September 21, 2021

Bowling Mania

Did you know before the Real Estate Bubble, the Dotcom Bubble, the Bicycle Bubble, there was the Bowling Bubble” of the 1960s?

While bowling had been around in America for years (the White House got its first bowling alley in 1947), prior to the 1950s, bowling alleys would have to pay people to manually place the pins every. single. time after a patron would bowl. This severely limited the margins of bowling allies as well as limiting the ease of expansion.

Then sometime in the mid 1950s a magical invention was brought to market called the Automatic Pinsetter and bowling boomed in America. Patrons could play games twice as fast, and bowling allies could have one or two fewer people on the payroll.

More and more bowling allies started to pop up across America. Action bowling would take off in seedier places where bowlers would gamble for thousands of dollars. By 1963, professional bowler Harry Smith was making more money than the MLB MVP and NFL MVP combined.

Wall Street started to notice the economic prosperity of bowling allies and decided to get in on the action. I tried to find a price chart of some of the bowling companies at the time to no avail however according to the Wall Street Journal the most popular corporation, Brunswick Bowling, went up 1,590% between 1957 and its 1967 peak.

But just like it always does, things did not last. As developers were building bowling allies at breakneck speeds people started to move away from urban centers, where most bowling allies were being built, to the suburbs, leading to a declining user base. Combined with the rapid expansion, this lead to an oversupply and the subsequent retraction in prices for the biggest companies like AMF and Brunswick.

Since the 1960s there has never been as many bowling allies.

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