From the very beginning, bowling and food have been enduring links. There’s something about eating a juicy, American hotdog in the clatter and rumble of the lanes as the pins come tumbling down. Bowling isn’t the same without your essential French fries, dog, and beer.
It should come as no surprise that modern bowling was born in a restaurant. 10-pin bowling is in fact the brainchild of Joe Thum, a restaurateur who many consider to be the father of bowling. Thum created America’s first bowling association, The American Bowling Congress, on Sept. 9, 1895, in order to share his love of this now incredibly popular family sport.
Thum opened the White Elephant at the end of the 19th century. It was one of the first bowling establishments in the country. Aside from also being a restaurant, the White Elephant was steeped in elegance and class. In fact, it mostly served the wealthy and the upper class. Some of the richest men in America sent a bowling ball or two careening down the lines. The wealthy were some of the first few Americans to ever experience what many consider to be one of America’s favorite sports.
Although bowling started with the upper class, it’s irresistible fun, competitive spirit, and family-friendly entertainment soon spread to the working classes in the heart of the Great Depression. Men in the factories discovered the exhilaration of bowling, that incredible feel you get when the bowlingball hits the heart of the pins and sends them all crashing down.
As bowling spread to the masses, bowling’s connection to food continued. As anyone who has spent an evening at the bowling alley knows, food can really be the heart of the game. There’s nothing more satisfying than a family munching down a pepperoni pizza at the bowling alley, bonding in a sport where everyone has a chance to compete.
Bowling was born in a restaurant, so sharing the experience with the family while going out to eat is only natural. Great food is what makes the sport so much fun. No matter your bowling style, whether or not you own your own ball, family fun really comes down to pepperoni with extra cheese.