Does anybody remember the sport of bowling? I use the term “sport” loosely after an experience I had the other day.
Bowling was at its height in the early to mid 1960s. You needed reservations to get a lane during open bowling hours. It seemed that everyone you knew was in some sort of bowling league. The Professional Bowling Assn. had a weekly show Saturdays on ABC.
Growing up in Costa Mesa, one of the most fun things to do was to go bowling. Going to Kona Lanes on Harbor Boulevard (for years, now a vacant lot) was a real treat. When we couldn’t get a reservation there, we would opt for the older Mesa Lanes (currently the site of Trader Joe’s) with its 20 lanes and above-ground ball returns.
My brother and I would go at least once a week during school months and two or three times a week during the summer. The cost then was 35 cents a line, and shoe rental was a quarter. We, of course, had our own bowling shoes and balls.
On occasion we would talk our parents into letting us go bowling on the more expensive weekend days, at 55 cents per line. Most times we would bowl three, sometimes four games. We kept our own scores on paper score sheets provided by the alley. We really took our bowling seriously and considered it a great sport.
Recently, I took my 9- and 10-year-old grandsons bowling. What a difference from when I was their age! Aside from the expected change in cost ($6 per game, $4.50 to rent shoes), the whole bowling experience has gone from a onetime sport to an extravagant arcade game.
No longer is it necessary to be able to keep score, as a computerized screen does that for you. It also displays cartoons depicting how many pins you knock down and even gives you a patronizing “Way To Go” for knocking down just seven pins.
For those who can’t stay focused on their bowling, flat screens are situated up and down the lanes showing other sporting events, music videos, advertisements, etc.
The lanes are now equipped with bumpers that, when asked for their use, will not allow you to throw a gutter ball. This, of course, is to encourage parents to take their smallest of children bowling so they can roll, drop, push and fling ultra-light bowling balls, all to knock down pins and leave the most ungodly spares I have ever witnessed.
Looking down the left half of the building, the lights were dimmed and different light patterns were being displayed on the walls and approach while rock music was blasted.
Forget about any bowling etiquette we learned years ago. Bowling balls were being thrown by patrons from all angles. People adjacent to us never waited their turn and just rushed up on the approach while it was our turn.
People looking for their lane actually walked into our area and across our approach, oblivious to us being there. Meanwhile, the employees of the establishment do nothing to enforce bowling etiquette.
Looking up and down the lanes, I saw only one man who looked like he knew what he was doing. Naturally, he was from my generation.
I realize times have changed, and this new-age bowling is the only way these establishments can probably stay in business. Unfortunately, bowling has become no better than a glorified skee ball game, with all of its distractions.
I know my grandsons had a blast, but I’m hoping in time they will take up golf.
KENT M. PAUL is a Costa Mesa High School teacher