Update: Services Pending for Cincinnati Bowling Icon Erv Hoinke Jr.

by Bob Johnson 0

From the mid- to late-20th century, certain names became synonymous with the bowling business in certain cities.

In Indianapolis, it was Don Mitchell, who operated the Royal Pin Leisure Centers chain. In Milwaukee, it was Dick Richards, operator of the Red Carpet chain of centers. And in Cincinnati, it was the Hoinke family, long-time operators of the famed Hoinke Classic and owners of Western Bowl.

Mitchell died in 2012. Richards passed away last October. And on Monday, a member of Cincinnati’s famous bowling family, Erv Hoinke Jr., died. He was 82.

While Hoinke’s father created the tournament that carried the family name, it was “Junior” who took it to another level, adding various events that helped spike participation and bolster the prize fund. At its height, the Hoinke Classic paid out well over $1 million per year.

The history of the tournament shows that it originated at, appropriately enough, Hoinke Lanes in the West Price Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati. In the late 1950s, some of the Hoinke tournament events were moved to the much larger Western Bowl, a 64-lane center built by three local businessmen in Green Township. In 1970, the entire tournament was conducted at Western.

Once the family gained ownership of the center, Hoinke was among the first to invest in sound and special effects lighting systems, as well as synthetic lanes.

"Erv Hoinke stood head and shoulders above the norm, especially when it came to integrity," said Jim Bennett, former Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing for Brunswick Bowling. "The bowling world knew who he was and what he stood for."

Today, the Hoinke Classic continues to be operated, but no longer with family involvement. The 72nd edition is scheduled to run through November 22.

Services for Erv Hoinke Jr. are pending.

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.

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