Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bye Bye Bowling Trophies

There are two of them sitting on my book shelves - modest little things with no inscriptions. Representing my sole sport achievement, they've been with me for 52 years, lugged from here to there. And I was a terrible bowler.

How did I win the trophies? A team of three splendid bowlers picked me as the fourth for my handicap and endured my poor performance for the sake of higher aggregate scoring. I rode the victory in on their coattails, but they couldn't have won without me. We were in junior high school and there wasn't money for fancy trophies but I was very thrilled to get the two I did. One of them was probably for something like "most improved bowler". 

I was a small and wimpy teenager and couldn't bowl the ball very fast. With time, I learned that accuracy can make up somewhat for speed - one of the better bowlers in the league had a tiny mother who showed me a few tricks. Mostly on how to deliver a kind of screw ball. She showed me how to bowl down the right side of the alley with a twist on the delivery so that the ball would curve in at the end and hopefully hit the strike spot.

But when I made a strike, the pins would topple over very slowly. The ball had to be accurate because there were no pins jumping over or flying up and knocking the others down. My ball had to be strategic and land just right for a "house of cards effect" with the pin drop - and it's harder with 5 pins which we played. Five pin bowling was invented in Canada. The ball is bigger than in duck pin bowling; the pins are slightly bigger too.

My brother-in-law who likes to win at everything he does was very impressed and surprised when he learned about the trophies. He was so surprised that he made the time to come to the alley to watch me. He couldn't believe how bad I was! Jim says I'd drop the ball on the alley with barely sufficient force to keep it rolling down the whole length. You could go get a drink, go the bathroom and come back just in time to see my ball tap one pin, destabilize it and start another slo-mo show as it teetered to the ground. 

Despite my lame game, I had fun and can still remember the bowling alley's festive mood. The sounds dominated the scene - pins and balls crashing; the swooping whoosh of the balls coursing down the alley, the cheers and bravado of the boys after slamming a ball down and getting a strike. The air smelled like french fries and cooped-up feet just released from rented bowling shoes. Various kinds of flirting was on-going - primarily boys showing off. The girls had to take off their boyfriends rings as we wore them with a big wad of tape on the back to keep them on. The tape interfered with the ball grip so they were removed and I can remember seeing them sitting on the table with the score pads. The setting was sort of theatrical with the lane all bright and light but the seating area darker with a desk lamp to light up the score pad. I can remember feeling a sense of drama encompassing the whole scene.

I don't remember anyone owning their own bowling ball. Only after I moved to California did I realize it was possible to bring your ball to the alley and actually own your own shoes. I looked this up on Wikipedia and found that you could not bring your own ball to a 5 pin alley in Canada until after 1990.  There was some sort of lock of ownership on the balls.

Now that I've written this and had a chance to think about it, I've changed my mind about tossing the trophies...they're small and don't take up much storage room. Maybe I'll get another walk down memory lane out of them.  


  1. I'm so glad you decided to keep them. I was just getting ready to be really sad. See how bad it is to throw things away? You'd be throwing away all those wonderful memories. (And therein lies my problem.)
    I loved this story. I was never much of a bowler, either, but I do remember some of the things you described. They were some fun times. I wouldn't have remembered them either if you had thrown those trophies away.

  2. P.S. In case you didn't know, that last comment was from Barbara. Nancy was a better bowler than me. Also a much better tennis player. She was such a "jock".