Victor “Frenchy” Letourneau, 72, had an impressive and varied resume when he applied to be a bowling ambassador at Santa Fe Station in 2005.
Aside from being an avid bowler of more than 50 years, he was the former editor and publisher of a Las Vegas-based bowling newspaper, Ten Pin Alley. He had served in the Navy; worked as a contractor for NASA for 12 years; done analysis for Lockheed Martin Corp.; and been a part-time musician for a country western band.
Frenchy was attracted to the job after he helped his then-19-year-old son, Larry, get a job at the casino’s Bowling Welcome Center. He had retired the Ten Pin Alley newspaper, and had not been working. But about a month later, Frenchy applied and got the job.
“There was a time when both of us were working at the desk one day,” he said. “I was looking at him and I said, ‘Here we are. We’re in control of the bowling center. Father and son.’”
About two months into the job, Frenchy was asked to help host birthday parties at the bowling alley.
“It was more curiosity because I had no idea what it would entail,” he said. “We had a supervisor who was doing it, and he didn’t like it all. It’s not for everybody. It just seemed to fit for me.”
Frenchy said the job was “a piece of cake,” so he hosted more parties. In March 2005, he did 45 parties by himself, he said. His personal best is 14 parties in one day and four parties hosted at one time.
“They called me the party king,” he said.
Cathy McCloskey, manager of bowling operations, said Frenchy has increased the number of parties at the bowling alley.
“He is one of the best party ambassadors,” she said. “Whether it’s children or corporate events, he’s quite versatile in any party situation.”
McCloskey said that Frenchy’s lengthy background in bowling has been an advantage as well.
“He can actually talk to people about bowling, and he does take the time to do that,” she said. “You can’t always hire people who have bowling experience. Unfortunately, those who bowl already have jobs and don’t want to work here.”
And when Frenchy’s bosses realized they needed to hire more people to assist with increase in parties, they made him the bowling events coordinator.
Frenchy said the reason behind his success is his ability to put parents at ease.
“It was my interaction that makes the adult click,” he said. “I make eye contact and I make them feel warm and special and let them know, ‘I’m going to take care of what you need, and there should be nothing that you are concerned about.’”
He said his equation for a successful party is “happy parents equals happy kids.”
One mother, Shannon Holman, hosted her daughter Arabella’s birthday parties at the bowling alley for several years between her seventh and 18th birthdays. Her mother gave him a frame that has photos Arabella at a few of her parties at the casino over the years. Her younger brother also hosted a couple of birthday parties there. Frenchy still remembers those parties.
“He is a part of our birthday tradition,” Holman said. “… It wouldn’t be a bowling party without him.”
Frenchy retired four years ago but came back to work on call.
“The older you get … the less full-time stuff you want to do.”
Frenchy said that he wants to keep working at least 10 more years with the company.
“(I want to) work as long as they’ll have me. … I’ll be in my 80’s,” he said. “It’s not hard work. … Bowling and the kids have kept me active and in shape.
Wondering how Frenchy got his nickname? While he was in the Navy in 1963, the instructor was doing roll call and said, “I’m not going to try to pronounce this name with all of these letters.” Instead, he would just call him “Frenchy.” So, “Everyone just started calling me that, and it just stuck,” Frenchy said. He is the only person at the bowling center with a nickname on his nametag.