North American Bowling News

Reminiscing from Roswell, but Not About UFOs

Where does history get its information? Oftentimes, it's a personal account from an on-the-scene witness that provides the only historical reference to a great point in time. The most famous UFO sighting in American history originated from personal encounters in Roswell, NM. But one of today's residents of Roswell has a few memories of the earlier days of the PBA that may have slipped under the radar.

Jack Hertzog is the NABN's newest resource for reliving a little bit of Americana in regards to the earlier days of the tenpin game. Hertzog currently resides in Roswell, New Mexico, but his roots in bowling are in the place and era that were the 'hotbed' of the nation's tenpin action—St. Louis, Missouri—the legendary Dick Weber's hometown.

An accomplished bowler in his own right with an appreciation for the game of bowling, Hertzog was there in person to witness some of the legendary battles of the PBA's pioneers.

Jack recalls, "I lived in St. Louis, about 3 or 4 blocks from the 'Arcade Lanes', one of the highest scoring lanes in the world, if not the highest. It was 8 lanes, and you could see a 298, 299 or 300 almost every week. There was a guy who was truly a remarkable talent— "Elvin Mesger". One day, I saw in the paper he'd shot 833, I went to the lanes the next week, and he shot 855." At one time, before the radical increase in scoring that the tenpin game has seen today, Mesger was credited as the bowler with the most '300' games on record.

Hertzog was around to see the great Budweiser team of years past.

Hertzog adds, "The Bud- weiser team of Dick Weber, Don Carter, Pat Patterson, Tom Hennessey, Ray Bluth, Whitey Harris, etc., all shot there. Whitey wasn't a great bowler though, he just filled in, but he was the team captain. They got a young guy who was sort of a street fellow, and they made him their mascot. His name was Dennis Chapis, and he could take on any bowler in St. Louis. To elaborate on his personal background, one time he was bowling and his street shoes had holes in them. He would show up at all the pot games in town. "

"St. Louis had very many bowlers that could've been pros, if they'd not primarily been in other fields. Around 1959 or 1960, bowlers from all over the country came in. The "Falstaffs" came in to try to knock off the Buds and they had Dick Hoover, Buzz Fazio, Steve Nagy, Bill Lilliard, and Billy Welu, and several others. They bowled the Budweisers at the Arcade and the place was jammed. The Falstaffs bowled, I think, 3490, and the Buds bowled 3600 and something, and beat 'em. Nobody could beat the Buds at that time."

The Hertzog heritage actually traces back to the days of another group of bowling greats in an era when Andy Varipapa was one of the big names in bowling.

Thinking back, Hertzog adds:

"My granddad led a St. Louis league in 1929-30 with a 203 average. Back then they all shot with a two-hole ball. I have the trophy he won, and the bowler on the trophy is bowling with a two-hole ball. At that time, the general feeling amongst the high bowlers was that anybody who used a three-hole ball was a 'sissy'".

"The pins were solid maple, and there was solid wood on the side boards. The pin action was much less than it is now. If you missed the pocket, you wouldn't get the sloppy strikes seen today. Also, it was very common to come in light and leave the 4-5, or 4-5-7 split. Spare shooting was a bigger part of the game."

"I bowled at Nelson Burton's lanes on Delmar Avenue. They had ceilings 40 feet high and when there was just one bowler in the place, it sounded like a shotgun when the ball hit the pins. The echo was fantastic, and you should've heard it in there when the place was packed. The noise from the old 'hand pinsetters racks' was terrific, along with the sound of the balls rolling back—I loved that sound."

Despite the fact that Jack Hertzog has relocated to New Mexico, his long-time love for the sport has made bowling his chief pastime, and it's not been limited to tenpins. Hertzog was introduced to the duckpin game by his father, who passed along experience with the small ball game to Jack, remembering a time when pinboys were still a big part of the duckpin game. Although a top notch tenpin bowler, Jack was intrigued with the news of the small ball games and managed to collect a few sets of duckpins and candlepins, and successfully added versatility to a project on which he diligently worked previously—a homemade bowling lane. Hertzog exhibited the different small ball variations at local county fairs, and so, thanks to the efforts of a connoisseur who truly loves the sport of bowling, the games of duckpins and candlepins have a presence out west.

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