103-year-old game of Skee-Ball gets tournament treatment in Portland

Posted Jan. 29, 2013, at 6:06 a.m.
Maris Toland (right) bowls in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship organized by Sam Heck (left) at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. Skee-Ball was invented and patented by J.D. Estes of Philadelphia in 1909.
Maris Toland (right) bowls in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship organized by Sam Heck (left) at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. Skee-Ball was invented and patented by J.D. Estes of Philadelphia in 1909. Buy Photo
Katie Worthing (left) and Sam Heck hang the brackets for the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. The first national Skee-Ball tournament was held in Atlantic City in 1932.
Katie Worthing (left) and Sam Heck hang the brackets for the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. The first national Skee-Ball tournament was held in Atlantic City in 1932. Buy Photo
Collin Kelley (from left) Sarah Bartlett and Jenn Pidgeon draw for their starting places in the brackets in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013.
Collin Kelley (from left) Sarah Bartlett and Jenn Pidgeon draw for their starting places in the brackets in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. Buy Photo
Katie Worthing (left) and Sam Heck fill in the brackets for the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013.
Katie Worthing (left) and Sam Heck fill in the brackets for the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. Buy Photo
Brian McCambridge (left) and Sam Heck shake hands before competing against each other in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. The game was invented over a hundred years ago.
Brian McCambridge (left) and Sam Heck shake hands before competing against each other in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. The game was invented over a hundred years ago. Buy Photo
Organizer of the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl, Sam Heck, takes aim Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. Participants each bought a holiday gift to swap as prizes.
Organizer of the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl, Sam Heck, takes aim Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. Participants each bought a holiday gift to swap as prizes. Buy Photo
Jenn Pidgeon (left) and Sarah Bartlett bowl away at the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. Bartlett finished in third place.
Jenn Pidgeon (left) and Sarah Bartlett bowl away at the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. Bartlett finished in third place. Buy Photo
Skee-Ball was invented in 1909 and originally featured  36-foot long lanes. In 1928 the length was cut to its current 14 feet.
Skee-Ball was invented in 1909 and originally featured 36-foot long lanes. In 1928 the length was cut to its current 14 feet. Buy Photo
Maris Toland (right) reacts to a ball gone astray as Margaret Kennedy, who placed second overall, bowls in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013.
Maris Toland (right) reacts to a ball gone astray as Margaret Kennedy, who placed second overall, bowls in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. Buy Photo
Skee-ball bowlers waiting their turn watch the action at the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013.
Skee-ball bowlers waiting their turn watch the action at the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. Buy Photo
Caleb Collins (left) and Bridget Kahn compete in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013.
Caleb Collins (left) and Bridget Kahn compete in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. Buy Photo
Anne Macri (left) and Sarah Bartlett compete in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013.
Anne Macri (left) and Sarah Bartlett compete in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. Buy Photo
Bridget Kahn (right) celebrates her victory after beating Margaret Kennedy for the number one spot in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013.
Bridget Kahn (right) celebrates her victory after beating Margaret Kennedy for the number one spot in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. Buy Photo
Bridget Kahn picks an over-large Care Bears clock as her first place prize in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. Each contestant brought a holiday present to re-gift.
Bridget Kahn picks an over-large Care Bears clock as her first place prize in the First Annual Portland Skee-Ball Championship at Bayside Bowl Sunday afternoon Jan. 27, 2013. Each contestant brought a holiday present to re-gift. Buy Photo

Skee-Ball, that ticket-spewing summer pastime of the seaside arcade, was invented and patented by J.D. Estes of Philadelphia in 1909. The first national championship was held in Atlantic City, N.J., in 1932. The first electronic lanes were manufactured in 1977.

To those Skee-Ball milestones, history now can add the first Portland Skee-Ball Championship, held at Bayside Bowl on Sunday afternoon.

Organizer Sam Heck, the Victoria Mansion’s director of development by day, had the idea a few weeks ago.

“I was at work on one of those snowy days,” he said, remembering how his mind drifted to familiar scenes of summer. “It got me thinking about Skee-Ball.”

He circulated his tournament idea on Facebook. The next thing he knew, he had a whole raft of friends, and friends of friends, interested in taking part.

“It started out as a joke,” he said Sunday, shrugging his shoulders.

Thirteen bowlers ended up taking part in the tournament Sunday. Heck and his wife, Katie Worthing, kept track of scores through an elaborate bracketing system that included a consolation round.

There was no entry fee. Instead, participants each brought an unloved holiday gift. The winner got first pick from the pile of treasures.

Bridget Kahn won first place. She chose an enormous Care Bears alarm clock. Margaret Kennedy placed second and Sarah Bartlett secured third place.

As congratulations were passed around, Heck could be heard making plans for next year’s tournament. Brad Feury, who somehow finished in fourteenth place out of thirteen contestants, immediately inserted two quarters into a lane and began to practice.

CORRECTION:

The headline on an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Skee-Ball is 113 years old. It is 103 years old.

More slideshows

SEE COMMENTS →

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business