An old friend of mine died the other day, Paul Pettigrew. I probably last saw him in a bowling alley, Ozark Bowl, on Glenstone Avenue in Springfield, Missouri when I was 17 or so. My dad, a bowler, introduced me to the game when I was in 7th grade at Jarrett Junior High School. I took to it and couldn’t get enough. I struck a deal with the manager to get my bowling and practicing free if I got up a league of other kids my age. After that my game improved. Four years later I bowled on a team of DeMolay boys. I was the oldest at 17, Bob White, Jack Porter, and John Bowser were 16, and John Gailey was 14. They put us in a men’s league and we won the championship our first year. John and I teamed in an all-city tournament and won the high scratch game averaging 230 each.
Paul Pettigrew worked at Ozark Bowl. He started out setting pins in the back and his responsibilities grew from there. He was three years older than I and already one of the best bowlers in Springfield. He always had a smile and would sometimes join one or more of us in practice to give us tips. He had a graceful high backswing and released the ball so that it seemed to spin on his side, riding the rim of the alley until the last minute and then hook into the pocket with an explosion of pins. It was something to see.
I went on to college. Paul joined the Navy and served our country in Korea. I never saw him again but have thought about him many times over my lifetime. After the war was over, Paul returned to his love, bowling, by working at and managing several bowling alleys. I read where he had three 300 games. I never got that good. My highest score was 299, my best league average, 190. It was good enough to get me in a scratch league when I was in grad school that traveled from town to town around Atlanta on a rotation basis so I got to bowl with some pros.
This is a belated thank you and farewell to Paul Pettigrew, whose willingness to do something nice made a difference in my life. As Veda Boyd Jones reminds us, something as simple as a wave or, in my case, a bowling tip, may be appreciated far more than the donor will ever know.