A League of Ordinary Gentlemen

Bowling Through The Decades

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Bowling Through The Decades: The 1950s

1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s

Advertisement: On a red illustrated background of a bowling tournament, a Baby Ruth candy bar floats above an young woman in a knee-length skirt and sweater throwing the bowling ball

Publicity shot shows cast of The Honeymooners hanging out of the windows of a bus, smiling and waving
The Honeymooners

Side view of a woman in horn-rimmed glasses, a white bowling shirt and long pants as she throws the ball in motion
1959 photo courtesy
Los Angeles Public Library
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Cartoon drawing of two men one holding a bowling ball, while the other leans over, thumbs in his ears wagging his fingers. Caption reads: “Don’t needle an opponent while he’s making his shot.”

Bowling lanes are conditioned by hand: by spraying oil onto the lanes and then using a rotary buffer.

Bowl-O-Drome Lanes in Mount Clemens, Michigan is the first to install commercially produced pin setting machines. As more lanes follow, participation soars.

On the 1952 premiere episode of The Honeymooners, Ralph Kramden gets his new bowling ball stuck on his thumb.

In 1952, Championship Bowling launches in Chicago, featuring sportscaster “Whispering” Joe Wilson. Twenty-four bowlers compete on the television program, with the final three bowling in a round robin match to determine the champion.

Originally conceived as a more colorful ball option, plastic bowling balls actually prove to be better for the game in 1955, providing more friction than rubber and resulting in more hook and pin action.

Johnny Ancil “Peanuts” Wilson, a member of the musical group the Teen Kings with Roy Orbison, releases “Cast Iron Arm,” a song about a bowler who gets angry when another bowler “makes a play” for his girl.

Eddie Elias, an Akron, Ohio attorney, starts the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) in 1958, with 33 founding members and 100 charter members.

The PBA Tour begins in 1959 with three tournaments worth $49,500.

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