Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bowling with Granny

It was the 1970’s and early 1980’s. I was a young lad. My grandmother, known to me and all as Granny, regularly took my brother and me bowling on Rt. 1 in Northern Virginia. The place was called Penn-Daw Lanes. Now, my brother tells me, it is an appliance store. So, Penn-Daw lives on only in the memories of those who were lucky enough to try its lanes.

Granny had a regular bowling date with companions. I don’t remember all of them, nor do I remember the day. My recollection is Friday mornings; my bro says Tuesday or Wednesday. He would be the one to remember. There were the Henry’s, B.F. and Katy. John and Jane Kofler were bowlers, too. Then, there was George Bernatt. Granny and her compadres would get a couple of lanes and bowl all through the morning. She would get an adjacent lane for Scott and me.

Scoring was done by pencil and paper, and I am fairly certain that there was an opaque projector that projected the scores onto a screen above. Knock them all down on the first ball, a strike. Get ‘em on the second, it was a spare. If you got them all on the third ball, that was just a ten. Obviously, this was not ten pins. It was duckpin bowling at its best.

This was how I learned to bowl. Short squat pins and bowling balls without holes. I don’t recall much about the game except that you had three tries. I also remember that if you hit the rack dead center on the 1 pin, you could actually take out the 1 and 5 and leave everything else standing. It was like there was a chute right down the middle of the pins.

I remember John Kofler’s approach, which resembled the balletic style of Fred Flintstone. There was the utter power of George Bernatt’s throw. The pins would explode when the ball reached the end of the lane. He threw it so hard that I was actually scared of the guy. Every pair of lanes had a rack with about 20 balls, mostly house. They were black with white swirls or white with black swirls. The balls would travel back on two rails above ground between the lanes. I loved watching them come down the ramp and make the return journey.

Downstairs at Penn-Daw, you could roll ten pins, but we rarely did. Duck pins suit grandmothers and kids much better. It is a physically less demanding game with lower scoring and simpler equipment. Granny actually bought bowling balls for Scott and me. They were royal blue with white swirls. They lived in a white cardboard box in the closet. Scott says that he could still identify “his”. I thought we had joint ownership.

After bowling, we went to Krispy Kreme. This was long before the Krispy revolution of the last decade. The Krispy Kreme on Rt. 1 even in the 1970’s was a dive, but when you’re a kid, you don’t really notice it so much. On arrival, we would always look through the window to see if the doughnut machine was making doughnuts. I remember standing on my toes and pulling myself up to watch this magical machine make fried and glazed dough.

When I rediscovered bowling a couple of years ago, I had long since forgotten about my early bowling days with Granny. It was Granny who taught me how to score a bowling game. She loved to bowl, and I am forever grateful for the time we spent together when school was out in the summertime. I miss her dearly, and I wish she was still around to read this blog because I think she would enjoy reading about our weekly exploits at the lanes.

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