow the bars an opportunity to show their good stuff, and in return, allow the bowlers to show their appreciation.  In the early years, the primary membership came from the Imperial Rose Court.  When Tom became Emperor VI of the Rose Court, he promoted it throughout his year as a fun event where people could relax and enjoy the party atmosphere.

 During this time, the participating bars (for those who might want to remember back then) were Sissies on Burnside, Dahl & Penne’s, The Other Inn, Half Moon Tavern, Family Zoo, Hunt Pub, Embers Avenue, Somebody’s (currently Scandals), Grand Oasis, JOQ’s, JR’s & The Cell.  Organizations ranged from The Gay Men’s Chorus (3-4 teams), The Rose Court, Los Conquistadors, Knights of Malta, Cascade AIDS Project and Just Out Newspaper.

Money Honeys, Hunks and Jackpots…

From the beginning and up until 1990, the league bowled “Monte Carlo” style with color headpins in order to pay out quarters to bowlers striking on various combinations of color headpins.  Money Honeys and/or Money Hunks would wander the lanes watching for those occasional rewards.  Money Honeys were often local female impersonator entertainers who loved working the lanes on a Sunday morning.  And the bowlers loved them for the sense of fun and laughter they presented. 

Some of those Money Honeys/Hunks were a virtual who’s who list of gay community title holders of the 70’s and 80’s (Honeys -Alison Grey, Solitaire, Dora Jar, Patti O’Dora, Monica Rey, Misty Waters, Crystal, Ursula, Lisa Day; Hunks - Frank L., Gary B. & Dave S..)  Monte Carlo bowling was eliminated in order for bowlers averages to be acceptable in tournament play.   (Color headpins were not acceptable for establishing league averages.)

 The League also held weekly “Strike It Rich” jackpots.  Ticket sellers would collect funds and during each game tickets would be drawn for bowlers to win the jackpots with a strike when their tickets was randomly drawn.  The highest jackpot was $331, with many others in the high $200 to low $300 range.    At times, it appeared there was more competition for these jackpots than for league championships.  Records of payouts were kept with some bowlers actually pulling in over a thousand dollars during these events.  The highest on record were Robert Huffman (of The Embers All Nighters fame) and Grover Wells. 

Rewards and positive reinforcements…

By the mid 80’s, the association had become one of our community’s main entertainment events.  From January to May, nearly 300 Portlanders bowled in leagues on Thursday evenings, and two shifts on Sundays.  The goal of the League was to create a sense of belonging and reward for members of the gay and lesbian community.  Tom felt that there weren’t enough positive reinforcements for our community due to constant political pressures from the conservative-right-extremists, popular in the state of Oregon during that time. Who could ever forget Lon Mabon and the OCA (Oregon Christian Alliance) and their many attempts to either outlaw homosexuals or at the least have them listed with the likes of abnormal sexual perversions?  (So what else is still new?)

During this time frame, local counseling centers – Phoenix Rising and the Counseling Center for Sexual Minorities were recommending the League to people who were just coming out, or who were new to the community and were looking for a somewhat less intense way than a darkened bar, to become acquainted with other gay individuals.  Tom also reached out to the youth of the community by visiting some of their meetings to invite them to join an event where they could participate with adults in a non-bar event where minors were permitted.

Tom created fun events on off Sundays to encourage more camaraderie.  Some of those events became quite famous in their own right.  The very first Pajama Bowl, (currently made famous by Big Al's as a fundraiser), was held to an overflow crowd in 1986.  With rocking music provided by Allen _____ of Black Out Productions. the lights were turned down with only lane lights and with guys in boxers (their sleepwear) or footy pajamas, and many women in babydoll pajamas, PRO 300 Lanes had never held such a party.   One of the league's most festive teams of the 80's, Five Easy Pieces even brought in a brass bed, and set it on the concourse behind them for photo ops.  This event was held for a few years until it burned out and the internationally famous Boxer Bowls took it place.  These were adopted by the Rose Bowl Classic as one of their signature events on Saturday nights of its annual run. 

Additional events were the annual Easter "Big" Basket and Bonnet Bowls (use your imagination), Gam-bowl complete with a wheel of fortune, Beach Blanket Bowl and Weird Bowls that had bowlers rolling their balls between partners legs, bowling backwards with a mirror, kicking the ball down the lanes, and other weird moves.  One year Tom put together a New Year's Eve bowling event called "Blue Ice" where blue and white balloons were strung up and down the actual bowling lanes to throw a reflection on the lanes. 

These events were typically used for fund raising events for the Rose Bowl Classic.  Scores did not count for league competition, but were meant to create a fun atmosphere and  encourage more camaraderie.

Tom created the League's own annual membership pin, and 200 game pins.  Each participant received a certificate of participation.  And  to award more individuals more often, the League expanded to five divisions chosen at random, with each team comprised of five member teams. Trophies were awarded to the top three teams in each division which amounted to 75 trophies (Top three teams x 5 members x 5 divisions), plus even more additional trophies for individual special awards.

