In his “comfy” shoes, a bowling ball in his hand, Bill Olson, donning a WWII veteran cap, stepped up to the freshly greased alley. With the determination of a champion, he took aim and cheered as the ball rolled into the gutter.
Olson didn’t mind the score, because after all, he had crossed the century mark.
Oct. 19, 2018 was a day the Army man thought he’d never see—his 100th birthday.
“What am I doing here,” said Bill Olson, laughing. “Being 99, I thought I’d never make 100.”
The Arleta resident calls Valencia Lanes, on Lyons Avenue, his second home.
“I can only aspire to bowl and have that attitude at 100 years old,” said Yvette Mossontte, Valencia Lanes manager. “We are so blessed to have him. We get to see him every week, like WOW! We have to count our blessings. He’s inspiring.”
Olson has bowled in the alley’s senior league for the past three years.
“Bill used to bowl at our sister company, Mission Hills Bowl, and it closed 3 years ago,” Mossontte said. “A lot of bowlers in this league have been bowling with Bill for years. When Mission closed, they all came here. They’ve bowled with his since day one.”
Day one for him was 20 years ago, in 1998 at 80 years old, Olson picked up a bowling ball for the first time. His son Glen Olson was throwing a party for family and friends at a bowling alley.
“He rolled 10 gutter balls in a row, and then he hit one pin and he was hooked,” said his son Glen Olson. “He went out and found a senior league to join the next week and he’s been bowling ever since.”
Bill Olson braves every stance with a smile and is just there to have fun, he said.
“One of the reasons he probably made 100 is because everyday he says, ‘What fun thing am I gonna do today. He’s just got a great personality and great attitude,” Glen Olson said.
Bill Olson was born in 1918 in Minot, N.D.
He lived through the dust bowl age, and moved to Los Angeles in 1923 with his parents and six siblings after his family went broke, his son said.
Olson was drafted as an Army engineer in 1942. He sailed across seas on the Queen Elizabeth to England, where he was stationed for a year before being sent to fight the Germans in WWII, he said.
On June 6, 1944 Olson landed on the beaches of Normandy for what is now known as D-day.
“I heard a few bullets go by,” he said.
When the war was over, Olson travelled back to the states on the Queen Mary.
For his 90th birthday, Olson and his son walked the ship together.
“They opened up all the doors and asked what he remembered,” Glen Olson said.
A few years after arriving in the states Olson married his wife, Luella, in 1951. The couple was married for 44 years before she passed away in 1995.
He continues to have a positive outlook on life, inspiring his son and others around him.
“My dad has always been my hero,” Glen Olson said.
“He’s got just such a wonderful disposition on life, always smiling. He flirts with every woman available, whether they are available or not,” Mossontte said.
The ladies man has enjoyed a lifetime of hobbies, including reading romance novels, singing in a barbershop quartet for 30 years and owning a platers and polishers shop during the 70s and 80s, his son said. “He’s one of the last generation of master platers and polishers in California.”
In his century of life, Olson has had his fair share of accidents, he said. From car crashes to flying bullets in WWII, he thanks the Lord for keeping him around this long.
“I feel very grateful to the Lord that I’m here and I’m 100 years old and in good health,” he said.
Oct. 19, 2018 will be a day, he remembers, bowling beside his friends and his son.
“I had a lot of people come up and shake my hand saying, “Happy birthday,’ and I think that’s me,” Bill Olson said, with a grin on his face laughing. “I don’t want to be famous, I just want to be old.”