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Bowlers Journal At 100 RIDING THE CREST OF BOWLING’S BOOM


thereby providing lots of fresh fodder for our expanding editorial space. Where we previously depended on the ABC and a handful of other once-a-year tournaments to fi ll our pages, we soon had dozens of new competitions and an entirely new cast of celebrities to write about.


A group of eccentric (or so it seemed to me) millionaires lent more fuel to our editorial fi re by launching a so- called National Bowling League. They built fancy stadiums (or converted existing theaters and other commercial buildings) across the nation and


attempted to compete with the PBA for the best talent. The NBL lasted just one season and then died, largely because the owners weren’t able to sign a major TV network contract.


After Ernie Ahlborn died of cancer, I began scouting for a new editor to handle our growing workload. Dick Denny, a member of Chicago’s City News Bureau, had been freelancing for us for years, and I admired his work. I off ered him the job, and he astonished me by accepting.


With Denny carrying much of the Bowlers Journal editorial load, I felt emboldened to expand our publishing horizons. It had always puzzled me that


the bowling industry had no classifi ed directory of products and services. Just about every business in America had its own little “Yellow Pages” directory, but not bowling. A directory would have seemed a perfect fi t for the BPAA’s publications offi ce, but its leadership was preoccupied with palace intrigues and battles with the American Bowling Congress.


Our once-a-year Bowling and Billiards Buyers Guide, which was mailed free to every U.S. proprietor, was an instant hit. The fi rst issue weighed a pound and contained more advertising than any periodical in the history of the sport up to that point. It may not have been very glamorous, but the Buyers Guide was one of bowling’s most successful periodicals for many years.


Then Came the Bust


Bowling’s meteoric growth suddenly hit a brick wall in 1963. Too many centers had been erected, too many lanes and machines installed. The industry was clearly overbuilt. The public fell out of love with bowling, and linage dropped drastically. Bowling centers began closing their doors. AMF and Brunswick stock went into a swoon. Several notable industry characters committed suicide.


Denny returned to his newspaper roots in Indiana, and our tournament manager resigned. I was basically running a one-man operation. Happily, the Bowlers Journal Championships and the BJ Press Service soldiered on, providing just enough revenue to keep our little ship afl oat. I was discouraged, of course, but the thought that old Dave Luby’s enterprise might fi nally collapse never entered my mind. I guess I was too busy grinding out copy and trying to sell ads to the few suppliers that remained.


Keith Hale began his association with Bowlers Journal — which continues to this day — in 1963. (Look for a special essay by Hale in the 100th anniversary issue this November.)


All of this had a huge impact on Bowlers Journal, of course. Our ad revenue dropped like a stone. We reached a sad nadir with an issue that contained a measly 14 pages of advertising. Our “gala” 50th Anniversary Issue in 1963 contained merely 86 pages and not much advertising.


A few positive developments helped sustain us during the depths of this nadir. Thanks largely to the lobbying eff orts of Remo Picchietti of DBA Products Co., I was elected president of the Billiard and Bowling Institute of America. The prestige of the offi ce apparently convinced some other people that Dave’s grandson was fi nally ready for prime time. I was soon elected president of the Bowling Writers Association of America and named to the boards of several other bowling organizations.


All through the drought of the late 1960s, I remained confi dent about the incredible resilience of the industry. Whenever a segment of the industry


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May 2013


EVERYTHING BOWLING, ALL THE TIME


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