One of the most significant historical events to take place on October 15th occurred in 1520. This was when King Henry VIII ordered 2 bowling lanes to be installed at Whitehall Palace.
Why is this such an important historical event?
Because, while bowling had been around for a really, really long time it had also been outlawed in England for quite some time. It seems all the King’s men wasted too much time bowling instead of practicing their jousting, archery and other important knightly stuff so they made the “sport” illegal. (Kind of like today’s employers putting a firewall on the company server so employees don’t waste all their time playing Facebook games).
Henry VIII, however, enjoyed games that didn’t make him move too much, and for which he could wear other people’s shoes, so one fine October 15th morning, he declared his desire for a couple of bowling alleys in his den. And lo! They were built. And from then on bowling was wildly popular in England.
But, as I said, bowling has been around for a long time. Archeologists dug up primitive bowling balls and bowling pins in a grave of an Egyptian from 3200 BC.
There is also evidence from Germany that the sport was played in that country as early as 200 BC – except they used stones and threw them at nine wooden sticks, called kegles. Coincidentally, I believe this was also the origin of the expression, “sticks and stones may break my bones, etc., etc.” Germans have a way of taking the fun out of most things, don’t they?
Anyway, some form of bowling was played in many countries from way back. (Bocce in Italy, Petanque in France). In Scotland a player threw a ball with no holes between his legs towards the pins and after he had released the ball the player would slide towards the pins on his belly. I’m not sure why. Maybe the momentum of the throw combined with the mandatory consumption of a flagon of grain spirits before each turn?
The US started tenpin bowling because the original ninepin bowling attracted a lot of gamblers. A law was passed prohibiting people from owing ninepin bowling lanes. So, of course those clever, loophole-loving Americans just tossed another pin on the deck and kept playing.
I haven’t bowled since XUP Jr. was in elementary school. Back then there wasn’t a lot that would thrill her and her friends quite as much as an afternoon of 5-pin glow-in-the-dark Cosmic bowling. When the weather was crappy (which it almost always was in Halifax) it was cheap fun for everyone.
And it was always a great place for birthday parties! The kids would throw some balls around and dance to the stylin’ disco rhythms of the alley’s sound system and the moms would sit, gossip and slurp bowling alley lattes.
Ah, good times.