The  Big 20 Bowling Center  
The Big 20 Bowling Center
382 U.S. Route 1
Scarborough, ME
(207) 883.2131
Big 20
The  Big 20 Bowling Center
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History of The Big 20 Bowling Center
Written by Karen Vachon and Rick Jones as told by Chris Anton

November 30th, 1950 was an exciting day. The 'State O Maine Bowling Center', known today as "The Big 20 Bowling Center" opened its doors on Route 1 in Scarborough. Originally, the 20 lane center featured four different games: Candlepin, 10 Pin, Duck Pin and the popular game known as Canadian 5 Pin. At the time of its construction, it was the largest in the state, with 20 noted officials being the first to take to the lanes. From sports casters and radio station managers, to New England Bowling champions to candlepin promoters, this was a grand opening not to be missed.

Visitors and Route 1 travelers will still see the original name, "State O Maine" proudly displayed on the building's signage. There was a local contest with a cash prize to name the center and "State O Maine" was the winner, with The Big 20 a close second. "The Big 20" seemed to roll off most peoples tongues and became the business name within a couple of year of the Grand Opening.

Albanian born Sofokli (Mike) Anton had come to America when he was five. Bowling was in his family's blood. His family has settled in Biddeford and his father had built a bowling alley in Saco during the depression. On Biddeford's Main street, that center featured candlepin bowling, billiards and roller skating. In 1939, Mike built a bowling alley: 20th Century Lanes on Franklin Street in Biddeford. From there, Mike brought bowling to Scarborough. This also meant a job for Mike's son, Chris who is still the current owner of The Big 20. The Anton family made Scarborough their home in 1952. When Mike retired from the business in 1977, his son Chris purchased the center from him. Chris's sights were originally set on business school, but when the Korean War broke out, his plans changed. The Big 20 had been a part of his life since its opening day he decided to stay with the family business.

The center provided many jobs for many of Scarborough's youth because when the center was first built in 1950, there were no such things as automated pin setters. "Pin Boys" as they were called set up the pins and sent the bowling balls back to the bowler. During those days, the "boys" received a nickel a string to set up the pins. It wasn't until the year 1954, when Mike got 10 automatic pin setters for the candlepin lanes and 2 years later, all 20 lanes became fully automated for candlepin.

Always looking to advance the sport, Channel 13's candlepin Bowling Show debuted on October 8th, 1960 broadcast from the Big 20. TV would be the lure to get more people into the sport and into the Maine Bowling Centers. The show was a live broadcast, and the bowlers showed up. Leading the way was Chris Anton, a bowling champ in his own right being the first bowler on the show.

Over the years, The Big 20 has hosted three world championships, two junior world championships and numerous Maine State championships, adding to its rich bowling history, drawing bowlers from all over New England and Atlantic Canada along the way. In 1980, the Big 20 Bowling Center was the first Candlepin Center in the state to be inducted into the Candlepin Hall of Fame for its contribution and dedication to the sport. The center, to this day, continues to contribute to the Town of Scarborough's economy as they bring guests into area hotels and restaurants, and provide a terrific and affordable form of family entertainment for local residents and visitors.

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