ILWACO - When Dick Watrous retired he came to the beach to fish, but along the way he also became a mainstay at Hilltop Bowl and he's enjoyed both of his favorite pursuits here for 25 years and counting.
Watrous grew up in Camas and graduated from high school there in 1942. Like most men during that time, he entered the service after earning his sheepskin. "I was in the Navy for three and a half years and served in the South Pacific," Watrous explains. "I was on a baby carrier (USS White Plains) in the Battle of Lady Gulf. We took quite a beating that day, but thank God the Japanese decided to run. I was involved in many island invasions." He also served on transport ships going to Alaska and through the Panama Canal to Norfolk, Va., during World War II.
After the war Watrous went to work for Crown Zellerbach at their Camas mill as a maintenance man and later retired after 40 years. "Crown Z was nice enough to give me credit for my time in the servicetoward retirement ," Watrous says. While in Camas Watrous' son sponsored a bowling team and in the 1950s he joined the team and began bowling in earnest. He currently is active in the Thursday evening Harbor League at Hilltop Bowl. He has enjoyed Flying Eagles tournaments sponsored by the Eagles Club, including a memorable tournament in Reno and several state tournaments.
His best single game of bowling was a classic. "I had eight or nine strikes in a row and then rolled a spare. I struck out the rest of the way to finish with a 287. My average was about 175, but lately has gone down a few pins each year to where it is now at about 147."
Watrous was an exceptional baseball and basketball player in his younger days. "I loved to pitch and I also played just about every position in baseball. In 1957 our Vancouver team went to the Nationals. We won one game before losing our next two," he recalls. He also played high school basketball for Camas and semi-pro hoops in the Portland area for several seasons.
Watrous, a youthful 83, still takes his boat, a 26-foot Stamas he named Renegade, across the Columbia River bar to fish for salmon and tuna and he also enjoys sturgeon fishing in the river. Another of his pursuits is hunting in the local area. "My main goal is stay vertical," he jokes. "I am working on my heart rehabilitation right now. The doctors have told me to keep going and they haven't put a stop to my bowling."
Watrous says of bowling, "I enjoy competing, it is good exercise, and there are always nice people you meet. The best part of bowling is the camaraderie." His advice is, "Stay active and don't sit in that chair and just watch TV or that will be it."
About the only sitting Watrous does is while waiting his turn between strikes in bowling and while waiting for strikes on the Renegade when he's out fishing in the Pacific Ocean.