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Handmade pinsetter brings bowling to Elmira retirement home

With ingenuity and reused parts, handmade pinsetter brings bowling to Elmira retirement home

Residents at Chartwell Retirement Residence in Elmira don’t have to go to a bowlerama to knock down some pins.

Chartwell’s maintenance man Jeff Beatty constructed a pulley system over the past two months that sets up the pins after they fall down, just like at a real bowling alley.

Some of the men at the retirement home gathered last Friday morning for breakfast and to test out the pulley system, which Beatty demonstrated as they rolled inflatable balls at the pins.

The idea came from resident Ray Erb who requested more bowling because they already had the bowling pins.

“We didn’t have anything to set them up and our staff and our volunteers grew tired of just placing them. And so Vicky [Rau] told this to me and I said, well how hard can it be, we’ll just make a bowling pinsetter. And so I threw one together and this is what I came up with. I used a standard 10-pin configuration, but I removed the back three pins because I thought it would cause issues with tangling and other problems,” Beatty said.

Rau, recreation manager at Chartwell, notes Beatty made good use of leftover items he found around the building, which he was able to reuse.

“Most of the materials I’ve recycled from curtain tracks and various things that we had kicking around here, all the aluminum is recycled and many of the other components. The tubes are cardboard carpet rolls,” Beatty explained.

He started building it at home during the Christmas holidays and just brought it in two weeks ago. Last Friday was the first real introduction to the residents.

The men who played were given the option of a small inflatable ball and a large one, about the size of a soccer ball.

They’re hoping to find a ball a little smaller than the inflatable soccer ball, but with some weight to it because some of them had difficulty gripping it.

“This today is to get all the bugs out. One of the bugs is that we need a heavier ball,” Rau said.

She asked Beatty how many times he took the pulley system apart once he began, but it seems the old adage “measure twice, cut once” rings true.

“None. The only thing I did was add a counterweight, which I anticipated I’d have to do,” Beatty said.

It breaks down into three pieces as well and folds for storage. And each piece is less than 30 pounds, so that’s manageable for the staff to set up and take down.

Whereas at a bowling alley you’re not allowed to lob the ball – due to the weight of a bowling ball hitting the floor – at Chartwell they can throw or roll it overhand if it’s easier for you.

It’s also accessible for everyone regardless of mobility issues because they can pull a chair right up to play.

“That’s what’s nice about it, it’s for both standing and sitting,” Rau said.

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