I believe that bowling is quirky. Or – at least – whimsical in our era of shunning social settings such as bowling alleys.
I saw this coming. The Quirky Berkeley insider who thinks that donuts are not quirky and who thinks that urban chicken coops are not quirky weighed in early on this one. She thinks that bowling is not quirky. She is from Madras, Oregon. Her parents live in Madras, Oregon. For many years she took her husband to Madras for visits and did not tell him about this:
Can you believe that? I think that there is something going on here that transcends the question of whether bowling is or can be quirky. A bowling issue of some sort.
Could I please see a show of hands of those who think that bowling is NOT quirky:
Well. We hardly need to do this given the results, but let’s complete the exercise. Could I please see a show of hands of those who think that bowling IS quirky:
That settles that. Bowling is quirky. Moving on! There is a perfect song with a great video:
“Tom,” you ask me, “What role did bowling play in your life?” Not a big one.
My cousin Jay’s family belonged to the Merion Cricket Club in Haverford, Pennsylvania.
Yes, that kind of cricket. And squash. And lawn tennis. And I had dancing classes there. JDA (the Junior Dancing Assembly) and SDA (Senior Dancing Assembly) classes were held only at the Merion Tribute House in Merion, Pennsylvania. Saturday Night Dancing School classes were half at the Merion Tribute House and half at the Merion Cricket Club. This is a photo of the part of the Cricket Club where the classes were held.
Frank Furness was the architect. He designed the Fine Arts Library at Penn.
It is really something. To the limited extent that I did any studying in libraries at Penn, I studied here.
Do you blame me?
We’re a fair piece off the mark here. There was a small bowling alley in the basement of the Merion Cricket Club.
My cousin Jay took me there a few times in 7th and 8th grade. That was the first place I bowled.
A little later I went bowling at Devon Lanes on Lancaster Avenue.
I think that I went with Janet Steinmeyer.
We laughed a lot. That’s a good thing when you are 14. My mother drove us.
We had a brand new 1963 Ford Country Sedan station wagon. I totaled it in the summer of 1969 on the Schuylkill Expressway. I wasn’t hurt. I’d been up late the night before at the Main Line Drive-in in Devon and was on my way to my job at the proto-preppy Ladybug Clothing warehouse in northeast Philadelphia.
I am far afield. That was fun, but let’s get back to bowling. In Berkeley. Quirky things.
We have no bowling alley in Berkeley. I wish we had a bowling alley, one with a quirky giant sign. But we don’t.
We used to have several.
I have not found a photo of what Berkeley Bowl looked like before the produce took over. I hope to. Steve Finecom, who is as good at this as anybody I know, found this matchbook cover:
A second bowling alley was on San Pablo:
The building is now the big party store.
Who knew? A third was on Center:
And a 4th on Telegraph:
People in Berkeley who want to bowl usually go a few blocks north.
You point out, correctly, that Berkeley does have a bowling presence.
Lawn bowling is as quirky as it gets, yes. But I am focused on material culture, and so this sign is the beginning and the end of the club’s material culture quirk. And, beside, it is not what this posting is about. None of that is.
This is what the posting is about:
Yup. Bowling balls in front yards. Decorative bowling balls. There are more than you would guess.
Marcia Donahue’s magical garden-and-art at 3017 Wheeler has many features. Among those features – hundreds, literally hundreds, of bowling balls – the mother of all bowling ball gardens:
How about those bowling balls! What now?
If only I could find some bowling pins used as lawn art or porch art or wall art or office art…
These lovely bowling pins are not in Berkeley and not visible from the street. They are in the home of Donna Reynolds and Tim Racer in Oakland – a Quirky Berkeley rule-breaking visit.
After the articles about Quirky Berkeley in The New Yorker and The New York Times, a neighbor decided that our completely inquiry front yard needed at least a hint of quirk. She – Gail Stempler Lake – gifted us with two bowling balls!
Living dangerously now! Or as a new friend would say – Ça marche!
I was pretty sure that my friend would like these photos. His reaction was a little more complex than I expected. He put down a lovely print of a lovely painting by Ian Dury that he had been inspecting.
“I go bowling once every four years to make sure I still hate it.” What’s the issue, I wondered. And then – a long story. He worked as a pin boy in a bowling alley as a young teen. He got fired. He blames this incident for his departure from the straight and narrow. “Not that I don’t dig my life, I do. But I didn’t get a chance to decide. The bastards didn’t give me a chance after that.”
Who knew? He was pretty down. I knew how to cheer him up.
I said we could watch The Big Lebowski after dinner. Guaranteed to cheer him up. It did. I showed him the photos of the bowling balls in gardens and pressed him for his opinion. He said: