Bowling History Research Process and Perfect Game Update -- 12/12/1995


This is a resumption of the Bowling History column started last year. Through this column, I hope to communicate information from Kokomo’s bowling past that is not well known, or may have been forgotten. I hope to write a column each month of the bowling season, providing I do not have to run any more golf tournaments or take too many all expense paid trips to Japan or China.

This article will explain how I obtain my information as well as correct and update the information printed last year on Kokomo’s perfect games.

First thing you might want to know is why I am writing this column, or more precisely, why I am researching the bowling history of Kokomo. I have been a part of this community for about 16 years since graduating from college. My knowledge of bowling in Kokomo prior to 1980 was very limited. Don Johnson was one of my favorite bowlers when I was just a kid. I did not even know he was from Kokomo until I came here. Being active in the bowling community, I wanted to know more. There was much more to learn.

Being involved with the Kokomo Bowling Association (KBA) is one way I can give back to bowling some of what the sport has given me. Being a past winner of the annual city tournament, I was curious who the early champions were. When the KBA decided to publish a yearbook two years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to find out who the past champions were. That started the snowball rolling!

The KBA knew most of the champions from the tournaments after 1980. So, I started out looking in 1980 and worked my way back year by year. Here is how the process worked.

The Kokomo-Howard County Public Library has microfilm of the Kokomo Tribune dating back to the 1800’s. What a huge resource of information! I started searching the month the city tournament was usually conducted. Then I looked at Monday’s paper, or the day that the normal bowling column appeared to narrow in on the target information. When I found what I needed, I made a copy for ten cents and went back another year.

I worked my way back to when the KBA was formed in 1916. I am only missing a few scattered pieces of information. The KBA is also trying to record winning individual team members, but they were not always identified in the newspaper. The compiled list of past city champions can be found, along with other historical information, in the KBA yearbook provided to each sanctioned bowler.

Once I completed this level of research, Dave Kasey talked me into writing the Bowling History column. He did not have to twist my arm too hard. I really enjoy discovering “new” information and sharing it with others. The two columns last year dealt with the men’s series record progression and Kokomo’s perfect games. The KBA had most of the dates for the perfect games and the rest was detective work.

To continue and enhance the Bowling History column, I needed more information and a different strategy. I had to review every sports page of every day of every year. I started keeping track of the dates I covered, taking notes and making copies as I went along. I learned to quickly turn the microfilm reader to the next day's sports page and quickly scan the page for any information that had to do with bowling. It now takes me about four hours to scan through a full bowling season of September through May. I have now completed the search from 1915 to 1970. I plan to finish the search through 1980 by the end of the year.

Through this research, I have made copies of over 2000 pages of information. This material is placed in eight binders, not so neatly located around my family room. Some information is more significant than others. For example, I have found most of the past KBA presidents and association secretaries as well as the women’s city champions through 1969. I have information on achievements and tragedies, the growth in scoring, the evolution of bowling facilities and more. I even found out that the current Tribune Sports Editor wrote the bowling column for a short time about 25 years ago. Atta-boy Dave Kitchell!

I plan to communicate various details of this information in future columns. My challenge is to organize the vast amount of information into appropriate topics and summaries for your enjoyment.

Now, I would like to provide corrections to the perfect game listing printed last season. From continued research, I have added three new names to the list and included the recent 300’s by Wayne Burthay, Kelly Beale and Brian Graham.

South Bend bowler, Frank Vargo, rolled a perfect game at the Recreation Alleys on May 1, 1954, when the Indiana State Tournament was held in Kokomo. That 300 game is the third ever to be rolled in Kokomo.

The fourth perfect game is also a change to the earlier column. PBA great Don Johnson rolled his perfect game on December 31, 1960, in the 7th Annual Sycamore Lanes Mixed Doubles Tournament. Although I have not been able to confirm the sanctioning of this 300 with the ABC due to their limited search capability, Don Lowry’s bowling column at that time indicated that it was a sanctioned. Johnson was 20 years old and had been bowling for only three and one-half years.

The last perfect game missing off the original list was rolled by Bill Louthan on September 24, 1968, in the Cross-town League at Sycamore Lanes.

The complete updated list is printed in the Scoreboard section of the paper. With the 300’s by Wayne Burthay and Kelly Beale, there have now been a total of 69 perfect games in Kokomo. Beale’s 804 series and Graham’s 847 series were only the seventh and eighth 800 in Kokomo history. Graham is also the first bowler to roll two 800 series.

My source of information is primarily the printed content of past newspapers. I also consult with some of the bowlers who have been around for a long time, at least the one’s with good memories. Unfortunately, first hand knowledge of Kokomo’s bowling beginnings is not available. That is why I can truly appreciate the contributions made by the Tribune’s bowling writers. Without their efforts, it would have been impossible to compile a reasonable amount of historical information.

We have all enjoyed reading bowling columns such as those recently written by Mike Butler, Don Spall and Lynne Kasey. I have now learned that these columns are also a treasure of information for documenting the happenings and achievements of the bowling community for future generations. When conducting my research, I often felt as if I were uncovering treasures as in an archeological dig. I have discovered numerous facts and information that probably have been long forgotten.

If you have any information that you do not want to see forgotten, please let me know. It might end up in a future column. Likewise, let me know if you have an interest in a particular subject.

Next month, I plan to begin covering organized bowling, at a rate of one decade each month, starting with the history of bowling in Kokomo prior to 1920.