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Watertown and Candlepin Bowling

April 20, 2013 - Ray Tsuchiyama

A major event – natural and/or man-made – thrusts a city, a town, a place into the global media. It could be an earthquake or a flood or as in this week’s news, an act of terrorism.

Such is the case of Watertown, a quiet town on the western edge of the densely-populated city of Boston, a collection of neighborhoods around a port and bisected by the Charles River in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts dating to before the Revolutionary War. Suddenly, two suspects of detonating two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon were confronted by police and FBI in Watertown, and one suspect died in the shooting/bomb fight, and the other escaped, but was apprehended later lying wounded in a boat next to a house, still in Watertown.

Watertown has about 30,000 residents, just 5,000 more than Kahului. Aligned with the rest of de-centralized America (with School Boards of communities of only several thousand citizens or elected officials of towns of several hundred), Watertown has its own City Manager, elected Council, and police and fire departments (of course there is active cooperation with the City of Boston, a city of 650,000; “Greater Boston” with numerous independent towns and small cities in an arc around Boston city has a population of nearly 8 million).

For many years Watertown was known for its less expensive housing, a far cry from leafy exclusive residential streets of Cambridge near Harvard University, Beacon Hill (with beautiful red brick buildings), and Back Bay, a high-end area originally created with landfill – and Boston’s first middle-class housing in the late 19th century.

Watertown is also a close-knit Armenian community; when I lived in Cambridge and visited Watertown, I remember buying “baklava” sweets (with honey and nuts) at Watertown bakeries.

The other Watertown memory I have is about candlepin bowling.

Unless one lived in easterm Canada like Ontario or Quebec or New England (like Massachusetts), no one has probably heard about candlepin bowling – and the “modern” game (in the Washington Irving story protagnist Rip Van Winkle played a 18th century version) was launched in western Massachusetts around the same time “real” tenpin bowling was introduced in the U.S. in the 1880s.

The biggest difference between “real” bowling is that candlepin bowling uses pins that are barely three inches at its widest point. Also, instead of the heavy ball (with three holes), a much smaller, lighter ball is used – and can be thrown by even elderly people or children. Instead of a mechanical “sweeper” that comes out and re-arranges the pins that were still standing after a bowling ball is rolled against the pins, the pins are left rolling around among standing pins. Therefore, a bowler can use the dropped pins to knock down surviving standing pins – a fundamental strategic point for candlepin bowling. You would think that a smaller ball would increase accuracy – but the pins are thinner, so it’s not that easy from what seems to be a long distance away – it’s like putting a thread into a sewing needle “eye”: looks easy, but challenging.

My friend T., born-and-raised in Wailuku, said that a large bowling alley once stood across Baldwin High School. A small, older bowling alley exists in Wailuku, behind Market Street – a friend said it was difficult to get bowling times (he has grandchildren) to play there.

Maui needs more family-oriented leisure activities – you can’t go to Kamaole Sands III every day. A state-of-the-art bowling alley with lots of lights, loud music, “computerized” scoring, plus a diner-type family restaurant, and an adjacent area for small rides and play areas for children would be highly profitable, maybe near Costco or even Kihei.

Ultimately, memory is highly selective – I can’t control what my brain (subconscious) recalls after I see the name “Watertown” on television all day and all night long on CNN and other channels – and of all things, I recall lazy Saturday afternoons with friends at a candlepin bowling alley, a beer and popcorn, and spicy red clam sauce with spaghetti afterwards – in Watertown.


Article Comments



Apr-21-13 3:27 PM

A similar game is called duckpins in the middle Atlangtic states but it is endangered.

Ex-mayor Charmaine Tavares has plans to start a bowling center but, in addition to high land costs on Maui, a modern bowling setup costs millions, which means a high price per line.

Hard go make it pencil out.


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