Everything Candlepin


Bangor Brewer Lanes – Brewer, Me.

bangor01Well, here’s to hoping that I start writing more as my life calms down slightly, and I am actually feeling much better than I had been over the last month.  I apologize for everything, and I truly hope you’ll start coming back more regularly.

Here is the first of many sights and sounds you’ll see from Bangor-Brewer lanes in Brewer, Maine, site of the 2012 Candlepin Worlds Championships.

I had the pleasure of throwing a handful of games Friday night after the first round of the playoffs were through.  The wife and I caught a pretty good dinner at Massimo’s Cucina Italiana and then we went to burn those calories off.

Unfortunately, we didn’t arrive in Maine until late Wednesday night amidst a fairly good wintery storm and I had to teach my math course and couldn’t cancel TWO classes for bowling (though I wanted to).  I missed two days of bowling.  By the time I had thrown my first ball in Bangor, I heard a lot of complaining about the alley.  The action wasn’t good.  The ball returns were slow. It was slippery.  I heard anything and everything imaginable when it came to the lane conditions.  I will fully admit I wasn’t bowling in the tournament, so those things wouldn’t necessarily be an issue for me bowling for fun.  The main complaint seemed to be “slop” on the lanes.
It’s easy to see here – the lanes were filthy.  I can clearly see how this could be a complaint.  Since we were alone in the alley, time wasn’t an issue,  so waiting for the balls was a minor inconvenience.  I opened with a solid 126, hitting some great shots, so I didn’t think the action was bad.  Again, I wasn’t in the tournament.  So hitting a single with wood bowling alone is a HELL of a lot easier than with an entire team rooting for you, and maybe another team jeering you to miss.  But as you can see here, I was six boxes into my second 126, and my hands looked like hell.  I was only 16 boxes in and I had trouble holding onto the ball.  I can’t imagine being someone who bowls nearly all of the 33 games throughout the week.  It’s an issue.  It can’t be denied.  Good luck.  You need a lot of hand washing, or a super wet towel that can potentially minimize the lane conditions.
It’s easy to see after opening with two 126’s that dropping to a 96 with two marks is possible from the filth.  I can see how this is an issue and it should be addressed regardless of being in the tournament or your average customer.

I’m  not saying the pins should fly.  I’m not saying the ball returns should be super fast.  I bowl slowly anyway.  But things should be clean, or somewhat clean.  Bowling is difficult enough and these lane conditions just add to the game that is already maddening enough at times.

I liked the alley for the most part.  I don’t like how the more I bowled the more difficult it was to hold onto the ball.  I don’t generally slam the ball of the lane (save for Woburn – still confuses me) but I was a regular bouncer in the third string.

Overall it wasn’t the worst experience I’ve had in a bowling alley.  The bowlers were right however, the lanes were messy.  The action was okay, but again, I had no pressure.  Hopefully next year, if I am at Halifax, it will be a different story and I can complain about pressure.

 December 28th, 2012  
 Rich Limone  
 Bowling Alleys  
 0 Comment

Westport Lanes – Westbrook, Me

This past Sunday morning Frank De Luca, Anna and I had the pleasure of taking the trip up to Westbrook, Maine to preview the alley for the Pro Series event.  The singles knockout tournament is going to take place this coming Saturday, October 20th.  The shift times are 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM.  The singles events are great.  Go in, throw your five strings, throw your game, qualify in the top 32 and let the fun begin.  I qualified for this even two years ago in Concord at Boutwell’s.  It should be fun.

Let me tell you this place is great.  It’s run by two firecracker women in Pam and Rose.  Rose is the owner’s mother in law.  She is quite the character and I wish she was at every Pro Series event or we had every event at West-port Lanes.  Needless to say, our first conversation started with her making fun of me.  I will leave the details out, but after I returned from the rest room her wisecrack was “still thinking of a comeback for that one?”.  Yeah, she might make fun us more than we make fun of ourselves.  It should be interesting to say the least.  To add to that, she said she said she was out of work for a period of time, and her son in law asked her to work a couple of days at the alley, and 26 years later she is still there.  She told me that she worked in with electrical equipment and services all the machines herself.  Included in that skill set must be the doorbells for reset buttons which is great.  We couldn’t decide if a strike should be called a “ding dong” or just “ring the bell”.  I’m sure we will hear both if people read this post before the tournament.

