Monday, May 21, 2007

Duckpins Fly South

Another piece of my childhood is gone: Seidel's Bowling Center is closed. Article (though I'm not sure how long it'll be available; hat tip: Dad). Also, Frederick's only duckpin alleys are going dark.

Baltimore is the home of duckpin bowling, a variation of tenpin bowling in which a ball slightly larger than a softball is used. It has no holes and is thrown much like a softball; some big guys would routinely toss it halfway down the lane! The pins are smaller, more squat, and spaced further apart. As a result, you can throw the ball straight down the middle and get . . . two pins. No one has ever rolled a 300 in duckpins, but my dad once had a 178. I think the record is in the mid-200s. Two popular local TV shows (what are THOSE?) in the 60s and 70s were "Duckpins and Dollars" (which eventually morphed into "Bowling for Dollars" with a tenpin option) and "Pinbusters" where kids competed in 4-frame duckpin games by age group. And a number of years ago, there was an effort to make duckpin bowling the official state sport of Maryland, which would replace . . . jousting.

Seidel's was the neighborhood place where, as kids, we'd often go for birthday parties. The management wouldn't worry if we just bowled in our stocking feet. Of course, we kids liked duckpins because the balls were much easier to throw. I often threw left-handed, even though I'm a righty. Seidel's was located in a storefront next to a residential neighborhood, a throwback to an older, more nostalgic time even in the 70s.

About half a mile away from Seidel's was Vilma Lanes, another duckpin establishment based under a Read's (remember those drug stores?), but it wasn't quite as nice a place as Seidel's. The Vilma had something you didn't see just anywhere: a water cooler with a penny-operated Dixie cup dispenser. That center is long since gone.

Sadly, my old neighborhood is now crime-ridden and falling apart, as the article mentions. Yet another reason why I'll never live in Baltimore City again. And one more piece of my history becomes, well, history.

Duckpin bowling is dead. Long live duckpin bowling.


4HisChurch said...

I remember "Duckpins for Dollars". Do you remember "Dialing for Dollars"?

Cygnus said...

I do remember Dialing for Dollars, as a matter of fact! The indomitable Stu Kerr hosted the Baltimore version for years on WMAR, then Bruce Elliott did it for a little while. Then it became an intermittent feature on WJZ during People are Talking, with Richard Sher and some lady named Oprah.

I'm sure other markets had similar shows.

4HisChurch said...

I'm not a huge Richard Sher fan. Every time I see him, I think, "He must be really p*ssed that he's still there and Oprah has her own planet, practically!"

Also, Stu Kerr was "Professor Kool". I was in the audience of that program once when I was a kid.

Cygnus said...

Ask my DW sometime about how Sher made a pass at one of her bridesmaids. Ick.

I never quite got on Professor Kool, but Kerr came to a couple of our Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquets as Professor Kool. That was enjoyable.

4HisChurch said...

Ewwww! That *is* gross! My dh has a Sher story to tell as well! We'll have to get together and share!

I remember our Blue and Gold banquets--ds was a cub scout. I think we had a friend of dh's who was a police officer who trained K-9s.

Brian Michael Page said...

I remember Duckpins and Dollars in Rhode Island as well - on WLNE channel 6 (at that time the call letters were WTEV). At the same time, there was a similar show in Boston - Candlepins for Cash. Same format - jackpot for strike, $15 for spare, $1 a pin for an open box.