Turkey Hunting

By Kimberly Gonzalez
SNPJ Associate Editor

In February SNPJ hosted the SNPJ Winter Classic Bowling Tournament. March is Youth Telegraphic Bowling month, the SNPJ National Bowling Tournament takes place in May, the Fall Classic Bowling Tournament is held in October, and the Family Twosome Bowling Tournament is scheduled each November. It’s no secret that SNPJers, both young and old alike, love their bowling. I’ve always enjoyed bowling – recreationally, that is. I’m nowhere near competition caliber – I’m lucky if I bowl more than twice a year – but bowling has always been a fun way to spend an evening with family and friends.

Now that I’ve outed myself as a bowling novice, I feel less embarrassed to have found interest in an article I stumbled upon yesterday. One of my favorite sites to browse for blog and Voice of Youth topics, TodayIFoundOut.com, had an article on its main page titled “Why Three Strikes In A Row In Bowling Is Called A ‘Turkey’.” Believe it or not, I was actually familiar with the “turkey” term in bowling, although it’s not because I ever earned one! But why the feat was named after a bird stumped me, and so on the link I clicked.

Turns out, turkeys actually were associated with bowling at one time. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was common to award food as prizes. Just like with some events today, turkeys were a popular prize around the Thanksgiving holiday. Although the “who?” and “when?” are unclear, we know that one bowling tournament decided to award turkeys to any participant who bowled three consecutive strikes. Keep in mind that back then, bowling a strike was a lot more difficult. Bowling balls weren’t uniform, lanes weren’t always in the best condition, and the pins were set by hand and rarely in a consistent form. Some tournament hosts even weighted the bottom of the pins, making the chance of bowling a strike even more difficult. I don’t think this sneaky tactic would make SNPJ bowlers very happy!

Of course, bowlers today are treated to oiled lanes, custom-drilled bowling balls, and technology that perfectly resets pins, returns balls and keeps score. But even as these improvements to the sport were made and it became much more common for bowlers to throw three consecutive strikes, the turkey term stuck. Other bowling terms also originated with “turkey,” but never became quite as popular: “hambone” for four consecutive strikes, “wild turkey” for six consecutive strikes, “golden turkey” for nine consecutive strikes, and “dinosaur” for a perfect game of all strikes – because, back then, a perfect game was “non-existent, like a dinosaur.” Of course we know this is no longer the case: SNPJ is proud to have several members who have bowled 300 games in our tournaments alone!

While I’m fairly certain a dinosaur is just as extinct in my bowling career as the original term implies, I’ll continue to chase that elusive turkey. One day, I just might strike gold.

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