If you wanted to bowl in, say, 1908, you would likely head for a neighborhood tavern. There, in a dark basement you might find a couple of lanes and a young man eager to set the pins back up for you after each ball in exchange for a fair tip.
It's a far cry from the large multi-lane and fully-automated bowling centers we know now, but it's what you'll find today at Milwaukee's Holler House; a cozy tavern with two narrow basement lanes built in 1908, and no pin-setting machines.
If you can't get there in person, you can take a Quicktime virtual tour, or tune in "Let's Go Bowl" Thursday May 16 at 7:00 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television. This edition of the series Wisconsin Stories is devoted to the sport and what it has meant to the state.
The program is produced in partnership with the Wisconsin Historical Society and Society Curator Paul Bourcier notes: "Bowling tells us a lot about how people interact, about our social heritage and our cultural heritage."
Bowling initially became popular in Wisconsin among German immigrants who knew the game from home and valued it as a way to promote community. "It's very important in German culture and Central European culture to have structured activities that bring people together in fellowship," Bourcier says.
That good fellowship, or "Gemutlichkeit" in German, didn't appeal to Germans alone. Other ethnic groups in Milwaukee like Poles and Serbs also took up the game.
For non-white ethnic groups the bowling experience was somewhat different and "Lets Go Bowl" shows how the history of bowling can teach social change. For the first half of the last century the American Bowling Congress was a "whites-only" organization keeping minorities out of sanctioned events. The program tells the story of the "Fair Play in Bowling" effort that successfully challenged this discrimination.