Volume 2, Issue 47, The 99th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
Often as bowlers, we look to glamorize the sport, and create an image that distances us with stereotypes and with the origins. And certainly, even outside bowling, I can think of stereotypes and old history that need to be
laid to rest as times change.
Today, some bowlers get uptight if you say "alley." People now bowl in a CENTER. You don't throw a "gutter ball," rather you throw it in the "channel." That's all well and good if it makes people perceive bowling in a more positive light. But after visiting All Star Lanes in Eagle Rock, California, sometimes I think we've gone too far.
Spring and summer are the seasons we certify our bowling centers here in SoCal. We finished the centers in my WIBC local association, and the ABC officials asked if I would be willing to travel "over the hill" to certify the centers in Los Angeles' jurisdiction. When it came time to certify the last few centers, school was already out for summer, and I took my son
Michael along. We can always use another set of hands (and eagle eyes), and the kick he gets out of checking the foul lights and checking the dips in the approach is a chance to get on his hands and knees and use tools. Even for a 9-year-old, it's worth getting out of bed at the crack of dawn on a summer day.
But unlike so many of the centers I have certified during the last few years, All Star has aboveground ball returns, doesn't have automatic scoring, and has a dark interior. Smoking has been banned inside any building in California for years, but the this place must have years of bowling and billiards and the smoke that accompanies their patrons locked in the walls.
Stepping into All Star Lanes is definitely stepping back in time. Oddly enough, until a few years ago, they didn't even have an automatic lane dresser. The mechanic would use the mop and spray gun method of applying the oil--gutter to gutter. And not so coincidentally, city, state, and assorted other tournament champs came from this little 22-lane building as they had never heard of anything called a "wall shot." Several glass cabinets contain trophy after trophy and celebrate the champs with their team photos.
Even without a bowler in the establishment, the place had character. If I closed my eyes, it wasn't difficult to imagine a film noir-y flick filmed here, or an early episode of Dragnet for that matter. All the bowling "center" mumbo jumbo hasn't touched the marbleized looking settee areas or the dark paneled walls.
Sadly, the owner has recently passed away, and there's a question if the center will remain open or be forced to shutter like so many bowling centers in Southern California. And more than the rest of them, if All Star closes, it would be a tragedy, as we lose the history of what this sport has been.
I found myself taking time to point out to Michael all the differences of this center compared to the other ones he's been to. And at 9, he's been to plenty. We lingered and kept finding new "neat" things to gush about. I began to get the same feeling I had when they closed down the last drive-in movie here. While I'll admit I love stadium seating and retractable handles at the new megaplexes, there's sometime about drinking hot chocolate out of the back of a station wagon and being able to talk through the entire movie that I'll forever miss.
I'm hoping to get Michael back to All Star so he can experience the indescribable moment when a bowler first shoots cross alley with an aboveground ball return, and let him keep score on the open bowling sheets with all the ads. Change is definitely good, don't get me wrong. But sometimes we need to hold on to the history as we blaze trails forward.
Without our history, we're losing a large reason that this game even exists.