by Randy Ooney
My Nickel’s Worth by Randy Ooney
“A long, long time ago, I can still remember when….” Back when ABC stood for American Bowling Congress; there were no dances in the end zone after touchdowns; no sack celebrations after throwing the quarterback for a loss; no 8 inches of hair hanging out from under helmets; and definitely no one waving rally rags, touchdown towels, or similar ripoffs of the Homer Hanky at professional sports events.
In those days I would frequent the Aqua Bowl in Deephaven, Biltmore Lanes in Edina, and an occasional stop at the Carriage House on Highway 55 next to Pizzanova. As is the case today, most bowling centers relied on sales from the bar to add to the bottom line. The Aqua Bowl was unique in that no liquor or beer was served there, (Although there were more than a few pint bottles hidden in bowling bags). 24 lanes with a great scoring condition, but maybe not quite as high for those with the bottles in the bags. Gus Young’s Biltmore Lanes on old highway 169 in Edina was where I entered my first league. 32 lanes and state of the art at the time, and owned by the famous basketball coach from Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter. The Carriage House was exquisite. It was modern at the time, and acoustically friendly, a very comfortable place to bowl. I am not sure why it did not make it, but it has been gone for quite a while.
ABC is now USBC, and my traveling league and visits to tournaments have uncovered some new ABCs of bowling. In the Northwest Metro there are 24 new lanes at the modern Andover Lanes as part of a large shopping complex in Andover. Chiodo’s full service pro shop serves the clientele, as well as a great bar and snack counter. One great feature is there are NO STEPS anywhere, great for those two wheel, three ball roadsters that frequent bowling centers now. One criticism however, the upper level ball returns hold a maximum of 10 balls. Keep those spare balls off the rack please. The Brunswick Zone of Brooklyn Park has been around for about 7 years now. Immediately on your left, as you walk through the automatic doors hauling your three ball roadster, is a menagerie of video games that can keep kids (age 5 - 95) occupied for hours. 48 lanes back to back, and designed to serve leagues, as well as birthday parties and special events. The Twins and WCCO radio have hosted several fund raisers there in recent years. Venture Northwest again up Coon Rapids Boulevard to Round Lake Boulevard and find Classic Bowl. 24 lanes kept in impeccable condition by my good friend Doug Schnabel, who never stops talking, but knows a lot about the back end of the bowling business. I am sure he could tear a pinsetter apart and rebuild it to plow snow in the winter. If you don’t believe me, just ask him. Scott Walkner runs the Ballworks pro shop, and also hosts Sunday morning and holiday sweepers.
So there’s my ABCs of 2011. Upcoming will be Doyle’s, Earle Brown, and Flaherty’s. Fair Lanes and Falcon Bowl are history. When I get to “Q” I’ll think of something.
Bigger, yes - Better maybe. Continuing an alphabetical revue of some of the bowling centers I have visited over the years. First, I need to follow up on letter C for those of you on the South side of the metro, I’m happy to report that Cedarvale and Fitz’s just off Highway 13 in the Burnsville Savage area welcome’s you. Brent Prentice and Pro Shop Guy Scott Pohl both do a great job!
In the 60’s, bowling became more and more popular, and the need for larger bowling centers was adapted by the market. Centers with 30 or more lanes were being constructed and filled with leagues nearly every night. On West Broadway in Crystal, Doyle’s Bowling Center stood proudly, well before the shopping centers opened nearby at the Bass Lake Road Crossing. Doyle’s has now developed some signs of age, and their lanes are a combination of synthetic heads with wood for the last 30 or 40 feet. Scoring is challenging but the recent Master’s tournament provided a test for the best.
