Joe Sharkey was the patriarch of a family of two sons and four daughters, 15 grandchildren and one great grandchild at the time of his death, December 13, 1970.
In his younger years he was a shoemaker employed by local shoe shops and later as the co-proprietor of a grocery store on Ashland Street opposite where the elderly high-rise is today.
One of the city’s better bowlers, Joe entered the bowling business in 1936 when he established the candlepin alleys on the second and third floors of the nearly-dormant Sampson shoe factory on Marshall Street next to the bridge. Joe called the place, “The Casino” and it became, in short order, the largest bowling establishment in the city of North Adams.
Joe and his son, Carl, ran a clean business that catered to league bowling and to women who were showing a surprising interest in the new enterprise. Carl, who operated a sign-manufacturing business in the same building, helped his father by sharing the long hours required to run the establishment.
In its heyday of the late ‘Thirties and through the next decade, the Casino served many leagues on week nights and attracted crowds of spectators during weekend “money matches” when Joe and Carl, two of the city’s top bowlers, rolled against top-drawer teams locally and others from the Springfield area. Joe arranged many bowling events for the benefit of the March of Dimes. He had a large collection of trophies won in championship tournaments.
There were a few area men who enjoyed bowling “ten pins” including Joe himself--a prelude to today’s Mount Greylock Bowl.
The Casino was damaged by water during a two-alarm fire in the building February 4, 1949 but it survived and lasted until plans were announced in 1958 to tear down the building in the first phase of the city’s urban renewal plan in the ‘Sixties.
Joe Sharkey, whose real last name was Sarchi, was born in the province of Pavia, Italy; came to this country in 1897 when he was 12 years old and lived in North Adams for 72 years.
Active in community events he was a life member of the Elks.
A generous man and one interested in community events; he was host each year to a Christmas party for his “pinboys” when he lavished them with entertainment and individual gifts.