US Bowling League Day

JW, our dad, could bowl anytime, anywhere and in any state of health. Eventually, the whole family joined in-including our Mom, Shirley.

Dad saved just about every score card from his days in league bowling.  I love the plastic strips rolled up at the top of the photo-speaks of a simpler time-with little or no electronic assistance.  He could bowl anytime, anywhere and in any state of health. Eventually, the whole family joined in-including our Mom, Shirley.

Our dad, JW, had a bad back. It seemed to give him relentless pain if he worked in the yard, did home repairs or crawled under his car to tune it up. BUT, come “bowling night” and JW’s back would take a miraculous turn for the better and off he would go. Couldn’t let his team down, he would say. And in a most unlikely turn of events, our mother joined the league and teamed up with dad for several bowling seasons. I think she just wanted to see what the attraction was….

How did league bowling become the thing to do? The answer is found in examining the golden years of bowling-pro bowlers often made more than the big league baseball and football players. The ‘60’s and ‘70’s found pro bowlers surrounded by pretty girls eager to just touch them, talk to them. Bowling reigned supreme.   I don’t remember my dad watching much television-but he could always sit down and enjoy pro bowling.

With the surge in popularity of pro bowling, it was only a matter of time before recreational bowling gained interest with American families. Bowling became just the thing to do-12, 000 bowling alleys popped up, and families thronged to the neighborhood alley. Bowlers 6 to 60 lined up for rented shoes and balls.

Not satisfied with the occasional weekend of bowling, bowlers signed up for leagues that would meet once a week for 30 weeks for competitive tournaments. Leagues provided 70% of a bowling alley’s business. JW belonged to two leagues.  I participated in a Junior Bowling League-won a trophy for 500 series and Hi game of 175,  JW had never been so proud-before or since.

After the Golden Age of bowling the decline was swift and hard-to many today bowling is just another word for cheap beer and smelly shoes. Today’s pro bowlers supplement their bowling earnings with 2nd jobs, and share Motel 6 rooms on tour to cut the cost of participation. League bowling is down almost 40% and sliding.

BUT, there is a flicker of light for bowling: while the old style bowling alley is destined to be a dinosaur-open-play bowling is becoming more and more popular. And then there is virtual bowling-but that is another story for another time….