Saturday, 11 October 2008

Chatty Cathy

Today we take talking dolls for granted. Many younger Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers had such talking dolls as Baby Tender Love. Many younger Gen Xers grew up with Teddy Ruxpin. And as adults we have all had to put up with the various talking dolls of Elmo from Sesame Street. As hard as it may be for many of us under the age of fifty to believe, there was a time when there was no such thing as a talking doll. Most dolls were mute until 1959, when Mattel invented the first successful talking doll, Chatty Cathy.

There had been attempts at talking dolls before. Indeed, the first such attempt came not long after the invention of the phonograph. It was in 1890 that the Edison Phonograph Company came out with the first talking doll. Thomas Edison had first conceived the idea for a talking doll in 1877, but in the end it was inventor William W. Jacques of the Edison Phonograph Company who brought his idea to fruition. The doll talked through a record cylinder activated by a crank. The doll was prohibitively expensive for the time and ultimately less than 500 would be sold. After only a few weeks on the market, Edison's Talking Doll was discontinued.

In 1893 the Jumeau Company of France created Bebe Phonograph, a doll which used phonograph technology to say 35 words. First sold on the market in 1894, like Edison's Talking Doll, Bebe Phonograph proved prohibitively expensive and the Jumeau Company itself soon went out of business. It was around 1939 that Effanbee Doll Company introduced Talking Touselhead Lovums. Talking Touselhead Lovums also relied on phonograph technology. That Talking Touselhead Lovums is now largely forgotten shows how much of a hit this doll was...

It would be Mattel that would figure out a way to produce a talking doll that was also inexpensive. To talk Chatty Cathy relied upon a simple system of a phonograph needle, a tiny record, and a tiny turntable, all activated by a ring and a pull string which was in the doll's back. Any time you pulled the string, Chatty Cathy would say one of eleven phrases, from "Let’s have a party" to "Will you play with me." The doll's voice was provided by June Foray, the master voice artist who provided the voices for such characters as Granny from the Warner Brothers "Sylvester and Tweety" cartoons to Rocket J. Squirrel of Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show. By today's standards Chatty Cathy's mechanism must seem primitive and her vocabulary incredibly small, but in 1960 it was revolutionary.

Chatty Cathy was introduced to the market in 1960. Inexpensive and innovative, Chatty Cathy proved to be a hit with little girls across the United States. The original version of the doll had blue eyes and blonde hair, although Mattel would introduce a brunette version in 1962 and an auburn haired version in 1963. Mattel would eventually produce two African American versions of the doll, one with pigtails and the other with a pageboy hairstyle. Mattel would also spin other dolls off from the original Chatty Cathy. They introduced Chatty Baby in 1962. They introduced Charmin' Chatty, Tiny Chatty Baby, and Tiny Chatty Brother in 1963. In 1965 they introduced Singin' Chatty. In 1963 Mattel would include seven more phrases in Chatty Cathy's vocabulary, making for a total of 18 phrases she could say.

Charmin' Chatty would introduce another innovation to the growing Chatty line of dolls. Unlike the original Chatty Cathy, the records which allowed her to talk could be changed. It came with five different, interchangeable records, each with twelve phrases. This gave Charmin' Chatty a vocabulary of 120 phrases, astronomical at that time for a talking doll. Despite this Charmin' Chatty would not prove as successful as the original Chatty Cathy, lasting only two years.

The first commercials for Chatty Cathy would air in 1960. Interestingly, some of the Chatty Cathy adverts would feature both Maureen McCormick and Eve Plumb years before they appeared together on The Brady Bunch. Even more interesting is the fact that Maureen McCormick would provide the voice for a redesign of the doll released in 1970. Footage from the very first Chatty Cathy commercial would later be included in a Geico ad from 2007.

The success of Chatty Cathy would also result in versions being produced in Canada by the Dee and Cee Toy Company and in the United Kingdom by Rosebud doll company. Both the Canadian and British versions of the doll spoke different phrases from the American version, and as would be expected had different accents as well. Mattel would buy Dee and Cee Toy Company in 1962, renaming the company Mattel Canada by 1964. Mattel would buy the Rosebud doll company in 1966.

