Bowling In the Sky — 1964

by Paula Bosse

bowling_american-airlines_encylopedia-britannica-yrbk_jan-1964Sylvia Wene battles Dick Weber and turbulence… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

As publicity stunts go, this one was pretty good. It even had a cutesy name: Operation AstroBowl. American Airlines wanted to promote their great big Boeing 707 cargo planes, so someone came up with the idea of putting a bowling alley in one of them. Happily, a company that manufactured bowling alley equipment — American Machine and Foundry (AMF) — was keen to jump on the promotion bandwagon. They installed the regulation 79-foot lane — complete with automatic pin-setting equipment and gutters — in one of the American Airlines jet freighters. It took 4 days. Looking at the photos, it resembled a very large MRI tube.

Since they had the lane and the equipment in there, they pretty much had to get a couple of champion players on board to bowl a few mid-air frames. As luck would have it, the National All-Star Tournament (aka “The World Series of Bowling”) was — hey! — to be held in Dallas at Fair Park Coliseum a week after the stunt. Serendipity! Champions Dick Weber and Sylvia Wene were roped in to play a 5-mile-high game in the sky.

So much to promote!

Operation AstroBowl took place on January 6, 1964 at cruising altitude between New York’s Kennedy International Airport and Love Field. Sylvia won. Barely. But this story made it into countless newspapers across the country the following day, so, really, it was the publicists who won. Drinks, I’m sure, were on them.

bowling_american-airlines_AP-story_010764-photo_dick-weberDick Weber bowling at 500 miles an hour

bowling_american-airlines_dmn_010764_biffle
Dallas Morning News, Jan. 7, 1964 (click for larger image)

bowling_american-airlines_AP-story_010764
AP story which appeared all over the country, Jan. 7, 1964

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Top photo appeared in the Encyclopedia Britannica Yearbook and was brought to my attention by Steve Dirkx (thanks, Steve!).

Photo of Dick Weber by the Associated Press.

All images larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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