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When Bowling Was King

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Alley’s demolition brings back memories for Stanley family of a golden era of bowling in Glenwood

By Joe Foreman, Editor

Tina Stanley-Beardmore had a difficult time watching the demolition of the bowling alley her grandfather built nearly 60 years ago.

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The Stanley Bowl – Midwest Lanes building at 601 S. Locust St. in  Glenwood was leveled earlier this month by a construction crew to make way for a new Casey’s General Store, projected to open in 2019.

“Watching it get knocked down was hard, I had a lump in my throat,” Beardmore said. “My family has a lot of memories from that building.”

Beardmore’s grandfather, Jack Stanley, opened the Stanley Bowl in September 1959. He along with his three sons – Jim, Don and Brooks – operated and managed the facility that became a social mecca for the Glenwood community during the 1960s and 1970s.

According to a front-page article in the Sept. 24, 1959 issue of The Opinion-Tribune, an estimated 1,000 people turned out for the Stanley Bowl’s grand opening. Glenwood mayor Dale Harper cut the ribbon and Jack Stanley, wearing a pin-striped suit, rolled the first ball down the alley - recording a strike. Art Bird’s 224 was the high score for opening day and Joe Wilcox claimed the top door prize – a new bowling ball.

For Beardmore and her brothers Brian and Chris (Jim’s children) and Terry Stanley and his sister Deborah Covey (Brook’s children), reminiscing about the early days of the Stanley Bowl brings back childhood memories.
Jim, Don and Brooks Stanley took turns running the bowling alley on weekends and usually brought their children along to help out.

Terry Stanley remembers helping his dad disinfect bowling shoes.

“We’d spray the shoes and we used to have the UV lights we’d put on the shoes for about 30 seconds,” he recalled. “I was probably 13 before he would let me go to the back of the alleys. I understood the machines enough not to get my fingers cut off.”

Brian Stanley remembers going down to the facility as a 10-year-old with his dad on Sunday mornings to dust the lanes and gutters. As Brian grew older, he “graduated” to new jobs, like disinfecting shoes, working behind the counter where he learned to count out change and eventually helping with some of the alley mechanics.

“When you got to go back and get a bowling ball that was stuck or reset a pin, those were things you got to do when you were older,” he said. “You thought you were hot stuff when you got to go back behind the lanes and fix some stuff.”
The Stanley Bowl was built with eight lanes and was a huge hit with the Glenwood community from the get-go. Prior to its opening, there was a two-lane facility underneath a building on the south side of Town Square that was available for recreational purposes, but Glenwood residents who wanted to bowl in leagues had to travel to Council Bluffs or Nebraska City.

“The first 10 years we were open, there were waiting lists of people wanting to get on a league,” Terry Stanley recalled.

“You had to wait for somebody to die or move out of town so you could get into the league. There were two leagues a night from Sunday to Friday.”

The Stanley Bowl attracted bowlers from communities throughout southwest Iowa, including Malvern, Tabor, Thurman and Hastings.

The bowling alley was popular with both adults and children, who could bowl in bantam and high school-aged leagues on Saturdays.    The young bowlers were coached for many years by Art Bird.

“Back in the heyday, during the winter time, it was a smokin’ busy,” Brian Stanley said. “There were all the leagues and open bowling on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.”

Covey said she basically “grew up” in the bowling center.

“Everyone in our family bowled,” she said. “If your parents bowled, you did, too.

“We spent a lot of time in the children’s play area. I remember people coming in and saying we were being louder than the bowlers.”

The popularity of the bowling center in its early years led to renovation and the addition of two additional alleys on the south side of the building.

For the first 10 years, the Stanley Bowl had a snack bar that sold food and soft drinks, but no lounge. That didn’t prevent bowlers, however, from consuming adult beverages on league night.

“The bowlers had metal lockers they could rent to keep their bowling gear and other items in,” Terry Stanley said. “Guys would buy a Pepsi, drink some of it and then go to their locker with their cup. You’d be surprised how many times they’d go back to their locker or the restroom.”

Jack Stanley needed some encouragement from his sons before he agreed to add a bar to the Stanley Bowl, but like the bowling facility itself, the Kegler Lounge became a popular place for local residents to socialize in the evenings or after work.

“For Dad, Don and Brooks to talk Grandpa into having a bar was quite a big deal,” Brian Stanley noted. “It had to go through Grandma first, but when they finally agreed to it, I think the brothers all did a high five because up to that point, the bowling alley in the summer would just die.”

Glenwood had its share of successful bowlers over the years – Joe Callahan, Bob Forney, Greg Kingsley, Rod Evans, Wayne Schlange and the Stanley brothers to name just a few of the men. On the women’s side, Geneva Weise, Pat Conrad, Charlene Stanley, Liz Boston, Roberta Troutman, Carolyn Stanley, Susan Reed, Donna Crum and Jan Forney are some of the names that are mentioned.

During the 1960s and ‘70s, Glenwood served as a qualifying site for bowlers wanting to compete on television shows broadcasted live every weekend from the Rose Bowl and Leisure Lanes in Omaha. Terry Stanley said several Glenwood bowlers earned notoriety and dollars competing on the local television shows.

The Stanleys owned the bowling center for about 20 years, eventually selling to Danny and Sandy Benscoter, who changed the name of the facility to Midwest Lanes around 1980. Duane Young and the Mike Cap family would be the subsequent owners. The facility was closed two years ago and the property was eventually sold to Casey’s.

The Stanleys were saddened to see the bowling center close and be demolished, but understand nothing lasts forever.

“We’ve lost the skating rink, movie theater and bowling alley in Glenwood” Terry Stanley said. “This is the end of Jack Stanley and sons’ legacy. To me, it’s 100 percent about family memories, but I am glad something will become of the property and there will be a new Casey’s.”
  

Bowling Alley Memories
The Opinion-Tribune asked its Facebook followers to share some of their memories of the Stanley Bowl and Midwest Lanes. Here’s a sampling of the responses:

Debbie Sears Carnes: “Met my husband there in 1972 while he was bowling. Art Bird and Charlene Stanley taught me to bowl so I could join a league, bowled for 10 years there. Grandkids have had fun birthday parties there. Great memories.”

Jenn Votek-McVay: “Every Saturday morning was spent bowling!! Highest game was there a 244!! Great times and playing in the game room waiting for your time to bowl.”

Stephanie Madison: “Walked in that place at 18 years old and spent the next 21 years making memories and friends that I now miss terribly. Met my husband there and we raised our kids there the first 8 years we were parents. There’s no place in town like the Kegler. We were family.”

Kurtis Bolton: “Walked down from junior high school(west) for PE bowled Saturday morning youth leagues Art Bird taught a generation to bowl.”