"One of the advantages bowling has over golf is that you seldom lose a bowling ball." -- Don Carter

I started rummaging through the garage the other day and within a short time forgot what I was looking for. Blame it on a senior moment. It wasn't a total wasted effort, though. I found my bowling bag. Make that four!

As one might expect, I did what most guys do when they run across sports equipment they haven't used in quite some time. I unzipped one of the bags, pulled out a 15-pound Ebony ball, gripped it by my fingertips and began swinging it like a pendulum. It surprised me that I was still able to swing the ball without straining my arm.

You might be wondering, 'What's this guy doing with four bowling bags anyway?" Simple. Two belong to me and two are my wife's.

It's been several years since I went bowling. The last time was charity tournament at Diablo Valley Bowl in Concord. My wife and I registered and ended up on opposing teams.

I bowled 189 -- my total for two games. My wife fared better. Something like double my score. I attributed her total to sheer luck. It's doubtful, however, that anyone was swayed by my remark!

I took up bowling in the mid-fifties when I was working as a probation officer. Our office was on the fifth floor of an aging brick high-rise across from City Hall in downtown Oakland. Our building was much like those around us. Characterless -- with one exception. We had a 12-lane bowling alley in our basement.


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Not wanting to pass up on the opportunity to work out by bowling, a handful of co-workers and I organized a team and joined the league downstairs.

The basement bowling alley was much like you might see in a Bogart-era movie filmed in black and white. Cigarette and cigar smoke so thick one found it hard at times to see the far end of the lane, let alone breathe.

Shirtless pin setters sweating as if caught in a rainstorm sat in cages, racking pins while simultaneously hustling to retrieve balls. I pitied those pin setters who had to constantly be on their toes to dodge balls errantly tossed by slapdash bowlers.

And all for wages of less than a dollar an hour.

After bowling, it was customary for us to throw a half-dollar down the lane to the pin setter. They deserved every cent. That's when a penny was a penny!

Within a few years everything started going high-tech, including the old bowling alleys. By the next decade, pin setters were all but passé and the entire system, including score keeping, became fully automated.

Bowling took on new life.

With a sudden fervor for bowling, the sport spread internationally. Trying to find an empty lane anywhere for nonleague bowlers after that was virtually impossible. It wasn't unusual to have to wait until after 10 p.m. to find an empty lane and even on weekends!

Like a lot of fads, however, bowling mania subsided just as quickly after enjoying several decades of unchallenged popularity.

One thing that didn't change over those years is my bowling score. I was always a mediocre bowler and still am. I can at least claim that I've remained consistent in one endeavor most of my life.

By the way, don't bother looking for the old brick building with the bowling alley in the basement. It was razed a decade or so after our office vacated it.

Some additional random thinking: could that bowling alley have served as the prototype for today's health clubs?

Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at columns@bayareanewsgroup.com.