He was tabbed by a colleague as “the most feared money bowler in Rockland County.” When the all-time greats in Rockland bowling are mentioned, Pete Hackett’s name is always included. It’s no secret why. “Pistol Pete” established numerous records in alleys throughout the county and, although he would never say so himself, set a standard over five decades that few others could equal.
“He was very humble. You would have to drag it out of him,” says Hackett’s son Tom, a Harrington Park, N.J., resident, who often accompanied his dad to the various alleys in the region. “I spent a lot of time with him in bowling alleys. He dragged me around to different alleys for opening nights. It was a big part of his life.”
Pete Hackett was the first person to average higher than 200 in the Rockland County Major League – his precise average was 201.39, over 72 games in the 1945-46 season – and he did it bowling on all the different alleys in the county. The following year, 1947, he rolled the first 700 series (for three games) in the Rockland County Bowling Association Tournament.
Among his many other distinctions, Hackett compiled a record three-game total of 722 in the Rockland County Major League; broke a 29-year record at DeJong’s Lanes in Nyack in 1946 with a 299; bowled a 289 game in 1948; and posted a 740 series in one of New Jersey’s top leagues in 1950. In an article by Roger Cornell, who was a longtime bowling columnist for The Journal-News, Cornell stated that Hackett had “a habit of winning high average honors in just about every league in which he has bowled.”
While Hackett’s long right arm brought him unvarnished success in the alleys, he also had a large hand in the formation of organized bowling in the county. Would you believe the Rockland County Bowling Association was conceived right in Hackett’s living room in South Nyack? That mid-1940s meeting included Hackett, Cornell, Ed Maurer and Sal Mayo, all of whom had a major impact on bowling in Rockland County. Maurer and Hackett also were co-founders of the popular Golden Pins Tournament in 1947.
Hackett got his start in bowling at age 18. A native of Guttenberg, N.J., whose father died at an early age, Hackett spent several months living at the St. Agnes School, an orphanage in Sparkill. However, a relative from Ireland, a monsignor, sent money to Hackett’s cousin, Al Coneys of Nyack, to enable Pete (who was 14 at the time) and his two sisters to live with Coneys, who just happened to be a champion bowler in his own right.
Coneys introduced Hackett to bowling at the Fort Comfort Lanes in Piermont. Hackett was fond of reminiscing about the old two-lane setup. In the cold-weather months, after rolling your ball you hustled back to the pot-bellied stove to try to stay warm. And when the tide was high and the wind was blowing off the Hudson, the pits filled with river water and games had to be postponed.
In those days most alleys were two-lane houses, such as the Garnerville YMCA, the 76 House in Tappan and Zink’s in West Nyack. The Pleasure Palace in Haverstraw ushered in the era of the four-land house, followed by the YMCA in Nyack and the Congers Hotel lanes.
Hackett was proud to have bowled with and against such national bowling Hall of Famers as John Koster of West Nyack – Rockland’s only national Hall of Famer and a mentor of Hackett’s – Junie McMahon, Lou Campi and Teata Semiz. Hackett also bowled with local standouts like Maurer, Wally Gerken, Al Turk and Tommy Probert, to name a few.
Such was the esteem in which Hackett was held that he received, in 1951, the John Koster Memorial Trophy as the person who had done the most for bowling in Rockland County. He also served as president of most of the high-average leagues in Rockland.
After serving for 31 years as superintendent of public works for the Village of South Nyack, Hackett retired and moved in 1970 to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he continued to bowl in a senior league. He died in 1981 at age 78.