Still knockin' ?em down

By Ed Brock

Orman Purvis' bowling opponents just have to win.

"They can't have an 87-year-old beat them," Purvis said.

Mary Alice Gladin, 65, is one of the youngsters gunning for Purvis when they hit the lanes at AMF Embassy Row Lanes bowling alley on Old Dixie Road in Forest Park every Monday. She bowls with the Primetime Bowlers and plays on the same team as Purvis, the VIP Bowling League, every Thursday.

"He's excellent. He's got a 167 average ? He wants to win all the time," Gladin said. "He can throw a curve ball, not just straight. He buys different kinds of balls and drills holes in them to throw them in different ways."

Purvis isn't the only over-80 player in the league, though he is the oldest.

"They're still active. They not only bowl but they do volunteer work," Gladin said. "It's just an inspiration to talk to these people. Most people are giving up at that age."

Originally from Willacoochee in south Georgia, Purvis now lives in Conley. He graduated from high school there in 1934 and joined the U.S. Marine Corps from 1934 to 1938.

After that he moved to the Atlanta area and got a job at a very young Army Fort Gillem.

"When I started working there I was working for the construction quarter master while it was being built," Purvis said.

He rejoined the military in 1944 and fought at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and after the war he returned to Fort Gillem and served as chief of security from 1956 to 1974. He married his first wife Mary and they had two daughters.

Mary Purvis died in 1994 and Orman restarted the bowling he had quit after playing for four or five years in the late 1950s. He's also remarried to his second wife Margaret White Purvis and moved to Conley from Forest Park in 1996.

The bowling is just part of Purvis' general outlook that has led to his long life.

"I've always tried to look on the bright side of everything," Purvis said.

The bowling leagues also offer him an opportunity for good fellowship and meeting good people. And he admits to having a desire for the competition.

"Although I'm old I still like to see if I can stay with some of the young ones," Purvis said.

Other Embassy Row customers often stop and ask manager Derek Wilson how old the senior league players are.

"They say probably around 70 and I say probably older than that. They just don't believe it," Wilson said. "I get a kick out of it, I really do."

Wilson said he admires the players for their commitment to the game, a kind of commitment that is rarely seen these days. He hopes he'll still be bowling when he's 87.

"I at least hope I'm getting around as good as they do," Wilson said.