The last year that the original Chatty Cathy and the Chatty line of dolls it had generated was produced was 1965. I am not sure why the original dolls were discontinued, but it could well have been that sales had dropped. By 1965 Mattel had glutted the market with talking dolls. In addition to the Chatty line (which included at least five dolls by 1965), there were talking dolls of such characters as Bugs Bunny and even Herman Munster. The Chatty Cathy technology would provide the basis for Mattel's successful line of See 'n' Say toys introduced in 1965. See 'n' Say is still being produced today, albeit the toys now rely on much more advanced technology.

Although the original Chatty Cathy was discontinued in 1965, the doll would be reintroduced in 1970. As mentioned previously, Maureen McCormick would provide the voice for this version of Chatty Cathy. The dolls would also differ a bit in the way they looked from the original. The 1970 version of the doll would not prove to be the hit that the original was, lasting only two years. In 1984 Mattel would introduce Chatty Patty, although they did not reintroduce the original Chatty Cathy. Again, Chatty Patty would not be a success. In 1998 and 2000 Mattel released special editions of Chatty Cathy, based on the Sixties dolls, primarily for the collectors market.

As a child I thought the Chatty Cathy dolls were rather creepy (actually, I still do...). Apparently some adults thought so too, not the least of whom were writers Jerry Sohl and Charles Beaumont. Sohl and Beamount (who was by then suffering from the symptoms of a terrible brain disease) plotted a story together, which Sohl then wrote as the famous "Living Doll" episode of The Twilight Zone. In the episode Telly Salavas plays Erich Streator, who takes offence to his stepdaughter's new doll, Talky Tina. Talky Tina in turn takes offence to him. Initially she said such things to him as "I don't think I like you," although as the episode unfolded Talky Tina would tell Erich, "I'm Talky Tina and I'm going to kill you." Of course, as might be expected, she fulfilled her promise to Erich. Not only was Talky Tina obviously based upon Chatty Cathy, but June Foray provided the voice for Talky Tina, just as she had for Chatty Cathy!

As one of the series' most frightening Twilight Zone episodes, "Living Doll" would become one of the show's best loved and most famous Twilight Zone stories. Talky Tina frequently makes such lists as "Scariest Television Characters" and "Scariest Dolls On Screen." She would provide the basis for segments of both The Simpsons episode "The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror III (which features a homicidal Crusty the Clown doll) and a Johnny Bravo episode. "Living Doll" may have also been one of the inspirations for the Child Play movies.

Chatty Cathy was one of the most successful toys of the Sixties. As the first successful talking doll, it not only paved the way for such toys as See 'n' Say and Talking Baby Tender Love, but for such interactive toys as Teddy Ruxpin and Amazing Amanda as well. The phrase "Chatty Cathy" would be introduced into the American vocabulary as slang for someone who is overly talkative. As mentioned earlier, footage from the original Chatty Cathy commercial was used in a 2007 Geico commercial. The doll's name would be used for Chicago indie rock band Chatty Cathy. And, of course, Chatty Cathy would provide the inspiration for Talky Tina of The Twilight Zone, who would not only become more famous than the original doll, but would have an even bigger impact on pop culture. Although only in actual production for a relatively short time (five years in the Sixties, two years in the Seventies, two years in the Naughts), Chatty Cathy is still remembered today.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Actor Kim Chan Passes On

Actor Kim Chan, who appeared in films from The Owl and the Pussycat to Shanghai Knights, passed on Sunday. He is believe to have been either 93 or 94.

Kim Chan was born in the province of Canton, China around 1917. His parents migrated to the United States in 1928 while Chan was still a child. He discovered the entertainment business when he was working in the House of Chan, the family restaurant located in New York City. Chan would eventually part with his family after lying to his father about having been to the cinema. He spent years as a day labourer while trying out for film and television roles. In 1951 he appeared in an episode of the TV series The Clock. In 1952 he appeared in the episode "Winter of the Dog" of The Philco Television Playhouse. He would make his film debut in a small part in A Face in the Crowd in 1957 as a radio announcer. In 1970 e appeared as a theatre cashier in The Owl and the Pussycat.

Chan's career would begin to take off after 1979, when he appeared in an uncredited role in Squadra antigangsters. He would go onto appear in The King of Comedy, Moscow on the Hudson, The Cotton Club, Nine 1/2 Weeks, Cadillac Man, The Fifth Element, Shanghai Knights, and The Honeymooners. Among his last films was 2004's Zen Noir, on which he played a leading role and was executive producer.

