My first job was at Broadway Bowl in downtown Oakland, California, in 1968. I was a teenager, an avid Beatles fan, a very good baseball player, not such a good bowler and, somehow, I was comfortably oblivious to the social revolution taking place around me (the Peace movement, the Vietnam war, Flower Power, Free love, Drugs, the Black Panthers, Civil unrest, etc.).
I had a happy childhood. I loved going to school (weird, I know) and I loved going to work at Broadway Bowl. I loved that my mom worked there, even though she worked days and I worked nights. Broadway Bowl, in 1968, was filled with hard-core bowlers and even harder-core billiard players. It was smoke-filled, crowded, reeked of alcohol and featured the kind of seedy characters you'd expect to find only in a Paul Newman or Jackie Gleason movie. It was an awesome place.
Considering today how I feel about smoking in bowling centers and the importance of a family-friendly atmosphere, the fact that I would look back so fondly on those times at Broadway Bowl is a little uncharacteristic.
But, I made friends there. I learned life-lessons there. I learned about human nature there. Even though I had been a Junior bowler since age six, and even though I used to keep score (grease pencils and telescores) for the Classic Leagues for a quarter a bowler since age 10, this was my first meaningful face-to-face, one-on-one experience with "bowling people" that really carried any weight with me. As you can tell, it made a lasting impression.
Today, I am thankful for all the people, all the relationships and all the experiences I have had because of bowling. Even the bad ones (and there have been plenty of those). But, I can look back and recall so many fond memories and wonderful people that, on this Thanksgiving Day, I want to say "Thank You" to the thousands of people who have touched my heart and my soul, who have taught me important lessons and who have become an indelible part of my life.
In 2005 I wrote a little piece called, "Everything I know about life, I learned from (the business of) bowling..." If you would like a copy, just shoot me a note.
Have a great Thanksgiving. Spend it with loved ones. Do something meaningful, even if that means just relaxing.