Michigan man renovating back stairs finds 158 buried bowling balls

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What started out as a demolition and renovation project turned into a treasure hunt for a Michigan man who unearthed 158 bowling balls from under his back steps.

Seeking the source of a leak, David Olson of Norton Shores in Muskegon County started demolishing the concrete steps, only to discover some bowling balls. And then some more. And then they just kept on coming.

“It was full of bowling balls,” Olson told WZZM-TV. “The deeper I went down, the more I pulled out.”

Muskegon, as it turns out, has a long bowling ball manufacturing history. And a huge chunk of it was lodged in Olson’s backyard.

“It became mind blowing,” he said of unearthing so many pieces of Michigan history. “I kind of felt like a paleontologist when they got their little brush and they’re dusting the bones off.”

There were no holes drilled in them, and many were damaged, WZZM said.

“A few of them look like alien eggs,” Olson quipped. “Looks like I have some pretty nice antiques here.”

He did a bit of sleuthing and called the Brunswick Bowling office in Muskegon, given that the word “Brunswick” was engraved on most of the balls.

“They told me that back in the 1950s, they used to make damaged bowling balls available for people to take for free and use as landfill,” Olson told WZZM. “There’s no way to know for certain if that’s what the previous homeowner did, but given where the bowling balls were found, it seems logical.”

Muskegon County had been a hub for bowling manufacturing since 1906, when Brunswick Bowling Products came onto the scene and produced balls, pins and equipment for a century before relocating production to Mexico, MLive recounted.

In its heyday, 11 Brunswick factories in town churned out toilet seats, truck tires, bowling alley equipment and everything in between, Muskegon Heritage Museum site manager Kirk Bunke told MLive. The plant was shut down in 2006, MLive reported, and demolished a few years later.

Olson’s story is quirky enough that his original Facebook post garnered thousands of hits and comments, prompting him to create a separate page, The Ball Man Group, under the handle “the Bowling Ball Guy,” specifically “to share my plans and updates on the status of my balls.”

As for what to do with said balls, he plans to deploy some of them as landscape edging and make some into sculpture, he told the Detroit Free Press. A nearby church requested some to use in a bowling ball cannon at a pig roast, the newspaper said. His stepfather will also take some balls off Olson’s hands to use as custom furniture legs.

This piece of Muskegon history also resonates personally with Olson, he told MLive. His grandfather worked at the factory for 50 years.

And the history lesson isn’t over. Underlying his back patio, he’s convinced, is a “gridwork” of buried bowling balls, he told MLive. “I’m assuming underneath the whole thing is full of those,” he said.