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.

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Lost in the Past Century – Century Records

Before School of Rock there was Century Records. Nothing against the 6-year-old guitar prodigy or the teen wonderkid singer songwriter, but who doesn’t love a creaky out of tune cover song played by a run-of-the-mill middle school band?

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Century Records was largely a franchise operation. Local recording companies across USA peddled Century’s LP Packages then sent their school recordings to Saugus, California to be pressed and printed. Century was the brain child of a guy named Keyser who was deep into plastics and vinyl.  In fact, Century eventually became a strictly plastics operation and stopped its franchising of school records all together.  But not before creating a library of unique no-frills LPs for amateur tin-ear archeologists to unearth and revive.

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In our unrelenting mission to rescue junked albums, we first ran into these LPs in thrift store bargain bins. They usually have a pretty generic cover with a distinctive sketch of the Century Records Building on the back. Some of the tracks are are pretty good, though we prefer the cuts with plenty of rough around the edges. These numbers illustrate the beauty of the Century Record concept: everyone can get a shot at being a recording artist and have the LP to prove it!

Such dillies include Alameda High School Band’s version of Greensleeves on yellow vinyl, the Byrd Junior High 1964 Band’s medley of hits from West Side Story, and the Wilson Junior High School Chorus’ 1967 rendition of the Impossible Dream. Standards like these become instant entertainment in a way that karaoke never could be.

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A few years ago, it dawned on us that we might be able to find the Century building as sketched on the back of the LPs– after all, Saugus is practically in our own backyard. Armed with a map, some Century LPs, and a camera, we headed north on Highway 5. We were certain this distinctive looking building would be easy to spot. No such luck.

We showed the LP to the owners of a local coffee shop, several gas station attendants, and even the woman on duty at the historical society.  No one had heard of the place let alone seen this building. Everyone was really nice though, and the historical society lady even thanked us for educating her about her own town. Alas Century Records was obsolete– erased from the local memory and urban landscape. We’ll just have to turn to the turntable for solace in Wilson Junior High’s The Impossible Dream.