Backstage Pass: Setting the Pins

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Listener Wendy Rose Bice of Detroit, Mich., takes us backstage at her bowling alley in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, to hear what pin-setting machines sound like from that vantage point.


Our SoundClips project has taken us to all kinds of places all around the world. We've heard the sound of chanting at a Buddhist temple in Japan, and the sound of a neighborhood propane salesman banging on his canisters in Baghdad. Well, today's installment is a little less exotic. We're going north of the U.S.-Canada border to Windsor, Ontario.

Ms. WENDY ROSE BICE: My name is Wendy Rose Bice. I live in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. And I own the Rose Bowl Lanes, which is located in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The sound I'm going to share with you today is the sound of the pinsetter machine, which is located behind the bowling lanes.

(Soundbite of bowling pinsetter machine)

Ms. BICE: And it's a massive contraption of steels that most bowling patrons do not get to see very often.

(Soundbite of bowling pinsetter machine)

Ms. BICE: The machine looks like on top a gigantic pool rack where, instead of the balls, you have the top of the pins. And it comes down above the pins, picks up what you haven't knocked down, lifts them up. The rake that you see comes and sweeps the pins to the back of the machine. The pins then fall on what's called the shaker board, which is a carpeted wooden board, and the nose pins are elevated up and around on a gigantic ring and put back into a waiting area for the next set of pins that comes down.

(Soundbite of bowling pinsetter machine)

Ms. BICE: We have 50 lanes. This bowling center was built in 1962 by my father and grandfather, and we're all 10-pin. And when everything is going, when you're in the front of the house bowling, it kind of loud. When you're behind the lanes, you're in an area that in our case is about 10 or 12 feet wide. And you've got these six-foot, several ton machines, all 50 of them going at once with the clanging and the pins and the balls. It's deafening.

(Soundbite of bowling pinsetter machine)

SIEGEL: Backstage at the bowling alley, a sound clip courtesy of Wendy Rose Bice.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: Wherever you live or listen, we'd like you to participate in our project. Find out how at, search for sound clips.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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