After making fun of me for being a “professional” bowler, she told us that this house was tough, and it wasn’t fast at all.  The bowling alley was built in 1966 and the new and current owners bought the place in 1967.  It has all the original equipment.  The most interesting thing has to be the pinsetters.  If you think Lanes N’ Games in interesting you need to watch these reset.  The rack comes down into place, and then the pins slide in from the top into each corresponding hole making what appears to be a perfect rack every time.  There is a MASSIVE delay in waiting for the pinsetters to come back up, but when it does, the pins are never wobbling at all.  You fast bowlers better learn some patience on Saturday.  The pinsetters are LOUD too.  It’s going to be a fun day that’s for sure.  I managed to make some pins come out from the deck so Frank grabbed the pin and snapped a photo of the pinsetters as best he could.  Thanks Frank!

On the right we can see the pinsetters.  It’s so interesting to see them in action.  I have a second photo which shows a slightly better angle of the chutes that feed the tubes albeit a little blurrier.  We did the best we could on this day.  It was a great day overall and it wouldn’t be natural if I wasn’t a smartass back toward Rose and Pam, so I had to ask the question.  Why are you called West-Port Lanes in Westbrook, that’s just confusing.  It turns out the bowling alley is called West-Port Lanes because it’s on the Westbrook-Portland line.  They were both awesome and it’s kind of sad this place is so far away.  If it were closer, I bet it would be a packed house.

Onto the bowling.  Before we started Rose asked what lanes we wanted.  I said put us on lane eight, whatever, it didn’t matter really. She responded by saying that it was the toughest lane in the house, and their top average was 111.  So we were a little hesitant stepping up to the lanes.  You could tell the pins were heavy.  I would compare it to a combination somewhere between Wakefield and Central Lanes two of the toughest houses around.  I don’t want to scare anyone but Frank completely annihilated the place, 130-110-135 for a 375 on the morning.  I struggled in the first string, but bowled well overall.  Here it is, in writing, Anna beat me 99-91 the first string.  I bounced back mightily in the second string once I figured the lane out.  I finished with five in a row to throw a 128, and the five marks included picking up the 4-7-10.  After I filled my 4th and final spare with a “ding dong”, the light above the lane came on and we had to move to lane 6.  I didn’t make the adjustment and bowled poorly the third string finishing with a 101, for a 320 which is kind of blah.  This is truly and honest house.  Nine and ten boxes are going to help you make the cut since we are going to see our share of six and sevens I’m sure, even from the best bowlers.

West-port features ice cold beer, so I know a handful of bowlers that are going to be happy even if the lanes aren’t forgiving to them.  They have food there too, in case you need a pick me up.  Not that I want to take anyone away from the lanes during the event but there are a McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC/Taco Bell all within walking distance of the alley if you’re looking for something different.  It should be a great competitive event.  If you’re on the fence, you should come down.  You never know what’s going to happen once you start bowling.  Who knows, you may own the place!

Here is the other photo of the pinsetters.  You can see the chutes slightly better.  I truly believe this setup is amazingly unique in the way it sets the pins down for a new rack.  Why more alleys don’t do it this way is beyond me.  There’s never a problem and pins never tip over.  We did have an occasional 2-pin or 3-pin jump the chute and end up in the gutter but that’s better than having a pin missing all together.  It was just different.

Thanks again to Rose and Pam for their time, hospitality, charm, and wit.  I will have a comeback for Rose when I get there on Saturday!

 October 16th, 2012  
 Rich Limone  
 Bowling Alleys, Pro Series  

Upper Valley Lanes and Games – White River Junction, VT

Its always great to receive email from readers! As many of you may know, I handle the official Twitter account for the Candlepin Pro Series. One of the most important qualities of Twitter and other social media networking sites is the ability to to connect with others who share the same interests as you. A fine example of this is the following story.

