Strikes and Spares

Let the good times roll: The popularity of bowling took off in the 1950s after the introduction of the automatic pin setter. (George Burns, © SEPS)

Bowling was invented by cavemen thousands of years ago, and it has been growing more popular ever since. One old story has it that Sir Francis Drake let the Spanish Armada wait while he finished a game. Rip Van Winkle took his long nap near a spooky Catskill bowling resort. Today, the American Bowling Congress estimates more than 22 million Americans bowl about 800 million games a year on 7,880 indoor alleys.

In 1841, gamblers made bowling so disreputable that New York outlawed it. Now it’s a family sport. Take the Lynbrook bowling alleys on Highway 100, in Minneapolis. Blair McKinley (left) came with his parents (leaning against the wall). Tona Erickson, the plaid-skirted teenager, had a bowling date with a boy.

Neon décor, luxury snack bars, and automation mark the bowling greens of today. Some of the fancier, million-dollar tenpin palaces look like nightclubs and maintain nurseries for children too young to bowl. Which all goes to show that man, the master of the universe, is still child enough to take his pleasure in a Stone Age game.

—Face of America,
May 24, 1958

This article is featured in the January/February 2018 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.