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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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.

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.

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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Field Notes for Urban Adventurers

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Take note. Our handmade upcycled photo notebooks are one of a kind. Pick a theme that strikes your fancy– from Pizza to Urban Birding to Mid Mod Architecture. Original urban photography inside and out is sure to inspire some bright ideas. Tour our mini journals here and put one in your pocket!

 

 

The Hand Writing is on the Walls

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It tells you where to park, what’s for sale, or how much for a haircut. I may not go in for the advertised clutch job or psychic reading, but I’m sold on the peeling-paint fonts and colorful crooked letters that make the walls come to life. A field trip through the city is a walk through a typographic gallery. It’s as if these walls can talk.

Check out our urban typography mini journal here http://etsy.me/1z0VNzF . Perfect for recording field notes on your urban rambles.

City Lights

CityLightsSprouting 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.