For Baltimore’s Fern Scotland, It was a long road to bowling’s pinnacle

by: AFRO Staff Nov. 15, 1986 National Edition
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Fern Scotland, an inspiration for blacks. (AFRO Archives Photo)

For Black History Month, the AFRO presents a series of articles highlighting important local heroes from the paper’s archives. This week we spotlight Fern Scotland, the first Black woman to inducted into the Greater Baltimore Bowling Hall of Fame.

Until last Saturday, the illustrious roaster of the Greater Baltimore Bowling Hall of Fame was an all-white compilation of women enshrinees.

That 17-year monopoly ended on Nov. 1 with the induction of Fern Louise Scotland, she becoming the first black woman so honored as were George Lee and the late Dave Gregory among the men in 1979.

For her it was a long, testing journey to recognition.

As presenter Rose Beall described her:

Scotland was born in Cattaragus County, Salamanca, New York, on April 8, 1919. At age six, Fern and her family migrated to Baltimore. She was raised in the Druid Hill Avenues and Hoffman Street areas. Fern attended the Baltimore Public School Systems and was graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in 1936. She returned to New York briefly when she attended New York City College.

Upon settling back in Baltimore, Fern graduated the Cortez-Peters Business School. She has attempted many vocations during her lifetime including domestic service, a riveter for General Motors, and a proprietor of a bowling center which she also managed.

At the present time, Fern is employed as an engraver at Capitol Pro Shop.

In 1940 Fern enrolled in swimming classes at the YMCA and there she met her devoted friend, Estella M. Finks.

“Peanuts,” as Estella is known, was the first to introduce Fern to bowling, encouraging her to join a duckpin league at the YMCA. In 1943, Fern attempted to bowl tenpins at the Strand Bowling Alley under the leadership of Stanley Jackson of the National Bowling Association.

After years of competing in the Eastern Major League and local leagues under the sanction of the NBA, Fern had to set aside her bowling career for a few years.

She again became involved in bowling in her continuing efforts to make a successful way of life, when she and “Peanuts” purchased the New Walbrook Bowling center on West North Avenue in 1955.

During the 25 years as an owner-operator of the New Walbrook Bowling Center, Fern actively promoted and encouraged participation in the Baltimore WBA local tournaments. She put together many teams and was the sponsor of several of the teams. If you were a league member in her center, Fern made certain you bowled in the local association tournaments. Fern never had an unsanctioned league in her bowling center. In 1980, due to the unavailability of loan money, Fern reluctantly gave up ownership of the bowling center.

Prior to the existence of the Maryland State WBA, Fern served on the Virginia State WBA holding the office of 3rd vice president and 2nd vice president. While a member if Virginia State, Fern bowled in every Virginia State tournament.

She has a service record on the Baltimore WBA Board of Directors of Sgt-at-Arms ten years, and 19 years as a director. She is still serving women tenpin bowlers in this capacity. She was a board member of the Chesapeake Bay Bowling Senate of the NBA and also secretary-treasurer of the Baltimore Bowling Proprietors Association. She was a member of the Board of Governors of the Maryland State Proprietors Association and a member of the Baltimore Bowling Council since its inception and she served that council as chairman for several years.

Fern was instrumental in encouraging blacks to bowl. Prior to 1952, she bowled under the National Bowling Association sanction because at that time the American Bowling Congress prohibited blacks from becoming members.

Prior to the passage legislation in the middle 1950s which changed this situation, Fern was requested not to become a part of the Baltimore Bowling Proprietors Association, even though she was an owner-operator of a bowling center.

After the passage of this legislation, she was allowed to become a member. During her active involvement with the Chesapeake Bay Bowling Senate of the NBA, Fern helped bring its membership up from 40 to over 300 members.

During her operation of the New Walbrook Bowling Center, Fern was responsible for many youth leagues and ran a youth travel league for the BBPA.

She is a certified bowling instructor and also a Brunswick certified automatic pinsetter mechanic.

During her 25 years as owner-operator of New Walbrook Bowing Center, Fern started the leagues, acted as a secretary of many, and did the mechanical work on the equipment as well as prepared the lanes for normal operations.

Not only an active promoter of the sport of tenpin bowling, for many years Fern performed very well on the lanes. She was invited to bowl in and usually placed somewhere in the money in most local association tournaments. She was Baltimore WBA’s scratch and handicap champion for All Events in 1959.

For her dedication and service to women tenpin bowlers in the Baltimore area, Baltimore Women’s Bowling Association is proud to induct Fern L. Scotland into its hall as a member in the Meritorious Service category.

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