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The Old Bowlero Bowl Still Stands—Sort Of

How the birth of a baby turned into bowling balls in Lemon Grove.

As memories fail, the mysteries prevail.

I decided to write a little history about Lemon Grove’s long gone bowling alley on Broadway. Should be cake—in the late 70s, my part-time job during college was at (another goner), right next door to the lanes.

Many burgers and sandwiches were ordered by the car dealer’s staff at the coffee shop inside the 50s-style bowling center. Seems like I even bowled a game or two at the place. The trouble started when I was not quite sure of the name: Bowl-something. No worries, just Google it. But the search for “Lemon Grove bowling alley” turned up pickings that were slim to none.

As I refined the search, it became apparent that this was not to be an easy strike. There was just no info on the former Grove business. I kept thinking it was called Bowlero—but the only local Bowlero found was the one in Mission Valley that became the Scottish Rite Temple in 1965. Then my keyword search stumbled onto a discussion site about silent comedians (which by itself is funny), and revealed a connection to a fellow named Skirball.

Here is the story about the man who built the bowling alley in Lemon Grove. Some readers might be familiar with the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Jack Skirball’s big break came in 1938 when he produced Birth of a Baby, an early exploitation film that showed the actual birth of a child. Skirball became instantly famous from the controversy that surrounded showing the birthing experience on the big screen. He parlayed his success by producing Alfred Hitchcock’s early classic movies, Saboteur (1942) and Shadow of a Doubt (1943). The latter film was one of director Hitchcock’s favorites. Skirball subsequently produced films for many comedy greats, and even Bob Hope’s first movie.

In the 1950s, Skirball moved on to a new career as a real estate developer. Among other projects, he created elaborate bowling alleys called Bowleros, including two in San Diego. The former famous Hollywood producer liked America’s Finest City, and was responsible for creating Vacation Village on Mission Bay in 1962. It was one of the first vacation resorts in the country, and is now known as Paradise Point Resort.

I could not find much surviving material on Lemon Grove’s Bowlero. It was quite similar to the Mission Valley location, which opened its 55 lanes to much hoopla in 1955. Bowling was a very popular group activity at the time, and many of the bowling alleys featured lounges with live bands. I still remember standing by the nightclub door at the Parkway Bowl as a child, listening to the Cascades play “listen to the rhythm of the falling rain….

My father bowled in three leagues, and carried a 200+ average. He was good. The funny part is when he finally rolled a perfect 300 game, he stopped bowling. Guess he had achieved his goal.

Today the former bowling alley at 7065 Broadway houses the County's  Family Resource Center, which provides services for CalWORKs, Food Stamps, Medi-Cal, Child Welfare Services and Child Care Services.

Oh, Lemon Grove, where has the fun gone?

Corky Lang July 21, 2011 at 07:12 AM
Thanks Vinnie and Steve for your comments. I used to keep score for my parent's bowling league at 25 cents a game. It taught me how to add up numbers in my head. This is a lost art.
Helen Ofield July 21, 2011 at 03:55 PM
This gets better and better! When the "new math" was developed in the 1960s and 1970s, it was simply a convoluted take on the "old math" involving counting (hello!) and visualizing. Of course, both have applications to learning to read, as well.
Alan Carlson July 06, 2012 at 07:43 PM
What a wonderful place Lemon Grove was. Spent many days and evenings at The Bolerro, The Denny's across the street, I remember the fashion shows put on by Walker Scotts there (Denny's) on Friday nights, The sporting goods store with the practice ski hill behind it, the grand opening of Alfa Beta I walked to that with my parents and got a free dinner. Remember the guy who picketed John Factor Volkswagon. The day the lumbar yard burned down. The fireworks show the night Lemon Grove became a city. So many great memories in my town so sad to see what it has turned into. My parents bought property and my dad built a house here in 1949, my sister died riding a horse here and I will probably never leave. Best climate on earth!
Helen Ofield July 06, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Alan, Do you have photographs of your family in Lemon Grove in the 1950s and beyond? Perhaps you might want to share a look by stopping by the Parsonage Museum on a Saturday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Alan Carlson July 06, 2012 at 09:23 PM
I have some posted on facebook, and there is a Lemon Grove Facebook group page with lots of cool old memories http://www.facebook.com/groups/211653308883816/

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