Monday, April 18, 2011

Candlepin Bowling, Fatbread Pizza: A New England Tradition; I Sink To New Lows; Alley...Oops!

Our family did something very New England-ish this weekend and, no, we didn't go to a Red Sox game. While visiting my son, daughter-in-law and two young grandsons, we went to a candlepin bowling alley in a town called Somerville, not far from Cambridge in Massachusetts. I'd never heard of this kind of bowling and was more than curious to see what it was all about.

Part of the reason New Yorkers are unaware of this sport is that it is found mostly in the Canadian Maritimes and New England states having been invented in Worcester, Ma. by a Mr. Justin White. In 1879, Mr. White inherited a bowling alley with pins that resembled broomstick handles and balls ranging in size from three to five inches. The game was not very compelling so the following year Justin increased the size of his new pins to twelve inches high with a two inch center tapering down to one inch on each end. The new game took off, and Justin began manufacturing the new pins for other alley owners. It was 1880, candlepin bowling came into it's own!

I looked up the rules to the game and they are lengthy but basically here is how we played: Each player gets three turns. Unlike regular bowling, the downed pins, if any (and in my case, not many!), are not cleared until the bowler is finished with his turn. The ball, about 5 inches in width and lightweight has no holes for fingers and is simply held in the palm. After each player's turn, a reset button clears and repositions the pins for the next one up. Bowling shoes are worn and because of the small ball size, it's a great game for kids.

The alley we went to was called Sacco's Bowl Haven and is run by the 4th generation of the Sacco family. Founded in 1939, the establishment is decorated in 'early warehouse' with a side order of '50s decor. Colorful globe pendants mimicking bowling balls hang from the exposed metal beams lighting the restaurant area and candlepin-style lights hang above the bowling area. Sacco's has recently added a Flatbread Pizza restaurant with table or alley service. The pizza was cooked in a brick oven right on the floor of the restaurant and was delicious. Appetizers, salads and desserts are also available.

I took a lot of photos only to discover that they were corrupted and not recoverable from my camera but I did find a few online images to use as illustrations. You might note I made no mention of the scores. After getting a spare my first time up, I suppose I got overconfident and subsequently sunk to new lows on almost every turn eventually coming in second to last just 3 points above my 3 year old grandson! I had a lot of fun, we all did, but I'll be looking for another sport to 'excel' in sometime soon!

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