The White House Bowling Alley & Bowling Presidents
The White House Bowling Alley
The White House Bowling Alley is a one-lane bowling alley in the basement of the White House under the North Portico.
Bowling lanes were first built in the ground floor of the West Wing as a birthday gift for President Truman in 1947 (in the location of the present-day Situation Room); Truman didn’t care for bowling himself, but allowed staff to start a league. These were moved to the Old Executive Office Building in 1955 to make way for a mimeograph room.
In 1969, President and Mrs. Nixon, both avid bowlers, had a new one-lane alley built (paid for by friends) in an underground workspace area below the driveway leading to the North Portico.
More than 4,100 have been granted access to the White House to visit the presidential lanes in the Executive Office Building since Obama took office, according to visitor logs released by the administrations.
In May 2011 alone 230 bowlers were cleared by the Secret Service to try their hands at strikes and spares. The two-lanes appears to have been used every day of that month except five.
By comparison, only 60 visitors to the White House since 2009 came to use the presidential basketball court, records show.
Bowling at Camp David
When Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev met with President Eisenhower at Camp David in 1959, he wanted to see the bowling alley.
Khrushchev was more interested in the automatic pinsetter than in bowling a game.
President Nixon liked bowling at Camp David.He believed that bowling helped relieve backaches and improved his vision and muscle coordination.
Chelsea Clinton and a “busload of friends” celebrated her 16th birthday at Camp David. After a birthday dinner in the Laurel Lodge, they went over to Hickory to watch movies and go bowling.
President Obama bowled at Camp David the weekend prior to his birthday in August, 2009. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reported that he bowled a 144 including three strikes and a nine in the last four frames.
President Harry S. Truman
33rd President (1945–1953)
President Truman officially opens the first White House bowling alley on Apr 25, 1947. The two-lane bowling alley, situated in the West Wing, had been constructed earlier that year.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, a group of Truman’s fellow Missourians funded the construction of the bowling alley in honor of the president. They had intended to open the alley as part of Truman’s 63rd birthday celebration on May 8, but construction was completed ahead of schedule. Truman’s favorite pastime was poker and although he had not bowled since he was a teenager, he gamely hoisted the first ball, knocking down 7 out of 10 pins. One of the pins is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution.
Truman did not use the alley much himself, but supported a group of White House employees in forming a White House Bowling League in 1950. Teams included Secret Service agents, household staff, secretaries, switchboard operators and groundskeepers. The teams competed in tournaments across the country; many opponents were surprised to discover that the players were from the real White House.
President Richard Milhous Nixon
37th President (1969-1974)
Richard Milhous Nixon was an avid bowler. Nixon bowled frequently, both in the Executive Office Building and at the bowling alley at Camp David, a two lane facility.
Nixon preferred bowling to golf because it could be done quickly in the gaps in his schedule. According to the Washington Post’s July 21, 1970 edition, Nixon’s average was a closely guarded state secret but purportedly was in the range of 165-200.
Nixon’s high score was a pretty impressive 232.
Jonathan Roscoe of the Nixon Library said a box of his old bowling scores from Oct. 18, 1969, were recently discovered. That particular day, the president rolled six games against his friend and confidant Charles Gregory “Bebe” Rebozo while vacationing at Camp David, finishing with scores of 160, 177, 114, 134, 153, and 115. Naval Aide Adm. Charles R. Larson sent Nixon’s secretary a memo with the bowling scores attached three days later.
According to a sign that used to be on the White House tour, Nixon once bowled back-to-back 300 games at the White House’s bowling alley, then again, we know Dick lied about things, and Mr President that’s a foul !
President Barack Obama
Is it even possible for a grown man to bowl a 37?
But his ludicrously low 37 will hardly scored him points with the blue-collar voters he was trying to impress.
Reported it was the first time he had stepped into a bowling alley since the late 1970s. After throwing an initial gutter ball, and then knocking down just four pins with his second ball, Mr. Obama couldn’t help sheepishly declaring, “My economic plan is better than my bowling.”
“It has to be!” a man yelled.
A left-hander, Mr. Obama failed to bowl a single strike; several lanes away, a man wearing a T-shirt that said “Beer Hunter” fell on his backside as he bowled and still managed to throw a strike.
Now we can’t forget another soon to be President , George W Bush…