AMF – From Bowling Balls to Bicycles?

StampBowlWheels4 copySpent part of the weekend tuning up an old yellow bicycle given to me over a decade ago. It was a thrift score, a 5-speed Roadmaster cruiser named Nimble.

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It was as cute as a button. When I first got it, I strapped a camera mount on it and used it as my photo excursion touring vehicle.

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Turns out, it wasn’t so nimble. Over time, I couldn’t ignore the clumsy proportions of the frame and the oversized seat which made for an awkward uncomfortable ride. So it ended up taking a back seat to more user friendly cruisers on hand. Alas, the Nimble sat neglected out on the roof I used to call home, braving the Southern California elements.

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Last weekend, I decided to get the little feller into working order again. It looked pretty sad– dusty and rusty with two flat tires. While cleaning her up, I noticed the familiar AMF branding on the bicycle frame. AMF? Of bowling alley fame?

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Yep! Brooklyn based American Machine and Foundry dabbled in a bit of everything. AMF got its start in 1900 by making equipment for the tobacco industry. By the 1940’s, it had diversified into all sorts of automatic manufacturing gear– from mechanical bread packagers to necktie stitchers to pretzel twisting machines.

It seems either a head scratcher or a logical progression that in the 40’s AMF would introduce the first automatic bowling pin setting machine. (Remember, humans used to do that job.) The so called Pinspotter was a hit! Because of it, AMF both helped create and profited from a countrywide “bowling boom”. This is why AMF would come to be synonymous with bowling. Lanes, balls, pins, and bowling alley operations would follow.

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In the 50’s AMF got into the bicycle racket. (Later, they also got into the tennis racket racket, but that’s another story.) The AMF Wheel Goods Division produced Roadmaster bicycles in a super automated factory in Little Rock, Arkansas. Thanks to the baby boom, they sold a lot of bicycles and soon moved operations to a bigger new factory in Illinois.

It’s there that AMF Wheel Goods started going downhill fast along with the quality of their bicycle line. It’s said that some bicycle shops even declined repairing Roadmasters, cause there’s no polishing a turd I guess.

The Roadmaster Nimble I have dates back to the 1970s and that’s just about when things started to go wheely bad over at AMF Wheel Goods. So it seems like I have a lemon on my hands. But that’s okay. Like a Cutter, I’ll pedal through the rough patches and make lemonade.

 

 

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Century Records Update– The Hits Keep Coming

Maybe our quest for Century Records wasn’t all for naught. A reader, Audrey wrote in to tell us that her dad, Sam Rice, was a recording tech there. Her memories begin to flush out the black and white sketch on the back of the record and what went on within.

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“I remember visiting the factory only a few times. I think I remember the processing room, but very dimly. I remember the smell of the records being made. I remember the red blue and gold records, I think. I mostly remember desert-like landscaping, the crunch of rocks instead of glass, and a water dispenser with cold water in the waiting room.”

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She even shared a peek of some of her pop’s Century Records paperwork– recording schedules and contracts. Looks like you could get a school record in the works for six bucks per unit back in ’65. Of course, this includes some whistles and bells like “special editing, anti static vinyl, and custom album cover”.  Wonder if color vinyl was extra?

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Turns out Audrey’s dad was a big of a big shot over at Century, at least in 1965 when he got a gold medal for a top 10 record.

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Unfortunately, her father has passed, but his name lives on– showing up on many of the Century Records in those thrift store bins.

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So we continue to scour those thrift shops while keeping our ears out for more Century Records stories… If you have any, drop us a line.

Disappearing Lanes

 

Bowl Header2 copyIt was a good Sunday when Dad packed us up in the station wagon for a trip to the local bowling alley.  The space aged geometric letters stretching into the sky were a sign of good times ahead.

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Trading in the old sneakers for a pair of groovy colored funny smelling shoes was treat enough. Then there was picking out the perfect ball and the nick name for the score sheet. Yeah, scoring was done with pencil, paper, and brain back then.

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Then it was time to sit back and chill out on the cool chairs til it was your chance to bowl.

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It wasn’t rock and bowl, or black light bowl, it was just plain bowling and it was plain fun. I remember there being lots of alleys back then and the lanes were usually packed.

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For the last few decades, old bowling alleys have been slowly disappearing from the Southern California landscape. Lately,  I read news of the likely closure of Burbank’s Pickwick Bowl.

