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Friday, March 7, 2008

Candlepin Bowling on Channel 5 (1958-1996)

One way to know if someone grew up in Boston is ask them if they remember Don Gillis and the candlepin bowling show on Channel 5.
Candlepin Bowling debuted on Channel 5 (then WHDH-TV) on Oct. 4, 1958 and continued to be aired on WCVB-TV Channel 5 in March 1972. Candlepin Bowling's last broadcast was in January 1996. The show was so popular that when WCVB-TV took over from WHDH-TV after the government revoked the license in 1972 that WCVB bought the unaired tapes from WHDH and continued to run the show exactly the way it had been. The show only has 2 hosts, Don Gillis and Jim Britt. Britt who started with the show in 1958 was a tragic figure in Boston broadcasting as he was a very popular baseball announcer with the Red Sox and Braves. In 1951 the Red Sox decided they would air road games on radio and Britt was asked to choose between the 2 teams and he chose the Braves who left town 2 years later. The Red Sox job was then given to a Yankees announcer by the name of Curt Gowdy.
This was literally a show that New Englanders timed their Saturdays around. For years the Boston Globe used to publish a box of the most watched sports shows of the week and 9 times out of 10 candlepins would win the week. The show was cancelled not because of lack of viewers but WCVB decided the viewers were 'too old'. In my household it was background noise but a force of habit.
Candlepins in the last decade as been dying a slow death as many of the remaining alleys have closed including my favorite which was literally under Fenway Park. When I was growing up every neighborhood had a bowling alley and even Harvard Square had one in a basement on Boylston (now JFK) St. My wife cried a few years ago when her teenage hangout in Waltham the Wal-Lex closed for good. A long time bowling alley in Davis Square may soon close and the community there is concerned.
One show stands out over those 38 years. I remember watching it live in utter shock. A bowler had won every match for weeks and finally it was certain he would lose. What happened was simply amazing.





Here is a list of some of the milestones during the 38 year broadcast run:


Most consecutive victories (men): Tom Olszta (22)
Most appearances: Tom Olszta (90)
Most consecutive victories (women): Stacia Czernicki (18)
High Single (men): Ed Czernicki, March 31, 1979 (179)
High Single (women): Janet Poch, Sept. 21, 1991 (165)
High Triple (men): Paul Berger, May 2, 1992 (500)
High Triple (women): Janet Poch, Sept. 27, 1993 (422)

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh the memories!!!!

Kevin W. said...

I used to watch this when I was a little kid with my grandfather back in the 1980s. It always seemed to be on the tv at his house. People need to get back into candlepin again.

one_alone said...

I NEVER missed this show. I remember mentioning to a coworker way back when that I watched candlepin bowling every weekend. He honestly thought I was nuts. (Screw him!) Thank you for sharing these awesome memories. The best of times!

Anonymous said...

actually ed czernickis high single was 197 not 179

Scott Graham said...

I was on the show in 1974, I was 7 at time, and trying to see if there is anyway to find any tape on the show. Love to show my daughter the footage.

Dave Oliveri said...

This was definitely a staple in my life growing up. I would watch cartoons Saturday morning, and my parents would come in at noon to watch bowling on channel 5, and I would watch with them. Candlepin bowling is much more challenging and exciting than ten pin bowling, and it is sad that the sport is dying. SHAME on channel 5 for cancelling this show!! Also, the high single for men was 193, bowled in the last string by Paul Berger when he bowled his legendary 500.

Unknown said...

I would bowl in my Saturday morning leauge, then come home and watch, in western mass it was let's go bowling, a different show I believe..... but awesome just the same! I still bowl 2 nights a week at Agawam bowl...... but there isn't many lanes left. I also bowled a few times under fenway park.... that was always so cool.

Unknown said...

I would bowl in my Saturday morning leauge, then come home and watch, in western mass it was let's go bowling, a different show I believe..... but awesome just the same! I still bowl 2 nights a week at Agawam bowl...... but there isn't many lanes left. I also bowled a few times under fenway park.... that was always so cool.