Bowling at Smith

A recent student Rec Council sponsored trip to the local bowling alley spawned the question:  did Smith ever have a bowling alley?  Research in the Archives can confirm that indeed, bowling has been at Smith for quite a while.

L. Clark Seelye, in his publication the Early History of Smith College, 1871-1910 notes that in 1879, “a temporary wooden gymnasium was built where Lilly Hall now stands.  The lower story had a bowling alley and music rooms for practice.”  [pg 53].  Unfortunately, the Archives does not have interior photographs that show the bowling alley of the old gym.  Perhaps L. Clark Seelye needed a little relief from his duties as president and rolled a few balls to release some stress?

Competition between classes and houses started up in the late 1920s/early 1930s.  A record book in the Athletics Records begins with the 1931-1932 tournament, but the entry gives the impression that the tournament was not the first.

Smithies Bowling in the 1930s

In a 1939 press release to a local Milwaukee paper, it was noted that several students from Milwaukee battled it out on 53 teams, including the Baldwin House Bruisers and the Morris House Miracles, to take home the championship.

Bowling in 1949

Setting up the duck pins, c1957

House competitions were based on individual scores.  A score sheet was kept near the lanes for students to record their activities.  Bowling at Smith was popular right through the 1940s when inter-class competition was the highlight.    Smith students played with duck pins and a smaller ball with no finger holes.  The duck pins had to be set up by hand.  The photograph below shows the precursor to the ‘automatic return’ (l) and ‘automatic setup’ (r) of  modern bowling lanes.

According to the bowling record book, the lanes were popular during the evenings and weekends.  Why bowling faded into obscurity at Smith is unknown.  If anyone out there has stories, please share them with us!


One Response to Bowling at Smith

  1. Corey says:

    Hi guys,
    I had no idea this existed until today, but I’m delighted to discover it and learn more about the unearthed history of bowling at Smith! Fantastic! I’ll definitely stay tuned!
    -Corey (Fabian Borenstein ’08)

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