By Cary Shuman
Dave Barber, one of the best candlepin bowlers in the world, had the words to fit the occasion: It was a bittersweet day.
“It’s sad to see the bowling business go, but I’m happy for my parents [Jim and Jane Barber], they’re retiring,” said Barber. “My father has put in a lot of time here, keeping this business going for a lot of years, but it’s time for him to retire and enjoy the rest of his life. It’s bittersweet.”
Jim Barber’s Lucky Strike Lanes, home to some of the best bowlers in the game including Lynn phenom Jonathan Boudreau and Hall of Famers Janet Poch and Nance Vestal, held a farewell celebration Sunday, marking the end of the establishment’s 79 years in Lynn. Jim Barber has owned the lanes on Buffum Street since 2000.
Jim Barber was a legend in the game, a Hall of Famer, and a Channel 5 record holder with four strikes in a row and a 466 triple. He won $3,105 in prize money for that unforgettable performance on Don Gillis’s professional bowling show.
George Raymond, 75, whose home house was the Lynnway Sportscenter, was one of the all-time greats who honored Jim Barber on Lucky Strike’s final day.
“Jim is a great guy and he ran a great house,” said Raymond, who also rolled four strikes in a row on Channel 5. “I’m here today to see my old friend.”
Bob Leo, owner of Metro Bowl in Peabody, recalled a young Jim Barber worked at Lynn bowling alleys as a teenager.
“Jimmy was one of the greatest guys that has ever been around the bowling game,” said Leo. “He started working for us when he was 15 and he has remained the same person – just a wonderful, wonderful guy.”
Frank Obey, another Lynnway guy, recalled that he teamed up with Jim Mauro, Al Lacey, Mike Shadoff, and George Raymond to set a North Shore team record of 2066 in a professional bowling match against Barber’s Lucky Strike team.
“I’m going to the miss the place,” said Lynn City Bowling League secretary Russ French. “It’s sad to see one more bowling house close.”
Jim Barber said Lucky Strike Lanes has been a big part of his life for more than 40 years. “I feel sad, obviously because this has been a highlight for 44 years and the last 17 years I’ve owned the business. I’m going to miss coming here. I see all these people today that I’ve known for years. I’ve made so many friends but it’s time – I’m 71 years old.”
Barber said he has sold the building to the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.
“We’re happy that they’re going to make this building in to something that’s going to be great for the city of Lynn,” said Barber.