Written By: Ben Cosgrove

There’s a lot to be said for bowling. It’s loud. It involves a kind of controlled violence. It requires strength, coordination and genuine technique. And it’s damn fun.

Here, for no other reason than we like the sport and because the pictures are pretty cool, LIFE.com presents photographs of men, women and kids bowling. Some of the bowlers are serious. Some are what we might call hobbyists. Some are clearly awful. But what they all share is the evident desire to smash the pins. To make that improbable spare. To nail a convincing, resounding, unmistakable strike.

Ready to roll?

Pins scatter as they fall after being struck by a bowling ball

Pins Scatter As They Fall

Mark Kauffman-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

A bowler leans his body in the direction of the ball.

A Bowler Leans With The Ball

Ralph Morse-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

A bowler makes facial expressions and wiggles his body in hopes of shifting the ball while watching his ball roll down the lane.

Body Language

Ralph Morse-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

A man watches his ball roll down the lane with a cigar hanging from his mouth.

Have A Cigar

Ralph Morse-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Pat Patterson kneels down on one knee as he watches his ball roll down the lane.

Kneel Down

Ralph Morse-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Thiluia Barker finishes bowling her turn with a grimace.


Ralph Morse-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Art Gebhart covers his eyes after releasing the ball.

Averted Eyes

Ralph Morse-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Joe Falcaro in midair, 1940.

Midair Attention

Gjon Mili-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Women's Bowling Champion Catherine Fellmeth is pictured mid-windup.

Women’s Bowling Champion

George Skadding-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Twinkle Watts, a child bowler and ice skater, is pictured mid-stride

Twinkle Watts Hits Her Stride

Bernard Hoffman-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

A female bowling team member wears a shirt representing her team and sponsor.

Team Sponsor

Ralph Morse-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Bowler Phyllis Mercer is pictured as she releases the ball down the lane.

The Windup

Stan Wayman-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Mercer turns frustratedly away from the lane after watching her ball miss the pins.


Stan Wayman-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Florence Wilson and other women at a bowling alley in Teaneck, New Jersey, in 1947.

Bowling in Teaneck

Gjon Mili-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Men cheer a fellow team member's shot at a bowling alley.

Cheering Section

Gjon Mili-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Women bowl in two of the four bowling alleys located under the chapel of New York's Riverside Church.

Church Bowling

Margaret Bourke-White-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Dorothy Crouch, balanced on one foot at the end of her stride, releases the ball in a preliminary match during a nine-day championship tournament.

Championship Stride

Francis Miller-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Marion Ladewig, the "Queen of Bowling," dabs at her eyes after losing a championship tournament.

The Queen of Bowling

Francis Miller-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Women at a bowling alley bar celebrate their high-scoring game with a round of drinks.

Women Celebrate at a Bowling Alley Bar

Stan Wayman-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Women are pictured in a beauty shop adjoining the Cotton Bowl lanes, for the benefit of women bowlers who can have their hair set between games.

A Beauty Shop In A Bowling Alley

Stan Wayman-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Children play with a plastic bowling ball and pins, provided in order to prevent them from interrupting their mothers as they bowl, at a nursery at the Hart Bowl

Children Bowling

Stan Wayman-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Archers shoot arrows alongside bowlers at the Sunnyside Bowl

Archers and Bowlers at the Sunnyside Bowl

J. R. Eyerman-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

An apprentice geisha in a kimono and full make-up smiles as she bowls on a lane, watched by several other geisha in Kyoto, Japan.

A Geisha Bowling in Kyoto

Larry Burrows-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

A bowler watches his ball approach the pins.

A Bowler Watches His Ball

Thomas D. McAvoy-Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

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