Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about bowling. (Hey, bowling…gutter. Everything comes together, doesn’t it? And wow, I’ve digressed before I even begin! That’s not easy.)
Growing up in Eastern Massachusetts, that was always the follow-up question to another question: “Wanna go bowling?” “Big balls” was ten-pin bowling; “little balls” was candlepin bowling.
And then there was this. Something I had completely forgotten about until I found it during the purge of the basement.
I never quite figured out the need for this, though I suspected it must have had something to do with Kemp’s Bowl-a-way.
There were three bowling alleys in Framingham. (Now there are none.) Bowler’s World was a modern ten-pin bowling facility. Bowl-a-rama was the candlepin place you nagged your parents to bring you to. (It was across the street from the town incinerator. We’re still breathing.)
And then there was Kemp’s. The one bowling alley my parents didn’t want us to go to. It was downtown, a 13-cent ride on the B & W bus line. At the corner of Concord and Kendall, if I recall correctly. Old building, second floor walkup. Entrance on the side street opposite the Gorman Theater. Candlepin.
The never-explained order (“Because I said so!”) that we not go to Kemp’s meant, of course, we had to go there. I do remember the thrill of walking up those steps to see whatever it was my parents didn’t want us to see. And I do remember walking through those doors to see…bowling lanes. Older, worn, rutted lanes. Balls that had the smooth roundness long gouged out of them. Rental shoes that hadn’t seen a shine in a long time. A single tonic machine dispensing Fanta orange. But a bowling alley nonetheless. A quarter a string, I think.
I don’t remember how many times I went to Kemp’s, but every time I did, I looked for…something.
I never did see what I was or wasn’t looking for. But Kemp’s had to be the reason for those bowling permits, no?