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Bowlers Journal At 100 THE DEPRESSION AND PET PROJECTS


Association (later to be renamed the Bowling Writers Association of America and, later still, the International Bowling Media Group). Many writers and broadcasters who covered bowling showed up for the ABC convention every spring. They’d descend on the pressroom at the tournament where, of course, Luby had the key to the beer cooler. After years of impromptu bull sessions at the ABC, it fi nally was decided to elevate these laid-back gatherings to a bona-fi de organization. Offi cers were elected, awards were devised and campaigns were launched to help the journalists do a better job of ballyhooing bowling. The fact that ABC and other major tournament operators published only last names when they issued scores and standings was a major headache for the media. Writers were forced to hunt down bowlers or offi cials to get fi rst names before they could write their stories. Luby and his now-organized pals fi nally convinced the ABC to publish full names; other organizations soon fell in line. During the late 1930s, my father wrote all


sorts of editorials decrying the coming war in Europe, pleading with our government leaders not to intervene. (As if they were paying attention to a Chicago-based bowling publisher.) It may seem a bit peculiar to contemporary media buff s that


a bowling writer would get involved in such political musings, but that was Mort Sr. After Pearl Harbor, however, he was as gung-ho patriotic as anyone. I can still remember attending the fi rst


day of the All-Star tournament in the elegant Chicago Auditorium on Dec. 7, 1941, “the day that will live in infamy.” Jack Ripple, a mellow-voiced radio commentator, announced over the P.A. system that Japanese airplanes had sunk our fl eet in Hawaii. But the tournament went on anyway, and my father headed to the press box to fi le his stuff . Everyone worried that the war would decimate the bowling business. Instead, bowling boomed as newly enriched production workers sought a release from the pressures of the war. Of course, there were terrible shortages everywhere. Although the government supported recreation, nearly all production of bowling equipment ceased. No new centers were built, and many existing places were replaced by war-eff ort industries. The ABC Tournament was cancelled in 1943, 1944 and 1945 because of the war, but resumed with a vengeance in 1946 in Buff alo as 25,000 competition-starved bowlers fl ocked to the 74th Regent Armory. American Machine & Foundry Company, which had been quietly working on a


Meals On Wheels: By 1957, AMF’s pinspotter was in the marketplace, and was utilized at the ABC Tournament in Fort Worth, Texas. At that year’s BWAA Convention, AMF’s Bill McDonald (right) dished up some grub for Mort Luby Jr.


pinsetting machine during the war years, decided to unveil its contraption at the Buff alo tournament. But Brunswick, which had made every single installation since the fi rst ABC in 1901, objected. It was grossly unfair, the company argued, to allow a potential competitor to tout its wares at a venue that had been supported by Brunswick for so many years. Undeterred, AMF publicist Bill McDonald


rented a garage down the street and put his company’s machine on display. Thousands of proprietors came by to ogle the device, hoping that AMF would solve their ongoing pinboy problems. McDonald, a salty former newsman from


New York, was to become one of bowling’s greatest promoters and one of my father’s best friends. He ingratiated himself to the bowling press by organizing an elegant dinner for writers attending the BWAA convention in Buff alo. The previously ignored writers were suddenly besieged with invitations for dinners and lunches


EVERYTHING BOWLING, ALL THE TIME


from other organizations hoping to curry favor. Once sparsely attended, BWAA conventions suddenly became wildly popular. AMF’s introduction of a fully viable pinsetter was delayed for several years, but in the interim, the company became a major advertiser. “At one point, we became very


discouraged,” Bob Kennedy, AMF’s then sales manager, told me many years ago. “We just couldn’t get the machine to operate properly. The stockholders were angry, and the banks wouldn’t give us enough money. We actually considered dumping the pinsetter. “But then your father came to our offi ce and pleaded with our chairman (Morehead Patterson) to persevere. He convinced the boss to stay the course.” About fi ve years after AMF’s fi rst


commercial installation, Brunswick unveiled a machine of its own. The fi erce competition between the two companies fueled an advertising war, which, of course, meant a big jump in revenues for Bowlers Journal..


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