Hall Of Fame Inductee
Inducted into: Player Division in 2004
Location: St. Catharines
A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Verna Bryan actually visited Canada twice before settling in St. Catharines with her parents in 1949. In 1940, when she was 7 years old, the British government moved thousands of young children, including Verna and her two older siblings, one sister, one brother, out of Scotland for their safety during the second world war. For the next five years Verna along with her sister and brother stayed with their grandparents in St. Catharines, and continued their schooling there. They returned home to Scotland in May of 1945.
By 1949, on her return to Canada, Verna was ready to enter the workforce and joined General Motors. As a young lassie, Verna met Doug Bryan, a draughtsman for Foster Wheeler and, on one of their dates, Doug took Verna to a local bowling centre. Verna had some exposure to sports in Scotland with the game of rounders, an activity which resembles baseball and cricket combined. Verna was extremely competitive and soon her bowling average was higher than Doug's. Together they began to join local leagues and enjoyed their status as the youngest members. Verna stayed with the 5 pin bowling while Doug switched to tenpins and enjoyed an outstanding career. In 2003, Doug was inducted, as a builder, to the American Bowling Congress Hall of Fame.
Tournaments were hard to come by in the early fifties. Verna's first competition was in the Canadian Bowling Association (CBA) tournament, hosted at the end of the bowling season by the CBA in Toronto. In 1956, Verna led all Niagara qualifiers for the bowling competition to be held at the Sportsman Show in Toronto. In that Niagara qualifying round, Verna rolled a ten game score of 2505 to lead the ladies by a large margin of 256 pins.
Verna bowled in singles and doubles sections at the Sportsman Show on lanes especially built for the competition before losing in the semi-final to the ultimate winner, Marion Pusey. For her efforts, Verna won $150.00 plus $10.00 a day for living expenses. While not winning, Verna yearned for more challenges.
Verna was now established as one of the top bowlers in St. Catharines and, in October of 1958, joined with Hall of Famer Marj Summers to offer 'learn to bowl' clinics at the Ace Lanes, a centre that was also known as Dorado Lanes. With this added talent, Verna also began a thirty-six year employment with Fairview Lanes, a large centre in St. Catharines that features both 5 and 10 pin bowling. Verna worked with Dean McBride, a gentleman who managed in the Fairview chain for many years.
Verna joined the major leagues through the sponsorship of Shag's Restaurant team in the traveling Niagara Pro League that bowled on Saturday afternoons. In this program, Verna bowled against the top bowlers throughout the Niagara and Hamilton regions and began to make her influence felt. In 1959, Verna qualified for the National Championships and, in April of that year, traveled to Vancouver to represent both Eastern Canada and, in reality, Ontario, in the National Championships. At this event, the West was victorious as the Ontario ladies lost to Winnipeg, who represented Western Canada.
Verna returned to the National stage in Niagara Falls and the Canadian Championships in 1961 and, under the coaching of Bob Totzke, the ladies team was successful.
With the formation of the Master Bowlers Association in 1964, Verna was ready for new challenges. Joining in 1968, Verna bowled 768 games and averaged 238.46. In 1977, bowling an average of 256, Verna earned the title of Tournament Ladies' Aggregate Champion. As well she won three other events, culminating with a win in January 1988, her last year in the Association. That final tourney win she qualified at 10 game score of 2583, and was undefeated in the 5 game match play with 1537 total. Her career ended that year, due to a severe heart attack and her recovery took nearly three years.
While Verna has returned to the bowling centre activity as a coach and volunteer, her career has been highlighted by several major achievements. Her 2505 ten game score in 1956 was extraordinary due to lane conditions available at the time. A 1000 triple in 1978 was further enhanced with a 2925 ten game score in 1987. Moreover a 1022 triple in 1959 was within twenty-seven pins of the all-time record held, at that time, by Hall of Famer, Bea Milton.
Verna and her husband Doug, were married in 1955 and have three children, Laura, Carol and Alan. In turn, there are six grandchildren and one great grand-son.
Today, Doug has Alzheimers disease, requiring constant care. Recently he has entered a nursing home and Verna now splits her time between his care, her family, and a few visits back to the bowling centre.