Always Ask

As we left the bowling alley, we walked over to my car – which was located near the side of the building. There, we saw a guy sort of pacing around, holding a cellphone to his ear. Getting into the car, both Liz and I saw that a side door (located near the end of the building) was slightly ajar. Inside the car, I said something like “Man, I’d like to peek inside there” and Liz told me she had the exact same thought.

We kept glancing out at the guy, who saw us looking at him. After a bit, we both decided it couldn’t hurt to ask (I think one of my thoughts was “When are we going to get this kind of chance again?”). And so we got out and asked if we could peek inside the doors. The guy smiled, and opened the way for us. I asked about taking pictures, and he was totally cool with it.

And wow! The machines that run the pins are ENORMOUS! I had no idea.

Looking down the row, it just seemed to go and go. The place was noisy, and filled with clanking and clattering. When we asked if we could walk down just a little, the guy, again, obliged and cautioned us not to touch anything (for fear we’d get ourselves super dirty).

I switched over to video mode, to try to capture how the machines were working:

This is Dan, who runs the show behind the scenes, and was the nicest guy ever. We talked a bit about the history of the place (I guess it’s been there for 50 years or so), and how much maintenance these machines require. These are the older style of machines, and he said they’re “bulit like tanks” and don’t require too much upkeep.

I guess, when other bowling alleys go out of business, he scrambles around looking for spare parts, just to keep a reserve. But for the most part, according to Dan, they don’t really break down all that much.

I can’t tell you how happy this little encounter made us. In the car, Liz and I were giggling a lot, and revelling in the fact that we got this behind-the-scenes peek at how things work.

It felt revitalizing, in a weird way. Almost like this mini-adventure that we went on. Partly, I think it was the coolness factor of being able to see all those machines; partly, I think it had to do with encountering kindness. I think Dan could tell we were like giddy schoolchildren, looking around in awe at the machines. And from our end, we could tell he was happy to share his work, and to talk about it. And was proud of it, too.

Here’s my advice to you. If nothing else, the next time you’re in a situation and you have the chance? Ask. The worst they can say is no. And if they say yes, you’ve got a fantastic story to tell.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I’m so glad that you enjoyed your tour behind the pinspotters. What you were looking at based on the pictures and video a little tough to tell exactly but I believe that is the AMF 82/30 model 4400.

    The first mass produced pinspotter, the machine that put the pinboys out of a job and almost put Brunswick Corp. out of business. It would be 5 more years until Brunswick introduced the Automatic Pinsetter model A machine. If you get a chance check those out they are twice the size of the AMF machine.

    How do I know all this? Oh yea I own and operate serveral bowling centers in Minnesota. I think it is cool when some one finds a fasination with the seceret little world so few people know about in the bowling business.

    Mark Fleming Reply

  2. i actually use to be a mechanic at diversey and i can tell you that those machines are the amf 58-50 those are the machines that taught me how to work on pinsetters

    now i work in washington at lilac lanes on the amf 82-70’s and they are a whole lot easier to work on and safer

    kevin r brown Reply

  3. Yup, those are AMF model 82-30’s with the 5850 chassis, manufactured from 1956 to 1958. Looks like they got the lift upgrade but retained the original closed pinwheels. I worked on 82-70’s that were built in 1962 or ’63, back when even the 70 was controlled by steppers and relays. These old machines are built rock solid, but I’ll tell you they would never win an Energy Star. I’m always happy to hear about a place with 30’s that’s enthusiastic about having them, as more and more of them are going to the crusher all the time. I’m glad you got this rare opportunity to see them in action. Great pictures!

    Toby Schwartzman Reply

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