I did a quick search one day for people who were tweeting about Candlepin bowling and came across user @TriciaCawley who tweeted: “Strongly considering a roadtrip to go candlepin bowling. I miss it so freaking much. I wish there was an alley it VT“.  With my self-proclaimed Candlepin expertise, I tweeted her back with a list of the only four Candlepin lanes in Vermont. Thus, I’ve received photos and a brief report of Upper Valley Lanes and Games in White River Junction, VT from Tricia!

Upper Valley Lanes and Games is a facility that features both Candlepin (8 lanes) and ten-pin bowling. We won’t speak of ten-pin, but when it comes to the Candlepin lanes, Tricia had quite a bit to say:

“The lanes themselves were rather dead, no good action,
but I had a blast.”

This had me thinking that Tricia must be a seasoned Candlepin bowler. I fired an email back to her with some pretty heavy questions to which she offered this information:

“I grew up at 21st Century lanes in West Roxbury, then bowled out of Ficco’s Bowladrome in Franklin. My state tournaments were out of Alley Kat in Kingston. My sisters and I had the MA state championship title in our names for about 8 years, and my mother is Cyndi Cawley – who is still very active on the Pro Tour.”

Tricia Cawley, an everythingcandlepin.com reader!

Very exciting! It turns out that Tricia moved up to the Burlington, VT area to work for an automotive group. Burlington, unfortunately, does not feature a Candlepin selection. Luckily, Tricia’s organization has an affiliate in White River Junction and she was able to this a 90 mile business trip…but more importantly, a Candlepin bowling trip. After speaking with the proprietor of the establishment, Tricia learned that Upper Valley Lanes and Games will soon be sanctioned to be able to host a Candlepin league (perhaps ICBA?).

Click to enlarge

From the looks of the photos that Tricia so graciously submitted, it appears as though the Candlepin lanes feature all wood approaches and lanes with converted ten-pin ball return racks. Scoring is presumed to be semi-automatic, but we can’t say that for sure. Rates are charged per-string (not hourly), and they charge $2.50/string, $3 for shoes. I pass through White River Junction about once a year myself, so I will certainly make it a point to make a stop at Upper Valley next time I’m in the area! Does it get any better than Green Mountains AND Candlepin Bowling? I don’t think so.

I’ll finish by stressing the importance of social media and the impact that his has on Candlepin Bowling. With sites like Twitter, I’m able to tweet to local news figures like Maria Stephanos of Fox25, she always gives us a shout out! Her followers see this, their followers see it, and so-on and so-on. Facebook enables me to spread the word of Pro Series events. And most importantly, YouTube, Candlepin’s greatest social media friend, is an archive for the old Channel 5 shows and Candlepin For Kids.

Be sure to follow the Candlepin Pro Series Twitter account by clicking the button below. If you visit any of the many not-so-common bowling alleys in New England or the Maritime Provinces, let us know and we’ll do our best to feature it!

 September 26th, 2012  
 Frank DeLuca  
 Bowling Alleys  
 0 Comment

Lakeside Lanes – Manchester, NH.

This must have been the busiest weekend in the world for bowlers.  Besides the NFL kicking off today, who was working, who was golfing, who couldn’t make it – I ended up making my way up to Lakeside Lanes to throw practice, preview the lane, and hopefully chat with the owner Tim Lipke for a bit.  You’re getting a solo opinion, and that’s not a complaint just stating a fact.

Let me start out by saying, comparatively speaking, these lanes were slippery.  I honestly thought they were worse than Viking – until I got used to it.  Make sure you bring more than one set of pads.  I found out that the lanes and approaches were just refinished last week, so I am sure that in itself had a lot to do with it.  Two boxes in, and it was like old hat.  It’s not bad per se, but it was worse than I was used to there considering I’ve bowled nearly fifteen tournaments there.

The action at Lakeside is great and can borderline on absurd if you’re hitting them.  It’s totally geared toward the left side of the pocket, and that’s one of the unique things about it.  My headpin hits left were crushers compared to being what seemed randomly thin on the right.  I think part of it was that my ball was slightly flat at times on the right side.

