One of the perks of being a pack rat is that an exercise as simple as sorting through a dusty drawer full of miscellaneous junk can turn you, ever so briefly, into a history detective. When you are the third generation homeowner (with a genetic predisposition to hoarding) of a big old house, purging is not as simple as throwing out clothes you no longer fit into or admitting to yourself that you aren't ever going to use your Beddazler or ThighMaster again. In fact, if you aren't careful, you could accidentally end up tossing out a piece of highly amusing Second City history. Case in point, I might have overlooked a 24k gold-plated lapel pin from the 1929 American Bowling Congress meeting held in Chicago.
What is the American Bowling Congress?
Truly if ever there was an organization that needed to be formed for the good of humanity it was the American Bowling Congress. Here's why...according the Encyclopedia Britannica the American Bowling Congress was organized on September 9th, 1895 in New York City in order to end the feud between Midwestern and East Coast bowlers.
So thank you American Bowling Congress for preventing a second war between the states.
In keeping with the times the American Bowling Congress was an elite club open only to Caucasian men. But not just any men...men with a passion for the game of bowling, men with a desire to see the game standardized and woven into the fabric of American society, men who were committed to cultivating majestic handlebar mustaches and mutton chop sideburns and keeping women and their hysterics away from the lanes...at least until 1993 when the fairer sex was finally allowed to join. Just as a side note, 1993 was a big year for women: the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna confirmed that women's rights were human rights and they got to join the American Bowling Congress. Yay women! But I digress; back to bowling...
The rift between these bowling brethren further deepened as New York bowlers were going renegade and making up their own rules and regulations. Obviously this chaos...nay, anarchy had to be stopped and thus the American Bowling Congress was formed.
In 1901 Chicago cemented its place in history as one of the nation's leading bowling centers when the American Bowling Congress held its inaugural national men's tournament on the lanes in the Welsbach Building on Wabash Avenue in the Loop. These gatherings were held from 1901 on to discuss and maintain the integrity of the game of bowling and further the agenda of bowling enthusiasts everywhere. Balance and order were restored and bowling as the harmonious union of man, ball, lane and rentable shoes as we know it today was born...
Now how this lapel pin came to be in my possession I know not. Well I know this much...it belonged to my grandpa or at least it was in his cufflink box, but I sincerely doubt that my own grandfather had attended the congress when he was six years old. Thus I can only assume that it belonged to my great-great uncle, George Brown, who was the treasurer for the railroad worker's union in the 1920s and 1930s and had a big three story house on Wentworth St. over on the South Side of Chicago. He was a mover and a shaker in 1920s Chicago and carried a thousand-dollar pocket watch and loved a good cigar. When you look at his life as a leader of a union in Chicago, owner of a big house during the Great Depression, with lots of cash in his tailored trench coat and a Ford Model T in his garage I think you can draw a pretty clear conclusion as to what he was...professionally speaking of course.
The moral of this story is that you never know what kind of treasures you are going to find in your own house or what amusing antics you are going to learn your ancestors might have been up to. And if there is one more takeaway here boys and girls, it's that bowling was once so highly revered that the tchotchkes at their formal proceedings were 24k gold.