From the Past: Bowling strikes a chord in Brownsville

Special to the Parade

Rene Torres

Rene Torres

Although the soldiers at Fort Brown had their own bowling alley before the citizens of Brownsville did—bowling was just as popular among the local folks as well. If you lived in Brownsville in 1930, you had a choice whether to bowl outdoors at Old Rip’s Bowling Alley or at the newly indoor Campbell Ten Pin Alley.

The outdoor alley was advertised as the place to be in Brownsville… “Here you will meet your friends and enjoy this famous outdoor sport that is so highly recommended by the physicians as a healthful sport.” Old Rip’s was located on Elizabeth Street near the new Gateway Bridge.

Yes, it was the place to be, that is until the competition arrived. The bowling equipment manufacturers were, at the time, on a mission to spread the game throughout the United States—Texas and Brownsville were part of their campaign.

The other game in town, The Campbell Alleys, was located on 1223 Elizabeth St. in the Besteiro Building. The building was especially rebuilt to house the new bowling alley. It was as modern as it could be for the period, with eight alleys on which either 10-pin or duck pin games could be played.

Duck pin bowling was another popular form of the game—the ball for this game was smaller (slightly larger than a softball) and with lack of finger holes. In duck-pin bowling, it was considered more difficult to achieve a strike because the pins were shorter and lighter than their 10-pin equivalent.

“So far as I can determine, this alley is the only regulation 10-pin alley in South Texas,” said manager Jack Campbell. The state of the art alleys were, according to Campbell, “exact duplicates of those upon which the national tournament is played.”

Pinboys setters, step aside, modern blowing comes to Brownsville. In the late 1920s, Brunswick had an automatic pin-setter out in the market and although it is not known whether it was a Brunswick or not, the new alleys in town were equipped with the latest automatic pin-setter.

Opening day featured an informal tournament for both men and ladies, with a $5 prize for the first place winner and $2.50 for second place. From the time the doors opened at 6 p.m. until midnight, all eight of the alleys were occupied. Three regulation 10-pin alleys were kept busy while the rest were use for duck pi6n bowling.

With a large crowd on the sidelines, the first balls were rolled down the alleys right at 6 p.m. The “Chosen Eight,” that were asked to commence the event included J. P. Putegnat, Red Nelson, Mr. Besteiro, J. H. Bennett, C. M. Crafton, W. A. Campbell, M. Gomez Garcia, and Bill Brown.

It was a successful night at the bowling alley, as no stone was left on unturned. It had the appropriate ceremonies and prizes, with local and Brunswick officials present. The ladies were greeted with open arms and adorned with a free carnation.

Bowling management was making a big push to get the ladies and children involved. If the ladies wanted to learn how to bowl — there was free instruction for them every Thursday at 2 p.m. The children of Brownsville had their opportunity to learn how to bowl every Sunday between 1 and 2 p.m.

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