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Friday, March 27, 2009

Candlepin Bowling

The three objects above are identifiable probably only to New Englanders. They are, of course, candlepin bowling balls. The sport created in New England is played only here and in some of the Canadian Maritimes.

The sport actually is less popular in Rhode Island and Connecticut, but I’d love to hear from our friends in these states to know if they’ve been candlepin bowling in their communities, or if it’s duckpin they prefer. Or ten-pin, which some New Englanders call “big balls.”

We have Justin White to thank for this sport, who in 1879 bought a billiard and bowling business in Worcester, and developed the game. Bowling of one form or another had been around since people lived in caves, but Mr. White made some refinements, and this particular game’s popularity took off.

For our friends not familiar with candlepin bowling, the game is a bit harder than ten-pin bowling (big balls). The pins are more narrow and streamlined (like candles), the balls are smaller (like grapefruit). The balls can frequently pass right through the spaces between the pins and hit nothing, prompting much harassment from fellow bowlers.

Ten-pin? Heaving a giant ball at a bunch of fat pins, of course you’re going to knock something down. Big deal.

Each game in candlepin is called a string, and a bowler gets three tries each box to knock ‘em down. We leave pins up in configurations called “the four horsemen” or “spread eagle” or a “half Worcester”.

Many of us grew up watching Don Gillis on “Candlepin Bowling” on TV. For more on candlepin bowling, have a look at this website.


Unknown said...

Gosh, I lovge bowling & was actually pretty decent at it in my prime. But I only did "big balls" as you say-- always wanted to try candlepins, but there weren't any in Vermont I knew of. My father liked to watch a candlepin show on one of the Boston stations on weekends. It seemed interesting because they don't clear the deadwood & you can use it to make shots. Fun post!

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thanks, John. Your father's bowling show on TV was the one undoubtedly my father, and consequently the rest of us, were glued to on Saturday morning. I can remember being fascinated by the giant clear drum of postcards people sent in, from which a raffle winner was chosen each week.

No candlepin in Vermont? I'm surprised. One of the things I love about candlepin is that you can often still find the small, out of the way candlepin places that have maybe four or five lanes and a lunch counter. No giant "family fun" plazas with arcades and such. Little homey hole-in-the-wall places. I used to bowl at a place that was on the second floor of some old main street professional building that had, I think, three candlepin lanes and an old gentleman, probably named Pop, renting shoes.

Yes, you use the deadwood in candlepin. Sometimes you can knock more pins down by using it, sometimes it flies up and you knock down pins in the next lane with it.

Unknown said...

Hi Jacqueline:

There probably was candlepin in VT, but I never unearthed it.

Anonymous said...

Ha! We used to go candlepin bowling every Saturday in the kids league. It was great! I think I still have a few trophies!

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Wow! Not only another candlepin bowler, but a champion as well! You save those trophies, K. Shine them up. Bring in the neighbors to see them. Be proud. I'm just honored you dropped by to visit.

k2 said...

A few trophies? I think we had a room dedicated to those trophies she had! I didn't have my own room 'till I was 16 because of those things! ;) She failed to point out that we actually chose bowling over cartoons most of the time. Being from rural New England, in the 80's, Saturday morning was the only time Cartoons were on! Candlepin is by far the best. I didn't play 'big ball' until college and it was so much easier!

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Welcome K2, and thanks for the expose on K's candlepin bowling career as it impacted on your deprived childhood. Indeed, the world of championship candlepin bowling can be sordid.

Bowling over cartoons? That's a tough one. I don't know if I would be strong enough to make that choice.

"Big ball" is easier, you're right. It's like playing "Candyland" and candlepin bowling is like playing chess.

Thanks so much for joining us, K2.

Daniel Lieberman said...

Did you know that there is a candlepin bowling alley in Shelburne Falls? Please come back and visit us for bowling...
Falls Bowling Alley

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I'll just grab my bowling shoes. Let's all head up to bowl a string at the Shelburn Falls Bowling Alley.

T. said...

OMG You guys are CCCCRRRUUUEEELLLL!! My husband and I just moved TO Hartford, CT. last year after living in Bryan, OH. for 14 years, and I've been DYING to play CANDLEPIN! I can't play Big Ball well because the balls are a bit too heavy for my wrist. Please tell me there is some candlepin in the area?!?!

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I feel your pain, T. I really don't know of any CT candlepin alleys, though I'm sure there must be. I will say that the Agawam Bowl in Agawam, Mass, just over the state line, does have candlepin - 359 Walnut Street Extension. My usual candlepin haunt these days is the Canal Lanes in Southampton, Mass., a nice place I really like. I'm afraid that in your quest for real bowling (as we like to say here, "if it ain't candlepin, it ain't bowling), that you're probably going to have to take a little drive. By the way, as regards your wrist pain, candlepin is just the think for people suffering from carpal tunnel, back pain, or difficulties gripping a big ball. Good luck!

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