Chan also appeared on television, including CBS Summer Playhouse, Gideon Oliver, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, Law and Order, Mad about You, and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. He was a regular on the syndicated Kung Fu: the Legend Continues as both apothecary Lo Si and the villainous Ping Hai and a semi-regular on Now and Again as The Eggman.

Chan appeared on stage in such plays as Fame, The Good Earth, and Keep Off the Grass. He also appeared in television commercials, including one for Verizon in which he played a taxi driver.

Kim Chan was a genuinely talented actor who was sadly underused for much of his roles. Many of parts were exceedingly small and consisted of such traditional Asian roles as houseboys or Japanese soldiers. But Mr. Chan's talent far exceeded as such roles. The perfect example of his talent can be seen in Kung Fu: the Legend Continues, an otherwise unremarkable show enlivened whenever he appeared on the show. The roles he played were nearly polar opposites. Apothecary Lo Si as a wise and just man with a strong sense of honour. The monk Ping Hai was absolutely evil. About the only thing the two characters had in common were that they were both experts in martial arts. That Chan played both roles convincingly is proof that he was worthy of so much more than so many of the parts in which he was cast.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Chanel N°5

Chances are, if you ask the ordinary, average person (that is, one who is not familiar perfumery) to name a perfume and chances are good that he or she will say, "Chanel N°5." Indeed, I think it is safe to say that Chanel N°5 is the most famous perfume of all time.

Chanel N°5 originated with two people. One was French fashion designer Coco Chanel. Chanel opened her first boutique in Paris in 1914. By the Twenties she was already one of the most respected fashion designers in Europe. Not content with simply designing clothing, Chanel wanted a wholly artificial perfume. That is, she wanted to give women a perfume whose scent was synthetic rather than relying upon natural scents as nearly every perfume before it had.

The other individual responsible for the creation of Chanel N°5 was famed perfumer Ernest Beaux. Beaux had achieved a good deal of success with the perfume Bouquet de Napoleon, which he made in honour of the anniversary of the Battle of Borodino. Beaux had been experimenting with aldehydes, recently discovered organic compounds, with which he hoped to create synthetic scents. Beaux was introduced to Coco Chanel by Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia. Naturally, she was fascinated by his research into synthetic scents.

According to Beaux, Chanel asked him for samples of his work. He gave her two sets of numbered bottles. One set was numbered one to five; the other was numbered twenty to twenty four. Of the samples, Chanel favoured the one contained in bottle numbered five. Since it had been in the fifth bottle, Chanel named the new perfume "N°5." Initially, Coco Chanel expose her friends to the perfume first, on May 5, 1921. In the early days it was given to her preferred customers at her boutiques. It would be in 1924 that she would introduce Chanel N°5 to the world, entering into a partnership with Pierre and Paul Wertheimer for her perfume business.

Relying heavily on the scent of jasmine (then the most expensive scent on the market), Chanel N°5 was at the time the most expensive perfume in the world. Despite this (or perhaps because of it), it swiftly became a success. In fact, it would eventually become the most popular perfume in the world. The height of its success may well have been the Fifties, when Chanel N°5 was endorsed by Marilyn Monroe. Interviewed in an airport in Japan in 1953, when asked what she wore to bed, Monroe reportedly said that she only wore a few drops of Chanel N°5. The perfume's sales, already strong, increased even more. Wrestler Gorgeous George would always have the wrestling ring sprayed with disinfectant, a formula which reportedly contained Chanel N°5--although George said it was "Chanel N°10," saying, "Why be half safe?" In 1959 the packaging of Chanel N°5 would be placed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Andy Warhol immortalised Chanel N°5 in a series of nine silkscreens. Chanel N°5 was mentioned in the movies Hud, RocketMan, and Just Visiting. When Channel Five in the United Kingdom launched on March 30, 1987, the first commercial it showed was one for Chanel N°5. Among Ridley Scott's earliest works would be some of the more famous commercials for the perfume.

Since the Fifties Chanel N°5 has varied in popularity, but at no point has it ever become unpopular. After 87 years of existence, it not only remains popular, but perhaps the most famous perfume of all time. Whether it is because of its actual scent or the impact it has had on pop culture, but it has always been my favourite perfume for a woman to wear. Coco Chanel herself once said, "A woman should wear fragrance wherever she expects to be kissed." I might add that she will probably improve her odds of being kissed if that fragrance happens to be Chanel N°5.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Actress Irene Dailey Passes On

Irene Dailey, star of daytime soaps and the stage, passed on September 24 at the age of 88. The cause was colon cancer.

