I’m into vintage after all. Who knew?

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life41 Comments

I like to give a lot of razzing to my good friend Tara, who gets a real thrill in life when on the hunt for all things old and smelly, or what some people like to refer to as vintage.

Okay, maybe it's not all smelly stuff and maybe she's consciously seeking items coated with the ancient epithelial cells of people from the 1900s for reasons other than health code violations. Suffice to say I don't share her love of vintage.

You can't write a book touting clean and simple scrapbook page design and then brag to people about the 600-year-old tea cozy you scored at the Goodwill over the weekend. No one's buying that story in a billion years.

And yet I could have not been more shocked to learn that it turns out I actually am into vintage. And smelly vintage at that. Or at least part of it was smelly.

Meet my Mom's bowling ball.


Shirley MacDonald bowled in a womens' league when I was growing up. She says she wasn't anything to write home about, but hey, she had her own ball and her own bag and her own shoes. In my book, that makes anyone plausibly legit.

When I was going to school at the University of Texas–Arlington in 1986, one of my required courses was Physical Education. Yes, college-level P.E. credits were needed to graduate, and four semesters of them. So I signed up for the activity requiring the least amount of physical exertion on my part—bowling. Afterall, I needed to save my energy for smoking and drinking coffee and writing really awful poetry in the student union.

Her league days long since behind her, my Mom gave me her old brown Brunswick ball and I took it into a pro shop and had the holes redrilled to fit my hand.

Turns out, I was a damned fine bowler. My all time high score? 234. I'm not making that up people. I also aced all of my written finals. You see, I studied not just the game of bowling; no, I also studied the college-level manual. I became a scholar of bowling.

The years came and went without much bowling in my life here in Minnesota. Oh sure, Dan and I would hit the alley from time to time back in the early 90s, back when you could smoke and drink yourself silly all while attending to the tedious task of keeping score by hand. My God, how did we manage?

The years have been peppered with trips to the alley, but to be honest, I sort of forgot about the shiny brown ball in the basement.

A year ago, Dan's brothers and sisters planned a sibling night out. All the sibs and their spouses or significant others would gather in winter for some fellowship and merriment. Our choice? Bowling. It was so much fun that we decided to do a repeat for this winter's family outing.

But this year, I remembered that ball in the basement.

Now I'm not saying I smoked anyone. But the first frame I bowled? A spare. The second? A spare. Compared to last year, where my highest score came out at around 56, I was on a roll. So to speak.

I swear to you, it was the ball.

I bowled a 132 and a 124 respectively. To be sure, nowhere near the glory days of my college years, but part of me said, "Oh baby, you still got it in there somewhere."

It's funny that me, a person who is more or less averse to all things vintage is finding such a happy kinship with this newly rediscovered ball.

But the bag? Holy hell. This thing smells like it belonged to the president of the Crypt Keeper Bowler's League.


I know. It's the coolest looking thing since rub-on alphas, but trust me: it smells like the Civil War.

I'll be ordering a nice modern replacement bag soon. The zipper requires WD-40 just to get the thing open and closed, and the ball base is no longer attached to the bottom of the bag, serving zero purpose as the ball just rolls around in there. And then there's the smell.

But at least I've found a connection to something that's kind of vintage. Maybe Tara's not so nutty afterall.

I mean this old thing has been passed down not from some ancient stranger whose story I'll never know or whose dead skin cells I will need to fear breathing in, but from someone I know and love, my Mom.

And she's a pretty okay vintage thing herself.


Cathy ZielskeI’m into vintage after all. Who knew?

41 Comments on “I’m into vintage after all. Who knew?”

  1. #1

    What a sweet story, love the ball and the bag!! Great job on being an awesome bowler!!

    We have a free summer bowling program for the kids here and they love it. Some of their friends are on leagues and have been since age 3. It’s a great family activity no matter the age or gender.

  2. #2
    Toni from

    Crypt keeper’s bowling league? Bahahahaha, you crack me up. I admit, I might have even sprayed some coffee on my desk reading that, maybe.

  3. #3
    Lisa Russo

    Love that story – my mom was on a bowling league also.

    I remember always having to pin her league name flag on the back of her shirt – usually right when Happy Days was ending and Laverne & Shirley was coming on. Oh, the memories….

  4. #8

    I hope you didn’t throw that bag away, I would try to clean it first! It’s so awesome! Think gym bag, school bag, purse…

  5. #9

    You ARE hilarious.

    It smells like the Civil War.

    Seriously, Cathy. You need to do stand up.

    Oh! And like Laney said, at least keep the bag. You gotta hand down that smell to your offspring. What else are Moms for?

  6. #10

    You had me at, “I became a scholar of bowling.” Here I am drinking my coffee and that one sentence nearly choked me to death. The entire family raced in to see why Mama couldn’t breath AND was laughing! You, my dear, are just too much:)

  7. #11

    Hysterical!!!!!………smells like the civil war??? LOL!

    Our family does a similar thing…we have circle dinners every month. Someone hosts a dinner or an activity with all my siblings and niece & nephews. We all live within an hour of eachother but don’t see eachother like we used to. So the circle dinner fixes that! Next weekend the circle dinner includes my nephews birthday AND….you guessed it…..bowling!

    Thanks for the laugh

  8. #12
    Judy Sanza

    I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio and bowling is big in Cleveland! I remember my Grandpa had a bowling night. I loved his cool shirt, and bowling bag!

    My mom and dad belonged to a bowling league in our little town. I think the name of our funeral home was on their shirt. It was a way of life!

    Yes, I’m vintage too, but it comes with a lot of good memories! You do your mom proud!

