June 17, 2011

Bowling center at North Village Green has closed after 57 years, but vivid memories remain; Frankie Tompkins' perfect game

Click on pix to enlarge


The shocking news came down recently that the North Village Green bowling lanes have ceased operation after 57 years. The one at the South Green will remain in business. Once again the weak economy has struck.

In 1956, Vic Lawson, Buddy Weston, Bobby Lombardi and myself walked into the bowling alley to play a few games. The man behind the counter was named Bob. I never knew his last name, but Bob was always there. He said “Sorry boys, but we don’t have a pin boy to set the pins for you. In fact, we have a men’s league coming in in two hours, and I’m short a man for that too."

I was always looking to make money, so I said to Bob, “I can set pins." The next thing I know we are walking to the rear of the alleys and I know Bob knew that I was lying to him, and he told one of the pin boys, “Teach this kid how to set pins and make it fast."

I learned and also had a lot of fun being a pin boy. It didn’t pay much, but I learned from the other guys how to hustle a buck from the back of the alleys.

I would hang out up by the front desk, and when a group of kids came in just to have fun bowling, I would quietly offer my services to one guy in the group. When his girlfriend threw her ball down the lane, I would step on a pedal and steel rods would pop up inside the pins. When her ball hit the pins, it would bounce off and roll back towards her. The rods were used to set the pins up again, so they were in the identical spot for the next person.

Or when my guy in the group threw his ball, I would have a pin in my hand, and when the pins were hit, I would throw the “extra” pin at any pin that I sensed would not go down. I became very good at this trick and no one could see me doing it.

Then at the end of the game, my man would roll a gutter ball down to me, usually with a few bucks stuck in the thumb hole as negotiated.

Nick Mormando was the owner and his brother “Dusty” ran the day-to-day business. Dusty was not a “people person”, but Nick was outgoing and a very nice guy. One day Nick said to me, “We are putting in automatic machines and we won’t need pin boys any more." I thought fast and asked, “Will you need mechanics to fix them?”

I was given a two-week course and became the assistant mechanic to the Brunswick man who came with the machines. I worked there for about three more years, and then moved on to other jobs in Levittown and environs. I loved every moment of growing up in Levittown.


Division Avenue High athlete, Frankie Tompkins class of 1961, told his coach he was not feeling well and could not attend practice. Instead of going home, he headed to the North Green bowling alley. Believe it or not, Frankie bowled a 300 that afternoon. His score was posted on the wall for many years.

Of course, the coach found out because the perfect game made the Levittown Tribune plus Tompkins told all his friends. Not the sharpest tool in the box, that Frankie, but he sure could bowl.


Photos by Marilyn Monsrud Frese '63


Jim Urban said...

So many memories relating to the bowling alley: drank for free in the Lounge, had a gun pulled on me by a NYC detective, made a lot of money bowling others, a fight with Arnie Mark. Good bowlers I recall: Jim Anton, Frankie T., Tom Cole, Mike Newton. Word was that the Mormandos were mob-connected.

Anonymous said...

I remember Frankie Tompkins game as I was there also. It was magical, with both right and left pocket strikes.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous needs to come out of hiding because not a lot of people believed he rolled that 300.

Frank Barning said...

It was posted on the wall at the lanes. Maybe only about three people had done it before Frankie. He was not clever enough to have made it up and then fooled the people who worked there.