When I was a teenager, bowling alleys were the center for family entertainment. The only competition was a color T.V. in the living room, which didn't have that many shows. Of course that did not provide much in the way of socialization or exercise. A game was affordable at 75 cents. Even instruction was cheap.
Saturday mornings were devoted to playing on a bowling team. Everybody and their uncle belonged on a team: the sharks, tigers, rolling 40s, gutterball grandmas. All you needed was a soda and a snack since you had breakfast before you left home. Getting a strike or spare was the goal and as few gutter balls as possible. I didn't always hit that goal. Rain, snow, or hot days one could always bowl with friends.
When my children grew up they went to the bowling alleys too. They had added arcades at that point, and bowling alleys commanded huge audiences. I think my son's team was the "Awesomes", it was definitely the early 80s. As the late seventies and early eighties continued, bowling began its big decline. Atari and Coleco Vision had made their debut and VCRs ushered in a new era of home entertainment. That color TV in the living room was about to become the King of Entertainment. Increasingly my kids were spending more and more time, at home or at their friends houses, playing Donkey Kong or space invaders. Before that, the kids wouldn't spend more than 30 minutes in front of the TV during the day. At one point in the sixties there were 12,000 bowling alleys in America by the late nineties there were about 6,500. The bowling alleys had other problems as they often were the center of the drug explosion that occurred 25 years ago in America. Roller rinks, drive in movie theaters, and bowling alleys took it on the chin and we were much worse for it. Many had set up in urban blue collar neighborhoods that were decimated when manufacturing fled to China.
However, after a long decline, its seems that bowling alleys are making a bit of a comeback. Bowling alleys started investing in order to draw in bigger crowds. AMF, the 800 lb gorilla of bowling, created an upscale alley called "300" that was intended to be as much of a nightclub as it was a bowling alley. The recent economic slowdown has gotten more people to think of bowling as a family entertainment option. AMF has very good deals for their regular clubs. My son goes bowling with his family and they get free games and if they go after church on Sunday morning, its a buck per person per game. Almost the same amount I was paying nearly 50 years ago. Did I say nearly....
So if you haven't gone bowling in years, head to AMF's website, and sign up for some low cost fun. Its good cheap family time and it will bring back the old days.
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