Lucky Strikes

Have you checked your basement lately? (uh, Dave, I don’t have a basement). How about the crawl space (nope, don’t have one of those either). Maybe a deep closet, the kind with empty space behind the hanging clothes? If I haven’t pegged you yet, just lift up your area rugs (assuming your floors have been around a while). Why? You might find something interesting down there! Loose change. Old love letters. Bowling balls.

Bowling balls?

A small part of Dave’s “bowl” collection

Talk about a lucky strike.  Another Dave in my country (he of Norton Shores, MI) recently began a DIY house renovation when he unearthed a bowling ball from behind the crumbling concrete of his back porch.  So he pawed the sand some more and found another ball.  And another.  Pretty soon he had fifteen.  By the time our industrious friend cleaned out his subterranean bowling alley – er, crawl space, he’d amassed 150 balls – some black, most blue, and all designed to knock down pins.  I’m sure Dave would agree with this Dave when I say, “What the HECK?

Seriously, how would you react if you found hundreds of bowling balls under your house?  Me, I’d wonder if they weren’t part of the structural foundation (Don’t laugh; a 1940’s house we used to live in had glued-together schoolroom yardsticks in the walls.)  My next thought would go to an abandoned underground city, with my house right on top of the bowling alley.  And my final thought?  Aliens.  Aliens put those hundreds of bowling balls down there.

Did THIS used to be under Dave’s house?

Norton Shores Dave was more rational than my own thinking.  After finding the first fifteen balls he stopped digging and picked up the phone to Brunswick Bowling.  Some of the balls had date stamps back to the 1950s and Dave was concerned about toxicity. (Good thinking there, Dave.) But Brunswick glanced at a few of the photos he sent and said the balls were fine.  So it’s official: bowling balls last forever.

Hidden rooms – and the hidden treasures they contain – have always captured my imagination.  In the movie National Treasure, Nicolas Cage sorts through clue after clue on the hunt for a hidden fortune.  The final scene where the underground room reveals itself in bursting firelight is jaw-dropping.  Or how about any movie scene where a sliding bookcase protects a passage to the secret space beyond?  Wouldn’t that be a great feature in your house?

I designed a house with a sliding bookcase once (true story), back in my days as an architect.  The hidden room was accessed from the landing halfway up an open staircase, behind innocent-looking shelves of books.  The hidden room was meant to be a home office, with a small balcony overlooking the backyard.  I pictured the owner’s guests, standing on the lawn and looking up, saying, “Wait a sec’, how come I haven’t seen that room?

Admittedly, bowling balls aren’t a sexy find (even 150 of them).  It’s not like you’d go, “Perfect… just what I’d been hoping for!”  That’s not stopping Norton Shores Dave, however.  He thinks there may be even more balls down there, but – letdown ending to the story – he’ll probably just turn them into decorative pavers in the yard.

Plant orange trees… find a church instead!

Other hidden-space stories yield more satisfying treasures.  Last year a gardener in England – simply pulling weeds – unearthed sixty-three gold coins from the era of Henry VIII (now that’s what you call “paydirt”).  Another gardener – this one in Turkey – found an entire 6th-century church under the ten acres of land where he was about to plant orange trees.  Old rolled-up movie posters under the floorboards of a house were so pristine they brought $600,000 USD at auction.  Finally, in 2009, an English doctor passed away and left his house to his relatives.  What they overlooked for many months? The dusty, vintage 1937 Bugatti in the garage.  Selling price: $4.2 million.

Maybe the best finds are up in the attic.  In 2013 a family found a Van Gogh in the rafters of the house of deceased relatives.  The painting had been gathering dust for over a century because the original owner thought it was a fake.  Not so.  It turned out to be a priceless example from Van Gogh’s most prolific years.  Okay, not quite “priceless”, but how about $90.6 million?

It’s only fitting – as Halloween approaches – I ask you to crack the seal on your hidden spaces.  You’ll probably need a flashlight.  You’ll brush aside spiderwebs or put the boot on a creepy crawler or two.  But c’mon, you know you’re curious.  There could be something valuable right there underneath your feet.  A stash of cash.  A famous painting.  Or 150 bowling balls!

Some content sourced from the article, “Home renovation leads to the discovery of over 150 bowling balls under a family’s porch”, and the article, “People who bought homes and found treasure”.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to Life In A Word.

16 thoughts on “Lucky Strikes”

  1. I was reading about the bowling balls and thinking “well we had an incident just like that one here in Michigan” … then you mentioned it was in Norton Shores, Michigan. Good thing the homeowner was smart and contacted the bowling ball manufacturer who told him when there were defects in their bowling balls (so they could not be sold), employees were allowed to take them for their own use and often they were used for landscaping purposes, either decorative, or in areas that needed bolstering where the areas were sunk down, rather than using traditional landscaping materials like sand, pea gravel, etc. No hidey holes in my house to unearth treasures unfortunately!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You filled in some of the blanks, Linda. The article I read didn’t mention defects, which could explain a bowling ball collection. Maybe this person passed away before they had a chance to do anything with them? A most unusual story!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I figured you would like to know the rest of the story (as the late Paul Harvey used to say) Dave. It was all over the news here and I believe he used the bowling balls to shore up some areas on the property. It was an unusual story wasn’t it?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. $40 is $35 more than I’ve ever found at one time, Neil. It’s usually just loose change for me – probably how 99% of people would answer your question.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ll take the art or the car please…..but bowling bowls? Did he have any idea how they got there based on any previous home owners? I like the idea of a house with a sliding bookshelf to a secret room – very Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys….you can design my next house Dave!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like Linda’s theory, Joni (esp. since she lives in the same state as the story). The bowling balls are defective in some way so employees of the alley got to take them home. But it’s a little scary to think the balls may have served some structural purpose in this house! “Hardy Boys”, yes, but I remember “The Three Investigators” series better. Those books were full of secret doors and rooms.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 150 bowling balls — that’s so weird! We once rented an apartment in an old house and one of our rooms opened into the attic, where previous tenants presumably left items they no longer wanted. Most of it was the standard stuff, small table, an upholstered chair, that sort of thing. Always wondered about the person who left half a mannequin though… and did they take the bottom half with them?
    Some questions we don’t want answered. 😀

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  4. Mannequins (shiver). There’s something creepy about them Christi, especially discovered in an old house. Half a mannequin… maybe a magician practicing tricks? As you say, better left alone.

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  5. I have been listening to old radio shows, so your title made my mind leap immediately to all of the old slogans for Lucky Strike cigarettes. “So round, so firm, so fully packed.” But I guess that one could describe the bowling balls too. Buried bowling balls are indeed a mystery.

    I too have always wanted a secret room. Sliding bookcases would be cool.

    All I ever found at house from prior occupants is an old plate that was left in the basement of my first house. The house was from the 20s, but the plate looked like it was from the 70s, so what a letdown. My sister lived in an old farmhouse built before WWI and once found under the porch a really old empty glass bottle that had contained embalming fluid. I guess morticians made housecalls. It just now occurs to me that a supply of those would have been great for bootleggers during prohibition.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Never considered the title’s connotation with cigarettes, JP – ha. I’m not a smoker but I still remember the slogan, “I’d walk a mile for a Camel”. And the Marlboro man. Advertisers knew what they were doing back then, didn’t they?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The hidden room behind the bookcases is great! Did you leave them open when you used that study space or close yourself in? I just watched Clue the Movie and pictured all the secret passages as I read your post. The bowling balls are quite strange. At least there were no bodies down there.

    Liked by 1 person

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