News

Final strike for Palo Alto Bowl

City's last bowling alley closes after 60 years

Petite, gray-haired Grace Siesbuttel, 83, shuffled forward, 15-pound bowling ball clutched in her arms. She gently swung her right wrist down, then backward, then forward, and dropped the ball, her eyes tracing its path as it rolled steadily down the worn wooden lane.

Five pins crashed with a flutter and tumbled over.

Siesbuttel and fellow members of the Guys and Dolls Jubilee bowling league came for their final game Wednesday, Sept. 14, two days before the 60-year-old Palo Alto Bowl on El Camino Real shut down for good.

The closure of the Bowl -- set to be replaced by 26 townhouses and a brand-name hotel -- leaves Palo Alto without a local alley for the first time in decades.

The Bowl's atmosphere was quieter than usual in the last few weeks as many savored their final moments in the alley.

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"This is the only bowling alley I've ever come to," said Jeff Bradshaw, a middle-aged Palo Alto native who attended the Bowl's last $1-game Monday night with his brother Bryan.

"I remember taking bowling lessons here as a kid," Bryan Bradshaw said wistfully.

Mountain View residents Jessica Waldbauer, 18, and Tori Waldbauer, 14, had been coming to the Bowl for nine years. The closest alternate location, Homestead Lanes in Sunnyvale, doesn't feel quite like home.

"It might be cheap but it's not the same," Jessica said.

Among the Guys and Dolls, the mood felt bittersweet. As usual, the floor was littered with black bowling bags, the speckled fuchsia countertops decorated with opaque plastic beverage cups. But the normally boisterous brigade tempered their cheers to reflect upon their experiences.

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Siesbuttel remembered bringing her five children here -- three girls, two boys -- starting in the 1960s. Her memories of the alley range from a high-profile shooting out front in the late '60s to a personal high score of 255, achieved while pregnant with one of her daughters.

Although her average score has dropped from a 170 to a 95 over the years, Siesbuttel is undeterred. She plans to transfer to Homestead Lanes to continue bowling.

"So long as the people I bowl with don't mind, I don't care," she said smiling, her dangling bowling-pin earrings framing her face.

For Alli Kinnear, childcare center director for Google, the league connected her to her team of fellow Google employees as well as other community members.

"There's people of all different walks of life here who just like bowling," Kinnear said. "It's an unusual little cross-section of our community."

Additionally, "There are days when the best thing possible is to throw a heavy object at other heavy objects and knock 'em down," she said, laughing. "We'll say, 'The pins have faces today.'"

Nearby bowler Georgia Williams described socializing at the Bowl as "a family reunion." Williams first came to Palo Alto Bowl as a 1-year-old in 1963 with her mother, Bettie Adams. In July, she threw Adams' 70th birthday party at the alley.

"I've bowled all over the Bay Area, but I always come back here," Williams said.

The mother-daughter duo spent their last night at the Bowl laughing loudly and exchanging sarcastic jokes. But between games, Williams looked out over the crowd somberly, tapping her teal-tipped fingernails in contemplation.

"It really is special for me," Williams said. "I'm going to miss it."

Watch the video.

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Final strike for Palo Alto Bowl

City's last bowling alley closes after 60 years

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Sep 23, 2011, 8:13 am

Petite, gray-haired Grace Siesbuttel, 83, shuffled forward, 15-pound bowling ball clutched in her arms. She gently swung her right wrist down, then backward, then forward, and dropped the ball, her eyes tracing its path as it rolled steadily down the worn wooden lane.

Five pins crashed with a flutter and tumbled over.

Siesbuttel and fellow members of the Guys and Dolls Jubilee bowling league came for their final game Wednesday, Sept. 14, two days before the 60-year-old Palo Alto Bowl on El Camino Real shut down for good.

The closure of the Bowl -- set to be replaced by 26 townhouses and a brand-name hotel -- leaves Palo Alto without a local alley for the first time in decades.

The Bowl's atmosphere was quieter than usual in the last few weeks as many savored their final moments in the alley.

"This is the only bowling alley I've ever come to," said Jeff Bradshaw, a middle-aged Palo Alto native who attended the Bowl's last $1-game Monday night with his brother Bryan.

"I remember taking bowling lessons here as a kid," Bryan Bradshaw said wistfully.

Mountain View residents Jessica Waldbauer, 18, and Tori Waldbauer, 14, had been coming to the Bowl for nine years. The closest alternate location, Homestead Lanes in Sunnyvale, doesn't feel quite like home.

"It might be cheap but it's not the same," Jessica said.

Among the Guys and Dolls, the mood felt bittersweet. As usual, the floor was littered with black bowling bags, the speckled fuchsia countertops decorated with opaque plastic beverage cups. But the normally boisterous brigade tempered their cheers to reflect upon their experiences.

