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Bowlers Journal At 100 By Mort Luby Jr. (Part 4 in a 12-Part Series)


Mort Luby Sr. was a rabid Notre Dame football fan, a devout member of the famed Subway Alumni. When the subject of my own education came up at the dinner table, I’d slyly suggest colleges, which I imagined to be teeming with gorgeous co-eds. For me, the exclusively male campus of Notre Dame in a hick town in Indiana had limited appeal.


ut my father made it clear that if I wished to earn a college diploma at his expense, Notre Dame was

my only option. So off I went to South Bend in the fall of 1949. After barely surviving the fi rst two

years, I found my true niche when journalism classes began in my junior year. Before long, I was writing a satirical column (called “The Week”) in Notre Dame’s only student periodical, the weekly Scholastic magazine.

his column, and made the obligatory calls on advertisers. Despite warnings from his doctors, however, he continued to drink and smoke. His only concession was to switch from Camels to English Ovals, which he considered a less lethal smoke.

Mort Luby Jr.

Meanwhile, my father’s health began to fail. Although he had suff ered a minor stroke, he still came to the offi ce, wrote

The record-shattering 1953 American Bowling Congress Tournament (8,180 teams) at the Chicago Coliseum might have been a fi nancial bonanza for the Bowlers Journal Press Service, but my father just wasn’t up to

nearly 100 straight days of back-breaking toil. So he handed over all of his wire service accounts (plus more than 100


contracts with individual newspapers) to Jim Fitzgerald, a young reporter for the Chicago Tribune. My father’s idea was that Fitzgerald would return the accounts when I fi nally segued into the business after graduation from Notre Dame. Alas, my full-time debut into Bowlers Journal aff airs was detoured by a letter from my local draft board. My father had discouraged me from attending Offi cers Training School at Notre Dame, hinting that he had an excellent connection at the Selective Service (draft) offi ce. Also, he theorized that the Army would be disinclined to draft me because of his illness.

Wrong. I was drafted into the Army in the fall of 1953 and served 18 months in various outposts in Missouri and Kansas. Oddly, I learned more about journalism during my stint in the Army than I had at Notre Dame. I talked myself into a job as executive editor of the weekly camp newspaper at Fort Riley, Kan. As such, I single-handedly edited an 8-page tabloid that was printed by the daily newspaper, the Mercury, in nearby Manhattan. The experience of dealing fi rst-hand with typesetters and layout technicians would pay off in later years.

The Gavel Passes Again

My father hired a quiet, taciturn editor named Ernest Ahlborn while I was away in the service. Upon my return to the little offi ce on Wabash Avenue, Ernie and I were anointed “co-editors.”

Although advertising revenues had picked up because of the introduction of the AMF pinspotter, there was trouble afoot at Bowlers Journal. The Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America had decided to publish its own magazine, called Bowling Proprietor. And the American Bowling Congress periodical, Bowling magazine, was gaining strength under ABC’s new public relations director, Bruce Pluckhahn.

Bowlers Journal had served as the “offi cial magazine” for both BPAA and ABC in the early years. As the chase for advertising dollars heated up, our relations with both outfi ts soured.

As if he wasn’t burdened with enough business problems, my father’s sister sued him for a share of the company. Auntie Grace’s suit argued that my father had simply segued into ownership of the company back in the Roaring ’20s without a single scrap of legal document. As another legitimate off spring of old Dave Luby, she felt entitled to a piece of the action.

The case was in court for weeks,

and you could practically see my father weakening by the day. His breathing grew more labored and he suff ered yet another minor stroke. The trail ended with a small fi nancial settlement, and Auntie Grace was never heard from again.

Meanwhile, I had settled into the business and entered into matrimony. The bride was Barbara Short, a beautiful girl from the north side of Chicago. We

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April 2013

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