Evelyn Slobasky and her husband Harry were pivotal figures in the growth of Windsor’s bowling community, beginning in the 1960s. Specifically, the Slobaskys built, owned, and operated Windsor’s Crescent Lanes bowling centre, which was an innovative and important facility for several decades.
Slobasky was born in Yugoslavia on June 5, 1922. She immigrated to Toronto in 1930 alongside her parents, five sisters, and one brother. The family found its way to Kent County in 1935 and then Windsor in ’40. Evelyn married Harry Slobasky in 1942. He passed away in 1977.
Harry and Evelyn Slobasky became involved in the Windsor bowling community through their work in the hotel business. Harry’s sister and her husband owned the Munro Hotel, which was located at the corner of Pitt and Goyeau. Unfortunately, illness struck, and the couple was unable to operate their property. Harry leased the business and assumed control. Harry soon noticed that the Munro sponsored many bowling teams, most of which would come back to the hotel after their games. He decided that a dedicated bowling centre would be a good investment.
In 1944, the Slobaskys built “Old” Crescent Lanes (which later became Parkview Lanes) on Ottawa Street across from Lanspeary Park. It was difficult to obtain a building permit in the midst of World War II, so the Slobaskys approached Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors to obtain letters of support. The letters indicated that the companies needed recreation activities for their employees, who were working long hours in support of the war effort. In particular, the comptroller at Chrysler was very supportive. He helped to convince the federal government to approve the Slobaskys’ application to build, which the City of Windsor then endorsed.
Eventually, the completed Crescent Lanes offered both five- and ten-pin bowling. From the beginning, the Slobaskys worked long hours, sponsored softball and other sports teams, and introduced several new and innovative ideas to promote the sport of bowling. At the outset, neither Slobasky had ever bowled before; the husband-and-wife team invited some of the top bowlers from Detroit and other American cities to come to Crescent and instruct them and other bowlers on how to play the game. The Slobaskys also began to attend bowling seminars to learn the basics of the sport. Over time, they learned how to run a successful bowling centre, and Evelyn became an outstanding instructor. Eventually, she was an outstanding bowler herself. Over the years, Evelyn taught thousands of area bowlers.
In 1944, the Slobaskys established Windsor’s first men’s Classic (no handicap) league. The following year, they began to run fundraising competitions between Windsor and Detroit teams to benefit charities like the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Goodfellows, and Easter Seals. Also that decade, Crescent assisted in the establishment of the Big Brothers Bowl-A-Thon Fundraiser, which continued to raise $100,000 annually in 2000.
In 1948, Crescent established Windsor’s first ladies’ Classic league and founded the Annual International Mixed Doubles Tournament. The competition awarded $25,000 in total prizes, including a $10,000 grand prize. The event still existed at the time of Evelyn’s induction into the WECSHOF, then attracting 1,000 bowlers from Canada and the United States.
The Slobaskys continued to build the local bowling scene into the 1950s and ’60s. They hosted the first Molson Masters Tournament, which they continued to host until 1995, when its popularity necessitated a move to a much larger facility. In 1957, Crescent became the first bowling alley in Canada to install ten-pin automatic pinspotters and the first in Ontario to install a Brunswick Automatic Scoring System. Crescent Lanes was also the first bowling centre in Windsor to obtain an LLBO licence.
In 1964 Evelyn founded the Essex County Junior 10-Pin Bowling Association for bowlers ages 4 to 21. Windsor’s first such program, it initially attracted 460 members. By 1990, there were 2,600. Evelyn served as President for until 1991 – 28 years in total. Evelyn also initiated an awards system that categorized Junior bowlers by age group. The scheme allowed kids to compete against others at the same skill level, so they wouldn’t get discouraged. The program began when a number of Grade 6 to 8 students from J. E. Benson Public School, under the leadership of teacher Lee Van Luven, came to Evelyn for instruction.
As the years progressed and bowling became more and more popular, Crescent’s 12 lanes were not enough to accommodate the swelling demand. In 1965, the Slobaskys purchased the “Current” Crescent Lanes, which was then called Palace Recreation, and transformed it into a ten-pin establishment. The centre, located at Parent and Ottawa, had 24 lanes. They retained “Old” Crescent Lanes, which became a strictly five-pin alley, and renamed it Parkview Lanes. Evelyn eventually sold the facility in 1995.
Evelyn also significantly contributed to the sport in an administrative capacity. Since 1944, she has served as an executive member of numerous bowling leagues in our region. In 1973, Evelyn founded the Windsor Area Women’s Bowling Association (WAWBA). She served as its President from then until 1989. From 1976-89 she was a director of the Ontario Women’s Bowling Association, and since ’90 she has been a director of the Windsor Area Bowling Council, which promotes bowling in many ways. Particularly, the Council is involved in the organization of charity tournaments. To this end, Crescent inaugurated in 1975 an in-house Easter Seals Tournament that raises several thousand dollars each year.
Evelyn was herself an excellent competitive bowler. Most notably, she won the prestigious Molson Masters Tournament in 1964, and she was the High Qualifier for the same tournament in ’69. She held the Windsor woman’s record for the highest three-game series (682 points) from 1963 to ’76. In 1973, Evelyn represented Windsor at the Canadian 10-Pin Federation Singles Championships in Montreal. That same year, she teamed with Kay Stanko to win the silver medal for Canada at the Tournament of Americas in Miami, which involved 32 competing countries. She was selected to the WAWBA All-Star Team in every year from 1974 to ’77.
Evelyn was inducted into the Windsor Area Women’s Bowling Association Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Ontario Women’s Bowling Association Hall of Fame in ’99. She was granted an Honourary Membership by the Rotary Club of Windsor in 1989, making her the first female Rotarian.
At the time of her induction, Evelyn Slobasky still put in seven-day workweeks as President of Crescent Lanes.