Bowling alleys in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where I grew up, used either candlepins or duckpins.
It wasn’t until 1954, when I was assigned to Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, that I was introduced to tenpins. The balls were three times the size and weight of duckpin balls. But I got hooked. I joined many leagues and practiced every day. I even made the base’s bowling team.
After I was discharged in 1958, I came home to find several new tenpin bowling alleys in Lawrence and the surrounding area. Within two years, a TV station in Boston was broadcasting a weekly show from Sammy White’s Brighton Bowl, which was owned by the former Red Sox catcher. Alleys across the state held qualifying rounds—whoever had the highest score over five games won $200. I won the qualifying round to make it to my first week of TV competition in December 1959. On the show, the bowler who scored the most pins after three games was declared the winner and returned the next week to defend the title of King of the Hill. I won my first week and the next four weeks. I qualified for the show a few times after that but lost the TV competitions.
In 1966, the 1,500 members of the Merrimack Valley Bowling Association elected me their bowler of the year. I got a trophy, a beautiful blue velvet cape, and a crown decorated with red and blue stones. This is a part of my life I will always cherish.
I continue to bowl to this day, but not in competition—only for pleasure.
Alley Lingo You Should Know Before You Hit the Lanes
The 2-7 or 3-10 split—pins left standing after the first throw. The gap is narrower than a typical split, such as the 7-10, which makes it easier to knock down both pins for the spare.
The 7-10 split.
A ball that hits on the side of the head pin opposite the side from which it was thrown—on the left for a right-handed player, for instance. Also known as “Jersey Side.”
A game of alternating strikes and spares, for a score of 200.
A frame without a strike or spare.
The 1-2-4-7 or the 1-3-6-10 spares.
A game of 12 strikes, for a score of 300.
The spot to hit to maximize the pin action for a strike, usually the 1-3 or 1-2 gap.
Six strikes in a row.
Knocking down all remaining pins on the second throw.
Knocking down all 10 pins on the first throw.
Three strikes in a row.