My Life in Tenpin Bowling by Gordon Jock Caie


My Life in Tenpin Bowling.

I have been asked to write a short history of my life connected with Tenpin Bowling over the past 50 years. I expect it really started before bowling came to the UK commercially on 20th January 1960.

Let me explain. when I came out of the Army in 1952, I had to look for Job. I finally found a full-time position with the London Finance Office of the United States Air Force in Grosvenor Square, London in 1954. During the 7 years I was there I was fortunate enough to be sent to 3 or 4 U.S. Air force bases to do various work. Whilst at all these Bases in Upper Heyford and Mildenhall I was taken during the evening to the base Bowling Alley to learn how to bowl ‘

Little did I know at this time that I would be involved in the Tenpin Bowling Industry for many years. Just one short story to finish; on my several visits to Mildenhall I did not find out that Paul Lane was a Pin Boy there until years later when we both had Joined AMF.

Before starting I think it best to go back to the beginning of what was known as the American Machine and Foundry Company in the UK. This was located in Tabernacle Street in the east end of London and towards the end of 1958. Robert Legg Co. was one of the leading tobacco manufacturers and after purchasing it AMF purchased another tobacco company, D.K.Hamblin located in Nottinghamshire so it was decided that they should remain as subsidiary companies of AMF international Ltd. located in Saville Row, London.

This meant that staff of Tabernacle Street were transferred to Saville Row, which was already staffed with an Admin Division and a Sales Division, plus they had a Factory site in Leytonstone where they manufactured, Pinspotters , Lanes and parts. Of those staff transferred were, George Lord who became Managing Director, Sales Division, and Bill Watson joined the Sales Team whilst Ron Sharp joined the Accounts Dept. Now Tenpin Bowling was about to start in the UK.


ABC Cinemas Ltd. were approached and sold the idea by AMF international Ltd. to equip their cinema in Stamford Hill, North London, with lanes and machines plus instruction, promotions and to organize the opening ceremony. George Lord, organized the opening of the centre by promotion and, advertising headed by Bill Campbell and Alan Mole plus a team of Bowing instructors. On the 20th January 1960, he acted as M.C. by introducing many dignitaries and Sir John Hunt of Everest fame to roll the Golden Ball which was used at every other AMF international equipped opening in the future.

It was not long before Brunswick Bowling used their equipment to furnish Top Rank Bowling in Golders Green in London. ln the very early days of Stamford Hill, the Management was partly ABC Cinemas and AMF. Les Wooley who came to the centre from King Alfred Lanes, Hove via AMF to remain as Manager until 1962 when he moved to a new Bowling Company, Ambassador Bowling to open their new centre in lpswich. Keith Hale who was his Assistant stayed on a few months before being offered the Managership of the new centre in Corby. Before the final opening Keith changed his job and started the World of Tenpin Bowling Magazine. That is the end of the little piece of what happened before I entered AMF international Ltd., except just to say that I had spent 7 years at the Finance Office of the USAF in Grosvenor Square, which was about to move out of London, so I had to look for a new job.


My luck changed when I was called by a very old colleague who had recently joined AMF lnternational Ltd as their Company Cashier. He advised me to apply for a job with AMF, and when I got the job, I was asked to set up the staff pension scheme for all it’s staff in AMF and its subsidiaries. The job itself meant visiting all AMF outlets employing staff and explain to them details of the scheme. The overall Job lasted about two years when a new Pensions Secretary was appointed, I felt it was now time to move on.

I was advised to speak to George Lord who offered me the position of assistant to both the Promotion and Advertising Managers (Bill Campbell & Alan Mole). First of all, I was sent on the AMF Management by AMF international! where I learned all the aspects Bowling Centre Management, together with, learning how to measure bowling balls, dress Lanes, form bowling leagues, even down to “Learn to Bowl Classes which were to become very useful in the future. I then became part of the Promotions & Advertising Teams.

In the years to follow many things happened, but to put them in the order is not so easy, but let me try: A )  I was sent so Stillorgan Bowl in Dublin to take over the centre whilst the new Manager was sent on a Management Training Course in Corby .There I met all the Murphy family who were to play quite a major part of my life a few years later.

