I always thought duckpin bowling was an old New England thing, found more frequently in Massachusetts. We had both candlepin and duckpin in my town, but only one of the latter, in a dingey basement downtown where our mothers wouldn't let us go. Because who knew what might happen to you there, they said, leaving us to use our imaginations what horror that might be. I always figured she meant some creep would rub our shoulders and ask us to look at some pictures in the back, but she may have just meant we'd catch some disease.
Guys liked candlepin because you could get higher scores, occasionally breaking 100 even as a kid; the longer pins would fly into the others and knock down a few extras. I heard of people breaking 100 in duckpin, or more likely, read of those scores on the bulletin boards and plaques at the alleys, but I don't think I ever saw anyone do it. They played about equal amounts of candlepin and duckpin in MA. I suppose it was a town-by-town thing, but duckpin was generally the older, downtown places. In Maine I once played a kind of duckpin that had thick bands around the fattest part, and those fell down a little easier. But even more than candlepin, you had to really whale that sucker down the alley at high speed. Those cute scenes with the tenpin balls, where a little kid rolls a ball slowly down the lane and lucks into a strike, the pins falling into each other one-by-one? That seldom happens in candlepin, and never in duckpin. A frustrating game.
I wondered, for no particular reason, whether duckpin bowling still existed. Isn't wikipedia great? How did we ever answer such questions before? It is still played in MD, and at a few spots in MA, including in Billerica. Which figures, if you know Billerica. Maryland claims to have had the game first, but apparently earlier Massachusetts references have been found back to 1893. And - that type of duckpin with the rubber bands is still played in Quebec. So I wasn't imagining that.
Yep. That was about how interesting it was in real life, too. The pinsetter and ball-return mechanisms were about as interesting as the game itself. If you were with your friends, it was a nice social game. If you went with day camp and got stuck with jerks by random assignment, it could be pretty deadly.