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'I'm gonna miss the people': Fern Valley Strike & Spare closes doors for last time after 22 years

Donald Graham, one of the bowling alley’s frequent patrons, said he will miss it. It’s the place he scored a perfect game.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Over half the lanes were full for Fern Valley Strike & Spare’s final day.

For four years, Jacob Yazell, the general manager, oversaw the clattering pins, greasy grill, and birthday parties that gave the place life. The dedicated manager was busy Labor Day, serving pizzas, looking over the books, and fishing out stuck bowling balls.

"It's my dream job, honestly. It's what I've wanted to do since I was 16 years old,” he said.

Yazell, a Morehead State sports management graduate, worked in four other bowling centers before managing Strike & Spare’s Fern Valley location.

"It's kind of surreal that I ended up in this location and that we had a lot of good things going for it. It's some unfortunate circumstances, why it's going, but I'm gonna miss the people, the tournaments, just the time spent in here," he said.

Donald Graham, one of the bowling alley’s frequent patrons, will miss it too. It’s the place he scored a perfect game. He keeps a print-out of his 300 score from that day in his wallet. 

“I finally done it,” he said, recalling the memory. “I been bowling for quite awhile.”

Graham’s been bowling since the 80s. Although he began during an Air Force tour in Japan, where he met his wife in 1962, he returned to the sport in 1984. 

Before Strike & Spare opened in Fern Valley, Graham was already bowling there. It was a different bowling business then, Pro Bowl 2. 

The last few years, Graham was a regular, meeting a revolving crew of three to five other men, Monday through Friday, around noon. Regardless of the special occasion, it’s safe to say Graham would’ve been at Strike & Spare anyway.

Lanes down, one family showed up just for their last bowl, though they’ve visited over the years for birthdays and time together.

"We didn't want to miss it. We come here and bowl all the time and [it’s] just sad to see it go,” Lorenzo Goatley said, bouncing his granddaughter on his knee. Behind him, his family kept their game going. 

Asked what he wants people to think of when they remember Fern Valley Strike & Spare, Goatley said “just the good times.”

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