Dailey was born on Sept. 12, 1920 in New York City. Her father managed the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan. Her brother was actor singer and dancer Dan Dailey, who had a long career in Hollywood movies. Dailey made her debut on vaudeville, dancing when she was only eight years old. By the time she was eighteen she was performing in summer stock. She would eventually find herself on Broadway, making her debut there in Nine Girls in 1943. Unfortunately, in her early years she would have little success on Broadway. Nine Girls only ran three days. Truckline Cafe, from 1946, lasted less than a month. Springtime Folly from 1951 closed after two nights. Miss Lonleyhearts from 1957 actually managed to last nine days.

Irene Dailey would not see any real success until she appeared on television. She made her debut on the small screen on the 1957 series Decoy. She went onto guest star on such shows as Naked City, The Defenders, The Twilight Zone, Ben Casey, and Hawk. She would make her movie debut in No Way to Treat a Lady in 1968 and would appear in the classic Five Easy Pieces. In 1969 she would become a regular on The Edge of Night for a year. She appeared in the movie The Grissom Gang before becoming a regular on Another World. She played Aunt Liz Matthews for a total of twenty years.

Despite her lack of success on Broadway, Dailey continued to appear there. Andorra from 1963 lasted a week. She finally found some success with The Subject Was Roses, which ran nearly two years. She would go onto appear on two more successful plays on Broadway, including You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running (which debuted in 1967) and Lost in Yonkers, which debuted in 1991.

As a stage actress, Irene Dailey saw little success on Broadway. And she never repeated the movie success of her brother Dan Dailey. But on television she was a star, although of daytime rather than prime time. For the regular viewers of Another World she was a familiar face upon whom they could depend on seeing for many, many years. She even won a Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding actress in 1979. While I am not a fan of the soaps myself (I've never even seen Another World), for those who are Irene Dailey was indubitably a star.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

The Bowling Alley

When I was in my late teens and early twenties I spent many Friday nights in the bowling alley. That having been said, I must confess that I have never bowled in my life. My brother, a friend, and I would go there to play pool. I suppose it could be argued that I then used the local bowling alley more as a pool hall than the original purpose for which it was intended. That having been said, as discussed below, pool halls and bowling alleys do have a good deal in common.

That having been said, I was obviously exposed to bowling while playing pool at the bowling alley. And I have many friends who have bowled, as has my brother. In fact, I would dare say that it was probably almost impossible for most Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers like myself not to be exposed to bowling in the United States while young. The sport was at the peak of its popularity with the nation's middle class from the Fifties to the Seventies. There were bowling alleys across the United States. And bowling was a sport that was frequently mentioned in television shows and movies of the era (several characters from which did bowl).

The origins of bowling are shrouded in mystery. Some form of the sport, or at least a very similar sport, existed in ancient Egypt. In the Thirties, archaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie discovered what appeared to be bowling balls and pins in the grave of an Egyptian boy dated 5200 BCE. More recently, a room similar to a bowling alley was discovered just last year in Narmoutheos, Egypt. It was part of a larger building, that may have been used as a home. The room had a sturdy limestone floor and what looked like a bowling lane. The archaeologists also discovered two stone balls. Of course, it can be argued that the sport played in Egypt was not bowling (the archaeologists who discovered the alley in Narmoutheos think a similar game was played there, not necessarily our modern sport of bowling) and the game as we know it originated elsewhere. Of course, while a form of bowling may have existed in ancient Egypt, there is nothing to have kept it from developing independently elsewhere. After all, the idea of rolling a ball at upright pins to knock them down would seem to be a fairly obvious for a sport.

Indeed, a sport similar to lawn bowling existed in ancient Rome that would evolve into the modern Italian game of bocce. Some have argued that Roman soldiers spread the sport elsewhere, hence we have bowls or lawn bowling in the English speaking world, boules in France, and so on. Of course, an obvious criticism in tracing bowling back to ancient Rome and bocce is that in bocce there are no pins. In fact, in many ways it resembles pool as much as it does bowling. Quite simply, it involves hitting a ball with another ball (called the "jack" in English).

