Glendale’s Grand Central Airport closed down in the 1950s, and eventually the property was developed as a business park called the Grand Central Industrial Center. One of the new buildings was Grand Central Bowl, a $1-million project at the corner of Sonora Avenue and Flower Street.
The bowling alley, designed by William Rudolph of Pasadena, was developed in mid-1959 by Sports Arenas Inc., according to the Los Angeles Times, May 31, 1959. It included a restaurant and cocktail lounge, coffee shop and children’s playroom.
Rudolph’s architectural firm designed many bowling alleys and entertainment complexes. After the Grand Central project, he was hired to remodel an old boxing arena at El Centro Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard. He turned it into a 44-lane bowling alley at a reported cost of $500,000, per the Times, August 28, 1960. It had a playroom for children, a cocktail bar, billiard room and a snack bar.
In early 1962, he designed a 70,000-square-foot, 72-lane bowling center in Houston. The complex, within a 3-acre amusement park, boasted a barbershop, beauty salon, coffee shop and sporting goods department.
Later that same year, he planned a shopping and recreation center in Carpinteria with a bowling alley, family billiard club, coffee shop and cocktail lounge. Also in 1962, he designed two bowling and amusement centers in St. Louis for Bowling Corporation of America, making a total of 18 centers his firm had designed for that group, as reported in The Times, April 22, 1962.
Kim MacLeod, who grew up on Cleveland Road in Northwest Glendale, remembers the Grand Central Bowl fondly. She and her younger sister, Ann, often bowled there when they were young.
“The Grand Central Bowl was very large, but since it was the only bowling alley I knew, I took it for granted. When you entered, if you would go to the right there was a coffee shop. If you went to the left, you would walk up some wide carpeted steps into the bowling alley.” Just inside the entrance was the front desk for shoe rentals, scoring sheets and lane assignments. “This is where the Grand Central Bowl stood apart from most other bowling alleys in that there were 60 lanes — 30 lanes on the left side as you walked in and 30 on the right side.”
In the 1960s, MacLeod said, she and Ann both took lessons through their Girl Scout troops. “If I remember correctly, there were six lessons, so you could learn the basics of how to bowl.”
Her family was not a bowling family, MacLeod said, but during long summer days, her mother would drop the two girls off at the bowling alley. “We would bowl three games and then call her to come pick us up when we were finished. In those days, you never even had to give second thought about whether it was safe or not.”
MacLeod said that, in those days, the Grand Central Bowl had no amenities, such as bumpers in the gutters for novices or automatic scoring. “I have been to many other bowling alleys, many with the new amenities, but none compares to the Grand Central Bowl. I was very sorry to see the Bowl closed when Disney bought the property.”
The former bowling alley is now part of the Walt Disney Co. complex. The exterior was used in “Pulp Fiction,” according to www.itsfilmedthere.com.
George Ellison of Special Collections answers a query (Verdugo Views, July 10) regarding the origin of Willard Avenue in Northwest Glendale. “Willard Avenue, from 6200 San Fernando Road, was laid out through a subdivision handled by Willard Fry and was given his name.” Willard runs between San Fernando and Glenoaks Boulevard.
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