Nostalgia takes a front seat. I recently came across a gentleman Kevin Hong whom has gone around the countryside bowling and takes the time to photograph these stuck in time old bowling alleys. Kevin has a real soft spot for these and has made a project of vanishing alleys to document and record them for all time. We can’t forget the colorful past of bowling, set in the basement of many buildings. Wooden lanes, rubber bowling balls, pin boys that hand set with precision, scorers table and above ground ball returns. Today’s modern centers are half bowling center with hints of lounges, wifi hotspots and eateries. Lavish rooms with prices to match for those private room bowling parties. Bowling “Alleys” of the past were not all family friendly places, filled with smoke and dimly lit, often with the stench of stale beer hitting your sinuses at the opening of a door. Some of these past centers speak of a simpler time. The old days of the AMF triangles and Brunswick crowns. Plastic seating in a circle all either blue or yellow. The brightly lit scorekeepers table with the overhead that could blind you if you happen to look into the light for to long and a pimply faced kid sitting at that scorers table. Remember?
I asked Kevin which alleys he had photographed and which ones stood out the most, He said, “Ebey Bowl, on Whidbey Island in Washington state, is out in the middle of this country road. You see farms, fields, and then suddenly out of nowhere, there’s a 6-lane bowling alley. It used to be a squash barn before the lanes were installed, and it was closed for years. The previous owner was using it as storage, it is rumored that he stored a huge boat on the lanes. A couple years ago, it was purchased by a brother and sister team who wanted to resurrect it and give their community a place to gather and have fun again as well as fill a void. In the Seattle area, several large centers have closed down in the past 10 years. So I am always inspired when I hear of someone wanting to save a place (especially a small one that’s been closed for a while) and open it back up.” Many have asked if it is better for the sport to do away with these centers of the past, this is Kevin take on that question . “Judging from the response to the photographs I’ve posted so far, other bowlers enjoy looking at them as well. I don’t like to see bowling centers close but I really hate it when one of these small places closes down. It’s hard to find people willing to buy them and fix them up, so it’s almost like they are going extinct as well. It’s a shame.”
Modernization is inevitable but it is great to see these alleys documented and saved for all to enjoy. We need to remember the past so we can see how far bowling has come in the last 100 years. I enjoyed viewing Kevin Hong’s website www.vanishingalleys.com. There are some great photos of our bowling’s past. Take a quick moment to admire Kevin’s work and put a smile on your own.