It is for that reason that others have looked for the origins of bowling elsewhere.The Brothers Grimm offered the theory that bowling originated among the Germanic tribes as a form of religious ritual. A contemporary, German historian William Pehle took this theory and ran with it. He claimed that bowling had originated among in 100 CE when the balls were actually used in battle. English historians would also argue for the origins of bowling among Germanic tribes. They claimed that Saint Boniface (also known as Wynfrith, his Saxon name--he was born in Wessex in what would become England) had helped develop bowling when he converted the pagan Saxons on the Continent around 700 CE. According to this theory Boniface told his converts that the pin represented the Devil, so that when a ball knocked over a pin a demon was killed.

While there is little evidence to support this theory (or the theories of the Brothers Grimm or William Pehle, for that matter), there can be no doubt that bowling has been popular in Germany for centuries. In the thirteenth century monks in Germany reportedly bowled as a tribute to Saint Boniface. In the fourteenth century when a mine shaft flooded and drowned many miners, ecclesiastical authorities claimed that God had punished the miners for wasting their time on the sport of bowling instead of more worthwhile pursuits. Bowling was banned in Frankfurt in 1443 and again in 1447 in a attempt to reduce gambling. Indeed, besides starting Protestantism, Martin Luther also made changes to bowling. He set the rules for the game, including the number of pins at nine (for those of you familiar with American bowling, I will explain why we use ten pins later...). Luther loved bowling and even had his own family bowling alley. If there is little doubt of the popularity of bowling among Germans through history, keep in mind that our word "kegling (a synonym for bowling)" comes from High German kegeln.

While we may not know the exact origins of bowling, the sport seems to have existed in England for centuries. Bowling appears to have existed there in some form since at least the 1100's. By the fourteenth century several forms of the game existed, including bowls, skittles, and ninepins. In fact, the game was so popular in England by that time that King Edward III banned bowling as a distraction to his troops. There are bowling greens in use in the United Kingdom that still exist from that time, such as the lawn at Crowne Green in Southampton, England and the skittles lane at the Sheep Head Inn in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was in 1455 that the first bowling alley was built in London. Henry VIII was one of the English kings who loved bowling. He actually had his own alley built at Whitehall Palace in 1532. Of course, he also thought of the game as a sport for the wealthy and aristocrats. He decreed that one needed to make an yearly income of £1000 in order to legally bowl. Sir Francis Drake and Francis Bacon were also avid bowlers. In 1670 King Charles I standardised the rules for bowling, reputedly because he wanted to even the odds of the sport to prevent losing even more money gambling on it.

When the British and Dutch colonised North America, they brought bowling with them. In 1611, Captain James Smith returned to Jamestown in Virginia to find the colonists were starving to death, but had enough time to still enjoy bowling. He promptly banned the game, making it punishable by three weeks in the stocks. Bowling was first played in New York City before it was New York City--the Dutch were bowling in New Amsterdam as early as 1623. In the early days of the North American colonies most bowling took place outside, but it would not be long before the game moved from outdoors to indoors. The first indoor bowling alley, Knickerbockers, was built in New York City in 1840. To a small degree in the 19th century United States bowling was somewhat respectable. Outdoor bowling greens were popular at summer resorts before the War Between the States, so that even a few Southern belles would engage in the sport (and as every good Southerner knows, a belle does nothing unladylike). Some of the first bowling alleys were to be found in the upscale gentlemen's clubs such as those in New York City and Boston. Even some of the wealthy elite had their own private bowling alleys built in their homes in the late 19th century, including George Vanderbilt and R. J. Reynolds. And while Southern belles bowled before the War Between the States, during the Gilded Age high society women would often attend bowling matches and even play in them.

The popularity of bowling grew even more with the influx of German immigrants in the 1840's and 1850's. Nearly any cultural centre or gymnasium operated by German Americans was bound to include a bowling alley. In fact, it was in New York City that German Americans founded the first bowling clubs in the United States, although they were more akin to fraternal groups like the Oddfellows than modern day bowling leagues. It was also German Americans who were responsible for organising the first regional bowling association in the United States. The United Bowling Clubs of New York was founded in 1885 in New York City. It seems the German immigrants brought their love of kegling with them.

