History - Flattening Bowling Alleys

Flattening Bowling Alleys
Sports Editor, The Star. Peoria, IL

IN its drive for uniform bowling alleys the American Bowling Congress flattened the alleys, but failed to flatten scores.  Bowlers and bowling executives were of the opinion that flat alleys, such as offered in ABC tournaments, would greatly reduce the scores.

To the contrary, scores here, especially among younger bowlers, are higher.

With flat alleys one doesn’t have to “know” the drives to locate the “pocket.” A ball clings to its course. It doesn’t take a swan-dive here and a hope-skip-and-jump there. The steam-roller removed all of the dives. Every alley in Peoria was placed under the scrutiny of the Foster Bowling alley-meter during the summer months.

And believe you me that little instrument is about as near human as a mechanical devise could be. It eliminates all guess-work in checking bowling alleys for imperfections. All drives were planned, sanded and leveled, passing a most rigid inspection. Today Peoria has alleys as flat as a pancake. They are as near to A.B.C. drives as is humanly possible.

The natural opinion that prevailed at the time was that the scores would be cut down considerably. Surprisingly it has been to the contrary. Good bowlers are finding it difficult to keep their average over the 200 mark, but the boys who don’t know anything about the manner in which an alley works and who keep throwing at the pins instead of spots, are piling up some terrific counts.

Bowling alley operators appear as surprised as the bowlers. They thought that the radical change would bring about a big reduction in scores. Bowlers like it better. They don’t have to play this alley high and the next one shallow. They all work about alike and the “pocket” seems to be in the same place on every bowling alley in town.

Since the American Bowling Congress is putting forth every possible effort to rid the ten-pin game of the “slots” and grooved alleys we do not hesitate to recommend the Peoria treatment with the aid of the Foster- meter. The new instrument seems to be flawless and gives the A.B.C., as well as the bowlers and bowling alley owners, uniform drives.

The main argument in support of such conditions is that bowlers capable of bowling 220-average at home will be able to come somewhere near that mark while bowling in tourney competition on foreign drives.

In years gone by some of the so-called hot-shots, heavily ladened with hardware for their 3500, 3600 and 3700 pin series struggled, fought and slaved to round out a mere 2650 pin total in A.B.C. competition. They found flat alleys harder to solve than those filled with shellac and ridges.

Those were the clubs that drew the throngs to the A.B.C. gallery and nine times out of ten they proved bitter disappointments. Perhaps on an adjoining pair of drives a team from Po-Dunk drew all the plaudits from the rail-birds while the prima-donnas were presented with the Bronx cheers.

The new set-up, if unanimously adopted and rigidly enforced, should eliminate a lot of trouble and grief to owners of establishments and bowlers alike. Uniform conditions in the bowling game should be the aim of the A.B.C. The organization must, however, see to it that “cheaters” are penalized.

Mere flattening of drives doesn’t mean that all the evils connected with the game are eliminated. Bowling alley machines will still be able to over-load a portion of the drive with shellac to perfect a groove, but we believe that the majority of operators and managers will co-operate with the A.B.C. if a concerted effort is made to eliminate the dragon.

Executive committeemen, city association and league secretaries can greatly aid the parent organization in this drive. It would result in a ten-strike for ten-pins.

Originally Published in the ABC Bulletin in 1936

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Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson began his career in the bowling business in 1976 at the age of 15 working for the Florida based Galaxy Lanes chain. Beginning from the ground up in center operations, he has also been a long time Pro Shop proprietor, 40 lane center General Manager, PBA National Tour player, multi PBA Regional Champion, PBA Player Services Director, and even a bowling writer. Since 2004 he has been working with Kegel.

Ted has also coached bowling on many different levels. From basic Learn to Bowl classes and private lessons while in the Pro Shop business, he was also head coach for Florida State University, countless PBA professionals, and even coached Lisa Wagner to her last Player of the Year award in 1993. While working for the PBA, the late great Dick Weber even asked for some of his time. An experience Ted says "he will always cherish". Dick immediately won a Senior Sweeper and gave him $300. It was the most Ted ever received for an hour lesson, and it came from one of the greatest players of all time.

Recently, Ted has been deeply studying topography and the effects it has on ball motion. He is also on the Kegel Team helping make decisions for many of the oil patterns Kegel uses in competitions world wide, which has led to further development of Kegel's lane machines. Ted has a complete and unique understanding of bowling from many different sides.

Ted also named the world's and Kegel's most popular lane machine the "Kustodian ION" (pronounced "EON" in Europe) and spearheaded the creation of Kegel's Navigation Oil Patterns. The creativity may be heredity. In 1968 Ted's father created the famous Dodge Super Bee logo and spearheaded that marketing campaign.