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Will it be the next to join the bowling alley graveyard? The Covina Bowl had its last stand earlier this year and the Friendly Hills Bowl was hit by the bulldozer before that.

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They are in the good growing company of the iconic bowling centers that have gone before them. The Hollywood Star Lanes, Picwood Bowl, Panorama Bowl, La Mirada Bowl and many more classic mid mod architectural gems have been crushed for the vast and valuable real estate they occupy.

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All we have left is the memories of spares, strikes, and turkeys bowled within them.

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If you’re lucky enough to have a vintage bowling alley in your neighborhood, best go for a bowl before it becomes extinct.

Bukowski Drank Here, or Did He?

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“I started drinking before you people were born. I’ll be drinking after I bury you.”- Charles Bukowski

Chances are it’d be hard to figure all the joints Bukowski bellied up to. His domain was Hollywood and Western for a chunk of his life when he was boozing/ writing poetry and prose by day and sticking mail at the post office by night. There’s a neat video of him reminiscing about his old neighborhood here.

That hood has changed a lot since those days with arrival of the Metro Red Line and scads of soul-less structures filled with fast food and big box stores which knocked out whole city blocks of mom and pop shops. It used to have equal parts grit and personality… lots of bars, liquor stores, and street life.

Though Bukowski was long gone (moved to San Pedro in the late 70’s) the area still had flavor in the 80’s and 90’s when we captured these pix. This dive was on Western– perhaps he tipped a few back here before getting 86’d. Notice the sex shop next door.

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The Study is wedged between a hotel and a liquor store that Bukowski recalls, so maybe he did some “studying” here as well. This spot became a gay bar in the ’90’s and has now been erased from the landscape all together. I remember it having a pot belly fire pit inside, providing refuge from the cruel LA weather I guess.

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Buk is said to have ventured west on Hollywood Blvd. to the Frolic Room, which keeps pouring ’em strong to this day.

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Big Ed’s was a classic Culver City watering hole, popular among actors, gamblers, & hustlers in ’40s & ‘50s. It seems a stretch to think Bukowski would have been a regular here as it falls so far outside of his home turf.

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It had its last last call in the late ‘80s. Just before shuttering, it was transformed into The Golden Horn bar, the setting of the cult movie, “Barfly”, the only screenplay penned by Bukowski. If you squint, you may be able to imagine the Golden Horn neon atop the Big Ed’s. Bukowski had a cameo as a bar patron towards the end of the movie, so maybe just maybe he did drink here after all…

Sometime after the movie was made Big Ed’s was razed, but not before being mysteriously burned, which is when this shot was snapped. Wouldn’t you know it became a parking lot. Now that’s poetry.

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Find more photography of old Los Angeles dive bars here.

Godliness is Next to Mufflers

Kinda tough to take to the streets these days without stepping into some roadside sanctimony. Take or leave the big messy bag of religion and take a second to appreciate the hand painted art on exhibit in everyday locales. Admission is free to the public. See Jesus lording over automobile shops where he protects and warranties everything from crankshafts and transmissions to windshields.  And watch him preside over liquor store parking lots and back alleys, bringing hope to those with no bathrooms & no place to shoot up.

Amble along with us through the pious city streets and righteous country roads across the USA. Don’t be a-feared of the blood and apocalyptic messages. And just remember the choice is yours. Wherever you end up, send us a postcard.

The Perfect Manhattan

After a complex week you may need a simple recipe for a rye Manhattan. Skip the mixologist and stir up your own stiff one to kickstart the weekend.

Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey is key to this Manhattan. It’s good, it’s old (been around since 1810), and it’s  easy on the wallet. Just look for the Old Man on the label. You’ll also need some Angostura Bitters, Luxardo Marachino Cherries, and some fresh clean ice. Yeah, crusty old freezer burned ice can ruin a cocktail from the get-go.

 1. Fill cocktail glass with Old Overholt Rye Whiskey (for measuring purposes).

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2. Dump whiskey into a cocktail shaker with ice.

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3. Add a couple healthy shakes of bitters.

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4. Stir until whiskey is chilled.

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5. Strain into cocktail glass.

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6. Add twist of lemon, rub rind around rim & toss into glass.

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7. Add one or two Luxardo cherries followed by a couple spoons of cherry liquid.* The brand name is everything here. These cherries are not your run of the mill atomic candied cherries. They are extremely edible (known to be eaten atop ice cream) and make the drink.

