By Garland Davis
Two years before enlisting in the Navy, I learned to bowl in my hometown’s first all-night bowling lanes. We worked in the restaurants until late and then went and bowled until two or three in the morning.
At my first duty station, I was assigned to the station Bowling Lanes for a short time. There were five of us assigned there, the Chief in charge, a Petty Officer bowling machine mechanic, two other non-rates, and me. The Chief and Petty Officer performed maintenance and oiled the lanes while our duties consisted of cleaning up before opening and issuing score sheets, renting shoes, and collecting for games during the day. There were three of us to accomplish all of this. The business was slow during the day, the lanes were idle, and we spent many hours bowling. It cost me nothing, and I became a damn good bowler with tutelage from the Chief.
Fast forward almost three years, which I spent in the Galley at the station, in an Ammunition Ship during a WestPac cruise, and five months in an advanced school for cooks and bakers. I arrived in Yokohama, Japan, in July 1964 as a twenty-year-old, newly minted Second Class Petty Officer. July 24, 1964, I moved into Bayside Courts and met the pretty girl who would become my wife a little more than a year later.
In those days, Yokohama was akin to Paradise for the underpaid sailor. But, a sailor couldn’t spend all his time in the bars and fleshpots of Chinatown no matter how hard he tried.
There was the bowling alley. I could bowl and drink beer, legally, for not a lot of money. Bowling was a cheap date, and the pretty girl liked it. We became frequent bowlers before and after we married. We eventually ended up on a few teams, bowling in leagues.
Japanese Asahi Taxi company offered to sponsor a team we were forming. This meant they would provide bowling shirts sporting their logo, and the team would incorporate the company name into the team name. The owner of the company became a spectator almost every week.
A televised Kanto area bowling tournament of two-man teams was planned. The owner of Asahi Taxi offered to sponsor another player and me as a team in the tournament. We worked through the preliminary games and made the cut for the televised games.
There were numerous donated prizes for the different accomplishments of the bowlers. We didn’t win the tournament but were in the top five. The prize for the fifth position was a suit for each of us from a tailor shop. I bowled the tournament’s High Game of 262. The prize for the high w game was a one-year’s supply of Kirin Beer! Turned out to be a twelve-bottle case of Kirin delivered to my quarters in Navy housing each Monday morning. The empty bottles from the previous week were required for the full delivery. Those of you who were in Japan in the sixties remember the almost two-liter war clubs of beer.
Almost twenty-four liters of beer each week was a bit much. I recruited help! My shipmates stepped up to ensure that twelve empties would be available each Monday. We worked Tuesday through Saturday. Sunday and Monday was our weekend.
For a year, Saturday or Sunday became “Drink Dave’s Beer Night!”