Bowling alleys have been around in Glendale for many years. Some, such as Jewel City Bowl and the Montrose Bowl, are still here; others, such as the alley in Jensen’s Palace Grand Shops on Brand Boulevard and the Glen Bowl on Colorado Boulevard, disappeared when the buildings were demolished or dramatically altered.
One of the first alleys arrived in 1923, when the Glendale Recreation Center and Club opened in Jensen’s with a tournament: Caswell’s Gateway team versus Jensen Drugs, “an all-local match that will surprise you as to the class of bowlers that Glendale can produce,” as noted in an ad in the Glendale Evening News, March 1923.
Then there was Jewel City Bowl, said to be the first to have pin-setting machines in Southern California. Bill Russell, a longtime Glendale resident, played in the Rube Tucker League at that bowling alley in 1952.
In a 2011 letter, Russell said he enjoyed bowling so much that he left his first job “throwing newspapers for the Glendale News-Press and the Glendale Independent” and got another job — setting pins at the Glen Bowl, near Bob’s Big Boy.
“This high paying job (for pin setters) was 10 cents a line (game) plus tips,’’ Russell wrote.
He noted that carhops at Bob’s were making much more. One busy Memorial Day, Russell worked from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. setting pins for afternoon bowling, early and late leagues and then pot games for money late in the evening, netting him $15 in tips.
He calculated that he picked up 2 1/2 tons of pins while setting up two alleys.
Another popular place was Jackson’s Bowl. Paul Jackson, who attended Hoover High, recently recalled that alley.
“I believe there were 18 lanes. In the beginning, all the lanes were manually loaded by a ‘pin setter’ who was paid minimum wage. At that time (in the early 1950s), minimum wage was about 75 cents an hour. This was very hard and hot work,” he recalled. “At each bowling booth, there was a tennis ball with a slit in it. When you were finished bowling, you would put a tip in the ball and roll it down the gutter for the pin setter.’’
Jackson’s shared a parking lot with a small market and Henry's restaurant.
“When you walked in, on the left was a soda fountain, with about 10 stools, which made a great hamburger and fries,’’ Jackson recalled.
Another was Grand Central Bowl, developed in 1959 with a restaurant and cocktail lounge, coffee shop and children’s playroom. Once a popular destination in northwest Glendale, it is now part of the Disney complex.
Now, only Jewel City Bowl remains in central Glendale. In 2011, bowlers were fearful that it too would disappear as word spread that it might be purchased by the state to build a parking lot for a new courthouse.
I contacted Phil Lanzafame, director of economic development for the city, who told me that plan was on hold because of the budget crisis.
“As far as I know, the same owner is in possession of the property and no sale, at least for the courthouse project, is pending,” he said.
So, what happened to the other alleys? See To the Readers for more information. And, if you have information on the others, please let me know.
To the Readers:
The building housing the Glen Bowl started life as a movie theater called the Bard and is now a nightclub. For more information about M. G. Khodigian, who built the Bard, and about the Bard as a theater, go to glendalenewspress.com and search for “Khodigian.”
To read the story behind Grand Central, search for “bowling grand central.”
And here’s another memory. This is from Julianne Erikson, who put me in touch with her father, Paul Jackson. Her mother, Marlane, was born in Glendale, attended Glendale High, and carhopped at Bob’s Big Boy on Colorado Boulevard.
Erikson, who like her father, graduated from Hoover, writes, “I have so many memories of how Glendale used to look — I really loved it then. To name a few: Park Lane residential building on Central and Colorado — now the Galleria — miniature golf on Arden off Pacific; Kress and Woolworth five-and-dime stores.”
She continued, “Churchill’s restaurant and the fashion shopping center there — now, it is a big shopping center at Wilson and Glendale Avenue; watching the parade every year on Central at Lexington before it moved to Brand and then ended; the many movie theaters on Brand, Lum’s hot dog restaurant on north Brand and much more. As they would say — the good old days.’’
If you have questions, comments or memories to share, please write to Verdugo Views, c/o News-Press, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Please include your name, address and phone number.