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?