The home of the famous “Lucky 13” tournament in Northeast Minneapolis is Elsie’s, 16 lanes that are well kept up by friends and former teammates Tim Tuttle and Neil Anderson. But the big house under “E” would be Earle Brown Bowl and Barnacle Bill’s in Brooklyn Center. I thought Brooklyn Center was where Ebbets Field was until I ventured to the North metro. Earle Brown has quite a story. He owned an expansive farm in the Shingle Creek area, but also founded the Minnesota Highway Patrol. Later he donated the entire farmland to the University of Minnesota. It appears that over time, the U of M sold or donated most of the land for development and now Mr. Brown has a heritage center and a bowling center named for him. Scott “Sodie” Sodergren does a fine job keeping the lanes in tip top shape. Getting to the pocket at Earle Brown is not a problem, but getting all ten into the pit is a different story. But it is a great facility that goes out of their way to serve our traveling league, and if allowed to brag just a little, the place where I shot my second 300 game in 1994. I do miss my baseball card collecting friend, Bill Vale, who tended bar at Barnacle Bill’s in the 90’s.
Over in Arden Hills, where there may or may not be a football stadium some day, there currently is a beautiful, modern bowling center, Flaherty’s. It has been remodeled more than once. I am not sure when it was first built, but the Flaherty’s have been in the bowling business since 1938.
As you walk in, you feel like you’re in a new facility. And down around Lane 8 you’ll find Mike’s Pro Shop. Mike Schmid moved from Minnehaha Lanes a couple of years ago, and in 2012 will celebrate 50 years of being a pro shop proprietor. Congratulations Mike!
Thanks to all who added bits and pieces to the recent article, (and corrected a couple of mistakes). History is always changing for people my age, because our minds are like computers. Insufficient memory.
Back in the good old days, which are frequently mentioned on these pages, hundreds of bowlers made the trip each year northwest on Highway 10 or 152 to the granite city of St. Cloud’s Granite Bowl for the annual Kegle tournament. Depending on your team’s endurance and organizational skills, you may have stopped for your nine games at Granite Bowl on Saturday, then continued further to Garden Center Lanes in Alexandria for another nine game event on Sunday. But whether you used one weekend or two, the challenging conditions and huge prize funds lured us back each year. When Interstate 94 opened as part of the Eisenhower roadway system, the drive to the tournaments was quicker unless you hit a snowstorm weekend, but that rarely happens in Minnesota. The Kegle tournament is history, but Garden Center is now hosting it’s 73rd annual event. Remarkable!
Although it’s presently known as Tuttle’s, I grew up in Hopkins and followed Hopkins Lanes to the three different locations. First a six lane center on the second floor, above Sheehan’s Liquors on Excelsior Avenue in Hopkins, (now Main Street). In the late 1950’s, Tom Sheehan and partner Earl Rodgers built a modern new 16 lane bowling center on the west side of Shady Oak Road. Business was good because within 15 years, a new building was built on the east side of the road, the 16 lanes were moved across the street, and 8 new lanes were added. The previous building became the Hopkins VFW Post 425. I probably bowled more games there than any other center, including participation in several leagues, and Dan Triske‘s famous “New Car Tournament“ which had bowlers coming in from ten states. I remember also standing in line in the Yellow Submarine bar waiting to play “Pong”.
I bowled a tournament or two at the now silent Hafner’s Lanes in St. Paul, but also wanted to mention Hutch Bowl in Hutchinson which I covered last year after participating in the Minnesota State Senior tourney. As I mentioned in that article, Hutchinson is named after my great great great grandfather, Asa Hutchinson, and Hutch Bowl is named after the town, along with about 75 per cent of the businesses in that fair city.
But also, Hutch bowl is one of the newly constructed bowling centers, very similar to Junction Bowl in Isanti, MN. Junction Bowl is a newer modern center, with league and open bowling, as well as volleyball courts, flag football tournaments, horseshoes, bar and restaurant, and foosball, pinball, and video games. Junction Bowl was host to the State Senior tournament in 2008. And since it’s in Isanti, I am counting this as “I” and “J”. See you later with K-L-M. (Sounds like an Airline).
