I bowled a lot for a few years during my teens. That included a Saturday morning league for a while. In fact, four other guys from my league and I won the Bucks County, PA team championship for our age group in 1980 or ‘81.
Bowlers’ burnout cut my competitive bowling days short. Since then it would be a stretch to call it even an occasional activity for me. Until a couple weeks ago, I had bowled once in the last decade-and-a-half. But my wife and I maintained a connection to the sport, first and foremost, by watching the Coen Brothers’ comedy, The Big Lebowski, repeatedly throughout our marriage.
On top of that, since cutting the cable cord a few months ago, we’ve been regular viewers of Celebrity Bowling, a TV show from the 1970s that I found on one of the optional Roku channels.
All of that watching finally got me to thinking about doing. I put out the idea of going bowling to my wife and we have now done so twice in the past couple weeks, including today.
We’ve settled on Sproul Lanes, which is a 15-20 minute drive from us, in Broomall, PA, as our new home alley. It’s right next to The Hungry A, an old-school luncheonette that I included in a recent post. But we had other post-bowling plans for lunch today, and I’ll get to those in a bit.
I like Sproul Lanes because it’s not an ultra-modern entertainment palace with all kinds of bells and whistles and crazy lighting. It’s more of an old-fashioned bowling alley.
Getting back into my old form is a process. I struggled our first time out, but started to get a feel for it during the last few frames of our second and final game that day.
I requested that we bowl three games today, to give me more time to get warmed up. That turned out to be a dubious strategy. It did take me most of the first game to get going, but I was on a roll by the end of it and carried that over to the next game, in which I bowled a 169, by far the highest score I’ve achieved during our two recent outings. I believe my high score from my league days was 207.
Here is a video of me in action today. I picked up nine on this shot.
We took a 10-15 minute break between the second and third games and I wasn’t able to recapture my form. We were both actually a little tired by the end of the third game and will probably stick with two from now on.
By the time we finished bowling, we had worked up strong appetites and had a plan to satisfy them. My wife suggested beforehand that we have lunch at the Original Thunderbird Steakhouse, a cheesesteak and pizza shop that is also in Broomall. She didn’t have to twist my arm. I’ve wanted to eat there for a while.
Thunderbird has been owned and operated by the same family since 1956. Like The Hungry A, it has the look of a classic luncheonette from the era in which it opened.
The banter from some of the regulars who were eating there and giving the proverbial good-natured hard time to the guys behind the counter, was also like something out of a past era. This place would be worth a return visit to suck up more of its atmosphere even if the food was lousy. And while it wasn’t top notch, it was far from lousy.
In addition to ordering sandwiches, my wife and I shared a Trenton-style tomato pie, something they’ve added to their menu relatively recently and which features crushed tomatoes over a white pizza. The crust had a nice crunch and the cheese blend was high quality, but I’ve had Trenton-style tomato pie in and around Trenton, and this didn’t remind me of it. If I order pizza there again, I’ll probably go with their standard version.
My wife enjoyed her roast pork sandwich, which she ordered with spinach and regular Provolone cheese, as opposed to the also-available extra-sharp version.
Naturally, I ordered a cheesesteak. By the standards I normally use to judge steaks here, it was merely solid. The seedless Amoroso roll wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t competitive with the better rolls I’ve had during my cheesesteak journey. There was plenty of American cheese well blended with the tasty beef. But the amount of meat was fairly meager compared to what I’ve become accustomed to.
Having said that, I imagine Thunderbird’s steaks haven’t changed much in the 66 years they have been around. It had a very good overall flavor and was probably more in line with what most Philly-area cheesesteak lovers ate years ago, when portions were smaller and before it was common for gourmet, seeded rolls filled with a huge amount of beef to be found in all corners of the region. And there is something about that I find very comforting.
8 thoughts on “… Dude, Let’s Go Bowling”
I bowled in leagues from the time I was around 11 or 12 until I was in my early 30s (mid 1990s), when the last team I was on disbanded and I didn’t try to find another one. It helped that the local bowling alley of my early years was less than 5 minutes away by car and before I had my own equipment I would sometimes walk or bike to and from there. Over 20+ years of league bowling (with a 4-year break when I was in college) I had a few 600 series but never came close to a 700, and I have no idea what my all-time single-game high is.
About 10-12 years or so ago my wife and I went bowling for fun. When I quit league bowling I was using a semi-fingertip grip but discovered on this outing that my hand had changed and the ball didn’t fit very well anymore, but I used it anyway and by the time we were done with a couple of games the back of my hand had swelled up and remained that way for almost a week. If we ever do go bowling again I think I’ll start with a house ball that fits better, and if it becomes a somewhat regular activity I’ll look into getting my own bowling balls redrilled.
Apparently no one told the Lebowski crew that food and drinks are NOT allowed on the lanes!! ;^)
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Great post with great pics, Barry! Brought back memories.
Was that THE Roy Rogers? I guess so from the bolo tie. Love the backdrops above the pin area! Very imaginative. I dowanna know what the newer family entertainment lanes are like. When my folks went bowling at post lanes in Trieste or Livorno, I was pretty bored, so I would go out to the car and nap in the backseat. Strangely I associate cinnamon gum with those experiences; I don’t know why.
When I was 11-12 back in Arlington, I bowled duck pins. My mom must have got me started. The lanes were too far away to walk to and she must have shown me how it was done. I enjoyed trying to beat my best scores. Was good enough to be on local TV in a match. Don’t recall the results. By then reading was already my passion so my duck pin phase didn’t last long. Never went on to full sized pins and balls.
We never ate at the lanes. We never bowled at the Bowl and Dine, which was never its official name, that was just the neon sign above the lanes and the basement Chinese restaurant. Here in Logan, the favorite alley is next door to Sizzlers. Both lanes look like the noise would be deafening. 🤪
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Yeah. A lot of newer bowling alleys are less about the bowling than the full entertainment experience. Not my thing.
That is THE Roy Rogers. He was a good bowler; one of the better ones they had on there. So was Bob Newhart.