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Bowling: Chicago's Rich History

By Regina M. Torres
On March 11, 2011

The history of bowling goes back quite a few years. In fact, there is evidence that it got its rudimentary beginnings in ancient Egypt, and was even enjoyed by the likes of King Henry VIII and his posse. The first official standardized rules for a game of bowling went into effect back in 1895 in New York City. Today, bowling a few games still proves to be a favorite across the globe, and America still claims this sport to be a favorite pastime.

 
Variations on bowling dynamics exist throughout the world (such as pin or ball styles, play environments such as indoor vs. outdoor, etc) but Americans enjoy the most common form of bowling referred to as Ten Pin.  Let's face it; Americans like things big, and Ten Pin bowling uses the heaviest and largest pins, along with the largest finger-hole-drilled balls (almost 9" in diameter).
 
Aside, from being a low-impact sport that is fun for both pro or beginner, bowling proves to be a great activity for winter-bound students on fixed incomes. For under $10, one can bond with friends over a few games, which includes shoe rental and loaner bowling ball.
 
So, if you've never tried your hand at the sport of bowling, I have done some homework on some particularly interesting places (or not) to bowl within the Chicagoland
area. The following is a listing of places, along with any intriguing history and facts that may interest one further in their bowling pursuit. The crunch of pins beckons…
 
Southport Lanes & Billiards
 
BowlThis four lane establishment opened its doors in 1922, when it was built by Schlitz brewery. This wasn't any innocent alley though, as it was originally used as a front for a brothel and speakeasy. Remnants of the past exist in the original wood bar and stained-glass windows. There is even a device still intact called a "dumbwaiter", that was used to run drinks up to second floor "patrons." But, what's perhaps most impressive is that this alley is the last in Chicago (and one of only a small batch in America) to use manual pin set up, through the use of "pin-boys." Go here if you are looking for some nostalgia. Bowling available after 6pm on weekdays.Bar/food/billiards open various hours 7 days a week.
 
773-472-6600      
3325 N Southport
Chicago IL 60657
www.sparetimechicago.com
 
Diversey River Bowl
 
BilliardsIf you are looking for a place that has state of the art concert-level lighting and sound that will rock your world, then head over to this high energy alley. Loud music is paired with synchronized computer imagery while you bowl modern-style. Bumper bowling is offered for kids, along with a decent menu of non-bar food such as pastas and entrees. Hours and prices vary.
 
773-227-5800
2211 W Diversey
Chicago IL 60647            
www.drbowl.com/index.php
 
Waveland Bowl
 
If the idea of cosmic bowling intrigues you, then this is your spot. Seven times per week, the lights go dim and the fog machine and black lights go on, making for a surreal bowling experience. This place is kid friendly and serves up food with a worldly flair. Initially opened for business in 1959, they are still voted as Chicago's favorite alley. The downside of this is that they get pretty booked up. Call in advance.
 
773-472-5900        
3700 N Western
Chicago IL                                 
www.wavelandbowl.com
 
Timber Lanes
 
For an old school feel complete with 8 original wood lanes, manual scoring and a genuine neighborhood vibe, head over to Timber Lanes. This alley has a rich history that involves being a 1920's speakeasy, a WWII helmet factory. Not only that, but a tunnel was dug underneath to serve as a fall-out shelter in the 50's. Lastly, the alley is reportedly haunted since it was allegedly built upon Michigamea Indian burial ground! For more on this fascinating alley, please refer to their website. Due to its small size, reservations for lanes are recommended.
 
773-549-9770          
1851 W Irving Park Road
Chicago IL 60613
www.timberlanesbowl.com
 
 
Mont Clare Lanes & Banquets
 
This bowling alley offers an $8 All-you-can-bowl night on Wednesdays, as well as cosmic bowling. Food is American comfort style, and there are more spots available for open bowling.
 
773-237-9883     
2957 N Harlem
Chicago IL 60707
http://www.mclanes.net
 
Online Chicago Billiard Museum: www.chicagobilliardmuseum.com

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