One of my Facebook friends wrote this morning: "I am a terrible bowler."
Well ... here came the images, rolling down the Alley of Memory ...
I still have my bowling ball--though it's been sitting, unused, in my closet (as you can see below) in close company with a deflated football, a large doll of Frankenstein's creature, the face of my childhood teddy bear, and some other pieces of the past.
My earliest memories of bowling are from junior high and high school in Hiram, Ohio. Our church groups (Chi Rho and CYF (Christian Youth Fellowship)) sometimes went over to Garrettsville to bowl. One of my great boyhood memories: seeing my older brother (accidentally) launch his ball over into the next alley, where it hit the pin-setter, which had just descended to clear the alley for the next frame.
I wasn't much good, not then (not ever really), but I enjoyed it.
I don't believe I ever bowled in college, but when I got my first teaching job (fall, 1966, Aurora Middle School; Aurora, Ohio), I became friends with the band director, Alan Amy, and he invited me to join him for some league bowling. He was on some team sponsored (I think) by an outfit called Scott Industries in Solon. We bowled on Tuesday nights up on Rte. 422 in Bainbridge (Bainbridge Lanes?), and I slowly improved.
The big problem for me on those Tuesday nights? I had no money. My pitiful first-year teacher's salary permitted no foolery like bowling leagues, so I had to rely on the kindness of strangers (the other men on the team) to buy me a beer now and then--even to pay my weekly fee to the alley. It was pathetic.
I didn't even own a ball, not for quite a while.
I did get better, though. Watching others helped. As did just bowling as often as I did. The Scott team folded, I think, the following year, but I was quickly on another team with the help of Pete Thornton, husband of my teaching colleague Judy; Pete was the mailman in Aurora (the only one Back in the Day), and everyone knew him. I remember when their first child was born; He affixed to the top of his car a big sign announcing gender and name and weight. And delivered the mail.
I got better the next year or two, also.
And then the local teachers' organization--the Aurora Education Association (AEA, affiliate of the OEA, the NEA)--formed a league, and I think it was on Wednesday afternoons that we got together over at the Midway Lanes (midway between Kent and Ravenna). I think we bowled in Streetsboro a year or two, also?
My average rose to about 160. Every now and then I would have a really good game--mid-200s--but these were rare enough to convince me they were accidental.
I met Joyce in the summer of 1969, and we quickly became a couple (married in December that year). She was surprised to see bowling shirts hanging in my closet. By then, I'd also bought a ball (see photo below). Her surprise was due, I think, to my own attempts to make her believe--in the wooing process--that I was an ... Intellectual. (Her brain, I knew, was the doorway to her heart.) So I'd not exactly emphasized in our early months together those parts of my life that were, uh, non-intellectual. She found out soon enough. Loved me anyway.
Well, my bowling days soon began to evanesce. I was teaching full-time, directing plays, going to grad school at night and in the summers, and the ball began its long, long period of incarceration in my closet.
After our son was born (July 16, 1972), we sometimes took him to the alley. (Joyce, by then, had confessed her own wee history with the sport.) He loved the sounds and sights ... and candy.
And once he began to toddle and waddle, he wanted to participate--an impossibility at first. But one day, weakened by his plaintive pleas, I put my ball on the foul line and told him to give it a shove. He waddled over. Did so.
The ball took a week and a half to reach the pins. But it hit right in the pocket. Every pin fell. Strike!
Well, now! He wanted, of course, to keep playing, and we let him continue with the foul-line-shove process. But every other ball hit the gutter. Only that first one even reached the pins at all. He was, uh, mildly (!!) disappointed.
We took him later on in boyhood, now and then.
I see in my journal that on December 19, 2000, former student John Mlinek came over, and we met our son (now 28) and daughter-in-law at a nearby bowling alley. And here's what my journal says:
... we headed over to Stonehedge where Steve & Melissa [his wife] were just arriving; bowling was so much different—automatic scoring on a computer screen, etc.; I had a horrible first game (106) and was in danger of not breaking 100 for the first time, probably, since junior high school; S was happy with his 156; I had a 155 and a 168 the last two games—not too bad as I began to figure out what I was doing once again; unfortunately, I pulled a muscle in my upper thigh with about 3 frames to go; ouch ...
And that, my friends, was the last time ... the final frame ...
Though every now and then, passing an alley, I still do get the itch ... or maybe it's just the phantom ache of a pulled thigh muscle?
|September 14, 2016|