While bowling was to some degree respectable in the 19th century, played by aristocrats and held in high regard by German Americans, at the same time it would become somewhat disreputable. In the 19th century United States, the vast majority of bowling alleys were housed in saloons. While fine Southern gentlemen might bowl at a summer resort in New Orleans, the common man might be bowling in the local tavern. In Chicago the two first bowling alleys were located in saloons. These two Chicago saloons are also prime examples of how bowling was often used as encouragement for patrons to buy liquor. For every two beers a customer bought, he could bowl one free game. As late as 1918 the majority of bowling alleys in the United States were still housed in saloons. That year a survey of bowling alleys in Toledo revealed that half were housed in taverns, while the rest were situated very near taverns.

Indeed, the strong link between bowling and saloons can be seen in the evolution of the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company (now Brunswick Corporation). Founded in 1845 in Cincinnati, Ohio with the intent of making carriages, the company soon switched to making billiards tables. Of course, like bowling, pool was generally a sport practised at saloons in 19th century North America. Because their primary customers were saloon owners, the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company soon expanded into the manufacture of bowling balls, bowling pins, and bowling alleys. They soon not only dominated the pool table trade, but the bowling equipment trade as well. Today Brunswick Corporation remains the top in the field when it comes to both bowling and billiards equipment, although they would eventually expand into boats, boat engines, and fitness equipment.

Naturally, bowling in 19th century and early 20th century North America was primarily a man's sport. Since the vast majority of bowling alleys were located in often dark and dingy saloon, most women in the middle and lower class did not engage in the sport as they would have had to venture into a tavern do so--something no honest woman of the era would do. Since bowling alleys were generally located in taverns, bowling alleys developed a reputation quite similar to that of pool halls. They were regarded as places frequented by gamblers, criminals, and other outcasts. Naturally, then, many bookies operated out of bowling alleys, not only taking bets on the bowling and billiards games there, but also taking bets on the latest boxing matches, horse races, and other sporting events. The seedy reputation that bowling alleys developed would naturally result in regulations. Most cities required bowling alley owners to have a licence to operate their business. Other cities would even go so far as to ban minors from bowling alleys and even restrict the hours during which they could be open.

It was because of the fact that bowling alleys were most often located in taverns and associated with the seedier elements of society in 19th century America that the sport here would change forever. From its earliest days in Jamestown and New Amsterdam, ninepin bowling was the most common form played here in North America. It was in 1841 that the state of Connecticut banned ninepin bowling due to its association with bowling and criminals. The ban did not stop people from bowling, however, as they simply added a tenth pin, making the game perfectly legal under the Connecticut law. This is why Americans play tenpin bowling, even though ninepin bowling continues to be dominant in Europe. The rules of bowling would be regularised in 1895 with the organisation of the American Bowling Congress at Beethoven Hall in New York City. The American Bowling Congress would eventually establish rules for the game and encouraged both tournaments and national competitions. Eventually the rules established by the American Bowling Congress would become the nationwide standard for tenpin bowling in the United States.

It would not be either the regulations laid down by municipalities and states regarding bowling alleys that would force them to clean up their act or the American Bowling Congress's standardisation of the rules, but instead the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibited the sale and manufacture of alcohol in the United States. Without liquor to draw in patrons, many bowling alleys closed during Prohibition. Those that stayed in business were forced to change the very nature of their establishments. Lighting was improved considerably, a sharp contrast to the days of the dimly tavern bound alleys. Walls were painted so that they would be more attractive. Where previously water pipes and water drains might be exposed, they were now covered. Many would even go so far as to soundproof their bowling alleys. Because liquor was no longer available to draw in patrons, many owners would expand the number of lanes in their bowling alleys. Quite simply, Prohibition facilitated the development of the modern bowling alley.

That is not to say that the cleaner, more brightly lit bowling alleys of the Prohibition Era were quite the same as the ones we know today. The automatic pinsetter had not yet been invented, so that young men called pinboys were required to set the pins back up after each strike. Bowling balls had once been made from wood, but the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company introduced balls made of vulcanised rubber in 1905 and later in 1914 the Mineralite Ball, made of a much sturdier rubber. The urethane or plastic bowling ball was a few years in the future.

