John Powell Jr. Inducted 2004 - Class of 1942
Not only is John "Junior" Powell arguably the best bowler to come out of Toledo, but he is also, most definitely, the best bowling promoter to come out of the area. In John's case, it is not "3 strikes, you're out." Rather, it’s 3 strikes, and you're on your way to a perfect 300 game!
John was born on October 1, 1924 and was raised in Toledo by his mother, Tillie, and father, John (Jake). "My parents named me John Pawlowski, Jr. I am of Polish descent. I grew up in a Polish neighborhood, on Hudson Street, 2 blocks north of Woodward High."
As a boy, John spent much of his time at the old Mercury Bowling Alley on Stickney and Oakland Avenues, where his father would bowl under the last name, "Powell". While working as a pinsetter, John became interested in bowling.
At Woodward, John's best friends were Robert Wysocki and Norman Sobecki. His favorite teacher
was Mr. Sheline. Bowling has always been a major focus in John's life, and he would often skip school to take care of the lanes at the bowling alley. John began bowling competitively at age14. By the age of 15, he already carried a 192 average. John dropped out of Woodward during his sophomore year to concentrate on bowling. "I remember Mr. Meeks, who used to counsel me when I would skip school to set pins. He tried to encourage me to stay in school, but I didn't. I regret that decision now. I told him I was going to be the best bowler in Toledo. I left school and followed my dream."
Between the ages of 16 and 18, John earned money by working as an alley man and winning match-play games. John's bowling career was interrupted by military service. From 1943-1946, John served in the Marine Corps during World War II, seeing action in the Philippines for 1 1/2 years. But even the war couldn’t keep him from his passion. When John contracted a virus, he was sent to Oregon for rehabilitation. Toward the end of his stay, he began running the local bowling center. After his military discharge, John spent a minimum of three hours bowling every day over the next 24 years of his life. "That's all I wanted to do."
At age 21, John resumed working at Mercury Lanes and bowling in ABC (American Bowling Congress) affiliated leagues under the name John "Junior" Powell. He bowled with his father in a league from 1948 to 1952, and they both averaged around 200. John dominated the Toledo area’s top men's league for 17 years. He was the Toledo match-play champion 14 times during the period from 1949 to 1966, and was a touring pro in 1958 and 1959. John also had his own local bowling television show, "Beat Junior Powell," from 1965 to 1967.
John captured 11 ABC City tournament titles and won 23 championships outside of Toledo. He also racked up 14 city match-play titles and was the Ohio State Match Play Champion twice. John’s achievements include 23 Knights of Columbus State Championship titles and 1 K of C National Championship Title. From 1966-1969, John was plagued by back and knee problems, requiring surgery, but he staged a comeback in the early 70's and continued to compete.
In 1952, John took his first step into the business side of bowling, when he opened a bowling supply pro shop with his friend, Walter Johnson. He then helped build and promote three of the largest bowling centers in Toledo: Glass Bowl Lanes (1959 - 36 lanes), Imperial Lanes (1963 – 60 lanes), and Southwyck Lanes (1972 - 64 lanes). Joe Veres, who was Powell's business partner at Southwyck, said that the key to his friend’s success was his ability to make connections and organize tournaments. "He's probably the top bowler to come out of Toledo, and he certainly was the area's best promoter." In 1972, John joined forces with bowling legend Don Carter and has built 16 bowling centers across the country. He is still a general partner with Carter in 6 centers.
Statistically, John reached several milestones, all sanctioned, during his bowling career: One 300 game (Detroit); five 299 games; three 298 games; one 297 game; and highest three-game total of 805. John achieved several tournament all-event high scores, including a record 2200, 2154, 2139, 2112, 2049, and 2027. Remarkably, over a 30-year period, John's ABC tournament average was 192. Experts note that a 192 average is deceiving, compared to today's scores. "He would average 250 on today's lane conditions in Toledo."
1963 was a year of honors for John. He was inducted into the Toledo Bowling Association Hall of Fame, the City of Toledo Hall of Fame, and was crowned "King of Toledo Bowlers". On March 19, 2000, John fulfilled his ultimate dream, when he was inducted into the ABC National Hall of Fame. He was the only inductee in the year 2000. "It was unbelievable that I was the only guy to be inducted in the new millennium." At that time, John had competed against 137 of the 187 bowlers in the Hall of Fame.
John has three children: daughters, Vicky and Lou Ann, and son, Dale. He also has two stepsons, Peter and Gary Zamis. John and his wife, June, have eight grandchildren. "My wife is an accomplished bowler in her own right. She has bowled in 29 WIBC Tournaments, and is a past champion in the team event. She also has City and State championship titles to her credit."
John is now involved in standard-bred horse ownership and racing. He sold the bowling centers in Toledo, and currently resides in Maumee, Ohio and Palm Harbor, Florida.
John was shocked when he was notified of his election to the WHS Hall of Fame. "I did not graduate from Woodward. When learning of this honor. I was very pleased that my accomplishments were recognized by WHS."
An article appearing in the Toledo Blade in 2000 summed up John "Junior" Powell's career nicely. “As one looks back at John's record, as Toledo's most successful bowler, he has assumed a multitude of titles: pinsetter, touring pro, bowling center designer, builder, promoter, proprietor and manager. John turned his unquenchable love of bowling into a profitable livelihood, as a top-end bowler, and then built a thriving business based on his lifelong passion."
A 300 score in bowling is known as a Perfect Game. Today is a Perfect Day, as John Powell is inducted into the WHS Hall of Fame.