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» Saturday, November 08, 2003Smoke Gets in My Mind...
I had a major flashback today.
We were at the hobby shop and one of the employees stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. Just as the door eased closed I got a whiff of the smoke...
...and suddenly I was ten years old again and it was Saturday night at the bowling alley.
I didn't quite grow up in the bowling alley but I spent a lot of my younger years there. I think it started when my Dad gained a little extra weight and the doctor told him to take up some exercise. He started going bowling and Mom, who had bowled during lunchtime with her pals at work when she was in her 20s, wanted to go along, too. Of course since my parents almost never went anywhere I couldn't go, I went along, too.
This wasn't tenpins, the type that everyone thinks of when you say "bowling." This was duckpins, with a smaller set of pins and a smaller ball that looked like a softball mated with a regular bowling ball. (In Massachusetts, they also have candlepins, which have the same ball, but with tall skinny pins that look like...surprise!...candles. You don't clear the deadwood between sets in candlepin bowling; it's very odd.) Dad and Mom did try to teach me to bowl, but even the smaller duckpin ball was awkward in my small hand. I could either throw hard enough to knock down the pins or throw accurately, but not both. So usually what I was doing at the bowling alley was sitting at one of the tables behind the lanes and, for a half hour for several years, watching the television that most bowling lanes kept behind the front counter or in a small lounge.
Our first "second home" was the original Garden City Bowling Lanes. This was only a small bowling alley (maybe 20 lanes?) with a coffee shop attached. I used to love the lady they had working at the coffee shop counter; I think her name was Cecelia. She would let me have free milk if I didn't have a dime (yes, a glass of milk in a coffee shop was a dime back then!). Garden City was owned by the Zarella "boys" (they were in their forties), aristocratic looking Tom and his shorter, more casual brother Ray. They also owned the Speedway Bowling Lanes, which was walking distance from our house, but which closed when the original Garden City Lanes closed.
Bowling was going great guns at the time (late 60s). We'd been to a bowling place up near my uncle's place in Beverly, Massachusetts that had forty lanes, half ten-pin and half candlepin. The new Garden City Lanes had 36 lanes, with a billiard room on one side, the coffee shop in the middle, and lockers and bathrooms on the other side. Here on Saturday nights I begged one of the guys behind the counter--possibly Tom or Ray themselves, more often Bobby, or Vinny, or Teddy (who later became a state trooper)--to change the channel so I could watch Get Smart. I watched almost all of the original episodes this way. Otherwise I would sit in one of the tables in back and write stories or go in the ladies' room and play. Sounds strange, but all alone in there I would make up and act out stories.
Dad and Mom bowled for fun on Saturday night. Also Sunday night they were in a league--each of the teams were named after mixed drinks. The first year they were half of the Grasshoppers, a name that still makes me smile. League nights were fun because sometimes the other bowlers bought their kids. I had a crush on Don, who had dark curly hair and big dark eyes, for the longest time, but I was most envious of Jeannie Miller, who went to a Catholic school. She was learning about physiology and had chemistry class while we were still fooling around with boring junk.
Dad also bowled in a summer league on Tuesday nights and Mom and I went with him. We'd take a long walk from the bowling alley all the way down to Garden City's branch of the Outlet Company and then back to Woolworth's to visit the budgies and get some popcorn.
Garden City Lane's gone now. They knocked it and the Garden City Cinema, probably the first General Cinema movie theatre in the state, down about the same time and replaced it with a strip shopping center and a Shaw's supermarket, respectively. After he retired, Dad would still go over to the other bowling alley, Legion Bowladrome, and keep score for the retired men's leagues. I haven't been down that part of Park Avenue for several years now; it's probably gone, too. I still remember the night we went there instead of to Garden City and I missed Get Smart because someone wanted to watch Lawrence Welk. How I cried when I got home!
Sheesh. All this from one whiff of cigarette smoke...