Memories, Working Class Romanticism, and the King of Something or Another

BOWL BABY, BOWL

BOWL BABY, BOWL (Photo credit: MLHS)

I have to say, nostalgia may become a recurring theme here. Yesterday it was my Saturday morning cartoons, today it is hanging out at the bowling alleys. Oh, the establishments owned by chains want you to use “bowling centers” these days, but I like the old term, it evokes so much from my past, and our country’s past as well.
Once upon a time I was a fair to middlin’ bowler. My best average I ever maintained was a 197 but that was a looooong time ago. I come from bowling roots, which I know, is an odd thing to boast about, but there it is. My grandfather, uncle, and mother each managed bowling alleys. They each took a turn at professional or semi-professional bowling. My Opa even bowled a 300 game or two when it really meant something, before the days of treated lanes and special balls. With all due respect to Mssr. Brando, he coulda been a contender.
Sure the popularity of the game has waxed and waned over the years, and it often attracts people from all walks of life. It is an easy enough game to master with enough skill to feel good about yourself. These days leagues are made up of accountants, chemical engineers, actuaries and professors. Once upon a time though it was the sport of the working class. Ordinary Joes would shuffle out of the factory or warehouse and head over to the local bowling alley. They’d spend their evening drinking, smoking, carousing and giving each other a hard time over every split and the occasional gutter ball.
This is what I remember fondly from my childhood. Hanging out at Brockport Bowl with Opa, surrounded by old guys who seemed larger than life to my six-year-old eyes. They were sages of the working stiffs, good guys all, and my Opa’s friends. I miss the greasy cheeseburgers made on a grill that looked like it hadn’t been properly cleaned in a week, the smoke drifting up from Lucky Strikes sitting idle in a foil ashtray, the busy noises of a new invention, video games, filling the snack bar and of course all the old guys holding on to their cans like holy grails, that King of Beers that later I never understood the appeal.
I kind of get it now. It was simple. Sure it tastes like watered down piss, only slightly better than Pabst Blue Ribbon and of course superior to Piels, but it was the working stiff’s beverage of choice. It wasn’t a fancy foreign beer or one of those (relatively new at the time) microbrews. It was their beer. It was their reward after a long, hard day of work. They earned it, and they savored it and it stands out, despite its awful taste that I still cannot bring myself to enjoy, as one of the abiding, warm memories of my youth.
I wish I could get some small part of that magic back, but so many of the bowing alley’s have changed. They are now family friendly, by today’s garish yet sanitized standards, entertainment centers. There’s nothing wrong with that, things change, and I do enjoy watching my friends and their kids enjoy them. Still, I miss the crashing pins, the greasy burgers, the bitter, stinging scent of the Lucky Strikes, and all those bright, gleaming cans of Bud. Those days are gone, but I can close my eyes, and for a moment, bring them, and Opa and all his buddies, back.

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One thought on “Memories, Working Class Romanticism, and the King of Something or Another

  1. Pingback: Time’s Cruel March | Hand of Ananke

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