by Randy Ooney
My Nickel’s Worth by Randy Ooney
In the late 1960s, Uncle Sam paid his members of the green machine around $125.00 per month for stateside duty. Meals, clothes, and lodging were also part of the deal, but after taxes, the $125.00 was barely enough to keep us in donuts and cigarettes, let alone the occasional grilled cheese sandwich and beer at the enlisted men’s club.
Although it’s now been over 40 years ago, I still remember two Fort Campbell friends, Al Cordani and Tom Clements. Every Saturday that we could, we ventured to the bowling center in Clarksville, Tennessee, for pot games with the locals. There were usually around 18-20 players, and we bowled each game across 10 lanes for a whopping $1.00 per game. It went pretty fast, and we usually bowled 10 or 12 games in the session, and a $20.00 payoff win was nothing to sneeze at in those times. The local players were not aware that Al, Tom, and I would pool our winnings and split evenly when we got back to the base. I don’t think we ever left with less money than when we walked in.
In the 70s, after closing the pizza restaurant at 3:00 in the morning, we would sometimes venture to Gus Young’s Biltmore Lanes, open 24 hours for some pot bowling. The field was not too crowded at 4:00 AM, but we got in a few games and a few bets now and then. Sweepers, tournaments, and some leagues have various jackpots or side pots available, for a tournament within a tournament, and there are variations such as brackets, eliminators, doubles events, and other ways to score a few extra bucks on a hot scoring night of bowling. But that’s not the same as good old fashioned pot bowling.
There are a few regular pot games around our Twin Cities. I don’t know all of them, but I’m happy to mention the $2.00 senior pot games at Texa Tonka. Enough to pay for your travel gas if you win, but not a big gash from the Social Security check if you lose. And a great bunch of guys: John, George, Al, Don, another John, Larry, Gary, Julius, Bruce and some others. The players draw a gallery: Hall of Famer and multi eagle winner Bob, Buzz, Elroy, and a few other coffee drinkers. It’s a great bunch of guys, bowling and solving the problems of the world - like how to catch a gopher. And once in awhile, you may see a perfect 300 game.