History of Rolle Bolle in Iowa – Archives

Playing a friendly game of Rolle Bolle during the fall of 1943.

Gene VANGAMPLEARE, and Delbert VANGAMPLEARE are getting geared up
to play a friendly game of Rolle Bolle during the fall of 1943.

History of Rolle Bolle in Iowa - Archives 1

Every Sunday and on holidays, the VANGAMPLEARES would have a party at someone’s farmhouse. And the men would undoubtedly play Rolle Bolle.

The game of Rolle Bolle is played on a dirt court. The bolle is made of hard wood or hard molded rubber or similar material, formed into a disc 6 to 8 inches in diameter and about 4 inches thick. It is slightly beveled to one side so that the bolle will turn towards the stake when rolled.

The game can be played with 2 to 6 players on the team, with each player having one bolle. Teams usually consist of 3 players. The object of the game is to roll your bolle as close to the stake as possible. After everyone from each team has bolled, the end is complete, so the winning team starts again by bolling to the opposite end in the same manner as before. The team scoring 8 points total wins the game.

History of Rolle Bolle in Iowa - Archives 1

Who's the winner?

Just Who Is The Winner?
Marcel HUYVAERT, Albert VANGAMPLEARE, Emiel BLOMME, Delbert VANGAMPLEARE, John VANGAMPLEARE, and Gene VANGAMPLEARE at a 1942 Rolle Bolle Game.

Rolle Bolle Champion

Bill DEBROWER (son of Arthur and Evelena DEBROWER) has been a Rolle Bolle player since he was a very young boy. He and his partners – Josh VAN THOURNOUT and LeRoy SUHR – finished second out of 35 teams in the World Rolle Bolle Tournament held July 16, 2000, at Annawan, IL. They also won the International Rolle Bolle tournament held August 13, 2000, at Marshall, MN, where 39 men’s teams competed with players from Canada, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Belgium.

History of Rolle Bolle in Iowa - Archives 1

1960 - Rolle Bolle tournament in Brooklyn, Iowa.

1960 — Young Jon WAGNER, flanked by his partners, Gene VANGAMPLEARE (left) and Albert VANGAMPLEARE, had a hand in rolling his team to first place money in the Rolle Bolle tournament held in Brooklyn, Iowa. More than 90 players participated.

Friends Circle a retreat for members | Archives

Curt Chapman rolls a rolle bolle Curt Chapman, left, rolls a rolle bolle toward the stake in the basement of the Friends' Circle Club in Moline.a friendly game in Moline, Iowa
Dispatch/Argus Photo By Chuck Thomas

MOLINE — The men were drinking beer at the horseshoe-shaped bar while the women played cards in the adjoining banquet hall.

Friends Circle long has been a popular weekday retreat for the local retirement set. The Belgian social club, a staple on Moline’s 7th Street, is one of the few places in town that still stocks Hamm’s beer and serves Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap.

It is perhaps one of the few social clubs where you can play rolle bolle in the basement or try archery upstairs. While the estimated 800 members of Friends Circle now include both women and non-Belgians, the club’s roots still are planted in the cultures of Belgium and Holland.

Established in the early 1900s — no one’s sure exactly what year — the Friends Circle originally was located above Model Printers on Moline’s River Drive. The membership moved its club uptown, to the basement of the Sunnyville Building on 9th Street, several years later.

Finally, Friends Circle moved to quarters upstairs at its current location at 701 18th Ave. By 1976 the club occuppied all three floors of the large, corner-lot building.

The beer, brats and rolle-bolle reputation of Moline’s 7th Street largely was earned by the members of Friends Circle.

“At one time, the club was strictly for those of Belgian or (Dutch) descent,” Friends Circle president Bill Fisher said. “As many of the older Belgians died, the rolle-bollers had to start taking women and non-Belgians.”

While rolle bolle remains a Friends Circle trademark, other signs of Belgian culture have faded over the years.

“The place was established as an Americanization opportunity for immigrants from Belgium and Holland,” Mr. Fisher said. “Obviously, immigration patterns have changed.”

While Moline once was recognized as the U.S. city with the second-highest Belgian population — Detroit is first — Mr. Fisher said he would guess the population now is spread throughout the Quad-Cities.

“Unfortunately, we’ve gotten away somewhat from the Belgian culture,” he said. “Though we do maintain the rolle bolle and archery, I’d like to see the place get back to a Belgian social club.”

Though slipping somewhat from its early ethnic ties, the Friends Circle continues to inspire a social-club camaraderie. Whether playing rolle bolle or euchre or drinking a Hamm’s at the horseshoe-shaped bar, members of Friends Circle have a place to belong.

The club’s modest membership fees are $10 a year for men and $5 a year for the women to belong to the auxiliary, and they buy some of the lowest-priced drinks in town, a seat at club parties and dinners, and reduced rates on hall rentals.

In addition to lower-level rolle bolle, a main-floor bar, kitchen and banquet hall, the third floor of Friends Circle also contains a bar, kitchen, banquet hall and stage. The halls are available to the public for rental.

— By Barb Ickes (January 26, 1998)

This article was retrieved from the Internet Archive at 13:58:00 on August 1, 2019 and originally published by Moline Dispatch.