A cozy sport for a region with strenuous winters

Candlepin bowling alley in Woburn, Mass.

Candlepin bowling alley in Woburn, Mass.

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

Bowling, and especially candlepin bowling, used to be very popular in New England but has been in a decline since its heyday in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Tough to compete with the Internet….

It’s easy to play, and of course it’s played inside -- a big attraction considering New England’s climate. For some reason candlepin, not tenpin bowling, became dominant in our region. And there once were many bowling leagues, for adults and kids. And you’d have to have been a world-historical klutz not to win some sort of trophy in your youth bowling career. This is not a scary sport. A pulled muscle, or dropping a ball on a foot, are the greatest dangers. Good physical condition is not a prerequisite.

Besides the bowling itself, snacks and beverages (including beer in some bowling allies) have almost always been served in these establishments, and some have had such additional attractions as pinball machines. I still remember the scent of popcorn, hot dogs, beer, cigarette smoke, floor wax, rental shoes and maybe a little sweat in these businesses, which pushed up like mushrooms in shady wet earth in the suburbanization of the ‘50s.

Elizabeth McCracken’s Feb. 5 piece in Slate, “In Praise of Real Bowling: I grew up playing …candlepin bowling. This New England variant is harder than tenpin bowling, and it’s better, too’’ reminded me of how popular this inexpensive recreation used to be, in some small towns operating almost as unofficial town halls. Local politicians would cruise them to chat up voters.

Her piece reminded me of Robert D. Putnam’s famous 2000 book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, about the fact that many people have become disconnected from their families and neighbors since the ‘60s. It’s worse now, whatever the promotions of social-media companies. You can see signs of it in the opioid-addiction epidemic and even some election results in what sometimes seems the United States of Anomie.

To read Ms. McCracken’s piece, please hit this link.

A four-lane candlepin alley in    Windsor, V   t., around 1910.

A four-lane candlepin alley in Windsor, Vt., around 1910.