My First Las Vegas Experience – A Toast to Don Johnson By Johnny Petraglia

How We Traveled To Bowl On The PBA In The Early Days

In 1966, my first full year on tour, many weeks a lot of us traveled together. We were usually 2 or 3 to a car. Remember it was 1966 so everybody had only one bowling ball, possibly two, so it was easy for three guys to to travel in one car. Jim Godman had a Black GTO, Don Glover had a purple and white Caddy and Don Johnson had a gold Mustang. All gas guzzlers, but gas was 28 cents a gallon, split three ways it was pretty cheap to travel. A typical motel room was $25 a night, split 3 ways. So a typical week for travel, room, and food plus entry fee ($150) ran about $250 a week. Last check was $300, so if you cashed you at least broke even for the week.

The group most weeks consisted of Godman, Glover, Johnson, Sam Baca, Mike Limongello, Barry Asher once in a while, and myself. It’s great to look back because the total amount of titles at that time for the group was seven, today the total number of titles for the same guys is 76. Had Godman, Asher, and Limongello stayed on tour the number would be over 100. Barry Asher is the fastest bowler to ten titles in PBA history, if he had stayed on tour….When they debate who’s the best all time, I believe Barry’s name would be in the mix. I always traveled with Don Johnson. The reason being Koko (Don’s nickname because he was from Kokomo Indiana) loved music and carried his own HI-FI system. He had the first auto record player. It fit under the dash on the passenger side. You could slip one 45RPM record in at a time much like the way you put in a CD today. My job every 2 and half minutes was to change the record. There was no FM radio then, and except for the big radio stations in the big cities, like WABC-New York, WLS-Chicago, KNON-L.A., you lost the station 30 miles outside the city. So Koko’s 45’s were the only music on a trip.

We had just got done bowling in Fresno CA. and our next stop was Las Vegas. Everybody was leaving in the morning, but Koko said, “We’re not, we’re leaving in the afternoon.” I asked why and he said, “Because you’ve never been in Vegas before and nobody should see Las Vegas for the first time in the daytime, you should first see it at night.” So Koko, Baca, and myself left about 3 in the afternoon. About 20 miles from Vegas you start to see the lights and Koko was right. It was such a beautiful sight. Koko didn’t drive to the Showboat where we were bowling. He drove to the middle of downtown. He stopped right in the middle of the intersection where The Golden Nugget, The 4 Queens, The Mint, and the Horseshoe were on the 4 corners. He then said, “Okay Rags (that was my nickname, ‘Johnny Rags,’ because if you took off the Pet in the beginning and the Lia at the end of my name, you have Rag in the middle). Anyway, he said, “Okay Rags, get out of the car, stand in the middle of the street and take a good look, this is the brightest spot in the world”…..and it was…..A Toast to Don Johnson!!! I’m holding up my wine glass, Salute.

cento anni’…Johnny Petraglia

*My apologies to Mike McGrath and Ken Sheldon. I didn’t realize Bill Allen got to 10 titles so quickly. He’s right some rooms were $10, in Toledo there was a motel that was $25 for the week. I was talking in general terms. Also Ken Sheldon is correct, there was no winter Olympics in 1966. I thought it was the Olympics. It was probably the World Figure Skating Championships in Davo Switzerland in Feb. 1966. and probably on ABC Wide World of Sports which was the big show at that time..I knew it was something big, I thought it was the Olympics, I was wrong.

To Mike and Ken, looking back 48 years, I will make some mistakes on perimeter issues,but the personal memories will be accurate.

2 thoughts on “My First Las Vegas Experience – A Toast to Don Johnson By Johnny Petraglia

  1. Gary Parsons says:

    Great story. If that crew could have gotten together to write a memoirs book – now that would have been a GREAT read. Congrats Johnny for being honored with the “Flowers for the Living” award. Couldn’t have had a better choice.

  2. Joan Taylor says:

    Hats of to Johnny P and all the bowlers “back in the day.” I enjoyed talking to some of the veterans about a motorhome story for the BJ’s 100th anniversary issue and got some insight into the olden days of the tour. The readers are right….someone (senior PBA bowlers, Chuck Pezzano, et al) should write a book about the olden days of the tour…the funny stuff of course (Larry Lichstein should be a font of information here). Also a big Congrats to “Rags” for the Flowers for the Living Award. VERY much deserved!

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