Turkey Bowling

You probably never wonder what goes on in a Supermarket after hours. That’s most likely for the best. If you knew you may never look at your food the same way again.

Like many American’s I had a summer job working in a supermarket when I was a kid.  Most of the kids working there really didn’t need the money, but our parents thought it would be a “good learning experience” for us to have a job.  They were right about it being a learning experience. Whether or not it was good, is another matter.

The supermarket would not close until late at night and that’s when all the high level managers would go home their families.  Left behind in the gigantic store were all the people with the low level jobs who still had a few hours of work left to perform. We had to re-stock the shelves, sweep the aisles, empty the trash, clean the counters.


It was incredibly boring work,  at least it was until we  began cleaning the floor near a display containing frozen turkeys. That’s when my friend Kevin came up with an idea. He reached inside the freezer and lifted out a frozen Butterball turkey. Kevin had noticed that Butterball turkeys were packaged in a plastic net, with a convenient handle on the top to make them easy to lift.

Kevin took the turkey by the handle, swung it back like it was a bowling ball and then shot it forward  like the supermarket aisle was a lane. It turns out that the ice coating on the outside of the turkey makes an excellent lubricant and the turkey smoothly sailed down the aisle.

turkey 3

Within minutes we were suddenly surrounded by everyone else working in the store that night.  They did not want to reprimand us. They wanted to get in on the fun. Cans of soup and peas were taken off the shelves and set up as bowling pins. Teams were established and bets were placed.

Regular bowling can be fun, but it cannot compare with the thrill of sliding a frozen turkey down a supermarket aisle into a mountain of canned corn while all your friends cheer.

turkey 2

We turkey-bowled for about an hour, and then someone remembered the time.  We only had 30 minutes to put back the turkeys, replace the cans and clean the whole store before the General Manager of the store showed up.  He came by at the end of each night to do a final check, get everyone out of the store and set the alarm.

We scurried about frantically, working harder than we had all summer. We stocked shelves, cleaned and polished, and removed all traces of our illicit sporting event. When the manager arrived, he actually complimented us on how clean the store looked.

I always thought were were the kids who invented turkey bowling and that it was unique to my hometown of Stamford Connecticut. Then years later I happened to mention it to my wife.  She told me that as a kid  she also had a job in a supermarket in Ardsley New York. It turns out that in Ardsley they also bowled in the supermarket aisles, except that they used frozen hams not turkeys. Apparently there are regional variations to the sport.  Over the years I have found that just about everyone who worked in a supermarket as a kid had a similar story.

Of course, now days stores have so many hidden security cameras that it would be impossible to do any of this. When the manager is not around, the workers have to actually work, knowing that the “eye in the sky” is watching their every move. One of the true “learning experiences” of a summer job has disappeared forever.

I’m glad they didn’t have those security cameras when I was a kid. The job paid almost nothing, the hours were long and the work was boring.  Despite that, I still remember it as one of the best jobs of my career.  It wasn’t the job that made it great. It was the fact that we were young and surrounded by friends and still at an age where we could make even a frozen turkey and a few cans of corn into a great adventure.

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