Marston could set pins on eight lanes! There is no other pin-setter that could handle eight lanes. He would jump
back forth between the lanes like a swinging monkey on crack! Four lanes were enough that I was gasping for air
and getting only smoke. Marston would do all of this while he was smoking! Between the deodorizer spray they
used on the shoes, the oil on the lanes, the aroma of spilt beer and the fact that every bowler smoked, nausea
became a part of my life. Maybe the fresh air of cutting grass wouldnâ€™t have been a bad thing after all.
On the last night of league bowling, we were going to get all of those early bowling, swearing drunks back with a
final last, great act of defianceâ€¦we were going to streak the place! Three of us Pin Boys had made a pact to do it
together. As we were stripping down, I chickened out. Then another of us did the same. The last Pin Boy cursed
us for our cowardice and went on about blood oaths and hallowed pacts and such. Then he said, â€œI donâ€™t
care, itâ€™s my last night, Iâ€™m going for it!â€� So this brave soul, who shall remain nameless (R.R.) turned
his T-Shirt inside out, wrapped it around his head, gathered all of his clothing, shoes and all, balled it into a football
and screamed, â€œ3â€¦2â€¦1!â€� He took off like aâ€¦umâ€¦a streaker! Right across the center of twenty some
lanes, leaving his footprints in the oil on the lanes while wildly flailing his appendages trying to maintain balance on
the oily floorboards. The Industrial League Bowlers snickered in quiet, embarrassed laughter at the sight of a naked
14 year old boy in their sightlines while pointing at his bare junk. As he hit the eighth or ninth lane a shoe dropped
and after continuing his rampage for a couple more lanes, he decided to fetch it. The snickering turned into an
audible gasp as he turned back, bent over, picked up his shoe and then re-commenced his nude debauchery to the
front door. It was spectacular!
I wouldnâ€™t be surprised if this was the impetus for bowling alleys turning to automatic pinsetters.
Set â€˜Em Upâ€¦Knock Him Down
Bowling wasnâ€™t what it is now. Computers automatically calculating scores, rock concerts in the dark &
fancy cocktails served by leggy blondes. Nor did they have machines that automatically clear the downed pins,
return the ball and reset the pins up. No bowling used to beâ€¦umâ€¦manual. It is still a great way for a couple to
get out, get some exercise, meet friends and have a great time. However, in the old days it was dangerousâ€¦for
me. See, I was a pinsetter or a pinboy. After quitting my paper route, I took a job at Dormont Recreation Lanes
on West Liberty doing what a lot of twelve-year old boys were doing, setting pins for bowling leagues.
Forget that Child Labor Laws were passed in 1938 to prevent children from working in dangerous environments.
Forget that there were easier ways to make money for that new bike by shoveling snow or mowing lawns in the
great outdoors. I could sit in a smoky, dark pit and dodge flying bowling pins while being laughed at and targeted
by drunken adults! What better way to prepare yourself for what was to come later in life.
Pin Monkeys, erâ€¦Pin Boys were privy to all of the bad habits and bad language that adults were known for and
tried to hide from their children, as we were invisible to them unless we were slow setting their pins. Then we
would really hear the choice words! From the dark confines we could watch them carouse, flirt and generally
make an ass of themselves while the alcohol got thicker and thicker. Though any untrained monkey could do this
job, I learned more there than I would have in five years of fifth grade. Watching the interplay between the sexes,
learning how the F-word could be used as a verb, noun & adverb, and that anger was a suitable reaction to any
occasion. There is no way I would learn all of this mowing some jamokeâ€™s lawn! All this for 10 cents a line.
A line was one bowlerâ€™s game. So if there were six bowlers I would earn 60 cents. League nights were big
money. The more lanes you handled the more you would earn. So if I did four lanes with say twenty bowlers
playing three games each (4 x 20=80 x 3=$2.40). There were two leagues a night, so I could earn $4.80. Doesnâ
€™t sound like much but, when you only had to spend money on penny candy, it was a fortune! Damn Swedish
Fish were my favorites and they were three cents each! I was buying all of my buddies penny candy at the store
on Illinois Avenue. I was very popular, for all of the wrong reasons.
Four lanes of pin-setting was exhausting work. If your bowlers averaged 150 you were setting 18,000 pins!
Proof: (150 Average x 3 Games=450 x 20 Bowlers x 2/Night). I always prayed they were bowling duck pins as
the ten pins were twice as heavy. For those who donâ€™t know what duck pins are they are the same as tenpin
bowling...only smaller. The balls weigh anywhere from 2-4 lbs. and are a little bigger than a typical softball. The
pins are also smaller, about 2/3 the size of a regular tenpin. Duckpins can be found mostly on the East Coast of
the U.S., and in Argentina and the Philippines. That explaination is for anyone living west of Ohio. They donâ
€™t have a clue what duck pins are.
Then there was Marston. Marston, I was
told, was a mentally challenged pin setting
savant. Marston was older, maybe 18 or 19.
In all the time I worked with him (2 years), I
never heard him say a word. Hmm, maybe
he was just mute? But Marston could set
pins like the devil. The bowler would bowl
and if you were lucky some errant pin didnâ
€™t came up and hit you in the head or
worse yet, your shin. Then you would jump
down into the â€œPitâ€� clear the dead
wood on the lane and roll the ball back. On
the second roll you would jump down gather
the pins as fast as you could, step on the â
€œPin Barâ€� which would raise the ten
metal spikes that would align the pins, set the
pins on the spikes and roll the ball back.
Easy enough, right? Well it took me two
months to realize that you never rolled the
ball back first before setting the pins.
Teenagers would try to destroy you as soon
as the lift gate went up. I donâ€™t know
how many pins I got clobbered with before a
wayward pin enlightened me.