Bowling memories at Verdugo Hills Bowl

Kathy Reger Souza, who spent many hours at Verdugo Hills Bowl in her youth, has fond memories of the now-demolished bowling alley.

"It all started in 1970 with a brochure distributed by the city of Glendale Parks and Recreation Department at the end of third grade," she wrote in the June, 2010 Crescenta Valley Ledger, published by the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley.

Among the many offerings was "beginning bowling," which looked great to her mother, Norma Reger, who needed to get Souza, then 8, her two older brothers, Steve and Paul, and younger sister, Marianne, out of the house a few mornings a week, Souza explained in a recent e-mail.

The bowling alley, on Foothill Boulevard near Pennsylvania Avenue, had something for everyone, she recalled, including a "great, classic, old-fashioned bowling alley cafe with eight or so stools at the counter. In one 12-year-old opinion, the snack bar had the best Cherry Coke over finely crushed ice in a glass ever."

Junior bowling was popular, drawing more than 100 youngsters from all over the foothills area. The coordinator was Bobbie Leach.

"She was a very outgoing, business-like person who truly enjoyed bowling and working with kids. She was the go-to lady who was always interested in our scores and how we were doing, but she didn't tolerate much goofing off," Souza recalled.

Souza and her brothers liked bowling so much they joined a league and won a few awards. She and her brother, Paul, continued on and became "pretty good for our age group." With the support of their parents, they began bowling in tournaments.

Souza liked the Friday meets best.

"Mom picked us up from St. James School after the 3 p.m. bell and we went directly to the bowling alley," she said. "If we had a few extra quarters and minutes, we'd play a quick game of pinball or buy a Butterfinger out of the vending machine. In between frames, kids would run back and forth to the snack bar buying hamburgers, French fries with lots of catsup and Cokes. Mom usually stayed and cheered us on and my Dad joined her later when he could get away from his pharmacy in Highland Park."

League bowling was a lot of fun, said Souza, who grew up in Tujunga; but the real bond was representing the bowl in tournaments.

"We were a tight group," she said. "We were expected to behave ourselves as we rode together and cheered each other on. As a group we did well."

She and Paul garnered a few first, second and third places in various events. But now, Souza realizes, "the best award was just being in it."

By the end of her freshman year at Flintridge Sacred Heart, Souza's interest waned and she only went back to bowl with friends. A 1979 Verdugo Hills High graduate, she now lives in Carson City, Nev., and mourns the loss of the bowling alley, which closed in the late 1990s.

It was later demolished and replaced by a supermarket, said Crescenta Valley Historical Society President Mike Lawler.

"I live a long way from home now, but I still have a hard time accepting this gem of the community is gone," Souza added. But, in her memories, "It is still alive and well," she said.

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Katherine Yamada's column runs every other Friday. To contact her, call features editor Joyce Rudolph at (818) 637-3241. For more information on Glendale's history, visit the Glendale Historical Society's web page: http://www.glendalehistorical.org; call the reference desk at the Central Library at (818) 548-2027; or visit the Special Collections Room at Central from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays or make an appointment by calling (818) 548-2037.

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Readers Write:

"Bob's Big Boy on La Crescenta Avenue was a hands-down favorite in our family," wrote Kathy Reger Souza. "Our favorite was the #9 breakfast that included pancakes and bacon, and a mug of hot chocolate to wash it down. I loved looking at all the Big Boy merchandise for sale and grabbing an 'Adventures of the Big Boy' comic book upon arrival."

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If you have questions, comments or memories to share, please write to Verdugo Views, c/o News-Press, 221 N. Brand Blvd., 2nd Floor, Glendale, CA 91203. Please include your name, address and phone number.

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