What is a Turkey in Bowling?

The Term “Turkey” in Bowling

Within this vibrant world of bowling parlance exists a term that piques curiosity: “turkey.” While it may initially evoke images of Thanksgiving feasts or gobbling birds roaming wild plains, its association within the realm of bowling carries somewhat different connotations.

In bowling terminology, a “turkey” refers to achieving three consecutive strikes within a single game.

The Origin of the Term “Turkey”

Tracing back the history of the term “turkey” in bowling reveals a fascinating journey through time. Although its exact origins remain shrouded in mystery, several theories and folklore surround this peculiar term. One popular belief suggests that the term originated during the early 1800s when bowling was gaining significant popularity among British settlers in America.

It is said that those who achieved three consecutive strikes were rewarded with a live turkey, which they could take home as a prize. This tradition might have served as an incentive for bowlers to aim for consistent strikes, giving birth to the concept of a turkey in bowling.

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Possible Connections to Thanksgiving Traditions

Another intriguing theory proposes a connection between turkeys in bowling and Thanksgiving traditions. It has been suggested that during times when live turkeys were used as rewards for exceptional performances, these events coincided with the annual celebration of Thanksgiving. As families gathered around festive tables adorned with roasted turkeys, bowlers who had won their own turkey prizes would symbolically join in on expressing gratitude for their achievements on the lanes by sharing delicious food together.

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While these theories are captivating and offer insight into possible origins, it is important to remember that the exact genesis of the term “turkey” in bowling remains somewhat elusive. Nevertheless, the blend of historical context, folklore, and possible connections to Thanksgiving traditions make for a rich tapestry surrounding the origin of this widely recognized and celebrated achievement in bowling.

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Was it harder to do strikes in the 19th and 20th century since they got prizes for three strikes?

Bowling in the 19th and early 20th century was indeed more challenging than it is today, primarily due to differences in equipment and lane conditions. This could make achieving a strike, let alone three in a row (a “turkey”), more difficult.

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Here are a few factors that made bowling more challenging in the past:

  1. Equipment: Early bowling balls were often made from wood or hard rubber, which did not provide the same control or hook potential as modern balls made from reactive resin. Similarly, bowling pins were also made of wood and were not as uniform or balanced as today’s pins, which could affect how they fell.
  2. Lanes: Bowling lanes in the past were made of wood and were manually oiled, often resulting in inconsistent oil patterns. Today’s synthetic lanes provide more consistency, and oiling machines lay down precise oil patterns.
  3. Pinsetters: Before the advent of automatic pin-setting machines in the late 1950s, pins were often reset manually by “pin boys.” This could lead to slight variations in pin placement, making consistent strikes more difficult to achieve.
  4. Training and Technique: Modern bowlers have a wealth of resources available to them to improve their technique, from professional coaching to detailed video analysis. Bowlers in the past did not have access to such resources, which could make achieving high scores more challenging.
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So, considering these factors, achieving three strikes in a row to earn a turkey (and potentially win a prize) would have been a significant accomplishment during the 19th and early 20th century.

Different Variations: Single, Double, Triple Turkey

While a turkey typically refers to three consecutive strikes, there are variations that are celebrated in the bowling community. A single turkey is the initial achievement of three strikes in a row within a game. It sets the stage for further accomplishments and ignites optimism for more success.

A double turkey takes it up a notch by achieving two sets of three consecutive strikes in one game. This feat requires not only skill but also mental fortitude to sustain concentration between the two separate occurrences.

The pinnacle of bowling greatness is the triple turkey, sometimes referred to as “the golden turkey.” This extraordinary accomplishment involves nine consecutive strikes within one game, pushing the boundaries of what many bowlers ever imagined possible. Only those with exceptional talent and an unyielding determination can successfully achieve such an awe-inspiring feat.

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