I still remember Nickodell, nestled between KHJ Channel 9 and Paramount Studios on Melrose almost as if it were a part of the studio complex. I was lucky enough to go there (way past its heyday) in the 80’s to grab an ice cream at the counter on a trip to the Paramount lot. I still remember snapping a shot of the mighty neon sign atop the building. Traveling up Melrose nowadays, I can almost still see it through the fog of history.
In 1936, restauranteur Nick Slavich took over the joint originally called the Melrose Grotto, and made it his own, at some point re-dubbing it Nickodell, a mash-up his and his wife’s names. (He owned another Nickodell a bit north on Argyle, but that’s another story.) It was an eatery (and boozery), largely popular with studio types, dishing out old school American fare like steaks, baked potatoes, and beloved Caesar salads.
Nickodell closed in November of ’93 and was subsequently demolished by Paramount in ’94 to make way for a few more spots in their parking lot, leaving us only with a few matchbooks and fond memories.
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.