All posts by Ray Francis

No Lessons on Nov. 23 & 24

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club is pleased to host the PIMP “Champion of Champions” event on Saturday and Sunday. Club champions from around the PIMD for two days. This means there will be no free lessons on those days, but there should be plenty of amazing bowling on view!

BLBC 2019 Singles Match: Vevers Takes the Prize

We had a wonderful day of bowling yesterday at the club. Beautiful blue skies graced the whole day, the green was it’s usual impeccable self and the level of competition was a credit to the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club. Many thanks to those that helped make the day run smoothly – Annie for rolling the green and then marking all day, Susan Jamart for providing help and snacks. Bob, Rolly and Cathy also for spending the whole day marking the games. Without them the day would not have been the same. 

2019 BLBC Singles champ Andy Vevers & Runner-up (& 2018 Singles Champ) Gareth Cole

Ten participants played three random draw games to decide the top four players that would advance to the knock out round. After the first three games there were two undefeated players: Robin Hoey and Gareth Cole (the defending champion) and three players who were 2-1. Cris Benton and Andy Vevers squeaked by into the play offs on plus points, with Frankie Napoli unluckily missing out by one solitary point!

The Semi Finals were Gareth versus Cris and Rob versus Andy. Gareth squeaked out a win in a very close contested game against Cris and Andy managed to overcome after being down early against Rob.  So the final was our Tournament Director, Andy, against the defending champion, Gareth. In what was an entertaining game to watch, Andy luckily managed to squeeze out the win and became the 2019 Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club’s Singles Champion!


Thanks again to everyone that helped make the day a great success.

Fun Events Available at BLBC

“I wanted to reach out to the Berkeley Lawn Bowing Club and thank you for a really great time on Sunday afternoon. Everyone enjoyed themselves tremendously. Please share this with the instructors who were with us on Sunday, they were fantastic and really made it fun.” Consider having a group event at the BLBC. For more information, please send an email to:
berkeleylawnbowling@gmail.com (please type “Events Coordinator” in the subject line).

Lessons Cancelled for Some October Dates

Please note that there will not be free lawn bowling for the following dates in October:

  • October 5 & 6 (BLBC hosts the PIMD Novice Singles Tournament)
  • October 19 (BLBC hosts the PIMD Aussie Pairs Tournament)
  • October 26 (BLBC Novice Singles Tournament)

Free lessons shall still be available on the remaining dates.

Berkeley Invitational 3-Bowls Singles

Warm temperatures and blue skies made for a beautiful day at the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club green. The invitational attracted some high quality players from the Bay Area, making up some very strong mixed pairs teams. The level of bowling on display was a credit to the PIMD and to Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club, who hosted this new event on the calendar.  There were some really close games and some very tight results. As you’d expect in a tournament with this many quality players, no one ran away with it and the final results came down to the last couple of bowls being rolled on the day. 
 Taking first prize and drawing the tournament winning shot with his last bowl:
Gareth Cole & Giulia Gallo
 A very creditable second place went to the very strong team of:
Russell Leonard & Janice Bell (good luck to Janice in the upcoming Nationals!)
And third place went to the extremely consistent pair of:
Jim Corr & Annie Brillhart Many thanks to everyone that came from near and far to participate and to everyone at the club that helped make the day run so smoothly.

Howard Mackey (1926 – 2019)


Howard Mackey—long-time BLBC member, former BLBC president, former greens-keeper, former board-member, and former Memorial & Endowment Fund Trustee—passed away on April 15, 2019.  Howard crammed a lot of life into his 93 years:  he enjoyed taking it all in, and he could tell you hundreds of stories about sailing, RV living in southern California, life in the Bay Area from his childhood to the present day, and bowling.  Life did not just happen to Howard – Howard went at life with a remarkable combination of enthusiasm, stoicism, and old-fashioned directness. 

Bay Area lawn bowlers consider Howard a Berkeley institution, but Howard considered himself an El Cerrito product.  One of those rarities of California — a native — Howard was born to a family that lived in El Cerrito around B Street, near the current Harding School.  Howard remembered the days when the dog track (the site of the El Cerrito Plaza) was the epicenter of El Cerrito, then the colorful and corrupt town that escaped Alameda County DA Earl Warren’s reformist wrath by sitting just over the Contra Costa County line.  He sometimes talked about the squalid trailers not far from his home, where families who worked at the racetrack lived.  Seeing this had a profound effect on the young Howard.  He was proud of his parents’ work as supporters for what eventually became the El Cerrito Good Government League that in 1946 successfully recalled the corrupt city government and replaced 3 council members with league candidates.  He would say that there were many reasons for them not to do what they did – but he felt they did the right thing.  Howard seemed to live his own life making choices inspired by his parents’ integrity.

Howard attended El Cerrito High School and returned to teach there until his retirement.  The halls there have articles and photos of Howard serving his community.  This writer had the pleasure of coaching former students of Howard who came through the BLBC gates years later.  They would reminisce fondly about their time with him.

Howard would want the story of his life to include what a powerful combination he and his wife Barbara (also a bowler and a BLBC member) were.  They lived as though their good fortune, robust health, and ability compelled them to serve their community fully. 

Howard and Barbara joined the BLBC in 1993, and the couple bowled competitively for many years.  The BLBC’s winners’ board includes the Mackeys in all kinds of competitions.  They bowled regularly in PIMD tournaments and did the BLBC proud by bringing back many victories over the years.  And whether he bowled well or not on a particular day, Howard never let the fever of competition overwhelm him: he always started and finished a game with a handshake and sincere thanks for the play regardless of the outcome.