In the beginning, a committee determined that weekly-collected league funds should be used to encourage all bowlers.  It was felt that paying out league funds like sanctioned leagues (based on win-loss point system) might encourage a competitive atmosphere that could damage the fragile road to recovery between our two community factions of gays and lesbians.  Additionally the theory was that funds disbursement might inhibit the entertainment value for all community members by discouraging participation by the broad spectrum of individuals who were there purely for companionship. 

All net collected funds were reserved into a general fund to meet the projected costs of all the awards, pins, league picnic at Oaks Park, plus an Awards Banquet.  Due to the numerous awards and season finale parties, collected funds were not disbursed to bowlers as in other leagues.  The desire was to share the pool of net funds across the entire league membership wherever possible.  The League kept its weekly dues low at only $7.00, much lower than most other leagues, and to ensure that everyone who wanted to bowl could afford to do so. 

With a restaurant in the back room, most of the early awards banquets were conducted in the back room of Dahl & Penne's (at the base of the Morrison Bridge - now Bank of America's tower) thanks to Sammy and Gene Landauer, the owners of D&P's.  (By night, Dahl & Penne's served as one of the most popular show bars, with The Vanessa hosting "drag" shows, and Imperial Court Functions.  Dahl & Penne's located at the foot of the Morrison Bridge was a popular hot spot during this time period, with a bar that wrapped all the way around from one room to the other.

While the banquets were at Dahl & Penne's, it was Steve Suss and the Embers crew who helped barbeque and the fixin's during the picnics at Oaks Park.  Because it was early spring, our league pretty much had the park to ourselves.  This was the time of amyl nitrate (or poppers) that everyone used to dance, make love and everything else.  Everything else included riding the bumper cars at Oaks Park.  There was nothing funnier than watching a bunch of bowling fairies, sniffing little bottles, and bumping into each other time after time.  Some riders simply gave the ride monitors a strip of tickets and told them to keep the rides going until they were out of tickets, while others would jump out of their bumper cars as soon as a ride finished, and run out the exit and get right back in line.  It was the funniest time of the league.  Many people joined the league because they had heard about our annual picnics.

 IGBO membership…

In 1982, Portland joined the International Gay Bowling Organization (IGBO) to become a part of a growing family of bowling leagues across the United States and Canada.  By joining IGBO, the league learned about leagues and tournament play in other cities. 

In 1990 in Los Angeles, IGBO honored Tom with their coveted Fellowship Award at the 10th Anniversary IGBO tournament.  The award was given based on the sense of community and camaraderie achieved in Portland.  It was stated that no other leagues had been able to blend the men and women of their community so comfortably as had occurred in Portland.  Tom and the PCBA were held in high esteem for having successfully accomplished what other cities were still trying to do - bring the men and women together.

Awards & Recognitions

In recognition of the Portland Community Bowling Association/league, Founder Tom has accepted numerous awards, including:
1981: Portland Community Awards: Best Sporting Organization

1984: Cascade Voice (Oregon's Premier Monthly News Magazine of Alternative Lifestyles): Newsmaker's Awards - Publisher's Commendation from Portland's Gay Mayor Sanford Director and Publisher//Editor Robert Paul Dunn.

1988 - Imperial Rose Court Organization of the Year

1990 -  IGBO's Fellowship Award in Los Angeles

1992 - Pride of Portland Sports Organization Leadership Award to Tom Geil for his years of service to the LGBT Community

2008 - Mayor Tom Potter's Proclamation Congratulating Tom Geil & The PCBL for 30 Years of Community Sports for the LGBT Community

Rose Bowl Classic founding…

League founder, Tom Geil met with community leaders and business owners  to discuss the concept for an invitational tournament in Portland to be held during the annual Rose Festival celebration.  This event was entitled Portland’s Rose Bowl Invitational Classic.  The original intent was to be a celebration of our growing community event of bowling.  Out of town bowlers would be welcomed, but intense competition would be down-played so as not to deter the sense of community celebration.  (Please see www.rosebowlclassic.com for further information on this event.)  The first Rose Bowl Classic was held in May of 1983.

The 1990’s – a time for change…

By the 90’s, the League began adapting to the new world.  With the deaths of upwards of 80 of its previous membership due to AIDS, the makeup of the league was changing the way the League conducted its business.  Court membership in the League had dwindled and the new broad cross section of community participants were looking for new approaches. 

The League began a Sunday evening 5 PM league.   Continuing the 17 year old 11 AM Bowling For Dollars league, along with the new 5 PM Run for the Roses League, plus a growing sanctioned league on another weekday began thinning the ranks of normal participation.   The League moved from PRO 300 Lanes where it had rolled for nearly 17 years, to Cascade Lanes on 82nd Avenue, to Twentieth Century Lanes on 92nd and Powell.  And eventually to keep the league centrally located, it moved to Hollywood Lanes, right off the I-84 and 39th Avenue interchange.  With the closure of Hollywood Lanes, the League has moved back to PRO 300 Lanes as of 2015.

With fewer participants, the league could not justify renting Oaks Park.  The annual picnic was dropped and the annual banquet was reduced to smaller on-the-lane pot-luck events in order to begin award funds distributions that were being requested by league membership to remain competitive with other community leagues.  Trophies were eliminated and 1 oz pure silver medallions were created.   The league dropped its 11 am league to concentrate on its 5 PM league slot. 