  1. B) I spent quite a bit of time being manager at the newly acquired Trans World Bowling in Beverley Road, Hull. Then moved to AMF’S New 20 lane centre in Hull. lt was here that Paul Lane and I had to take Andy Varipapa on tour of our three centres displaying his trick shots.

C). There was another American bowler named Frank Clause (The Bowling Schoolmaster) who taught us something that was to become one of the most important things for the future. This was the {LEARN TO BOWL PROGRAMME). This was one of the things taught on future Management Training Courses.

D). Probably one of the most important things I was ever involved in was when in 1954 Victor Kalman the AMF European Promotions Director visited the UK and asked me if I could organize a World Bowling Tournament in Dublin. The reason being that Coca Cola, lreland wanted to sponsor something worldwide in Tenpin Bowling. As Vic had heard about me being connected with Jack Murphy the owner of Stillorgan Bowl, Dublin he asked me to accompany him to Dublin to set things up. Hence the start of what is known today as the QUBICA/AMF Bowling World Cup in 1965 Dublin. lreland’s only bowling centre,20 lane Stillorgan Bowl in Dublin was selected to launch

the Coca Cola lnternational Masters. The male champions from 20 nations (women were introduced to the format in 1972) included a variety of talents and occupations ranging from the U.S.A’s Tom Hathaway, who was the American Bowling Congress all-events champion that year, to Frank Duffy, Stillorgan’s mechanic and winner of the lrish national roll off. (Unfortunately for Mr. Duffy, overslept the morning of the opening ceremonies, and not only did he lose his position in the tournament to rival Des Murphy, but his job at Stillorgan, went as well).

The tournament’s three-day format {later to become weeklong} was modelled loosely after that used by the Professional Bowlers Association. Contestants had to bowl a total of 38 games-including several rounds of qualifying Just to qualify for the match play semi-finals in the format, which was based on the complicated and now-obsolete Petersen Points system.

Hathaway, a crew-cut Californian, was the clear-cut favorite of the lrish bookmakers, as well as the European sportswriters that had been assigned to Stillorgan Bowl. Many of these writers continued to follow the tournament for years, even decades.

Britain’s Barry James {deceased} who was then the sports editor of the Birmingham Sunday Mercury, has covered it for Reuters and various other news services for 34 straight years Mort Luby Jr., editor of Bowlers Journal and Associated Press correspondent, also tapped the 30-year mark prior to retiring. I  think this is one of the most memorable  things I have been involved in.

Italy’s Vittorio Noveletto and Australia’s Richard Hall were also on the short-odds list to capture the first- ever Coca Cola international Masters, but a dental technician from Helsinki, Finland, named Lauri Ajanto surprised everyone at the tape. Ajanto, one of the top four going into the final day of play, backed into the title largely because Hall defeated his buddy Hathaway in a critical match in the final round. At the same time, the Finn struck on his final ball to go over the top. As Federation international des Quilleurs president and fellow Finn Kauko Ahlstrom embraced the champion, Hall sank to the bowlers bench and wept.

Fortunately I had the privilege of doing it all over again in Wembley Stadium Bowl in 1965 when John Wilcox of the USA won and the event was to move to Paris where Paul Lane took over the mantle.

1967 Saw many changes within the company due to the lack of sales and rundown of Bowling Centre openings. ABC Cinemas, Top Rank, Excel Bowling Trans World Bowling, Magnet Bowling Ltd. and several independent centres closed. lt also meant tragic changes to the in the head office of AMF international Ltd in Saville Row. The Chairman, Gordon Jackson, MD 1, General. Hayman, the Admin staff and the majority of Sales staff left overnight. The Accounts Department moved to offices in Cork Street, whilst the remainder moved to the new offices in Old Burlington Street. Shortly after this the Management Training courses and all the staff, including Bill Campbell, Alan Mole and staff left immediately.

But luck struck again, I was left with a Secretary to run the show of the Promotion and Advertising Department. I was given two titles (but no pay increase) surprise, surprise. I was then given the bad news {well it turned out not to be after 50 years) was told that the previous Promotion and Advertising budget had been reduced and if I wanted to do any promotions they had to be self supporting . Well to my knowledge there were no junior tournaments or events, so I went to work on forming one in our own centre in Corby. I costed it for materials and a few badges and it came to the costly sum of £10.00 per club and it was named the J.Y.B.C. (Junior Youth Bowling Club). In April/May I distributed the details to all AMF equipped centres and the response was gratifying, so I sent the materials to all AMF equipped centres.

