Every Friday night from September through late April, one of the oldest bowling leagues in Bethlehem convenes at Del Lanes for an evening of sport and friendship.
The 12-member St. Thomas Men's League takes up four lanes at the Delmar alley. Each week, the bowlers divide themselves into four teams named after National Football League franchises the Cowboys, the Giants, the Eagles and Green Bay and play three games.
The scores hardly matter to the bowlers, though. All they're after is exercise, camaraderie and some strikes, the latter of which earns them up to five selections from a standard 52-card deck in a side game of five-card draw. Whoever draws the best hand wins the pot, to which each member contributes $3.
"It's always been a (side) game that's been going on," said Mike Kanuk, who has been a league member for nearly 30 years. "It gets the competition going."
The St. Thomas league has always been more of a social club than competitive league, which is its greatest asset. The bowlers range in age from their early 20s to their 70s and ability, and no one ever feels pressure to roll a good game " or even show up.
"It's a low-pressure league," said league vice president Kevin Patterson. "If you miss a night, no one gets on you."
Still, most of the bowlers show up on a weekly basis. Even an elder statesman such as Delmar resident Julio Quaglieri " a 35-year member " makes an effort to be at Del Lanes every Friday night at 9 p.m.
"It's exercise, and I get to hang out with the guys," said Quaglieri.
And occasionally, one of the league's bowlers has a great game. Last year, Patterson became the first St. Thomas bowler to roll a perfect score of 300.