Anaheim Bowl—Anaheim

June 24, 2018

117--Anaheim Bowl

1925 W. Lincoln Ave. 

 

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The Patriotic Bowling Tournament

June 21, 2018

In the spring of 1917, the United States entered World War I.  Among the unforeseen results was the largest bowling tournament the world had ever seen.

Germany was the enemy, and anti-German hysteria was sweeping the country.  Schools dropped German language courses.  Opera houses cancelled Wagner programs.  Restaurants changed sauerkraut to “liberty cabbage.”  Some resident Germans were tar-and-feathered.

Because bowling was still close to its German roots, some super-patriots talked of outlawing the game.  With many proprietors and tenpin officials sporting German names—Bensinger, Baumgarten, Bruck, Schuenemann, Mueller, and so on—the major players sounded like a roll call of the Kaiser’s General Staff.

It happened that many army recruits from Chicago were taking their basic training at Camp Grant, near Rockford.  Word reached home that the recreational facilities at the camp were limited.  The boys didn’t even have a bowling alley.

ABC Treasurer Pasdeloup

ABC treasurer Frank L. Pasdeloup announced the solution in Bowlers Journal in February 1918. The city and state bowling associations, along with the local proprietors, were going to build bowling facilities at Camp Grant.  To raise money, they planned to stage the Patriotic Bowling Tournament.  Now all the doubters would know that bowling truly was an All-American game.

Over the next few months, the tournament committee rounded out the details.  They decided to make the Patriotic Tournament a full-blown “ABC-style” show, with Team, Doubles, and Singles events.  All male bowlers in Illinois were eligible.  Entry fees were set at a modest $1 per event.  Bowlers would be allowed to shoot at the establishment of their choice.

The last proviso set the tone for the tournament.  With so many houses involved, scoring conditions couldn’t be consistent, so the Patriotic Tournament would forget about competitive standings.  Prizes would be awarded through a blind drawing.

Public response was enthusiastic.  As Patriotic Tournament Week got closer, entries poured in.  Some leagues simply added an extra week to their schedules and bowled as a unit.  Churches, fraternal societies, athletic clubs, offices, and factories all organized teams.  At the Chicago Stock Yards, rival meatpacking companies engaged in friendly competition to see which one would field the most teams.  Armour won, and had to reserve an entire floor of Wabash Recreation to accommodate its bowlers.  The largest contingent from a single business was the 104 teams representing the Crane Plumbing Company.

The games began on Saturday, May 25.  One bowler at Prima Recreation got into the patriotic spirit by showing up dressed as Uncle Sam.  A total of 1,066 teams participated, including 134 from towns outside Chicago.  The Doubles entry was 762, while the Singles attracted 1,585.  All entry figures were records.  In fact, the biggest bowling tournament up to that time had been the 1916 ABC at Toledo, with 756 teams.

The concluding festivities were held at Randolph Recreation on June 22.  Former ABC president Judge Howard was master of ceremonies.  Medals were presented for the highest scores in each division:  Team—Olsens (3223), Doubles—Hank Marino and Bob Rolfe (1336), Singles—Robert Phelps (759).  Then the Judge began drawing for the prizes.

The monetary awards were in the form of war certificates and thrift stamps, ranging in denomination from $1 through $20.  Various businesses had donated merchandise.  Boxes of cigars and subscriptions to Bowlers Journal were hot items, though the prize list included socks, straw hats, fountain pens, a new bowling ball, a case of marshmallows, and an “assortment of cookie treats.”  Everyone who bowled in the tournament received a red-white-and-blue badge.

The Patriotic Bowling Tournament raised $2,646.48, an impressive sum in 1918.  Unfortunately, government red tape then began to tangle things.  Army officials backed out of their commitment to provide a building for the lanes.  Angry words were exchanged, letters were fired off to the Secretary of War.  Both the YMCA and the Knights of Columbus were approached to co-sponsor the Camp Grant bowling facility.  Neither group was interested.

At last, the Great Lakes Naval Training Camp agreed to accept the gift.  Ten new bowling lanes were installed at the base.  On December 19, 1918, the facility was formally dedicated.  Its work finished, the Patriotic Bowling Tournament committee disbanded.  By then the war had been over for a month.  But in this case, it was the thought that counted.

First published in Bowlers Journal, October 1995.  For this story and 89 more, buy a copy of my book The Bowling Chronicles.  Available on Amazon, or from McFarland Publishing for bulk orders.  A great gift for any bowler!

George Billick (1956)

June 19, 2018

(1910-1992)

Bowling Hall of Fame, 1982

“Saturday Evening Post” Bowling Cover (1950)

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Denney Bowling Shirts (1949)

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Lou Sielaff Stop-Action (1953)

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Playland—Ocean City, NJ (1944)

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600 Boardwalk

Gus Steele (1903)

June 7, 2018

      (1873-1955)

      World’s Fair Individual Champion, 1904

Columbia Titeline—San Antonio (1968)

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(L-R)—Billy Hardwick, Jim Godman, Norm Meyers, Harry Smith, Mike Limongello

Joe Wilman Bowling Book #3 (1958)

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Wilman Bowling Book (1958)