“Into the Archives”: AYF Bowling in the Weekly

Athletics has always been a part of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF). The Annual AYF Olympic Games are almost as old as the organization. The Olympics is most definitely the centerpiece of AYF athletics, with the Basketball National Championships firmly in second place.

In the early days of the AYF, there was often a page, or at minimum, a column dedicated to sports in every issue of the Armenian Weekly. One of the most surprising articles that I have come across while digging into the Weekly archives was in the December 11, 1952 issue. It was in a column titled “WEEKLY Sports Round Up with Al Parseghian.” This particular article was titled “A Strike” and covered AYF Bowling, which apparently was a thing back in the 1940s and 50s. Per Al Parseghian:

Bowling, which has definitely come a long way during the past decade, is one of the MAJOR sports on the AYF athletic program that is still traveling in high gear. From a trial beginning in its early stages back in 1941, a gradual improvement can be noted each year building up to a record peak of interest in 1947-48. Bowling is actually the only sport in the AYF that links both sexes in a match against opposing chapters.

AYF Bowling was indeed a thing. It was definitely a New England thing. They bowled both duckpins and candlepins. Candlepins are a uniquely New England and Canadian (maritime provinces) variant that was a predecessor to the much more popular duckpin style. The chapters mentioned in the article were Boston, Brockton, Franklin, Lawrence, Pawtucket, Providence, Springfield, Watertown, Whitinsville and Worcester.

Whitinsville won the first tournament in 1941. In 1944, Brockton, led by Massis Baker, Johnny Boyajian and Aaron Kalaijian, “stepped forward as a bowling powerhouse.” Watertown won in the 1944 tournament, which marked “the first athletic award in the chapter’s history.” The bowlers mentioned in the article include Buddy Babigian, Virginia Dostourian, Bernice Paloulian and Peewee Yegsigian of Worcester. There was also Frannie Sermanian and Vartkes Takesian of the Lawrence Vartanantz Chapter and Paul Piligian from Springfield. Franklin was represented by Charles Dayian, Herky Ecknaian, Garo Yergadian and Peter Moomjian, “one of the two AYF boys killed in the Korean Conflict.”

What drew me to this article was the photo. It was of Dick Kazanjian, my father’s closest AYF friend and one of the nicest people I have ever known. We called him Uncle Dickie. In the photo, he was in candlepin bowling form, looking as good as any professional. The caption reads, “Dick Kazanjian: He set an AYF record in candlepin by bowling a 148 string in 1947.” It seems like a low score, but I have come to learn that candlepin scores are markedly lower than those of duckpins. I was totally unaware that Uncle Dickie was a bowling star in the AYF. It wasn’t just me — his own daughters Lisa and Jill were equally surprised and unaware of his bowling prowess.

Uncle Dickie’s parents named him Dikris and his older brother Yeprad (who went by Edward) for the famous rivers of the “old country.” Edward died in 1944 while fighting in World II. When I think of Edward and Peter Moomjian, who both died serving the United States, I can only imagine how hard it was for their parents, who survived the Genocide only to lose a son 20 years later.

I would love to know more about AYF Bowling. How were things organized? Was it a league over several weeks, a weekend tournament or both? How did they decide on the mix between candlepin versus duckpin games? Were there set rules for this, or was it the home chapter’s call?

I never would have known about AYF Bowling without diving into the archives. Consider subscribing and taking a look for yourself!

Mark Gavoor
Mark Gavoor is Associate Professor of Operations Management in the School of Business and Nonprofit Management at North Park University in Chicago. He is an avid blogger and oud player.

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