Granted, a view of bowling lanes is not the usual scenery while sitting at the Thanksgiving table.
But for about 45 county residents that view not only was the promise of an after-dinner treat, but also the backdrop for a delicious holiday meal -- a meal they wouldn't have been able to enjoy had it not been for the generosity of the Coale family of Bel Air.
Mary, 58, and 60-year-old Pres Coale, owners of Bel Air Bowl on U.S. 1, and their children wanted to do something special this Thanksgiving. So with the help of the county Department of Social Services, the Coales invited 60 needy residents for a holiday meal to share a dinner and a few games of bowling. About 15 of those invited were unable to attend, said the Coales.
"We have so much to be thankful for," said Mary Coale, "we wanted to share it with others."
The Coales say they didn't mind the extra work.
Like many American families, stuffing and roasting a turkey, mashing potatoes and cooking sauerkraut is routine on Thanksgiving for the Coales.
This year, it just meant putting a few extra turkeys in the oven -- four 20-pounders to be exact -- and chopping a lot more onions and celery for the dressing.
"Everything was made from scratch, except the pumpkin pies," said Mary Coale, who started with the dinner preparations shortly before 6 a.m.
"Dinner was excellent. I just couldn't believe that somebody would give up their time and do something like that," said Christina Jarusek of Abingdon, who was one of the guests with her daughter, Angelique, 7.
Jarusek also took her fiance and his 2-year-old daughter, Andrea Newman, to the dinner.
Jarusek said she was particularly impressed with the candles that glowed at every dinner table.
"I can't remember ever having Thanksgiving dinner by candlelight," she said. "Everything was glowing. It really gave me a warm feeling."
Candlelight wasn't the only new Thanksgiving experience for Jarusek, though. She also tasted pumpkin pie for the first time.
"It was delicious. I always thought I wouldn't like it. I guess I never really gave it a try," she said.
Jarusek said the afternoon will be a nice memory for them.
"We got to do something we couldn't have done at home -- eat dinner and bowl," she said. "And everybody even got a whole box (of leftovers) to bring home. They didn't have to do that."
The idea for their special dinner, which the Coales hope will become an annual event, came together last Thanksgiving Day, said Mary.
"Our daughters always wanted to work at a soup kitchen instead of having dinner at home," she added, "and that's when Pres said 'Let's have our own soup kitchen next year.' " The Coales had room for their guests at their bowling alley's restaurant, whose kitchen is big enough to handle the turkeys and all the trimmings. Some of the money for the feast was raised through a "Turkey Bowl" fund-raiser sponsored by league bowlers earlier this month.
All that was needed was the guest list, which was quickly provided by Joy Rich, director of the "Neighbors in Need" program at the county Department of Social Services.
"This is the first time a business in Harford County opened its doors and invited families to a Thanksgiving meal," said Rich.
Needy families usually receive Thanksgiving baskets, but seldom are they invited out to a sit-down dinner, said Rich. Another project to provide full-course Thanksgiving dinners to the needy is run by students at Havre de Grace High School, who cook dinner for more than 100 people. Several churches also sponsor Thanksgiving Day dinners.
"The demand for help at the holiday season is greater than we can fill.
So it is especially gratifying to see that many people are going to the bowling alley," said Rich.
The Coales even offered to provide transportation to the bowling alley, noted Rich. And bowling after dinner was a treat, especially for children, he said.
Once word got out about their dinner plans, the Coales received many offers of help.
"Several people coming in here handed us $5 bills after seeing the sign advertising our Turkey Bowl to help raise funds for the dinner," said Pres.
Others offered to help in the kitchen, staffed by the Coales, daughters Joyce Westervelt and Jeannie Burnham, sons-in-law David Westervelt and Billy Burnham and grandchildren David and Jennifer Westervelt.