I love bowling at Lakeside, I’ve put up some numbers there. I think my favorite moment so far was last year’s Thanksgiving Eve tournament – second shift.  I managed to get a spare in the tenth, and I loaded it up with a hammer, and I stole high single money from Lakeside’s version of “Babe Ruth” – Jimbo Ayotte.  As they say, Lakeside is the house that Ayotte built.  He had some choice words for me, but I can’t post them here.

I think my other fondest memory is three years ago at the best 5-of-7 tournament.  I had to bowl the first shift on Saturday.  I left leading the event.  I called the next night.  I believe I spoke to Bob – though I know he’d want to take credit for crushing me.  “Do you want the good news, or the bad news?”  I said, give me the good news.  “The good news is, you came in second place.  The bad news you lost by a pin.”  It turns out the person that beat me had to throw a 188 with his handicap.  Tim’s tournaments are usually handicapped to 130.  So even if the bowler had a 100 average flat, he still needed a 158 to beat me.  I didn’t throw any 150’s so good for him.

I’ve managed to come in second place twice in that tournament, so it’s been a great house for me.  I know after saying all this if I make the cut, get paired with someone, and do poorly come Saturday, I’m going to get ridiculed.  Such as life for being an author that bowls too.

Another great aspect of Lakeside is that the fact it’s not automatic scoring.  We have to input the scores ourselves.  It makes things so much easier on us on them.

I’ve always been a fan of scoring like this.  Quick, easy, makes moving from one lane to another snap.  Automatic scoring is so bad in candlepin bowling, but that’s a different story for another time.

After I finished bowling, I managed to get some history of the place from Tim Lipke.  It was built in November of 1959.  Tim started working there some time in 1996, and he bought the place for himself on September 1st, 1999.  In 2002, he brought in the Compuscore system you see there today.

After a brief chat about history, we went on to talk about the state of the game.  As far as Lakeside goes, they are fairly steady.  They have about 20 leagues or so on a week to week basis.   Tim said “If centers don’t upgrade they will fail to attract to people.  What I mean by that is, you need to keep the lanes in good condition, you need to offer beer and wine.  It’s not a huge seller, but it’s nice that they know that it’s there for them.”  I went on to say that if you didn’t people would be in the parking lot pre-gaming before coming in.  Tim made me chuckle as he raised his hand said he was his leagues biggest offender!

He also said “It’s hard to get new faces in here because kids have so much to do these days. When I was a kid, there was bowling, indoor basketball, maybe a few other indoor sports.  Bowling held it’s own with those other options.  And let’s not even talk about video games.”

The last thing he added was the amazing work the Pro Series has done revitalizing the game.  Hopefully this leads to bigger and better things.  Next weekend should be a lot of fun.  Tim added that the cut should be about 575-580.  Something to shoot for everyone!  Thanks Tim for everything!

 September 9th, 2012  
 Rich Limone  
 Bowling Alleys, Pro Series  
 0 Comment

Turner Hill Country Club – Ipswich, Ma.

I’d like to start off by saying that I have a cousin who has part ownership share of this country club.  A few years back this country club was going to close.  My mother’s cousin, and a bunch of partners, raised the money and “bought” it so it wouldn’t close.  I will provide you with some shots of the course I took from the balcony of the restaurant we ate lunch at.  It’s interesting to note that one of the club members is former Boston Bruin Raymond Bourque, and the head of membership sales is another former Bruin, Reggie Lemelin.

What you many not know about this interesting little country club lies behind the door in the photo below.

In a room off the massive hallway lies a smaller room with this doorway.  You’d think that it was a closet, but after swiping a security card, pressing in a code, the door unlocks.

Behind the door is an old creaky set of stairs that turn left and then go straight downward to a room below.  You have to be careful because they are “ship stairs”.  Ship stairs being really vertical and not very wide.

Finishing my walk downstairs, I came to the pool table but beyond the pool table were two ancient bowling lanes!  It turns out that the Turner Hill country club has bowling lanes that are nearly 100 years old!  They have the same wooden lanes from when they were installed.  I was able throw three games on lanes and it was an interesting experience to say the least.

The approaches were really, really short.  If you’re a tall bowler, forget it, the approaches are probably two feet too short you.  I was able to manage by starting on the floor behind the approach, but I may have fouled once.  Good thing the Pro Series wasn’t there watching.

