I spent my early childhood years in bowling alleys

November 23, 2010 |  Category:   family remembering


You think I’m joking, but it’s really true. My parents were competitive bowlers in the 70s and I spent a lot of time in bowling alleys here in the city. We had a whole bookshelf in our house dedicated to the many bowling trophies they would bring home and our closets were always filled with bowling bags and balls (’cause you gots to have your own ball, yo, if you’re serious bowler!). I was pretty little from what I could remember because the competitive years were really before my brother arrived, but I do remember our weekly trips being a good time. It was the sort of thing where if you saw a 4 year old at a dark, dingy, smoke filled bowling alley at 9pm eating greasy fries, you’d totally judge and think the parents were awful, but this was the 70s and nobody cared about rules and bedtimes and rigid schedules. So it was all cool. Besides, I distinctly remember other kids running around the bowling alley during competitions and practice leagues, and run around we did. I don’t think we were even supervised because our parents were too busy bowling. We stood on boxes and played a lot of pinball. We ate a lot of aforementioned greasy french fries, rectangular pieces of pizza and ice cream. We spent quarters at the gumball machines. We ran around in kid gangs up and down the aisles behind the lanes (ok, I don’t know if the last bit was actually true, but I know that I ran up and own those aisles).

Occasionally, I would sit with my parents at their lane and watch them bowl. I liked the way the balls magically emerged from the dark hole of the ball return. I liked putting my hand above the air vent, the ones you used right before you picked up a ball so your hands weren’t sweaty, and feeling the cool air under the palms of my hands. But most of all I liked the balls. The saturated jewel colors, the marbleized swirls that looked like dishwashing liquid, running my hand across a row of smooth, cold bowling balls all nestled together on a shelf, trying to catch my fingers in the 3 finger holes.

I don’t remember when the bowling slowed down. Maybe it was around the time my mom had my brother when I was 6. My dad eventually took up golf and the bowling trophies gradually got replaced by golf trophies and the trips to the bowling alley stopped altogether. Except for a single bowling pin which I believe still remains somewhere at my parent’s house, the bowling trophies slowly disappeared from the shelves. But it remains a fond early childhood memory for me. I can only think of good times when I remember climbing on the bottom ledge of the shoe counter on my tippy toes to get a better look at the row of shoes. The flicker of scoring screens, the brightly colored bucket seats, and the sounds of bowling pins being knocked together are ingrained memories. So it’s ironic that I have never, ever bowled a single ball, let alone play a single game of bowling in my life.

I can’t remember the last time I stepped inside a bowling alley – it might have been in grad school – but the girls and I went to a bowling birthday party over the weekend. Aside from the glow in the dark lanes and pins that made everything look like it was on acid, the bowling alley felt the same. Mia bowled a strike on her first try ever, which immediately made me think that bowling was in the genes (it must have skipped over me, but my brother was on the bowling team in high school). I think it was just beginners luck, but, the girl was really into it. Long after most of the kids lost interest in bowling 2 hours later, she was filling in for people, all hyped up on birthday cake. Claudine seemed to like it too and I wondered why we had never done this before.

Bowling still seems like a throwback to the 70s, even though I know it’s really not, not like roller rinks, another fond childhood memory of mine. We’re definitely going to go bowling again, but I’ll make sure to sit in the sidelines. I helped Claudine carry an 8 pound ball over to the lane a few times and I ended up with a sore back and mild sciatic pain (see? I really can’t carry more than 5 pounds! Those bulging discs are ready to slip, yikes!). I guess this is why I never bowled.

Related (because this post about the 70s is AWESOME): Speaking of the 70s…

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  • Melissa Allam November 23, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I remember spending quite a few of my younger days in bowling alleys too. My parents were avid bowlers as well. You described all those sights and sounds and memories very well. I felt like I was back in time.

  • anna kim November 23, 2010 at 11:41 am

    bowling alley was such a great family getaway for me too. we went almost every friday night. i miss those days.

  • Anna November 23, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    No way! I was just there for a friend’s birthday on Saturday.

    did you cross paths w/Peter?…..

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/03/nyregion/thecity/03bowl.html

  • Anna @ D16 November 23, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    My parents were pretty much the opposite of competitive bowlers (or any kind of bowlers), but I was OBSESSED with the idea of weekly bowling nights in the early ’80s. I doubt my dad has ever set foot in a bowling alley to this day, but I did manage to convince my mother to take me many times. I see bowling as being the quintessential American family activity, which is something I must have subconsciously craved as a child.

    I haven’t been in years, but this most makes me want to go…

  • Renita November 24, 2010 at 12:56 am

    My cousins and I were at the horse race track … we’d get up early with my aunt, catch a bus, and spend the whole summer day into the sunset hour. We ran all over the place, up to the club house where we didn’t ‘belong’ …. checking out the stables and the living quarters of the jockeys.

    I was totally into people watching and would try to read what people were trying to express in their clothing and attitude … they were good times

  • Pancakes For Recess November 24, 2010 at 10:42 am

    That is so awesome. I spent mine in roller skating rinks. Think those archaic things still exist anywhere??

  • Natasha November 24, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    My husband and I were just saying that we should take the kids bowling one of these days. It really doesn’t matter if your good or not does it, bowling is always a good time 🙂

  • Jessa November 24, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    ahh, bowling alleys. I spent most of my childhood wednesday and friday nights under the glow and amidst the sounds of one. It’s so nastolgic to go back to one. Loved those greasy fries and deep fried mushrooms. What a great birthday party idea!

  • La Rimule January 27, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Hello !
    Nice blog 🙂
    And you have 2 beautiful daughters !

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