ARILINGTON, Texas – Finding unique stops with interesting stories is sort of our forte and when we heard about a museum dedicated to a sport just about everyone has given a go, well we figured we had the time to spare. So we headed to Arlington because the dude abides.
Amongst the massive ballparks in Arlington, you’ll find another sprawling complex dedicated to a sport that may be the oldest of them all.
“Bowling goes back 5,000 years, so a lot of what we have is more U.S. focused, but we have an amazing collection here,” said Jessica Bell, curator of the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame.
“A lot of what people think, ‘There’s a bowling museum? What is that exactly?’ And then they get here and they see that you don’t even have to be a bowler to think this place is great.”
This story starts back in ancient Egypt where being buried with your bowling ball was common.
“I would say that’s not maybe necessarily historically 100 percent accurate, but it really is representing the origins of bowling which date back to ancient Egypt and the archaeologists have uncovered a bowling type game,” said Bell.
From there, the game expanded across the continents because bowling is right up everyone’s alley.
“Ninety-three million people per year participate in bowling, and that makes it the largest participatory sport in the world,” Jessica said.
The tale between bowling and beer started in the 50’s, when watching these finely tuned athletes bowling to perfection was a sure thing on a Saturday.
“As prohibition ended the beer companies started sponsoring bowling teams, and so that’s kind of where to association came from in the 1950’s,” Jessica said. “And the 1950’s were really when bowling was at its height. So, during the 1950’s television really took off, and bowling was on television. Every week on Saturday mornings they were watching championship bowling, and so people really had a relationship with some of the bowling stars at that time.”
Dick Weber, Marion Ladewig, Earl Anthony, and Walter Ray Williams Junior are names that never get drug through the gutter. In fact, they’re some of the biggest to grace hall of fame that happens to not have any names in it, sort of.
“We have this amazing digital system because we induct from five different organizations, so we have over 700 different hall of famers,” Jessica said when explaining why there are not names or photos of bowlers on the walls of the bowling hall of fame. So we can’t put up everybody on the wall, so what we do is we put everybody into this system here. And you can pull up individual biographies. When you click on a person, your favorite hall of famer, you can go through their biography, learn a little bit about their history, and then also look at their different pictures or videos if they have videos.”
This building dedicated to bowling isn’t just about the names and the history; it’s also about the stories many have not heard. Like during World War II, when a Women’s International Bowling Congress raised enough money to purchase not just one bomber but several planes for the war effort.
Once you’re done reading up on the history and the people, then it’s time to get your roll on. Now this is all fun and games but if you want to bowl with best, you can do that here, too.
The International Bowling Campus includes a research and development center, where team USA, bowling professionals from all over the world, and even people who have no idea what they’re doing get into the right frame of mind.
“We’re the highest trained, certified coaches in the world,” Louis Marquez, better known as Lou, informed us.
Lou coaches up all sorts of players to help them put that extra into their ordinary bowling game.
“Bowlers who generally come to our facility are obviously looking for some kind of advancement in their game,” Lou said. “But really, sometimes they come here wanting to get fixed because it’s a last ditch effort to get better.”
That said, weather you’re a professional bowler, history buff, or average Joe Texan, the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame is well worth a stop.
“Bowling has such an interesting kind of niche history and kind of interplay with culture that coming to the International Bowling Museum, you get a piece of history that you’re probably not going to normally think about,” Jessica said.