Continuing with an alphabetical review of a few bowling centers in the area, to find a “K”, we have to travel about 100 miles west of the Twin Cities to visit the Kandi Entertainment Center in Willmar. Sometimes when we think of smaller cities in Minnesota, we see in our mind a general store, a gas station, a church with a steeple, and 40 or 50 grain elevators run by the Co-op. Of course it’s seldom true, many of those towns now have Native American Casinos also. But Willmar has a beautiful and modern bowling center featuring 24 lanes and all the amenities that we look for in a center now. Bar, Restaurant, and party rooms to handle kids birthdays and grown ups weddings. Kandi has also hosted the Minnesota State tournament at least twice in the last decade.
Over the years the Twin Cities have had many bowling centers with names starting with “L”. I remember Lincoln Rec on Hennepin, downtown. There was Luxury Lanes on the west side, and I bowled more than a few tournaments at Lynbrook up on 694 and 252. Interesting intersection, because if you have a 252 game, you have a shot at a 694 series. These centers are all history now, but the survivor I found was Lariat Lanes on 63rd and Penn Ave South in Richfield. A family owned 12 lane center that has been here since 1958. I confess that I have not bowled there, but it is a frequent stop on the Southside senior traveling league.
Mmm Mmm good. M & M candy. Mauer and Morneau. And Midway Pro Bowl and Memory Lanes. Midway is another survivor, basement level 24 lane center in the Midway Shopping Center on University Avenue just East of Snelling. Lanes are kept in top condition by proprietor Al Loth, and the On Track Pro Shop is now manned by Jason Hanson and Dan Beckjorden. I have bowled a few MSC tournaments there, but my interesting comment is that 30 years ago, when I worked in the Selby Dale area, and before I ever met Al Loth or Gary Arntzen, I used to pop down to Midway on my lunch hour to play Pac Man. Construction of the light rail is causing access problems in that area these days. There’s an MSC tournament coming there early next year. Let’s have a big turnout. Memory Lanes was within walking distance from the District office of my employer, and I spent more than a few hours each week – Lunch, league bowling, karaoke, and the occasional cocktail after work. Bob and Dick Tuttle were the proprietors, and I watched the 30 lane center year by year constantly improving. Wood to synthetic lanes, Kubica automatic scoring, and $100 for a perfect game in league play. Of course it was the Stardust back then, and hosted one of the best leagues in the cities, Wednesday night Southtown league, with big game jackpots. Then Al Larson entered the league with a team and hosted scratch and handicap brackets. He worked his tail off, (as Gardy would say), but made a few dollars, and many nights there were 50 or more brackets on the board. You could spend $100 a night bowling in that league, but you could also go home with $300 if you had a big night.
So that’s my K – L – M installment, but the M can also stand for MERRY CHRISTMAS to all my friends who take time out from their busy day on Facebook to read the news on mnbowling.
A few weeks ago we left off with the letter M on the review of some of the bowling centers in the area. Before tackling the next few letters, I want to go back and mention Louisville Lanes in Shakopee. A very clean 24 lane center a couple of miles west of Mystic Lake. Louisville has hosted several local senior events in the past several years, and the MSC is traveling there this month. I can’t pass by the MMM good M’s without mentioning Maple Lanes in Fridley. This AMF center has hosted many CBA’s, MSC’s, ABT’s, as well as local Minneapolis and Minnesota Association events. Rumor has it that it is under new management. I’ll find out for sure in a few weeks when my traveling league stops there. Over in Moundsview in the St. Paul Association lies Mermaid Lanes. You can’t miss it, there’s a huge mermaid on the roof overlooking the parking lot and county road 10. Greg and Jeff Reiners handle your bowling needs in A to Z Pro Shop, and Mermaid continues to offer free bowling to patrons over 21 years of age on certain weeknights after leagues.
