Hall Of Fame Inductee

Gerry James

Inducted into: Builder Division in 2011

Location: Markham

Deceased: DEC

  • Builder

The island of Jamaica is best known as a premier tourist destination, a producer of world class athletes, an international bobsled team and it is also the birth place of Gerry James. Gerry became a builder of the bowling industry, though bowling is relatively unknown in his native land.
Gerry was born on December 6th, 1923 in Treasure Beach, Jamaica, West Indies. The second of eleven children of Alvin and Doris James, Doris raised the children while Alvin farmed and bred livestock, specializing in the breeding of horses, including polo horses for the gentry in the islands capital, Kingston.
Gerry attended Sandy Bank Public School, followed by an apprenticeship at his cousins furniture store for about two years. During this time, he contributed significantly by building furniture for the family home. Gerry graduated from Dinthill College with a degree in forestry and spent the next year working for the forestry department for the government of Jamaica.
These experiences would prove useful when Gerry came to Canada from Jamaica and, at age twenty-four, he joined the Brunswick Balke Collender Company, a manufacturer of bowling pins and lanes as well as billiard tables. Brunswick was the major supplier to a growing bowling industry. Gerry originally started at ground level, working with the kilns or ovens that cured the lumber used for the lanes. After two years, Gerry asked to be moved to the installation side of the business and a sixty-five year association with the bowling industry was born. By 1951, Gerry left Brunswick but not the industry as he worked at Midtown Bowl in Toronto as floor manager before starting his own Gerry James Bowling Services, a resurfacing, repair and installation company that built bowling centres across Ontario, from Delhi to Blind River.
In 1952, Gerry leased Orillia Bowling Academy from the town mayor, Wilber Cramp. A successful endeavour, the lease ended in 1959 and Gerry then built Rainbow Lanes, an 18 lane centre that continues to operate today. This company was also responsible for the installation of many bowling centres during its six years in operation, including, Little Bowl in Goderich, Larry Smith Bowling Lanes in Collingwood, Gravenhurst Lanes, Rendezvous Lanes in Sturgeon Falls, Don Dominico Lanes in Blind River and the German Hall Lanes in Delhi.
Gerrys entrepreneurial spirit was now in full bloom and, as bowling developed the first automatic pinsetter in 1957, Gerry joined with a large boat manufacturer in Orillia, namely Allan Hunter Boat Works, a well known manufacturer of the Fair Mile Sub Chaser during World War II. In 1959, the James and Hunter Company was formed. This company manufactured its own brand of bowling equipment under the trade name Maple Leaf Line. This included lane beds, gutters, kick backs, masking units, pins and seating. The first centre built under the James and Hunter banner was Pinecrest Lanes in Port Hope. Other well known centres included Rainbow Lanes in Orillia and Olympia Bowl in Dorchester.
After Allans passing in 1963, Model Bowling Services was formed and continued to service and install bowling lanes until 1968, including Kemptville, Coldwater, St. Charles, Port Elgin and the extremely successful Westside Bowl in Owen Sound which Gerry eventually purchased in 1966.
Gerrys talents and understanding of the industry was legendary. At the first convention of the Bowling Proprietors Association, held in 1953 in Hamilton, Gerry gave a seminar on lane maintenance which continues to be relevant to this day. In 1975, Gerry hosted the annual Bowling Proprietors Association of Ontario convention in Owen Sound which included a night of hospitality at his large home in Beaver Valley.
Specializing in installation, Gerry, now on his own, began to install lanes across Canada, from Saskatoon to Ottawa including new lanes at John Martins OConnor Bowl. John, who passed away last year was well established in the horse racing industry and this became Gerrys new passion...the sport of kings breeding and racing thoroughbred horses. His successful breeding program produced Spring Barley who recently held a Woodbine track record for eight consecutive years. Another stake winner was Jungle Design who won the Southfield Stakes in Detroit. The walls of the Paddock Lounge in Markham Bowl are testament to Gerrys many visits to the winners circle.
A brief flirtation in the manufacturing of ladies garments The Victor James Garment Company was notable as it was here that he met his wife Fay in 1979, married her in 1986 and eventually settled in Markham.
In 1985, Markham Bowl sustained heavy water damage as a result of a fire in a store above the lanes. Fred May, then proprietor of Markham Bowl, hired Gerrys company to repair the damage and install new lane beds. On completion, Gerry proceeded to purchase Markham Bowl in 1986 and turned this twenty lane centre into his own personal history book of bowling. A bowling landmark since 1957, the lobby is full of memorabilia from the early days of bowling and a tribute to Gerrys contribution to the overall growth of all forms of bowling, both 5 pin and tenpin. During this time period, one of Gerrys companys was also building a 24 lane centre in Newmarket, Ontario, known to all of us as Stellar Lanes.
During the 1990s, Markham Bowl was a powerful centre in the Youth Bowling Council program, winning most of the 4 Steps To Stardom team competitions. Many of the youth bowlers went on to win national honours and there were also two perfect games bowled during this time, one by Shawn Morris and a second by Mark Davies.
Gerry used Markham Bowl to support the local York Simcoe Association by establishing scholarship awards and charitable drives to benefit the Tsunami Relief Fund, Haiti, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and many other charities. His impact and love of people, and bowling didnt stop there as he also supported many York Region schools through the Youth Bowling Program. Gerry has also assisted many senior programs, the Special Olympics, and other youth initiatives.
The York Simcoe Association inducted Gerry into their Hall of Fame in 2007 and, tonight this provincial honour is a tribute to a man who worked hard and overcame many obstacles during his life to impact our sport which is enjoyed by millions across Canada.
Coming from a James family, who thrive on work and whose entrepreneurial spirit knows no boundaries, Gerry attributes his personal success to perseverance through Gods guidance, attention to detail and his undying pursuit of customer satisfaction. He enjoys what he does and feels very fortunate to have survived in the bowling business for all these years.