Don’t let anyone be fooled, the senior citizens who congregate every Tuesday morning at the bocce court in the Chelsea Commons may tell one that they’re just there to socialize, but it becomes pretty plain by the “oohs” and “ahhs” at every bowl that these folks are pretty serious about their game.
The league is sponsored by the Chelsea Senior Center, and has been going for 10 years. However, long-time bocce bowlers Kenny and Pat Hyland will tell you the league goes back as many as 18 years.
“I’ve been with it for 18 years or so,” said Ken Hyland on Monday, as the league held a make-u
p contest. “We’ve been at several locations. There was a league even before that too.”
League President Clara Lander said the league typically plays at Voke Park, but had to relocate this year due to construction on the park. About 40 or so seniors from Chelsea come regularly and the season lasts from April to September – with a break up banquet every October.
“Everybody loves playing,” said Landers. “Everybody comes to play bocce and to have fun. We are pretty good though. There can be some good competition between teams, but nobody is going to kill anyone over it. We just all love each other and get together and enjoy it. People do get competitive though and they take it seriously.”
The league welcomes all seniors, from those just recently retired to folks as old as 90-plus.
“I do have three or four in their 90s,” said Lander. “A lot of them still bowl too.”
Donna Bongiovanni is in her first year at the league with her husband, Nino Bongiovanni, both who are recently retired.
“Everybody’s wonderful,” she said. “If someone new comes in, they open up their arms to us. My husband and I recently retired and joined this year and they opened up their arms to us. We’re all young at heart here.”
And it’s evident from the game.
“One, Green,” yelled Referee Chet Lander, calling out the score on Monday.
“I’m the referee, and it’s the easiest job in the world – until the want a measurement,” he said.
Shortly after that, there was a bit of a dispute about which ball was closest. Lander was called to measure the length and no one was quite sure what the outcome would be – and it was crucial to the close contest. All the team members gathered around to see the outcome.
“See what I mean,” he said with a laugh, putting his measuring string back in his pocket.
Most do enjoy the game, but the consensus is that the league is good exercise and good conversation.
“I do enjoy it,” said Mary Carbone. “It’s great to get outside and the people are very good here. It’s also good exercise. They really need more stuff like this for seniors to do in Chelsea.”
Carol Phillips and Mary Casucci both said they transferred their bowling interests over to the bocce league.
“About three years ago, a friend met someone from the league and she joined,” said Casucci. “She told a friend about it and that friend joined. That friend told me and next thing you know I was coming too. We bowl two times a week. We all enjoy everyone getting together and it’s a fun time too. It’s good to be out with other people enjoying the summer weather. It’s certainly better than staying in the house.”
Cindy Millman said she had never played bocce, but picked it up quickly after joining this year.
“It’s really so much fun,” she said. “It’s my first year and I had never played before. I was a good bowler and so I decided to try this too. I loved it from the beginning. I look forward to coming every week.”
FRONT 3012 –
The Senior Citizen Bocce League is in full force every Tuesday morning at the Chelsea Commons Park, a temporary location until Voke Park is finished. The League is good competition and great camaraderie, local seniors say. Here, Nino Bongiovanni gives some advice to Irene Malachowski before she bowls during a make-up match Monday morning. League President Clara Lander said the current league has been ongoing for 10 years, but summer bocce leagues in Chelsea go back nearly 20 years.
Referee Chet Lander calls out the score as interested players look on.
The competition can get heated sometimes, and here Referee Chet Lander is called to make a measurement on who gets the point.
Alfred Uminski bowls during a game on Monday morning at Chelsea Commons.
Marie Diamond racked up the points on Monday for her team.