Upon entering the museum, the first thing you see is a huge and super cool bowling pin mobile. Under that is the gift shop, a collection of bowling shirts, a case of recent acquisitions, and my favorite thing after a gift shop: a penny squisher.
The first section of the museum is Ten Pin Alley, aka The Time Tunnel.
The most surprising thing about the Bowling Hall of Fame is how funny and irreverent the exhibit labels are. Bowlers definitely have a sense of humor about the history of bowling. Note that drinking went with bowling right from the very beginning:
The museum is also full of little dioramas related to the history of bowling. Remember a couple weeks ago when I said, "Just wait till you see where we find Henry VIII next week?" The answer is: AT THE BOWLING HALL OF FAME! St Louis is such a small town!
This diorama of pinsetters had an interesting label about the history of the hole in the bottom of the bowling pin. Back when pins were set by humans behind the lanes, the pinsetter stepped on a treadle to raise steel pegs through the floor. The pins were set on these pegs, and the the treadle was released. Bowling pin specifications were designed with the peg spotters in mind, and they have never been redesigned.
Some parts of the exhibit were a bit of a stretch. These three mutoscopes have a flip-picture story of Rip van Winkle in them. Apparently the game of ninepins (or tenpins, I can't remember if this is before or after the 10th pin showed up) is mentioned in the story.
The Time Tunnel is huge and you could easily spend a couple hours reading all the bowling history. The pictures here are only a small fraction of the exhibit.
The other surprising thing about the International Bowling Hall of Fame is that it's actually FIVE halls of fame in one! Six if you count the Cardinals Baseball Hall of Fame, which is included in admission. What a bargain!
First we have the American Bowling Congress Hall of Fame. The American Bowling Congress (Men) and the Women's International Bowling Congress are now one organization: The United States Bowling Congress. Each of the ABC plaques is a wood carving of the inductee's face, which is both nifty and creepy at the same time.
Next, the Women's International Bowling Congress. Each of the ladies has her own oil portrait, which is also both nifty and creepy.
We also have the Bowling Proprietors Association of America. Who knew they had a hall of fame? Suddenly I have a whole new respect for the Bowling Proprietors.
The Professional Bowlers Association (PBA):
The Professional Women Bowler's Association (PWBA):
Where are we at? Is that five? Time for some bonus Hall of Faming. We also have these murals of Great Moments in Bowling:
and these weird 3D trophies that I think are for the new United States Bowling Congress:
To sum up: If you are in or near or might be near the St Louis area between now and the end of the year, you must make a trip to the International Bowling Hall of Fame. It is so surprisingly fun that Kirk got down and kissed the carpet, lamenting the lost years that we could have been appreciating this fine museum. Admission is only $7.50, and includes all that you have seen here and more (including 4 free frames of bowling, which we missed out on because of a private party, and the Cardinals Hall of Fame, which I'll get to next week.)