Dean Clough

November 2, 2022

Portico Darwin: The One About Bowling


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OK, I know.  A post about bowling, bowling shows, famous bowlers and bowling alleys seems a little extreme.  Well, I like to live life on the edge. 

And is there anything edgier than bowling?

What drove today's ridiculous topic was this, an article from not too long ago saying that the last bowling alley in my hometown of Albany, NY was closing. 

Saying Goodbye to Albany's Last Bowling Alley

Having grown up there, this is shocking!  I came of age in the 1970s in Albany, and let me tell you:  bowling was a big fucking deal.  There were alleys everywhere, including The Albany Bowling Center (which had 50 lanes), Redwood Lanes, Playdium, Sunset Lanes, and on and on.  A vivid memory I have from childhood is that my parents' club, The Aurania, had 4 real-deal, automatic lanes in its basement.  Which was pretty swank for Albany in the 1960s, lemme tell ya.

In case you don't look, that link above talks about Albany's Playdium closing down. 

But here is an advertisement from the same newspaper decades earlier announcing its opening in November 1940.  Steaks and chops all prepared by master chefs!  Now that's Diamond Certified!

But it wasn't just in Albany that bowling was a thing. 

Those of us (men) of a certain age will no doubt remember that ABC had a weekly, live TV show that covered the men's pro bowling tour.  Called the Pro Bowlers Tour, it aired from 1962 to 1997, and was hosted by the sportscasting legend Chris Schenkel.  Here he is, on the right.  The equally legendary Jim McKay, on the left, would follow with Wide World of Sports.  Basically every Saturday afternoon of my youth was spent with these guys.

My point here is that bowling was a big enough sport that not only was it on a major network for decades, but it was covered by their top talent.  And shocker, there's another connection to me in this story, as the very first broadcast of the Pro Bowlers Tour took place from the aforementioned Redwood Lanes, just off Central Avenue in the heart of the splendor that is Albany.

More?  Here's a nutty YouTube video of a full (!) episode of the Pro Bowlers Tour and the 1981 PBA Tournament of Champions - the Super Bowl of the sport.  Earl Anthony!  Of Dublin, California! 

Photos of the big stars?  Earl Anthony, of course.  But Dick Weber, too.  And Don Carter.  Heck, even The New York Times ran an obituary when the latter kicked!



More on Don Carter?  No problem.  Here's an excerpt from the NYT obit, and it is beyond a Fun Fact:  he got the first $1 million endorsement contract ever given to any athlete, in 1964.  A PRO BOWLER!

OK, almost done.  But only almost.  If you want to see the state of bowling today in Albany, take a look at this video of Sunset Lanes.  I spent a fair bit of time there as a kid, so it's a sad video.

But let's wrap it on an up note.  Here are the 3 best bowling alleys I've personally visited.  And all three are still thriving - big time.

Sea Bowl, Pacifica
This place is across Highway 1 from the Pacific Ocean.  No joke.  Great bar, too - or so I've heard.
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Presidio Bowl, San Francisco
A bowling alley in a National Park?  Believe it.  In fact, I'd say we're overdue for an SF bowling smackdown here soon.  They've done a nice job on the patio outdoors, although the service remains a work in progress.   The biggest problem is, despite a giant beer selection, there's no Weissβier.  

But they have upgraded the lanes since the Army days, and as I said, the patio doesn't suck.

Lakeview Lanes, Tupper Lake
This is what's called saving the best for last.  In my beloved Tupper Lake, this place has the best wings.  The best pizza.  Even the best setting - it's directly on the lake.
And yes, the best bowling.  With the exception of George Valiant Walker bowling a two.


Thank you to any one that is reading this newsletter.


If I do say so myself (another shocker), this is exactly the correct pick for today, as it captures the heyday of bowling - both the era itself, and the music likely playing in the bowling alley's cocktail bar during that era.

In case you're not familiar with his big band and jazz stuff from the 50s and 60s, it's all at least Killer, and this is an excellent sample.  Here is the legendary Quincy Jones and Walking in Space.

About Dean Clough