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The national phenomenon known as “Bowling for Dollars” began locally on WBAL in 1964. Created by Bert Claster (who had many television successes, including “Romper Room”), the show was originally known as “Duckpins and Dollars” based on Baltimore’s bowling preferences, but became “Bowling for Dollars” with its first foray into the national market via Milwaukee in 1971. Los Angeles and a score of other cities soon created their own hometown versions of the program. Initially, it ran once a week, but as stations scrambled for local programming between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. (as a result of FCC regulations that stipulated that network programming could only take place after 8 p.m.), the show ran every day. In Baltimore, it was taped live.

“Bowling was very popular,” explains John Claster, Bert Claster’s son and a retired television production executive, and contestants could apply to be on the show through their local bowling centers. Eventually, lanes were installed at the WBAL studios on TV Hill to create a studio for taping.

Each night, seven contestants would walk through the set’s sliding door, engage in a one-minute interview with the show’s nattily dressed emcee, Tom Cole (or Ron Riley or Dennis Murray), introduce up to six family members or friends in the audience, and take a chance on bowling a strike for the jackpot, which began at $200 but grew by $20 with every missed strike.

Then there were the Pin-Pals. Viewers at home sent postcards to the station, and if their name was chosen, they would win the same amount as the studio bowler.

With the success of “Bowling for Dollars,” Claster Productions created a version of the show for younger competitors called “Pinbusters.” John Bowman (who’d hosted an earlier TV dance program, “Teen Canteen”) was the host of the show for most of its run, later being replaced by Royal Parker. Six four-frame games took place during the broadcast with kids in various age categories. The winners took home trophies, rather than cash.

“Bowling for Dollars” left the Baltimore airwaves in the late ’70’s, but remained in syndication until 1981. It had run in 36 markets nationwide.

The national phenomenon known as “Bowling for Dollars” began locally on WBAL in 1964. Created by Bert Claster (who had many television successes,…

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Project Flashback-Centreville, MD

Who remembers BOWLING FOR DOLLARS? I seem to remember some from Project Flashback-Centreville, MD on the show in the 1970’s!

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Bowling For Dollars WBAL

Project Flashback-Centreville, MD

Somebody burnt my turkey. But it’s still smiling at me! From our family to yours Happy Thanksgiving! Danny b.

Project Flashback-Centreville, MD

Another view on Commerce and Broadway intersection. We are only 35 folks away from 3000 likes! Tell your friends to like and Follow. Project Flashback-Centreville, MD!

Project Flashback-Centreville, MD

Looks a lot different today. Almost everything in this photo is now gone. But this Great photo of North Commerce street will live on for other generations to see right here! How many businesses can you name that are now gone in this photo?
Thanks to Kristin Dawkins-Downey for sharing her grandmothers photos!
More to come from her collection in the next few days.
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Who remembers BOWLING FOR DOLLARS? I seem to remember some from Project Flashback-Centreville, MD on the show in the 1970's!