This was really the birth of the J.Y.B.C. and soon afterwards I ran a competition for Junior Bowlers to design a badge for it. The response was overwhelming and all designs were displayed in AMF’s Board Room. The result was that Gillian Edwards age 9 from Wokingham had won.

Soon after talking to Ambassador Bowling it was decided to that we could hold the first J.Y.B.C. in their centre in Wolverhampton. To say it was a good idea as there was a space next to the 26 lanes where 4 lanes were to have originally been laid. lt was being used as a store room for machine parts etc. etc. But the mechanics were very kind and cleared it all out, before my Secretary and I cleaned and decorated it for the Victory Party after the Trophy Presentation. One of the centre staff had contacts with Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club and the whole team turned up to bring chairs and tables from a nearby school, and that was not all, the team Captain Neil Bailey and his wife promised to come and make the presentations at the finals.

The Tournament was an overwhelming success with teams of young bowlers coming from all over the country, even a team from the newly opened centre in Consett, Northumberland. What an introduction to a completely new Organisation. lt was announced that the following year it would be held in Coventry,

July 1967, saw the formation of a new subsidiary Company named Humber Bowling Limited with its headquarters in the Forum Bow!, Longfellow Road, Coventry

The attached photo shows the founder members. Back Row, Willde Chanvalon retired and deceased at the age of 102/3, next to him, G.H.(Jock) Caie, retired, age 88 coming up to 89. Peter (not Stan) Field became Manager of the Crawley Bowl before his death after watching his favourite Team {West Ham). Norman Littlehales who had quite a few managerial roles within bowling leaving the Forum Bow Coventry for retirement, he died soon afterwards., Alf Flower who rose from the first night Manager at Pavilion Lanes, Southend on Sea to Manager of the 48 lane centre in Nottingham, then to Area Manager Midlands, before passing away whilst on holiday in Portugal. John Watkin never really became Manager as he resigned before the actual takeover. G.M.R.Lord became Managing Director of the new Company until his retirement in 1982. He passed away 2years later. There is one person missing from the photo because he was working in one of our new centres to be take over, that was Bryan North who was to become the Chief Accountant of Humber Bowling Limited.

In July 1967 Humber bowling existed in force with Sheffield (24 lanes), Coventry (28 lanes), Corby (20 lanes) and Hull (24 lanes) All fully operational.

The same day/s Pavilion Lanes, Southend on Sea 18 lanes, Whitstable Bowl 10 lanes, Bitterne Bowl, 26 lanes, Havant Bowl, 24 lanes, Leeds Bowl 42 lanes, Newcastle Bowl, 16 lanes. Within a short time several other changes were made e.g. The Bowl in Hull Beverley Road burnt down and Humber Bowling had another 20 lane centre built on a new site in Hull. ln November 1967 Universal Bowl Crawley with 24 lanes was taken over by Humber. ln 1970 Ambassador Bowling Ltd. started to close their centres with Hemel Hempstead, originally with 29 lanes, reduced to 15 lanes as AMF Sales was using the vacant area for offices and software storage. Ambassador Lanes Portsmouth with 24 lanes was taken over by Humber in 1970. Also C.B.C. Bowl, in llkeston with 16 lanes was taken over by Humber.

Shortly after the takeover of the Bowling Centres, the Head-Office in the Forum Bowl had to be organised. G.M.R Lord M.D. and Secretary shared two rooms.  Red Russell. Promotions Director and Jock Caie Operations Manager {South} shared one room. Bryan North, Chief Accountant and his Assistant, John Russell shared one room. Four/Five ladies (clerks) one room. Harry Rowell. Operations Manager (North worked out of Sheffield Bowl)

One of the main objects for the Centre Managers to increase their lineage was by getting out into the area surrounding their centre to make sales calls on local businesses. This was not an easy task and it was really helped a lot by Red Russell, an American who Will de Chanvalon had brought in from AMF in Mexico. He was instrumental in helping Harry Rowell and me In organizing our Managers and staff dealing with the new incoming customers. After a short while Harry made a few moves and eventually left the company and I became Operations Manager working under Red and we became great friends before he retired to go home to the USA.