  9. #15
    Leslie B

    Awesome story! Next thing you know you’ll be throwing down Big Lebowski quotes and refusing to bowl on Shabbos.

  10. #16
    Steph H.

    OK, stop the presses. You are NOT throwing away that bag!!! I have been looking for one like that – like the one I had growing up, the one that was handed down to me by my bowling-loving dad – forever! If you’re really serious about getting rid of it, send it my way! Seriously.

    Now, as for the whole sport (is it really a sport?) of bowling, I love it! Bowled with my best friend most weekends growing up (back in the day when we could bowl, play air hockey, swim at the pool, eat lunch and take the bus tofrom all of the above for less than $5!), then in a league with my ex and his family when my ex and I were newly married, and periodically with my husband (the new one!) and his family. In fact, we had a fmaily bowling tourney the day after our wedding and we just went bowling last year on my birthday.

    And you know what? When I come to MN to see some of our kids, we are taking you bowling! Of course, I’ll win because I’ll be the proud new owner of that civil war-smelling bowlong bag, right? 😉

    Bowl on, woman, bowl on.

  11. #17
    THE Megan

    I beg to differ on the vintage vs. clean and simple. I am currently trying to create the genre since I am heavily into both. It’s coming out looking kind of industrial.

  12. #21

    Love this post…mainly because I can so relate to the days of smokey alleys and manual score-keeping ;} My dad was a pro-bowler in the Army for years and my parents were on five leagues a week when we were stationed overseas. So bowling was a way of life for us for a long time. When my Dad retired to NH…there were not big ball lanes…only candlepins and my Dad hated the idea of “playing softball inside” as he called it…lol Anyhow…as we’ve downsized over the past year I’ve edited my vintage bowling ball collection down to two balls…from six…and then I also built a “shrine in my closet” honoring the first days of my bowling career. I was in fourth grade and we were stationed overseas in Taiwan and I still had my first league bowling shirt, badges and even the SCORE SHEET…my highest score was not nearly as high as your college days…but it was a great improvement from a 4 to over 100…lol

    My sister and her kids still bowl here in Charlotte NC and out in Burbank CA…don’t think we’ll be back into it as much as they are but it is fun to remember the good ole days ;}

  13. #23

    just a fancy work for skin cells. Its an old joke between me and my friend Tara. We went thrifting once on a girls weekend and I was in misery. Not my thing at all. It came out of that weekend when I was complaining about not wanting to breathe in ancient epithelial cells….

  14. #25

    Ha! No worries, Steph. I dont plan on giving it away. Just not taking it to the alley the next time! Its very close to falling apart in spots! : )

  15. #29

    Kitty litter.
    Plain, clean, clay based kitty litter can get the musty smell out of old – er – vintage items.
    For a small item, like an evening bag, just slide the bag into an old clean stocking and bury it in a container of litter.
    You can also fill the foot of a stocking with litter and put that inside the bag.

    Thanks for the great post!
    – Lee

  16. #30

    Great story! Thanks for the laughs. I do have to admit I was waiting for the the circle to close with a mention of your super cool, vintage sweater loving daughter loving your mom’s bowling bag, getting the smell out, and making it into some cool purse or something that only a talented teenager could come up with.
    P.S. if you want to sell the bag let me know 🙂

  17. #31

    Not into vintage? I’m actually surprised at that. I pictured Aidan inheriting that sense of style from you…maybe she’ll re-design/decorate the old bag and claim it as her own?

    There has to be a Pinterest board out there about ‘how to make vintage bowling bags smell less funky’. Or, there may be an app for that.

    Yecchkkk. Can you imagine? All that in-between finger sweat fermenting over all those years???

    Thanks for the laugh…and nausea.

  18. #34

    Vintage usually makes me sneeze. However, I do love bowling! It may be a Minnesota thing, but we’d go two days a week for “P.E” during the winters in middle school. (I went to a very small school.) And to come full circle, reminiscing about bowling in 5th grade makes me think of classic mountain dew in a glass bottle…but not enough to want to drink a vintage bottle of one now. I’ve seen those at antique places before…pepsi still encased in its glass bottle. I dare you to drink it.

  19. #35

    Thanks Cathy…really appreciate you checking out my post. I’m loving the “kitty litter” suggestion from Lee as well…I’ll have to remember that one…cool beans ;}

  20. #36
    Jamie Danford

    Damn damn damn… I KNEW I should’ve kept my pink bowling ball with it’s 90’s mauve and grey bag. Alas, I sold it for a few cents at a garage sale a few years ago. Now my beloved child will never know the joy that has befallen you. Oooohhh the regret!

  21. #37
    kathy jo camacho

    I loved this story. And you know.. you have to love vintage.. we’ll all be old and smelly some day. LOL!!! 🙂

  22. #38
    Abby P.

    What an amazing (and quite scrappable) story…it reminded me that my mom used to bowl with her friends in a weekly league, too. I was a kid then, and got $0.25 to babysit the kids (I was stoked when I once got $0.50!). Anyway, mom passed away about 10 years ago (miss her so much), but in going through her things, I forgot about, and didn’t see, her bowling “gear”! I would love to have it — it was so much a part of her (cigarette-smell/ vintage-smell and all). I’ll have to check with my sibs. Thanks for bring back a happy memory.

  23. #39
    Ann G.

    I too grew up with a family of bowlers. Unfortunately I don’t have anything that was my Mom or Dad’s but I remember being so excited to finally be able to buy my own custom ball and have it sized, it was purple and called the Beast (no lie, it was etched in the ball) I loved it. oh and who can forget how the cool bowlers all used towels, unlike the weekend bowlers. LOL. I so enjoyed your post, too funny!!

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