Up Our Alleys

Or should we say “lanes”?

Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick

To suggest that New Hampshire natives are an independent lot would be stating the obvious. And boy, do we like to argue about stuff. Even if we know we’re wrong.

Ask most Granite Staters to pronounce the name of the road that runs from Lincoln to Conway through scenic terrain and they will incorrectly blurt ‘Kank-ah-MAN-gus Highway.’” Disturbingly, few people know it’s pronounced Kank-ah-MAU-gus. Remember it this way: The Old Man, as in Kank-ah-MAN-gus, died in 2003 when his face fell from grace. We grammar police take pleasure in the futility of making that correction to people who will never accept the right way to say the name of that 34-mile stretch of Route 112.

You want a good New Hampshire food fight? Ask the question “Markey’s or Brown’s?” These two lobster and seafood haunts stare at one another from across NH Highway 286 in Seabrook. A necessary truce in the contentious crustacean conversation was called off when Brown’s was destroyed by fire last August. Brown’s vowed to return, if only to reengage New Englanders in rowdy arguments about the best seacoast seafood.

And don’t get me started on the jimmies and sprinkles debate. With the influx of so many out-of-state transplants (including me) to New Hampshire, our sprinkles eventually became jimmies, creating generations of descendants not knowing what to call the popular ice cream topping.

New Hampshire’s greatest pronunciation hot button resides just inside the state line in the bedroom community of Windham, where I live. It seems that longtime residents prefer Wind-HAM. That just sounds pretentious. After five years here, I haven’t earned the right to call it Wind-HAM, so I go with WIND-em. I have friends who will actually say it both ways over the course of speaking back-to-back sentences. I say “potato,” you say, “puh-tah-to.”

Let’s call the whole thing off.

I have, however, found something no one fights about: The only real bowling in New Hampshire is candlepin bowling. When flatlanders like me from the Midwest move here, we ask, “Where can I find some real bowling?” By real bowling, these people (not me any longer) are looking for the game of 10 pins, where bowling a perfect 12-strike 300 game is about as common as a snowy day in January.

In the game of candlepins, a 300 game is about as common as a 90-degree New Hampshire day in January. In other words, it has never happened and small ball fans like it that way.

People who bowl candlepins have no use for the game’s older cousin. Candlepins was invented in Worcester around 1880, and the strength of one’s grit and worth is judged by his or her ability to throw a 96 string and not whine about it.

New Hampshire native and gentlemanly professional candlepin bowler, Gary Duffett, once flung his bowling bag and its contents down a sidewalk in anger following an especially frustrating tournament performance some years ago. “It’s like people do with golf clubs,” he confessed to me.

The only real argument among candlepinners centers around whether or not a lane’s gutters should, instead, be called channels, to class up the game’s image a bit. Had he lived, I’m certain the Old Man of the Mountain would have frowned upon that idea.

Former WZID radio host and emcee extraordinaire Mike Morin is also an author. His latest book, “Lunch with Tommy and Stasia — TV’s Golden Age of Candlepin Bowling,” published by Hobblebush Books, arrives this summer.

Categories: Humor