It 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.
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.
Then it was time to sit back and chill out on the cool chairs til it was your chance to bowl.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All we have left is the memories of spares, strikes, and turkeys bowled within them.
If you’re lucky enough to have a vintage bowling alley in your neighborhood, best go for a bowl before it becomes extinct.
Sprouting skyward out of the cracked bubbling blacktops of abandoned city parking lots, the rusty streetlights quietly weather out their last stand against the next nondescript stucco development that will inevitably usurp their real estate. Admiring these geometric giants orbiting above the urban sprawl, one can begin to imagine how the past was lit.
To see a bunch of old LA streetlights standing together in one random parking lot, check out Vermonica created by Sheila Klein.
You can find more photos of Los Angeles’ urban landscape at stripeycity.
This was my bowling alley. A few blocks east on Pico, at Westwood and Pico, The Picwood Bowl. I could walk there and I did. Endless entertainment because it was open 24 hours. Damn! Three levels of steps & chairs down to the main floor where the balls were tossed. A sunken cocktail lounge with trophies and forgotten odes to alcohol behind display glass. Always felt a bit weird sitting on a bar stool in that sunken bar – tall on the chair but short to the rest of the world up on level ground bowling.
But one day the lanes were stripped of their wood and the building flattened for one gigantic ugly hell of a shopping mall. Some post modern monstrosity. Designed by an architect raised on junk food & profit margins. Yes, the family who owned the lanes sold out. I hope the hell they made a lot of money because they made a lot of folks pretty damn unhappy when the sold out.
Across the street the Apple Pan still flips out burgers and pies, some of the best in Los Angeles.