Bowling in Kokomo  -  1925 to 1930 -- Landmark Performances


This column focuses on the Kokomo bowling scene from 1925 through 1930. This time period was filled with record performances as well as high place finishes at the State and National (ABC) levels.



"Sanitary Lunch"   -  1927 (approximate) City League Team  -  All Juniors on the team  -  (Photo provided by George Haseltine)

Back Row:  George Haseltine, Herman Allen

Front Row:  Melvin Maudlin, ?? Dick or Dickey, Ty Pettit


City Individual Tournament

The Kokomo Bowling Association started a new tournament in December of 1925. It was called the City Individual Bowling Championship. It was a match play event. Early round matches consisted of 3 to 4 games, while later round matches and finals consisted of 6 games. The City Individual Tournament would run for 13 years. In the final five years of the event, the field was divided into several divisions based on the bowler's average. Paul Allison won the first two Individual Championships. Other winners included, Charlie Burk, Leo Wolf, Fred Hurstel (4 times), Carl Moxley (twice straight), "Lefty" Willer and Dr. Walter Gipe.


High Game Records

This time period saw the sanctioned high game record elevated on two occasions. In September of 1927, Harry Schneiderman upped the single game record with his 289. A new standard was reached in November 1928 by Dr. Walter Gipe when he rolled a 298 game.


High Series Records

The series record was broken several times. Celestine "Fat" Hubert rolled 690 in the fall of 1926. In a new spring league organized in 1927, Carl Maudlin, Sr. rolled a record 694 series.

All Kokomo bowlers must have been gunning to be the first to shoot a 700 series in league play. That feat was finally accomplished on April 12, 1929, when Harrison "Hack" Thompson rolled a 704. Seven months later Bobby Overton would roll 700 even, for Kokomo’s second 700 series. In the 1930 City Tournament, George Elliott rolled a 708 series in the singles event while Joe Fohn shot 717 in the doubles event.


Number of Bowlers

Kokomo had 20 sanctioned teams in the 1925/26 season. This ranked Kokomo sixth in the state and ahead of several larger towns. Indianapolis had 317 teams, South Bend -- 188, Fort Wayne -- 141, Gary -- 28, Terre Haute -- 22, Muncie -- 16, Anderson -- 8, Richmond -- 6 and Marion only 1. Kokomo would make it 25 teams the following year. The major growth in bowling was still to occur.

Ten teams participated in the 1925/26 City Tournament. The doubles event was won by Carl Maudlin Sr. and his son, Melvin. Melvin Maudlin was only 14 years old at the time. Maudlin Sr. set new City Tournament records with his 277 game and 676 series.


Top Bowlers and Performances

Harry Schneiderman and Joe Fohn became forces in the Kokomo bowling scene. Schneiderman, the new manager of the Recreation Alleys, would roll many fine State and ABC scores. Fohn would make his mark around the state and nation as well.

Schneiderman was a big man, about 6 feet and 210 pounds. He threw a small hook and hardly ever missed a spare. Fohn was a much smaller man and was even referred to as "Little Joe from Kokomo." Fohn had a 4 step delivery and threw a great big hook ball. Fohn also used an unusual grip. Most bowlers in that era bowled with just the middle finger and thumb. Fohn’s middle finger had been cut off so he bowled with his ring finger and thumb. Schneiderman was one of the first local bowlers to grip with two fingers and the thumb which is the normal grip today.

In the 1926 ABC tournament in Toledo, Schneiderman rolled 1276 in doubles with Mr. Cray from Indianapolis. They were the early leaders. Schneiderman’s 1871 in all-events was good enough for an early second place standing. In the same tournament, 14 year old Melvin Maudlin made his ABC debut with two series of 520. Joe Fohn rolled 657 in singles and 1877 in all-events, overtaking Schneiderman. Fohn’s all-events total was good enough to finish in 11th place.

Melvin Maudlin was not the only youth bowler rolling well. Sixteen year old George Haseltine led the City League in average with 196 after two weeks, but could not maintain the pace. Top averages for the 1926/27 City League were Harry Schneiderman with 191, Bobby Overton with 191, Carl Maudlin Sr. with 190 and Joe Fohn with 189. For the 1927/28 season, Harry Schneiderman led the City League with a 193.78 average while Joe Fohn led the Industrial League with 192.96. Schneiderman led the City League again the following year with an average of 189.

Bobby Overton became the first Kokomo bowler to roll three, then four, straight series of 600 or over when he accomplished the feat in the fall of 1926.

In the 1927 State tournament in South Bend, Joe Fohn placed 5th in all-events with 1836 and 22nd in singles with 633. Harry Schneiderman finished 16th in singles with his 635.

In the 1928 ABC tournament in Kansas City, "Lefty" Willer teamed with Harry Schneiderman to roll 1258 in the doubles event. This set a record for an all-Kokomo team at the ABC.

In the 1928 State tournament, Harry Schneiderman narrowly missed winning the singles championship. Schneiderman shot a 713 series but came up short when an Illinois bowler shot 714 to edge him out by a single pin. Kokomo protested the 714 score claiming the bowler was a "ringer" brought in from out-of-state. The protest was later denied since the bowler did bowl in a northwest Indiana league. Schneiderman’s scoring feat is even more remarkable given that it came before any Kokomo bowler rolled a 700 series in league play.

"Hack" Thompson repeated his 700 series feat in the 1929 State tournament. He led the Coca-Colas team to an 11th place finish in Terre Haute with his 705 series. His teammates were Paul Allison, Gene Crawley, Fred Hurstel and "Lefty" Willer.

In October of 1929, Joe Fohn rolled a perfect 300 game in a team challenge match in Indianapolis. Although not sanctioned, it was the first 300 game by a Kokomo bowler in inter-city competition.

In April of 1930, Syd Baker from Peru rolled a 299 game at the ABC in Cleveland. Later that month, Kokomo would roll some fine scores of its own. The Van Dam Cigars team rolled 2929 in the team event. Scores for the team were Harry Schneiderman with 641, Joe Fohn -- 636, "Lefty" Willer -- 576, Bobby Overton -- 547 and Frank Stonequist -- 529. This would be the highest ABC team score by a Kokomo team for many years. With only one night left in the tournament, they stood in 23rd place. Frank Stonequist had 648 in the singles event. Harry Schneiderman and Joe Fohn shot 1246 in doubles. Schneiderman beat out Fohn 1838 to 1831 for Kokomo’s all-events honors.


Women’s Bowling

In "Lefty" Willer’s bowling column on September 30, 1926, Willer wrote how "Kokomo Needs a Ladies Bowling League." He pointed out that Lillian Schneiderman, wife of Harry Schneiderman, was one of the top women bowlers in the state. Mrs. Schneiderman participated in the second City Individual tournament and made a notable showing. She defeated one of the guys 623 to 506 for three games. Willer closed his article out stating "All it takes is for someone to start it. And then try to stop it!" Willer would be right. However, it would be another eight years before a ladies league would be formed.