Big Balls or Little Balls?

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?



About Gerry

I've been covering Connecticut news and sports since 1974. I know, I don't look that old.
This entry was posted in It's all about me, Living in the Past and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Big Balls or Little Balls?

  1. Jerry says:

    We had a place like that here in Htfd. It was on Washington above the A&P. We never bowled. We only went to use the pool tables. because at that time pool halls were absolutley Off Limits, no excuse.

  2. jim says:

    Had the same here in Danielson. Second floor walkup right next to the railroad tracks.You could feel the ol”P&W comin’ from a mile away and had to adjust your game accordingly.My folks weren”t that pleased about my appearance there either.

  3. graham says:

    Ah, bowling alleys and Fanta………I hated Fanta, but remember the Pepsi in glass bottles? Now there was a drink. None of this canned “diet” soda and soda was called by it’s correct name, Tonic.
    And as for Stasia Czernicki, she was the BEST! We were all glued to the t.v. to watch her hit strike after strike (and yes, it was in black and white) week after week with Dan Gillis as the show’s host.
    My very first job, I think I was 13, was at the local bowling alley two days a week after school and Saturday mornings. I think it paid 50 cents an hour BUT you could bowl all you wanted for free! In Milton Ma. we had two bowling alleys and both were underneath other buildings and both were candlepin. We had to go to Quincy to bowl the “big balls”.
    Let’s find a candle-pin house and have the “Gerry Brooks Open” some day. But lets find one on the first floor……those stairs are getting hard to climb out of the basement.
    Nice find Gerry, you make me want to clean out the cellar. (well, maybe tommorrow)

  4. Dec’s Candlepin Lanes, above a bar on Pleasant Street in Northampton. Went there as a kid with my dad in the 50s. Dec’s had pinboys. Pinboys! Same kind of place you’re talking about, but no permits required.

    Stacia! I remember her. And Charlie Jutras, her male counterpart. I used to watch that show. Saturday’s at noon. Don Gillis.

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