Interview with Jim Channon of the Calgary Winter Club
How and when did you get your start in the bowling business?
My family joined the Calgary Winter Club (CWC) in 1972. I tried all the sports at the Club including Bowling, which I really enjoyed. I started working part-time at the Bowling Centre while going to William Aberhart High School in the mid-1970’s. When I graduated in 1977, I worked in downtown offices for a few years. Then I was offered the job to manage the Bowling Centre at the CWC at the age of 20. I was going to do it for a couple of years and see where it went from there. I didn’t know at the time that this opportunity would lead to a long, fun and rewarding career.
Has it changed much over the years?
Absolutely! When I first started at the Club, the focus was on Bowling leagues. In fact, we had two leagues per night at 7 and 9 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Over the years, the Club has expanded significantly and now there are so many other choices for the members. In the mid-90’s, I realized that we were not just a sport, we were also in the entertainment business. That’s when we started offering fun novelties like Talent Show Banquets (where the Malcolm girls performed) and “Glow Bowling” with disco lights and great music. In the past ten years, we have upgraded our sound and light system and now offer music videos and sports on big screens, as well. Also, bowlers can now play both 5-pin and 10-pin bowling, enjoy bar service and let automatic scoring count your strikes.
What are the main challenges of your job?
For years, Bowling was considered a “blue collar” sport played by TV characters such as Ralph Kramden and Fred Flintstone. Movies such as “King Pin” and “The Big Lebowski” did little to improve Bowling’s image. I have seen Bowling Centres close down in many private clubs across Canada due to low usage. I feel we have been very successful in bucking this trend at the CWC. In fact, Bowling has some of the higher per capita usage stats at the Club in recent surveys. But we cannot stand on our laurels. We are in direct competition with entertainment opportunities such as Netflix and video gaming, just to name a few.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really enjoy the interaction with the members, their families and guests. It’s also great to see the generations of families at the Club, just like the Malcolm family. Your parents, Tom and Pat Malcolm, were Charter members of the Club, and you and your family have continued to be members to this day. Tom was an avid Curler, Pat bowled in our leagues for many years, and your wife, Marilyn, presently plays in our Tuesday Ladies League. Most of my friends are from the CWC, and I was lucky enough to meet my wife, Jane, at the Club.
Are there any particular funny incidents that stand out over the years?
I will always remember coming to work one day in the ’80’s and there was a moose in the Swimming Pool. He had come down from Nose Hill, saw the water through the windows, found his way in and jumped in the pool. He was not going to be stopped!
You are a huge Calgary Stampeders and Flames fan. What drives this passion?
I played organized football and hockey at Triwood Community Centre growing up and thoroughly enjoyed both sports. The Stamps won the Grey Cup in 1971 after many years of getting close, and I was hooked. I would find any way to get to the games, including sitting in the endzone in the free School Patrol section. For hockey, I was a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs until the Flames came to town. Again, I took every opportunity to try and get to the games at the Corral and the Saddledome. Just like the Stamps, the Flames were knocking at the door for many years before they finally won the Stanley Cup in 1989. I feel that to have civic pride, you should support the teams from your city. And, I feel Calgary is one of the best places to live in the world!
What brought you joy this week?
Right now, we are living through the challenging Covid-19 Pandemic. What brings me joy is to see the seniors that are surviving this horrible virus. Some of the amazing people are close to, or over, the age of 100. The scenes of families celebrating birthdays with seniors using “social distancing” drive-by parades also bring me joy. To me, these seniors have been so inspirational through these tough times!