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8. Stir gently until a bit cloudy.

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9. Toast your partners & drink!

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 Cheers!

*Most Manhattan recipes call for vermouth, but we think a couple drops of Luxardo cherry juice sneak in a less heavy-handed hint of sweetness.

Kelbo’s Resurfaces Thru The Scratches

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Digging through old negatives the other day, I came across a batch of scratchy, poorly preserved color negatives of Kelbo’s Restaurant. In the early 1980’s I moved into  a bungalow behind Kelbo’s in West Los Angeles. At that time, Kelbo’s was one of the last great post war tiki-style Polynesian restaurants left  in Los Angeles or perhaps the world. I recall seeing another Kelbo’s on Fairfax, across from Farmer’s Market, but that joint was demolished  a few days later, before I could snap a shot of it.

I had a sense that Kelbo’s wasn’t long for this world. There were never many folks inside drinking or eating  whereas the S.F. Saloon, LA’s first fern bar just a block away, was always hopping.

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Through the haze of time and booze, this is what I recall of the inside of Kelbo’s: thatched booths wrapped in bambo with a dramatic back lite plastic cocktail menu at the far end displaying Kelbo’s signature tiki-inspired rum drinks in wondrous colors of green, purple, fiery red & blue; tropical fish tanks on the backside of the bar; bartenders dressed like modern day Trader Joe’s employees; greasy sugary ribs that people loved; a round dance floor in the back with spinning disco ball and a circle  on the ceiling resembling the edge of a half coconut.

Luckily I snapped some shots of the outside, otherwise I would have never recalled the odd murals were painted on the doors & stucco. A few years later, Kelbo’s was sold, stripped of its soul and turned into Fantasy Island, a strip club which is how the building continues to function today.  I imagine the strippers  dancing beneath that coconut shell, working on the same floor once inhabited by spry seniors cutting a rug. I’m certain the fish tanks & glowing menus are long buried deep in a landfill.

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These murals were on the parking lot side of the building. They are painted in a film negative black & white look that some have found oddly racist looking.

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A few of the doors, one a black & white negative of the other.

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Who were the artists who created the murals? Not sure about the guys from Genius Inc but Carolyn Dulay is a graphic artist proud of her work at Kelbo’s.

muralartists-copyNotice the integration of the restaurant’s electric panel into the tropical look.

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The last stop on this tour is the junk shack in the back. Nothing of value inside folks so keep it moving!

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Explore more Kelbo’s history and photos at Old Los Angeles Restaurants and  Tiki Central. Huli pau!

Lookin’ for Love

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They say you only find love when you stop looking for it. Is this really so? We took to the streets on a love quest– pounding the pavement with our peepers peeled to see what we could find.

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We took it slow. We didn’t want to rush into anything, but things were looking promising.

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Probably just a fluke. But then this?

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And glancing down.

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Looking up.

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The walls.

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The stairway.

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The freeway.

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The doorway.

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The entryway.

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Hold up– maybe things are moving a bit too fast.

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Don’t want my heart to end up here.

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Maybe we need to break up. It’s not you, it’s me. And just remember:

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Thanks to all the artists out there putting love on the streets.

Check out the stripeycity shop to find quirky handmade sweet nothings for your sweet something this Valentines day.

Vinyl Revival

Vinyl is not dead, but records can die.

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These busted, moldy, scratched, and warped records have taken their last spin on the turntable. Such sorry LPs inhabit thrift stores, garages, basements, attics, flea markets, and bargain bins. They’re often wearing vintage jackets much too groovy for the grave.

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On a good day, we’re just in time to save a stack of played out LPs from the dump. Our Upcycled CD/DVD Holder Books breathe new life into discarded record albums while adding analogue charm to any digital media collection. Take a tour through past CD/DVD Cases handmade from salvaged album covers, accompanied by a tune played on a vintage Commodore 64 computer.

Beer Craft For Craft Beer Lovers

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Crazy for craft beer? You can’t seem to go far these days without stumbling across artisanal ales. Nothing like bellying up to the local bar for some local brew, but some days you just feel like cracking a cold one on the cheap in the comfort of your own home.

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For the love of good beer with a dash of dive bar atmosphere, we’ve created a set of Handmade Upcycled Photo Coasters to bring old school beer-sonality to your home bar.

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Stay in and enjoy a healthy session of homestead elbow bending, without endangering that heirloom coffee table.

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