ln 1968 Vic Kalman approached George Lord for me to assist in the formation of Bowling European Corporative organisation.{B.E.C.} he declined the offer. Therefore Vic went to Leslie Wooley of Ambassador Bowling and they ran the UK event until they went out of business in 1970. As we took over some of their centres namely Hemel Hempstead and Portsmouth I had to meet with Johnny Jones their Promotions Manager and attend the following B.E.C. Championship in Rome. This was to become a very important part of my career in bowling as I not only met so many people all over Europe, visited so many countries also made so many friends over the years. To find out more about B.E.C. go to ‘BOWLING EUROPEAN CORORATIVE” Don’t forget to view their (Hall of Fame). I became their General Secretary whilst we were in Rome and stayed in that position until l finally retired from AMF in 1992.

ln 1981 Bryan North was sent to Australia to view some of their centres that had been refurbished and the costings. When he returned it was not long before a new era started in Humber Bowling with Bryan North being appointed Managing Director after the retirement 1982 of George Lord. One of the first things that Bryan wanted to do with a vengeance was to start a refurbishment program. He employed the services of a young Canadian designer, Harold Silverman of Marketplace Design. He did a very good job overall and at the end of each refurb. We tried to have a mini opening ceremony at one in Lewisham Bowl, and invite young lady in particular which sticks in mind, and I am sure you would agree. The young lady in question was Samantha Fox “of page 3 of the Sun to roll the golden ball to open the event. Unfortunately she had to wear an attractive dress.

The Second thing was to ask me to boost the lineage, quite an easy thing to do if you are an accountant. However, I suggested that we should start running tournaments and competition aided by sponsorships from our suppliers and that everything we run does not have to be sanctioned by the B.T.B.A. lt was then that it came to light about an agreement between George Lord and Maurice Glazer that all tournaments had to be sanctioned and only BTBA members may enter. This caused BTBA members to be excluded and a very large drop in entries and some leagues also seeing drop off.  Bryan then gave me the go ahead to start organising more tournaments, but I will leave these until the end. However the first one in 1983 being The British Open Championships which went on until 1999.

There followed a number of successful tournaments and events which helped increase our league programme greatly. Some of these will be listed on the following page/s.

I feel at this time I should stop writing too many paragraphs about the events I held in the Company.

1: ln the majority of our centres a successful schools programme were held.

  1. Operation “C.R.O.C. was a programme designed by one of our Managers in Worthing,

Livio Martinkovic to increase Junior Bowling in his Centre and open to anyone who wished to use it.

  1. The Fosters Fours team tournament was held for as many teams that wished to enter .

  1. ln 1989, 1990. 1991, 1992. All our centres raised £101,586.28 for The BBC Children in Need Appeal.

  1. John Ashbridge. One of our Area Manager had a double decker bus painted to advertise Tenpin

Bowling. It was used very successfully by most of our centres and for special events.

  1. The Inter Services Championships where the three services took part each year.

  1. The Silk Cut League was started by the T.B.P.A. and ran for many year.

ln 1992 our careers with AMF Humber Bowling came to an end when we were given early retirement together with our three Area Managers: Roger Marshall, Alf Flower, and John Ashbridge.

We were replaced by a Harold Silverman (Whiz Kid). He was going to open some 100 centres, but after about a year later he was replaced by his Assistant Larry Kehoe.

This was all I can say about my life so with AMF International Ltd. for 32 years and in that time I never had a Monday morning feeling and made many good friends.

After leaving AMF I was still the Secretary of B.E.C. and was asked to carry on, but I had to work from home. I did this until Jeff Davis took over and has done a great job ever since.

ln the mean time I was asked to attend a TBPA meeting where Peter Smith the current Secretary resigned and I was asked if I would take it on. Of course another job to go along with the B.E.C. suited me fine as they kept me in touch with everything. This all came to end of my life in bowling when John Ashbridge took over from me as Secretary and I am sure he will enjoy the Iife as much as I have done over the years.