Howard bowled for many years as a lethal skip.  In later years he preferred to bowl as an equally lethal second.  Toward the end of his bowling days, he left the heavy lifting to others and shifted to bowling as lead.  When he wasn’t working on the green or in the clubhouse, he was practicing with 2 sets of bowls, but with neither mat nor rink markers.  He would bowl to a jack that he rolled anywhere on the green.  He then walked to the jack, rolled it out to another random spot on the green and so on.  During these practice sessions, Barbara might be reading on the bench near the memorial plaque in her name.  

When not bowling, Howard and Barbara served the club in countless ways.  Barbara served as board secretary for several terms and Howard served two terms as BLBC president. Howard and Barbara enjoyed running the Berkeley Jamboree for quite a few years.  They frequently were the first to come set up for events and draw games and just as frequently the last to leave when putting things away.  Howard stepped up to serve as greenskeeper for several years, a thankless job that he took on with grace and equanimity.  A common sight would be Howard hunched over a piece of machinery, confidently dismantling and reassembling it.  He might tell an observer about the first time he worked on a piece of machinery like it — and how he completely messed it up.  Ever the teacher, Howard wanted us to know that failure followed by trying again was the key to everything.

Barbara died in 2012, and that took its toll on Howard.  He did not dwell upon his loss in a public way, but if he was comfortable with you, he would speak of his loneliness and how strange it felt for him to wake up without Barbara there.  He also frequently spoke of the happiness and joy his family brought to him:  he knew himself to be lucky and was grateful.

 And that is how we at the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club feel about Howard and Barbara.  They gave so much time, labor, love, and goodwill to the BLBC and its members.  A grateful BLBC community shall remember them fondly for what they cheerfully provided in so many ways.  We offer our condolences to the Mackey family.

Note: A memorial service for Howard Mackey will be held at the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club on June 15, 2019.

George Goldman, 1935 – 2018

The BLBC recently received news that former BLBC member George Goldman passed away in June of this year. George joined our club and bowled enthusiastically for quite a few years.  Several years ago he started treatment for leukemia, and the treatment gave him valuable additional time,but took its toll on his physical strength.  George himself likely would have admitted as much.  He proudly honed a rational approach to life and offered an unblinking and unsentimental assessment of his state and prognosis.  That sounds more serious than George was:  his curiosity and sharp sense of irony made George a voluble and entertaining raconteur. 

Outside of his lawn bowling life, George worked at the University of California in the Extension programs as an economist specializing in agriculture.  He was one of the charter members of the BLBC’s poker group. Imagine George and several other economists at the poker table waxing eloquent on various economic issues of the day in technical detail.  The non-economist at the table might think this distraction would help someone focused on the poker score.  Alas, for that non-economist (like this writer), when George sat at the table he won more frequently than he lost when the night’s counting out was through.   

Any conversation with George might cover economics, bowling,music, cooking, camping, travel, softball, or any other topic, really.  He was a charming, forthright, funny, curious and sincere man.  The BLBC offers its sympathies to the Goldman family.

(Note:  more information about George can be found from the notice in the San Francisco Chronicle at this link:  https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/sfgate/obituary.aspx?n=george-goldman&pid=189345558).

Good-bye, Harry

If someone wanted to find Harry Gans in Berkeley, one only needed to try two places:  The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club or the French Hotel’s coffee shop on Shattuck Avenue – you’d find him at one or the other before long.  After not having seen Harry for several months, I recently decided to ask the staff of French Hotel if they had any news of him. They told me that Harry passed away around the 4th of July, with a memorial service at the French Hotel soon after.

Harry seemed to compartmentalize things:  never did the different streams of his life cross over.  Harry protected his privacy vigorously and most of us saw only what he allowed us to see of him.  He confessed some years ago to being in his late 80s (which meant he likely passed away in his 90s); he worked as a graphic artist; and as an illustrator he had several books to his credit, including a little PDF pamphlet that he co-wrote and illustrated that shows his dark sense of humor:  How to Survive Death (  http://wagele.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/book_how_to_survive_death.pdf ).  Harry also penned strongly opinionated letters to the editors of Berkeley papers.

Harry projected a gruff, misanthropic image; but — when you knew him — you found the shy, mischievous man who could be very sweet.  Harry showed his kindness with quickly, but skillfully, drawn cartoons given to people on a lark.  He saw humor in many things, and the gruff mask often gave way to a wry grin—if he liked you.  Harry also passionately disliked bullies, and felt no hesitation in barking at someone he felt crossed the line with poor sportsmanship or condescending behavior toward other people.

Harry came to bowling late in life, but he frequently bowled well above expectations.  Having started the game in his eighties, he did not have the gift of many years to hone it, but he made the most of his game and inspired younger bowlers to at least try as hard as Harry had to.  In bowling, Harry gave up the misanthropic act:  he knew that any bowler worthy of the name works for the good of the team and his club.  Harry never complained if he struggled to place his bowl where he wanted, and he never blamed others for his play.

In the clubhouse, Harry played in the monthly BLBC poker game, and everyone who knew Harry knew Harry’s game:  Texas Hold ‘em, high-low.  At the French Hotel coffee shop, the staff called him “Yo-yo,” because he liked to show off his yoyo tricks.

This link offers the full Harry Gans experience of a New Yorker talking about a New York institution:  Coney Island:  https://www.coneyislandhistory.org/oral-history-archive/harry-gans

Harry shared what he could of his life with the BLBC, and we are glad to include him as one of us – as a bowler.