(Side note: But I think I look better than she does!)
Welcome to the second, and most likely the last segment of "MJ's Book Club".
(Why second and last? I don't like to read. I have other things to do. Books generally take way too much time to get through. Also, I really hate when authors try to set the stage. If it is a cold, rainy October evening, then the author should start the book with "It was a cold and rainy October evening when..." Instead, it gets drawn out into two chapters, comparing cold to some obscure time in 13th century Greece, the rain to a Medival torture technique and comparing October [and evening] to every other month [and evening] in the charachter's life. No thanks. There must be a ballgame on TV somewhere, or one of my kids or step-kids to discipline, or hell, even a blog to write.) When I do read a book, it is almost always biographical in nature and describing an event, like the two books I own on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, or my book of baseball lineups that I keep in my, um, er, library for nightly reading.
But for the last four years or so, I've watched my good friend Doug painstakingly research Milwaukee's bowling history, and develop the roadmap that not only told the story, but includes anecdotes from the past 100+ years of Milwaukee's bowling history. Over those last few years, Doug proudly called me to discuss some obscure finding that he learned during his research, he bounced some things off of me (like the title, the original of which the publisher rejected) and he even let me read one particular chapter soon after he had written it to get my view of how it flowed, and if there was anything he might have been missing.
So, while it was sometimes frustrating to talk to Doug on a personal level because the subject almost always became about the book, I had been looking forward to reading it for quite awhile. When They Came to Bowl: How Milwaukee Became America's Tenpin Capital (written by Doug Schmidt and published by the fine folks at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press) had finally gone to press, all that was left was to wait for the release date.
On Friday, September 28th (see how that was done? Less than two chapters), Doug walked into bowling on Friday night and I bought the third copy (Damn you Gus and Dave). Doug proudly signed it, and I started to read the book as soon as I had gotten home from bowling that night.
Now, considering that this is a book review, I am admitting to doing a lousy job. Since I don't like to read, I don't read other's book reviews. And other than the Harry Potter disaster from the summer, I haven't done one of my own since high school. Here's the review...
It's pretty good. 220 pages and two appendices (appendixes?) of history.
Short and to the point, eh?
More appropriately, I am interested in relating my view of some of the events. I have been bowling for 30 years now. I started when I was nine, right after my paternal grandfather had died. We had just moved into an upper flat in Bay View, and the kids that lived downstairs bowled every Saturday morning. As my parents were involved with funeral planning, they sent me to bowl at Bay View Bowl with the kids downstairs. I don't know if they realized that it was a league, but I was placed on a team that day, and have bowled in a league every fall/winter since. That includes the times when I had to walk to and from home to the bowling alley carrying two bowling balls in brown paper grocery bags, barefoot in the winter, uphill (both ways) and fighting off bears along the way (and my kids gripe when I won't drive them to Riviera Lanes for their leagues when we live a block away.)
In those 30 years that I have bowled, I have been directly related to a number of events that Doug wrote about. Of course, he never mentioned my name (which I will make sure he never forgets), but I guess I forgive him.
One of those incidents is covered on Page 95, where Schmidt discussed how scoring conditions became controversial. He quoted Marty San Felippo, who had owned both Showdown Lanes on 38th & National (now an Oriental restaurant) as well as Premier Lanes on 112th & Forest Home (now Skylark Lanes). San Felippo said "I know numerous bowling parties that were held after an honor score was shot to get the lanes into a legal condition. I'll admit my center was one of them and I know of others who did. After the party, that honor score was found to be legal" (because at the time any honor score had to be reported to the local bowling association and the lanes had to be inspected for a conforming condition. At these bowling parties, the lanes were altered from their non-conforming condition and made to be conforming, then bowlers would bowl to replicate the league play. The inspector would be called in AFTER the bowling party, and s/he was none the wiser. The lanes were found to be conforming, and the bowlers was credited with that honor score). In the late-80s, I was the Head Junior Coach at Showdown, and I was involved in these parties when my juniors bowled a 300 game or an 800 series.
When I read that story, I smiled, because I knew exactly what Doug was talking about, and that I (even though you didn't mention me, Doug) had taken part in a documented piece of Milwaukee's bowling history.
Then on Page 140, in a chapter called "Ladies of the Lanes", Doug writes a story of Margie Morrow-Wukoman. On February 15, 2001 (Doug did a good job of setting that scene), while bowling at Riviera Lanes in her Thursday Night league, Margie bowled 278-300-258 = 836 series, contributing to her Plennes, Inc. team shooting a 3761 series. That series was then in the top five ever in the state, and I believe it is still in the top ten in Milwaukee's history. How does that relate to me? Well, it was against my team, Wholesale Ticket's and Tours. And if I remember correctly, our team did not score more than 2800, meaning that they beat us by 1000 pins that night. I do recall that I bowled pretty well for two games, but our team actually became in awe of them, and for all intents and purposes, we just wanted to get out of their way.
Since the book has been out, Doug has been featured on FranklinNOW.com in a story titled "Tenpin tales: Franklin author strikes with definitive history of Milwaukee bowling". Doug will be on Fox 6 being interviewed by Mark Concannon at 8:20 AM tomorrow (Monday, October 22nd). On Tuesday and Thursday of this week, he will be at AMF Bowlero signing books from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM. Anybody that buys a book at Bowlero will be allowed into watch the USBC Masters qualifying rounds those days at no charge. Finally this Wednesday, he will be giving a presentation on his book at 7:00 PM at the Franklin Public Library. I also believe that if you ask nicely (and tell him that I sent you), he would sign a book after his bowling league is completed Friday around 9:00 PM at Bluemound bowl.
Books are available at Barnes and Noble stores in the Milwaukee area as well as various outlets online.