California Bowling Writers

March 22, 2007

Stunt Rider turned League Secretary
By Mary Lynly

Remember those "Oaters" (Westerns) with the impetuous young girl who takes off on her trusty steed and rides like the wind? Or, the one who is in peril and is whisked off the ground and careened up on the back of the hero's horse? That's my league secretary.

Born Sue Murphy in Boliver, Missouri, she and her 7 bothers and sisters were transported to Ventura in 1929 and eventually to a ranch in Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley.

Between the ages of 16 and 21, Sue Harris was "at one" with horses and did stunt riding for a Hollywood Studio. Her father raised horses and he would take pack trains into the mountains for deer hunters and Sue got to go. She envisioned accompanying the hunters and lots of excitement, but her father had other ideas and she was relegated to caring for the horses.

Being small and athletic, Sue had little problem learning to ride bareback and standing on her swift footed Palomino. Since the family ranch was next to the Iverson Ranch where many Westerns were shot, they soon took note of Sue's riding expertise and she found herself rubbing elbows with the likes of John Wayne, Roy Rogers and Spade Cooley. The stars often broke bread at the Murphy home and Sue recalls going to Bar-B-Q's at Roy Roger's ranch. Sue said she watched the San Fernando Valley grow from pastures into cities.

At 16, Sue met and married Jim Harris, a marriage that would last 48 years. World War II was in full swing and five months later Jim was drafted! During the time he was in the service Sue continued to do stunt riding. In 1951 Sue and Jim were blessed with a baby daughter but tragedy struck when the little girl got Spinal Meningitis and died. The Harris's were devastated but three years later, and weighing in at 118 pounds, Sue delivered twins - a boy and a girl which helped the healing process from their prior loss.

One of the twins developed asthma problems and the Harris's were advised to relocate. The third move to Pollack Pines finally saw improvement for their son. Jim worked as an engineer and most of his jobs were on large dam sites which kept him away from home during the week a lot. When Sue's neighbor approached her about bowling on her team, Sue laughed because she had never had a bowling ball in her hands. Her neighbor said, "No problem, we need a low bowler and I will teach you!" At 38 years old, Sue started bowling. Her first game - 79 and first average 109, but she got the bug and got her first bowling ball with Blue Chip Stamps, a 10 pound ball.

Since Pollack Pines was not necessarily a convenient location, Sue finally grew weary of transporting the kids day after day on her own and once again, the family relocated to Citrus Heights, California. "Moving was agonizing" she said, because Jim was away so much she ended up juggled kids and making trip after trip moving into their new home. The struggle was compounded by having no electricity or gas when they moved in - only water! To further compound the problems, their dog Sniffles was hit by a porcupine!

Her family now grown, Sue took a hiatus from bowling and took a job with Willets Importers and traveled all over Northern California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington setting up gift shows. Being a born leader, Sue ended up in charge of seven representatives who answered to her. With Jim still away a lot this worked out well and she continued to work at it for ten years. It was a job with a lot of responsibility and the traveling finally got to her and she decided to retire. This is when she got back into bowling.

Of course, she became President of a league and soon took over for the secretary. She loved the work and was good at it and was secretary of as many as three leagues at a time (and bowled in all of them!) She became an instructor and certified coach and was proud of the fact that Steve Cook was in her youth league at Fireside Lanes. At one point, she was also a stockholder in Fireside Lanes when the bowl ran into financial trouble and needed help.

Believe it or not, bowling is not all Sue does and she has many interests. She turned 80 this year and other than a hip replacement that sidelined her for awhile (she still did the secretarial work) she continues to bowl. In fact, Sue rolled her highest game ever, a 240, this season. She says she is still in a state of shock over that. She is dependable when it comes to caring for her "flock" and she is still perky little Sue Murphy.