Baby Boomer Bowling

bcI’ll bet many of us didn’t even know there was a sport called bowling. There is some debate about when bowling actually started, and lots of historians say it was back in Egypt about three to five thousand years ago.


One of the earliest comments about bowling, with which we might be familiar, might have been by written by American author, Washington Irving, when he describes Rip Van Winkle ‘s helping a man carrying a keg of moonshine up a mountain until they happen on a group of men playing nine-pins. Perhaps bowling and drinking have always gone together.


A couple of things happened in the 1950’s to popularize the game. The American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF) started to produce automatic pinspotters. This technology quickly replaced “pinboys,” (I know! There were girls who also set bowling pins, but the term is pinboy! I wonder if the girls ever lobbied for the term to be changed to pinpersons?) and ushered in the construction of many new bowling alleys throughout rural America. At about the same time, television started to broadcast bowling, with NBC leading the way with “Championship Bowling.” A number of other bowling shows were created, and bowlers like, Don Carter, Dick Weber, Carmen Salvino, Earl Johnson and Billy Welu, became household names. The Professional Bowlers’ Association was started at the end of the decade with the Ladies Professional Bowlers’ Association following shortly thereafter. The ladies version is no longer in operation.

I always wanted to have a bowling shirt. As I recall, in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, bowling shirts were the only shirts that had writing on them. To get a bowling shirt, you had to be good enough to be on a bowling team, or you had to buy one yourself. I wasn’t good enough to be on a bowling team.

That’s not really true, I once was on a bowling team … a YMCA bowling team. The YMCA let anyone on a bowling team, but they didn’t give bowling shirts. Instead, they gave out hats … ridiculously silly hats, in retrospect. The teams got alpine hats, with feathers, and to make things worse, in case you were brave enough to wear your YMCA bowling hat out in public, they had the team name screened on them. I still haven’t forgotten my team’s name, even though it was probably 60 years ago. I was a “Lilliput!

For the first time in my life, I have just looked up the word, Lilliput. It’s a fictional island. Its fictional residents are called Lilliputians. The definition of Lilliputian is, “a trivial or very small person or thing.” Now that I know what I didn’t when I was bowling at the YMCA and wearing the silly hat, I question why I didn’t develop another complex.  Does the name Pinocchio do anything for you?

21143-Alpine-Hat-Costume-largeIn any event, I wanted to share with you some period appropriate bowling shirts I would have been proud to wear, except for the women’s shirts, although come to think of it, if I had worn a Lilliput shirt, could a women’s bowling shirt have been far behind?

There are some other interesting images I discovered on the Web.

Slide2 Slide1


Time for a beer.

The Next Dance Will Be A Ladies Choice …


If you’ve been following my posts, you’ve noticed my penchant for including photos embedded alongside the words. These photos generally relate to the subject. This time, I’m going to deviate a bit, because I’m afraid I might find an image that’s actually for a feminine product, and that’s way off subject.

Baby boomers in our town frequented the local YMCA. It was built in 1886 and was largely unchanged during the boomer years. There were two bowling alleys, with pins reset by kids, who would receive nominal compensation for their labor … perhaps a soft drink or maybe a dime. There were pool and Ping-Pong tables. There was a gymnasium and a swimming pool. Certain days were exclusively for girls and other days were exclusively for boys. On boys’ days, nude swimming was permitted. Girls were apparently more modest and had to wear bathing suits.  Could that have anything to do with the hit song?

ymca_roxboroandmain_gym_1950sOn Saturday nights, the Y had a dance. The dance went from 7:00 PM until 11:00 PM. You had to be eleven in order to stay after 9:00 PM. One of the employees, a very cool guy, named Joe, spun 45 records. The floor was generally segregated with the girls on one side and the boys on the other. A few boys and girls even hung out together, but they must have known something the rest of us didn’t.

During fast dances, the girls danced together, while the boys watched, punched each other on the shoulder or flatulated (I don’t mean to be gross, but it happened).

Every so often, Joe would say the magic words, “The next dance will be a ladies choice.” Almost nothing followed except for the music.

Fifty years later, during the class reunion that motivated me to write this book, a group of senior citizens spent a lot of time discussing why that happened.

The males (somehow it’s not right to call a 67+ year-old man a boy) said one of two things. Either they didn’t know how to dance or they lacked the confidence to ask.

The girls (an ageless term) had more complicated answers. “You could only ask someone that none of your friends had ‘dibs’ on.” They remembered a “mad exodus of boys.” They had a crush on a particular boy and feared rejection.

Why were the baby boom girls so complicated?