I need­ed mon­ey for albums and art sup­plies and I need­ed a job. We hadn’t been at the base for too long before I was look­ing for work. Although there weren’t many oppor­tu­ni­ties avail­able for a twelve year old, I man­aged to find work dur­ing our stay at the Naval Ship­yard.  My broth­er Joe and I worked in the morn­ings sell­ing 10-cent news­pa­pers to griz­zled ship work­ers shuf­fling in to work. We were sta­tioned at the cor­ner of Lan­g­ley and Broad Streets in the shad­ow and smells of a large ship. We stacked our piles of Inquir­ers and Dai­ly News under the roof of a dark blue ply­wood hut where hot cof­fee, cig­a­rettes and snacks were sold. It wasn’t much mon­ey for a cou­ple hours of work, but I was able to save enough to buy a used shoeshine kit and set up shop in the lob­by of the movie the­ater. Offi­cers and sailors on dates, sort­ing their dress Khak­is, sum­mer whites and blues need­ed their shoes shined.

I set up hand-paint­ed a sign with a fan­cy-col­ored let­ter­ing: $.25 cents for a shine! My oak wood box had an angled foot rest on top where the shoe rest­ed com­fort­ably while being pro­fes­sion­al­ly pol­ished. I had a vari­ety of Kiwi shoe pol­ish col­ors that includ­ed black, brown and neu­tral for white shoes. With hand daubers I scooped up small amounts of the wax pol­ish and mas­saged it into the leather then rubbed briskly with wool rag buffers. The last step was fin­ish­ing the shine with a soft bris­tled brush.  I was good at it and fast, but there wasn’t a lot of time before and after movies so I rarely made more than a few bucks over a week­end. One of the perks was I was allowed to slip in and watch a cur­rent movie.

I recall see­ing a cou­ple bor­ing long-in the-tooth John Wayne west­erns, but enjoyed “To Sir with Love” with Sid­ney Poitier. Poitier was a cool cat. For a change, a Negro was help­ing poor white kids. His class was made up of a major­i­ty of surly punks and sluts and he taught them self-respect and passed on a few per­son­al groom­ing tips. Lulu’s song, “To Sir with Love” was the num­ber one song of 1967.

My dad joined the men’s league at the base’s bowl­ing alley and was a good bowler. He claimed to have had a 188 aver­age, which was very respectable. I wasn’t that famil­iar with bowl­ing, except for watch­ing Fred Flinstone’s bowl­ing prowess. His twin­kle toe approach was a mar­vel to behold. Mon­keys pulled up the remain­ing pins with their extend­ed tails and re-set them for an inevitable spare. I don’t recall how I got a job there, but I would have the mon­key job.

The 8 bowl­ing lanes there were old school with man­u­al pin­set­ters like myself. The mechan­i­cal pin­set­ter was invent­ed in 1936 by AMF, so this alley had been around for a while. We were perched on a shelf above the pin racks. After the bowl­ing ball rolled through the pins and thud­ded again­st the pit or back wall, I jumped down into the pit, lift­ed the ball and rolled it back to the bowler on the return track. It was basi­cal­ly a steep slide that used grav­i­ty to get the ball back. After the sec­ond roll, I engaged a sweep bar that cleared the fal­l­en pins from the pin deck. Jump­ing down again, I col­lect­ed the pins and filled a new rack, then engaged the pins for the next frame. Each game had ten frames or twen­ty rolls, except the ten­th frame had a bonus roll or two if you had a spare or strike. The high­est pos­si­ble score was 300, also called a per­fect game.

It was hot back there and it could be dan­ger­ous when a freak pin would ric­o­chet out of the pit like a 3 lb, 6oz. mis­sile and could put a hurt on you. Then there was the drunk­en sailor who would try to take you out with a dead­ly roll when you were in the pit. So you had to be weary and quick.

An anthro­pol­o­gist unearthed prim­i­tive bowl­ing arti­facts that dat­ed back over 5,000 years in ancient Egypt. Though some his­to­ri­ans of the game attrib­ute bowl­ing to a reli­gious rite prac­ticed by Ger­man monks around 300 AD. In Medieval Eng­land dur­ing the 1100’s, a vari­ety of lawn bowl­ing games were played, includ­ing half-bowls, ninepins and skit­tles.

In the 17th cen­tu­ry, Dutch and Ger­man set­tlers brought the 9-pin ver­sion of the game to the Amer­i­c­as. It was played in NY State in an area still called “Bowl­ing Green.” Fond­ly, I recall the sto­ry of Rip Van Win­kle by Wash­ing­ton Irv­ing where Rip fol­lows the sound of thun­der deep in the Catskill moun­tains and dis­cov­ers a group of small beard­ed men in anti­quat­ed Dutch cloth­ing play­ing nine-pins. He drinks their liquor and falls into a deep sleep. So deep, he sleeps through the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War and wakes up as an old man. As I men­tioned ear­ly on, Arthur Rack­ham beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed this sto­ry. Bowl­ing was pop­u­lar dur­ing colo­nial times and endured as an Amer­i­can pas­time.

The hard wood bowl­ing ball was replaced in 1905 by the Evertrue rub­ber ball. In 1914 Brunswick cre­at­ed the rub­ber Min­er­alite ball and now balls are made or ure­thane plas­tic and weigh up to 16 lbs. There are six­ty-five mil­lion bowlers in the Unit­ed States.

One long week­end I made Thir­ty-three bucks pin set­ting.  I was paid with a tall stack of ones. I laid each bill side by side and cov­ered my bed before jump­ing into the cash pile and lit­er­al­ly rolling in the dough.