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August 20, 2008 > History: Let's Go Bowling

History: Let's Go Bowling

Bowling is an ancient sport. It's said that archeologists found artifacts resembling bowling equipment in Egyptian tombs. Modern bowling originated in Europe during the Middle Ages. Exactly when bowling came to our area and its early history are unclear.

A map of Centerville dated 1890 shows a bowling alley down the street from the Town Hall, which had been erected by the citizens of Centerville in 1868. Some 30 years later a bowling alley was established in its basement. Any connection between the two is unknown.

The Town Hall alley was thriving in 1904 and reported to be in "perfect working order with games being played both day and night." Fred Rogers was doing a good business there in 1915.

Irvington also had a bowling alley that was "proving to be very popular." A large crowd of onlookers was reported at a 1916 bowling tournament between Irvington and Centerville at the "new Centerville Bowling Alley." Details about this match aren't available, but Dr. Elmo Grimmer was a member of the Irvington team and Ralph Emerson was on the Centerville team. Apparently, Irvington and Centerville were frequent competitors.

It's difficult to imagine a "large crowd" in the Town Hall Alley, and reference is made to a "new" alley. A museum photo shows a bowling alley of Randall, Man, and Herman with no details about the business. Any connection between the organizations is unknown.

There were apparently no bowling alleys in operation when the City of Fremont incorporated in 1956. Manuel Sanchez and five associates opened the Fremont Bowl in April of that year in the El Peralta Center at 3681 Peralta Blvd. Sanchez bought out the other owners and acquired Gerald Springer as a new owner-partner.

Manuel and Jerry developed their bowl into a flourishing 16-alley, air-conditioned family recreation center. Facilities included a cocktail lounge, coffee shop and snack bar. Parking was provided for over 200 cars. Manuel "Sanch" and Jerry were especially proud of the cocktail lounge. It was called the "Pin Room" because the walls were lined with bowling pins that told the stories of outstanding games bowled by patrons. Three pins spotlighted in the center area honored the perfect 300 game rolled by Joe Oliveira in league competition. Baby sitting was provided free of charge so mothers could bowl during the day. Working fathers generally came in the evenings, but there was organized league bowling for men, women and father-son teams.

In the 60's and 70's bowling became the favorite family-oriented recreation in the area. With activities provided for all age levels, the bowling alley became a popular gathering place. Things began to change when mothers went to work. Women's leagues declined and less child care was needed. Men discovered the new fitness centers that were sprouting up. Cities provided more recreational activities for children, and by the 90's the internet had taken hold. The 50 games a day experienced in the 1980's dropped to about 30 per day in the 1990's and the Fremont Family Bowl was forced to close in May 1997.

The Grand Opening of the Cloverleaf Bowling Alley was held on September 26, 1959. Along with a Tidewater Flying A Station, a P and X Market and a Bank of America, the bowling alley was among the first tenants in the Fremont Shopping Center on Fremont Blvd. in Irvington.

The equipment cost about $650,000 for the 20-lane house. The manager was Al Knutsen and the Assistant Manager was Bob Curtis. The bowl featured a cocktail lounge and a large dining room. A 1961 ad noted that there was open bowling every night and winter leagues were being formed for the "entire family."

Dave and Marian Hillman purchased Cloverleaf Bowl in 1963 and developed plans to expand the facility to 32 lanes. They also redecorated and remodeled, enlarged the cocktail lounge and billiard room, and installed a new bowling pro shop and nursery. The Cloverleaf Bowl continues today as a family owned business.

The history of Fremont's other bowling alley, Mowry Lanes, is less well defined because it has had a series of owners. Built by the Brunswick Company, it is located at 585 Mowry Ave. on property once owned by the landmark International Kitchen Restaurant. In addition to league activity on its 40 lanes, it features bar and dining facilities, pool tables and a game arcade. Its current owner is AMF (American Metal and Foundry), the world's largest association of bowling centers.

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