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Bud Welter hangs up bowling shoes after 55 years rolling the rock

After 55 years bowling for F&M State Bank in New York Mills, Bud Welter retired from league play. This week he donated his first pair of bowling shoes, which he bought for $5 in the 1950's, to Mills Lanes.

Bud Welter paid $5 for his first pair of bowling shoes in the 1950's. There are many miles on the soles of those old leather shoes. Bud has gone through other shoes since that first pair, which have carried countless bowling miles on the worn-out leather.

And now, as bowlers look to form teams for fall league, Bud is stepping away from the lanes after 55 years bowling for Farmers & Merchants State Bank. He made it official this week when he donated the old shoes to Owen and Dolly Tumberg to hang on display at Mills Lanes.

As many of the old-timers recall, bowling in New York Mills began in the basement of City Hall in the 1950's. The current bowling alley was built in 1961.

Although Bud, 79, recalls bowling in Perham in the 1940's, he didn't join the F&M State Bank until after he got out of the service in 1954 at 23 years old. He doesn't remember exactly how he got on the bank team, but figures Russ Jacobson, who Bud calls the "Kingpin" of the team, asked him to join. Russ has also been with the team for close to 60 years and retired from rolling the rock last year.

Bud looks back at nearly six decades bowling in Mills and remembers the Monday night fall league as being full with 12 teams for many years. Having bowled for that many years on one team, naturally Bud has seen many bowlers come and go. In fact, he said he just went through the phone book and counted 34 people he's bowled with on the F&M team.

The team has always been competitive in the league, with a good mixture of old-timers and bringing in some young talent.

"We always had fun," Bud said. "We had a little kitty each week and at the end of the year we'd go out and have a bowling party."

Guys like Bud and Russ have turned the team over to some of the young guns like Jon Tumberg and Kevin Vorderbruggen.

Bud figured now was a good time to leave the lanes. He's not getting any younger and, "I got one knee that's awful touchy. I'm not supposed to lift more than 20 pounds," Bud said.

So, what kept him around the league that many years? Bud said he's enjoyed the competition and bowling with the guys each Monday night during league. Looking back he doesn't remember exactly how he learned to bowl, it was just something he started doing.

"I always liked to bowl," he said. "We taught ourselves in those days. We had some good bowlers on our team. We'd watch them and they would tell you things."

Bud said his highest game was a 244 and his high average was 176, which dropped off a bit to 142 when he retired from the sport.