Old School: Candlepin Bowling Alleys

Where have all the bowling alleys gone?

In the 70s candlepins were king. You could go to Riverside Bowling in Pleasant Street in Watertown, Wal-Lex on Lexington Street in Waltham, and Sammy White's Brighton Bowl on Soldiers Field Road, in that strip mall near iHop. There was a TV show every Sunday morning around 11, "Candlepins for Cash" (right after Davey and Goliath, the Catholic claymation kids show). Bowling was big.

Now it's not. Those places are all gone. Riverside closed down sometime in the 1980s; the building now houses a biotech company. Sammy White's closed down in the 80s because of multiple factors including a quadrupal homicide; I remember the front page of the Globe had a story about handcuffed bodies found inside and a picture of hundreds of people gathered outside. Wal-Lex shut down just a few years ago. Now you have to go to Needham or Natick to bowl, or Boston.

What killed candlepins? My guess is more home entertainment options like VHS and cable which kept adult players at home on the weekends, as well as videogames, which are more interesting for kids. And an attitude that bowling is a "working class" pursuit. A third idea that I have is candlepins are a New England thing, and people who have come from other "big ball" states have no idea about how fun it can be.

And it is fun. I played in Natick at the Fairway (on Rte. 9) a few months back and surprised myself at how well I could still hurl the ball down the lane. It was a great environment, and the shoes, sounds, and other trappings of the lanes were all the same.


Anonymous Krissy said...

I love candlepin bowling and I'm not even a native New Englander. There's also a candlepin bowling alley in Davis Square...that place is pretty neat. It's supposedly haunted.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Ron Newman said...

The candlepin place in Davis Square is Sacco's Bowl Haven. It's quite popular.

Lanes & Games, on Route 2 in Cambridge near Alewife Station, has both tenpins and candlepins.

10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A major factor that has closeda lot of candlepin bowling centers is real-estate. Many centers were built invery good commercial locations. The owners are offered big money for the property and they take it. Unfortunately, the people or companies who buy the property are not interested in candlepin bowling

11:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bowling alleys suffered lack of use during most daytime hours and most suffered lack of business day and night once early May rolled around even in the good times! Of course, certain houses had summer leagues which helped take some of the pain away.Then as usual after Labor Day, league play would resume to dominate the lanes Monday thru Friday evenings until mid to late April. And as I recall, there were even a few "housewife" morning leagues (as I call them) in existence back then. They were fun places to go to hang out and you could always count on one or more of the "guys" being there to chum around and chat with. I met many people there back in the day (24 to 30 odd years ago) and even to this day I run into a few of them and our chats always include the memorable people and events of our bowling lane younger adult years!

5:54 PM  
Blogger billpen said...

My son has just moved into the "mill building" where the Waltham Bowling Alleys used to be when I was kid. It is located at 144 Moody Street and is now artist studios. It is located on the second floor and I think he occupies the 1 thou 6 lanes. I can remember when they had pin boys there.

5:55 PM  

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