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Chasing History: Update #1

The chase continues…

I’ve undertaken a project that will take a lot of time to complete while not taking a lot of my time to work on. Confused? Don’t be.

The project is to track down photos and memorabilia from the golf courses and bowling alleys my late father and I haunted over the years. I already have quite a lot in my possession so its just a matter of running down the missing pieces. Most of that is done online and with Google and Ebay it doesn’t take too much of my time – about an hour each evening – to browse through the search results with a few minutes in the morning composing an e-mail, a Facebook message, a letter, etc. etc. to follow up on a new lead.

Where the time consumption comes in is the waiting for replies to my inquiries, and waiting for people to search through what they have to see if anything falls under what I am looking for. I figure this project won’t even be close to being completed until the end of 2022 at the earliest. Hey, its a cheap hobby, right? But its also already yielding results. So from time to time I’ll update so you can follow along if you are so inclined.

Of the 24 bowling alleys I’ve bowled in (league, tournament or just for fun) over the last 50 years, eight of them are closed and were long before COVID struck. Which makes the task of tracking down at least a photo of the place while it was operational challenging to say the least. Difficult yes. Impossible? No.

Starting with Rodeo Lanes in Winnemucca, NV, where Dad was the house pro in 1963, I’ve had surprising success. I have an old paper scoresheet and his coaching certificate, and thanks to a local museum, I have a photo of the front of the building and two interior shots of the lanes. I’m holding out for some better quality pictures from either the owner’s daughter or nephew once they get my letters. And the building still stands, though it was converted to a hardware store.

The first house we bowled in together was Crown Lanes in Steele, ND is starting to yield results. As much of a shutterbug as I was even in the 1970s, I can’t believe I didn’t snap a single photo of the inside.

Ughhh, bad scifiscribe, bad!

But I managed to get ahold of a photo from the 1960s of the exterior when it first opened, as well as an ice scraper with Crown Lanes on it and I have a bowling pin from the lanes as well. The local museum there is also looking to see what they have. The building still stands and I have photos of the lanes after the place closed, but they are covered in boxes, chairs and tables so I’m hoping for something a little better.

Then comes Divine Gardens in my hometown of Turlock, CA. Unlike the others, not only is it closed, the building no longer exists. The good news is I have pretty solid photos of the exterior and interior with more possibly on the way along with a matchbook cover, a key from the adjoining hotel and a letter to the nephew of the late owner to see if he has anything he’d be willing to part with. The local museum and an antique store are also on the hunt and will let me know if something pops up.

Tiffany Bowl became Nevas Lanes in 1992. So far, this is the best interior photo I have.

Scrounging around for Tiffany Bowl material in Odessa, TX yielded some muddy B&W photos from the local paper, which I have downloaded and cleaned up as best as possible and also prompted a letter to the library of the local university to see if they have the original photos since the paper donated all of them a few years back. I also scored a Tiffany Bowl patch from a former owner and discovered that Tiffany Bowl was known by several other names over the years, which helped track down the newspaper photos. The building still stands and was temporarily a flea market. A call to the flea market’s new location is on the to do list to see if they have anything along with the nearby Sherwood Lanes, which has also closed for business.

On my way to Dad’s funeral in September, I passed through Snyder, TX and discovered that Snyder Lanes had also folded, although much more recently than the others. However, Some good exterior and interior photos were located, the local museum is seeing what they have and a letter was sent to the former owner to see what he might be able to add.

The bowling alleys I bowled in from 1986 to 2020 (when COVID and my right shoulder dictated a, hopefully, temporary pause in my bowling activities) Are for the most part still in operation and I already had good photos an other items collected with a few exceptions. In each of those cases, calls have been made and searching is underway.

The most difficult one will be Gustine Lanes. The building is still up but it was converted to an antique store before that has also closed up shop. There is a local museum and they’re going through what they have to see what they can come up with as well.

Dad golfing at Cottonwood Golf Course in Steele, ND.

As for the golf course portion of this adventure, there are 72 courses involved across nine states. Amazingly enough, I have scorecards for all but 3 of the courses. I’m only missing photos for 10 of the courses and I have an item of some kind (logo ball, ball marker, pin flag, etc) for 38 of the 72 courses. But, at least five of the courses no longer exist, which is going to make tracking anything down for them a touch more difficult. But that’s just what makes this fun.

The bigger payoff is the reminders of the times bowling and golfing with Dad over the years. Those stories will have to wait for another post though. In the meantime, to quote the famous detective I’ve written about a few times:

“The game’s afoot!!!”


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