Regardless, changes in bowling equipment would come very quickly in the mid-Twentieth century that would create the bowling alley as we know it. In 1936 a fellow named Gottfried Schmidt invented the automatic pinsetter in his garage. The American Machine and Foundry Company (now best known as AMF) bought the rights to Schmidt's invention. It had its first public demonstration in 1946 at the American Bowling Congress championships. It was in 1951 that the first machine for public use was installed in Michigan. In 1952 the automatic pinsetter was put into mass production. Pinboys were a thing of the past. It was around 1960 that bowling ball manufacturers introduced polyester resin bowling balls. Joseph R. Infantino of AMF would further revolutionise the bowling ball. He developed a hard plastic called Surlyn in the late Sixties to coat bowling balls and thus make them more durable. He would also develop the urethane bowling ball, which has more traction.

Between the cleaning up of bowling alleys and the many technological improvements made to the game from the Forties to the Sixties, bowling soon entered the height of its popularity, from the post-War period well into the Sixties. So popular would the sport become that the Professional Bowlers Association was founded in 1958. Bowling would also regularly be featured on network television (primarily on the American Broadcasting Company), and the Pro Bowlers Tour would be an annual television tradition for many, many years. A spate of bowling oriented shows appeared on television during the era, including Bowling for Dollars and Celebrity Bowling.

Of course, perhaps the greatest testament to the sport's popularity was that for many middle class families it became a weekly ritual. Many Americans belonged to bowling leagues and participated in the game regularly. It is for that reason that bowling figures in many of the television shows of the Fifties and Sixties. Regular viewers of The Flintstones will recall that Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble were avid bowlers. On The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry had its own bowling league of which Andy was a member. On All in the Family Archie Bunker was also an avid bowler. Bowling figured on such varied shows as The Honeymooners, My Peepers, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Pete and Gladys, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Get Smart (yes, even the intelligence agency CONTROL had a bowling team...), Batman (among a jury the Mad Hatter was kidnapping was a bowling alley owner...), That Girl, Happy Days, and Cheers

Bowling has not figured quite so much in motion pictures, although it has appeared there from time to time. Those who have seen the classic, 1932 gangster movie Scarface may recall the victim who was gunned down in a bowling alley. A bowling alley also figured in the 1939 classic Angels Wash Their Faces. The 1942 Joe E. Brown comedy The Daring Young Man featured bowling. The 1942 Tom and Jerry cartoon "The Bowling Alley Cat" was set in a bowling alley. OF course, everyone probably remembers that Ralph's dad in A Christmas Story received among his gifts a bowling ball. Bowling, bowling balls, or bowling alleys would also figure in some fashion in such movies as Road House (1948), A Streetcar Named Desire, Cape Fear (1962), Five Easy Pieces, The Deer Hunter, Mystery Men, and There Will Be Blood. Curiously, despite the sport's popularity during from the late Forties to the early Seventies, movies which centre primarily upon bowling would not appear until later. Racing With the Moon came out in 1982. Ruby's Dream, a small film about a bowling alley, was released in 1992. Kingpin was released in 1996. The cult classic The Big Lebowski was released in 1998. When it came to America's love affair with bowling during the Fifties and Sixties, it would seem the movie industry entirely missed the boat.

Starting in the Seventies, bowling began to decline in popularity. Eventually bowling would no longer be seen on Saturday and Sunday afternoons on the American television networks, exiled to the netherworld of the cable sports channels. Many bowling alleys around the country closed. I myself remember that Columbia used to boast many bowling alleys when I was growing up. I am not absolutely sure, but it now boasts only one or two (keep in mind this is a city of around 90,000 people we are talking about). That is not to say that bowling does not remain a popular sport. There are still many people in the United States who still bowl--to this day the Community Lanes remains popular in Moberly. Regardless, there can be no denying that the sport is not as popular as it once was in the Fifties and Sixties.

Even though I have never bowled in my life, I have found memories of my trips to the bowling alley to play pool. There was something reassuring about watching people roll the balls at the pins while waiting for my turn at the pool table, something reassuring about the pins being knocked down. And I must confess, I watched many a bowling match on television when I was growing up in the Sixties and Seventies. It was one of the very few sports, besides hockey, soccer (as Americans seem to insist on calling football), and American football. I must confess, it looks like it would be a very fun game to play. I suppose someday I should gather up some friends and make a trip to the local bowling alley for a night of kegling. I certainly wouldn't be the first American to do so.