How Quirky is Berkeley: Bowling balls as garden art

Bowling balls at 1722 Beverly. Photo: John Storey
Bowling balls at 1722 Beverly Place. Photo: John Storey

I find the use of bowling balls as lawn art to be undeniably quirky. For me, that starts with the premise that bowling itself is whimsical — an antithesis for the social isolation of our era.

Today, Berkeley has only one bowling venue, one which must be seen as at least a bit eccentric.

Lawn bowling at 2270 Acton Street. Photo: Tom Dalzell
Lawn bowling at 2270 Acton St. Photo: Tom Dalzell

Thus it ever was not. In addition to the Berkeley Bowl on Shattuck and the underground bowling at the student union, we had at least three bowling alleys:

Bowling-Center-Street 2314 Bowling 1923 New-Avenue-Lanes-1631-San-Pablo

Left without a single alley today, we compensate with bowling balls as lawn decoration. Sometimes it is a single ball, sometimes a cluster. Sometimes black, sometimes bright colors. Sometimes overwhelmed by weeds, sometimes proudly landscaped.


Bowling balls at 22 Tunnel Road on Oakridge Path. Photo: John Storey.
Bowling balls at 22 Tunnel Rd on Oak Ridge Path. Photo: John Storey
Bowling balls at 3017 Wheeler Street. Photo: John Storey.
Bowling balls at 3017 Wheeler St. Photo: John Storey
Bowling ball at 1036 Pardee Street. Photo: John Storey.
Bowling ball at 1036 Pardee St. Photo: John Storey
Bowling Balls at 485 Vincente Avenue. Photo: John Storey.
Bowling Balls at 485 Vincente Ave. Photo: John Storey
Bowling balls at 1712 Beverly Place. Photo: John Storey.
Bowling balls at 1712 Beverly Place. Photo: John Storey
Bowling balls at 1722 Beverly Place. Photo: John Storey.
Bowling balls at 1722 Beverly Place. Photo: John Storey
Bowling balls at 1722 Beverly Place. Photo: John Storey.
Bowling balls at 1722 Beverly Place. Photo: John Storey
Bowling balls at 1722 Beverly Place. Photo: John Storey.
Bowling balls at 1722 Beverly Place. Photo: John Storey
Bowling balls at 1722 Beverly Place. Photo: John Storey.
Bowling balls at 1722 Beverly Place. Photo: John Storey
Bowling balls at 1722 Beverly Place. Photo: John Storey.
Bowling balls at 1722 Beverly Place. Photo: John Storey
Bowling balls at 2375 Scenic Avenue. Photo: John Storey.
Bowling balls at 2375 Scenic Ave. Photo: John Storey

After the articles about Quirky Berkeley in The New Yorker and the New York Times, a neighbor decided that our house needed at least a little bit of quirky material culture out front. To this end, she gifted our front flower bed with two bowling balls:

Bowling ball at 1155 Oxford Street. Photo: John Storey
Bowling ball at 1155 Oxford St. Photo: John Storey
Bowling ball at 1155 Oxford Street. Photo: John Storey
Bowling ball at 1155 Oxford St. Photo: John Storey

Bowling balls are pretty exciting, but bowling pins are even more exciting. I have found two houses where bowling pins are used as art:

Bowling balls and pins at 2375 Scenic Avenue. Photo: John Storey
Bowling balls and pins at 2375 Scenic Ave. Photo: John Storey
Bowling pins at 1447 5th Street. Photo: John Storey
Bowling pins at 1447 5th St. Photo: John Storey

Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means. 

For a fuller treatment of bowling balls and bowling pins in Berkeley yards, see Dalzell’s post at Quirky Berkeley.

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