On to a continuation of the alphabet. On County Road 9, aka Rockford Road in New Hope lies New Hope Lanes. Here is a well established 32 lane center that has hosted many city and state tournaments over the years. I’m not sure if it still exists, but I recall the late night annual Thanksgiving Eve 8 gamer that kept you sleeping until noon while Mom fixed the turkey. Many bowlers from the big potato Stardust Wednesday night Southtown league would bee line to New Hope and fill the house. Sorry, but I searched from Osseo to Owatonna, Oswego to Ortonville, but could not locate a bowling center starting with O. I’m sure I’ll hear about it from somebody. In St. Louis Park we have the Park Tavern. A friendly older establishment that will remind you of bowling in the 60s and 70s. Scoring conditions are a bit tougher there but a great place to visit. On the other side of the coin, there is a new center in Oakdale, PINZ. PINZ is one of those places where the kids can play laser tag while you enjoy a game of bowling while munching on chips dipped in baked spinach and artichoke dip. You can get the usual bowling center fare of a burger or pizza, but the dinner menu also includes enticements like sirloin steak.
Hope your 2012 is going well. For those like me that have not ice fished for 40 years, and don’t particularly care for snow, I am much happier than last year at this time.
Indeed I have totally skipped Q. 5Q plus 5Q equals 10Q. You’re welcome. Continuing with an alphabetical mention of some of the bowling centers in the metro area: My only stop on the R’s is a historic center in St. Paul, Ran-Ham Lanes. As the name suggests, it is located at the intersection of Randolph and Hamline. Near Cretin-Durham Hall High School, perhaps Joe Mauer or Paul Molitor stopped in for a game of two after school. It’s been a long while since I have been there. If I remember correctly, there are 8 lanes in the basement of the building. In the 60s and 70s, Ran-Ham would host an annual tournament. They wanted to make it like a mini Peterson, 4 games across 8 lanes. They did not have to try too hard to make the scoring condition challenging. There are not too many Ran-Ham Lanes left. If you want to take a nostalgic trip of bowling as it was in the 50’s, take a trip to Ran-Ham.
Fore! One of the challenges of owning a bowling center or a golf course in our land of 10,000 lakes is, of course, the extreme changing seasons. Bowling centers are fairly idle in the summer, and I didn’t see anyone playing golf on the local courses this month. Sundance Golf and Bowl in Dayton has addressed the problem well. A bowling center AND a golf course to satisfy four season demands. At one time, Southtown Lanes near 80th and Penn was the largest center in Minnesota with 48 lanes. Some of the XL Zones have equaled that number, but I do not know of a larger center. Southtown has hosted many tournaments over the years, city, state, CBA, MSC, ABT, and more. But the most prestigious event has to have been the 1995 Women’s BPAA U.S. Open. I took the week off at work, bowled in the pro-am (I was an am), and used a season ticket to watch hours of great bowling. Cheryl Daniels was the victor, defeating Tish Johnson in the finals. It was a bit of a drawback for me when the finals were moved to the Blaine Sports Center, but still a great event for Minnesota. A bit North of town in Wyoming, and newer center, Stars and Strikes is making a name for itself. The St. Paul city tournament was there this year as well as a number of local tournament events in the past several years. Stars and Strikes is one of the newer Xtreme type centers that caters to bowlers as well as birthday parties and video gamers. The other side of the coin, in South Minneapolis you can bowl at Skylanes. A 10 lane establishment, historical, but home for many years to a fun and famous trios tournament.
I cannot forget one of my current bowling venues in St. Louis Park, 24 lanes at Texa Tonka. Near the intersection of Texas and Minnetonka Boulevard, Tex is an established bowling center with history, but has kept up with the times and is a comfortable place to bowl. The wall is full of names credited with honor scores, and Tex has acquired a reputation of being a high scoring house. There is some truth to that, but Texa Tonka has also held on to a tradition of having scratch leagues available to bowlers. A lot of bowling centers have eliminated scratch leagues for various reasons. (I maintain that higher average bowlers do not consume as much alcohol. There is however the drock exception.) U thru Z will end this trip soon. Thanks for taking the tour.