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.