I should have taken a shot of the approach as it actually ended before the end of the ball return.  Almost the same action as Viking Recreation, this little alley had it’s share of interesting leaves.  Here are two, of them:

I guess the 2-4-5 isn’t that rare, but it’s just a surprise not to take out any of the pins behind the 2 or the 5 for that matter.  The other, I’ve never witness a pin resting on top of another like that – the bottom pin almost always rolls out from under the other.  I’ve had a couple of fellow bowlers say they witnessed a shot like mine at Metro bowl in Peabody, to which I responded “you left pins standing?” Side note – I picked up the spare.

There are bowling alleys all over New England and I think this was one of the coolest ones.  They even had rails for the kids installed.  It’s quite a hidden gem in New England.  Now if only the Pro Series could have an event there…

 September 2nd, 2012  
 Rich Limone  
 Bowling Alleys  
 0 Comment

Viking Recreation – East Bridgewater, Ma.

I will be the first to admit the timing of this post is WAY OFF since the event has already happened.  I was working hard with the Pro Series to figure out how we wanted to approach media aspect of it, and collectively the ideas culminated into the making of a blog.  I can’t thank Dave Barber and Mike MacIntosh enough in giving me the incentive and the encouragement to this for them, and for me.

Needless to say, I’m writing to you today, on the day the site launches about our first event, the Ultimate Ladder at Viking Recreation.  This post is the preview of the alley, as well as a post to give you more of an idea of what this site is all about.

I managed to make it to Viking a week before the tournament.  Fred Thompson was great, and gave me more information than I could handle.  I’ll fully admit due to the delay, and the end of summer bowling season I must have cleaned out my bag that had the information about the bowling alley.  If memory serves me – the bowling alley was built in 1990.  It has sixteen lanes, the first ten were from the old bowling alley in Bridgewater, and the other six were obtained when a bowling alley in Maynard, Massachusetts closed.

Throwing a few games of practice I was able to see first hand want the forums were talking about as far as the approaches.  Granted, they weren’t the most slippery lanes I’ve been on, but if you weren’t in control, forget about it.  I by no means thought it was a skating rink.  After throwing a handful of games I paid for my bowling, and chatted with Fred.

The bowling alley was clearly in great shape, and well maintained.  The pins were immaculate.   Fred told me that since he doesn’t put anything on his decks the pins will always be nice and shiny white.  You can tell what bowling alleys “juice” their lanes by the color of the pins.

He was a great conversationalist and he said he was looking forward to the tournament.  He also gave me a bit of wisdom when referring to the state of bowling all together.  He firmly believed that things like cell phones are actually killing the game.  It was news to me, because I never thought something like social media would dampen the game.  The way he explained it, since we have social media, everyone know where everyone is, and everyone is a fingertip away from each other at all times.  No one takes the time to, as he put it, make plans to go to a bowling alley.  The reason they are having so much trouble is the casual bowler doesn’t stop in as often as they used to.  People don’t pick up a telephone, in their kitchen, and call their friends and say let’s go bowling.

Fred also said that one of the things that makes it difficult to run a bowling alley is the adoption of automatic scoring.  He felt as though it creates extra effort every time one of those cameras is out of line.  Since the pins are plastic, and are so light, it’s easy when some of fireballers out there spray the pins up in the air.   It’s much easier on the bowlers on the lanes, and the staff behind the desk if the bowlers themselves control the score.  I tend to agree with him as it does make things easier, especially when 80+ can be walking into a house for a Pro Series tournament.

I had a great time bowling there.  I like honest difficult houses more than ones that are fast.  You always get interesting leaves in the world of candlepin – sometimes leaves that are weirder than others.  I am going to leave you with this image.  This is how to skillfully take out the 1-3-4.

Leaves like this are what make candlepin bowling so fun and yet, so frustrating all at the same time.  It will be interesting to see the Pro Series a week from now.  Next I will report on the results of the tournament.

 September 2nd, 2012  
 Rich Limone  
 Bowling Alleys, Pro Series  
 0 Comment