The League and the new millennium…

Eventually (by 1998) the league landed into a more centrally located location at Hollywood Lanes, 40th & Halsey.   What was formally known as the PCBA League, now became the Run For the Roses League (RFR).  This distinguished it from the original PCBA League and time slot. 

The RFR converted from its 19 year old Winter-only season (Jan to May) to add a Fall short season (from Sept to Dec).  This allowed membership to bowl in either only one half season or both, depending upon their budget and/or interest.    Payouts and Awards are distributed twice annually.

After moving to Hollywood Lanes, the RFR grew back with a Fall-Spring 2004 level of 28-32 teams of 4 members.  32% of the league membership were women bowlers.  At that level of participation the league maintained 4 random divisions of bowlers in order to continue its time-honored tradition of rewarding many.  It’s payouts continued to rival most other leagues even though the weekly fees still remained at one of the lowest levels in the Portland market.

In 2003, Tom had decided that he would  try to retire, and hopefully pass the league and tournament along to the next generation.  At the 20th Annual Rose Bowl Classic Invitational Tournament, Tom had passed the tournament and league over to a new Board of Trustees.  By 2004, it appeared that this kind of arrangement did not work for the league.  Politics and division within the league necessitated that the league be separated from those who ran the tournament.  Those who ran the tournament may not be bowlers in the Sunday League and didn't necessarily have a vested interest in the league.  Therefore it became necessary to start planning a separation of the league and the tournament, creating the league's own operational team. 

On Saturday May 21, 2005, eight of the ten current PCBA/Rose Bowl Board of Trustee members, appointed by Tom in 2003, voted to release the Sunday League from any governance by the Portland Community Bowling Association (dba Rose bowl Classic) Board of Trustees.  The ongoing League adopted the name of the Portland Community Bowling League (PCBL) to provide some consistency to the transition.

An Operations Board  was formed to oversee what was formally the Run for the Roses League.  The Operations Board was officially accepted by a 91% to 9% vote of the 2005 Spring Membership on May 8, 2005. 

League membership continues to favor keeping this community activity a casual non-USBC sanctioned league eliminating the need for members to pay a $26 annual fee to USBC.  The league, while following most USBC rules of play, plus a set of personalized rules developed over the years specifically for the League, strives to maintain a casual environment where bowlers can bring friends to bowl without having to pay extra fees.  (USBC leagues require USBC membership of $20, even if a bowler is simply a one time “come and play” type of bowler.) 

Officer titles are valid for two year terms, and can be re-confirmed by a vote of the bowlers present by the 11th session of the season.  The annual vote takes place in the spring of odd years.  As Founder, Tom remains the Executive Director of the Association/League. 

After nearly 15 years at Hollywood Lanes, the PCBL League returned to PRO 300 Lanes at 3031 S.E. Powell.  In 2012, the owner of Hollywood Lanes, Mark Frank, did not renew the contract of the Sunday League and broke the contract of the Friday night Pride League.  In effect he removed all the gay leagues from the house in an effort, as he puts it "to make the bowling house more family friendly."  The staff at Hollywood Lanes were very unhappy to see both gay leagues exit the bowling house because our business in the restaurant and bar provided a large portion of their income.  However this seemed to make no difference to the owner, Mr. Frank, who had his own agenda to purge the two leagues from "family friendly" time slots.  A discrimination lawsuit was filed with the state Bureau of Labor and Industry by the Friday night Pride League as they exited the Lanes.  Sunday's PCBL still had a contract through the end of the season to complete.  In order to not disrupt the remainder of the season, they did not immediately file a complaint with the state, but their membership became quite vocal to local politicians and on blogs.  In fact, there were so many negative comments on Hollywood Lanes' website that the owner took down the website rather than have all the negative press.

So beginning in its 36th season, the PCBL returned back to Sundays at 3:30 pm back at PRO 300 Lanes on 30th & Powell.  This house also took a turn on our league bowlers.  In the spring of 2017, we discovered through the newspapers, not the house, that the building would be sold to become a Target store.  Once again we went in search of a new home.

We developed a relationship with the fine staff at King Pins Lanes on 92nd & Powell.  We began our season there on Sunday Sept 10, 2017.  With the options for bowling houses dwindling in the Portland market, we hoping to stay here for many years to come.

In mid March of 2018, the world wide disease of Covid hit the leagues, and the league was canceled mid year.  It took another year for the league to come back together.  it was due to the efforts of Mike Bartholomew that a Spring casual drop in league began for those who wanted to brave the lanes complete with face masks.  Thanks to Mike's efforts, the league grew back and began again in the Fall of 2022.

It is open to any community members of any age.  Cost is still a very minimal $17 to encourage anyone to come out and meet new friends.  While there are awards for the top three teams in each division, this league continues to maintain a non-competitive, social tone.  The Founder of this league that started with the annual Terrific Tournaments as far back as 1976 is still involved as the League's Secretary/Treasurer.  



Current Season:

2023 Winter
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