Bowl-a-Rama, OKC Style
by Lynne Rostochil
There weren’t many bowling alleys in OKC before or during the war years, but once WWII was over, they began popping up all over the place — Jenks Bowling Palace (415 1/2 NW 3rd), Capitol Hill Bowling Palace, Brantley’s Bowling Alley (219 NW 6th). Then, with the dawn of the 1950’s, places like the near-suburban and thoroughly modern (with refrigerated air conditioning, even!) Bowlarena, located at 3401 N. May, replaced the older alleys near downtown. When the Bowlarena opened in 1951, it was state of the art, with “Tel-E-Scores, B-10 racks, C-20 automatic ball lifts, and rangefinders.” I don’t know what any of that is, but I’m sure it was impressive!
As the 50’s progressed, more and more alleys opened up until there were well over 20 spread around town by 1961. There was the Hilander (where Beverly’s is now located on NW Expressway and Villa), Puddin’ Lanes (across from Johnnie’s on Britton Rd.), Coronado Lanes (near NW 63rd and Portland), 66 Bowl (NW 39th and Portland), Holiday Lanes (44 SE 44th), Meridian Lanes (SW 29th and Meridian), Planet Bowl in Midwest City, Twilight Bowl in Yukon, and Shawnee Bowl to the east, to name a few.
Each alley quickly became a social gathering spot by hosting events for kids and teens, parties for their parents, and leagues for everyone.
By the 70’s and 80’s, however, interest in bowling was on the wane, causing many of the alleys (Bowlarena, Puddin’ Lanes, and Coronado Lanes among them) to turn off their fancy automatic pin setters and close their doors forever. Many of these former alleys were converted into other retail spaces, and there are few people today around who remember their original purpose.
Happily, other alleys, such as 44 Penn, Windsor Lanes, and Sunny Lanes, survived the tough times and are still in business today, so there are still a lot of 10-pin choices available around town and in Central Oklahoma. To keep the love of bowling alive and well in my family, every few months, I’ll pack up my kiddos and take them on a bowling adventure to an alley we haven’t been to before, and, between games, they always love to explore the place and play detective looking for original vintage design details (yes, I’m trying to train them well!).
My older son claims Planet Bowl as his favorite alley because he bowled his best game ever there, while my younger son prefers the funky, mid-century design at Holiday Bowl.
Me? I always loved 66 Bowl because it’s where I used to go with my family when I was a kid, but since its demise in 2010, I’m now on the hunt for my new favorite alley.
I’ll let you know when I find it.