Siesbuttel remembered bringing her five children here -- three girls, two boys -- starting in the 1960s. Her memories of the alley range from a high-profile shooting out front in the late '60s to a personal high score of 255, achieved while pregnant with one of her daughters.

Although her average score has dropped from a 170 to a 95 over the years, Siesbuttel is undeterred. She plans to transfer to Homestead Lanes to continue bowling.

"So long as the people I bowl with don't mind, I don't care," she said smiling, her dangling bowling-pin earrings framing her face.

For Alli Kinnear, childcare center director for Google, the league connected her to her team of fellow Google employees as well as other community members.

"There's people of all different walks of life here who just like bowling," Kinnear said. "It's an unusual little cross-section of our community."

Additionally, "There are days when the best thing possible is to throw a heavy object at other heavy objects and knock 'em down," she said, laughing. "We'll say, 'The pins have faces today.'"

Nearby bowler Georgia Williams described socializing at the Bowl as "a family reunion." Williams first came to Palo Alto Bowl as a 1-year-old in 1963 with her mother, Bettie Adams. In July, she threw Adams' 70th birthday party at the alley.

"I've bowled all over the Bay Area, but I always come back here," Williams said.

The mother-daughter duo spent their last night at the Bowl laughing loudly and exchanging sarcastic jokes. But between games, Williams looked out over the crowd somberly, tapping her teal-tipped fingernails in contemplation.

"It really is special for me," Williams said. "I'm going to miss it."

Watch the video.

Comments

Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2011 at 10:53 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2011 at 10:53 am
Like this comment

This was a lovely tribute with pictures and videos.

It is such a shame that so many people who enjoyed bowling here can no longer do so.

It is a shame that the Weekly waited until it was closed, making this an obituary rather than a local entertainment feature.


kongjie
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 23, 2011 at 10:56 am
kongjie, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2011 at 10:56 am
Like this comment

Bowling lanes are pretty narrow. Can't they just preserve them between the townhouses and keep everyone happy?


Gotta Cry
South of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm
Gotta Cry, South of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm
Like this comment

Shame Shame Shame on Palo Alto Planning and City Council for letting this happen.

They need to wear this around their collective necks at the next election.


Resident too
Community Center
on Sep 23, 2011 at 12:56 pm
Resident too, Community Center
on Sep 23, 2011 at 12:56 pm
Like this comment

The Palo Alto Bowl's closure was set in motion when the city decided to allow housing on the land in 2006. Its fate was sealed by the city council in 2009. Those people who are only now jumping up and down about its closure...where were you back then??


Gotta Cry
South of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2011 at 2:24 pm
Gotta Cry, South of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2011 at 2:24 pm
Like this comment

Resident Too....

Sadly unaware of the implications as they were poorly communicated to the community as a whole.

Nice of you to present yourself at the funeral.

Much appreciated.


Planning critic
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2011 at 3:39 pm
Planning critic, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2011 at 3:39 pm
Like this comment

The folks that work in the development department have a tough job and are certainly kept busy. No criticism there from me.
However, they don't seem to give a rat sass about enforcing existing zoning or the character of Palo Alto. Developers and builders court them, and the average citizen only interfaces with them when they feel their property, or some sacred local landmark, is in jeopardy.
This whole town is becoming a giant condo association where you almost have to "sit on the board" in order to protect your investment.


Resident too
Community Center
on Sep 23, 2011 at 5:32 pm
Resident too, Community Center
on Sep 23, 2011 at 5:32 pm
Like this comment

Gotta Cry...

Must be nice to be able to sit back and blame people when you don't like what's happened. Did you join those who rallied to save the Bowl in 2009? If not, then...welcome to the funeral!


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2011 at 10:42 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2011 at 10:42 am
Like this comment

Daniel Mart, a Gunn special ed student graduate has been trying his best for several years to make people aware of what the PA Bowl meant to the disabled and hasn't stopped. vWeb Link

He may not be very clued up on business but he has certainly shown a lot of enthusiasm and effort.


Duke
Barron Park
on Sep 24, 2011 at 10:59 am
Duke, Barron Park
on Sep 24, 2011 at 10:59 am
Like this comment

If El Camino Real is morphing into a residential street, then where are the commercial buildings going to move to? NIMBYs beware. What about the trendy "mixed use" concept in suburban city planning? They could build the housing on top of the bowling alley. The White House has a bowling alley in it. If it's good enough there, then why not here?


Hulkamania
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 25, 2011 at 10:57 am
Hulkamania, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 25, 2011 at 10:57 am
Like this comment

Bring back the Indian Bowl on Emerson!


Bob
another community
on Sep 25, 2011 at 11:02 am
Bob, another community
on Sep 25, 2011 at 11:02 am
Like this comment

The good old days.

Here's part of a story on bowling history in PA from the Palo Alto History Project
Web Link

"In the city’s early days, local establishments such as Castle Bowling Alleys and T.A. Marlowe’s were the places to go. By the mid-
1920s, the bowling scene had shifted over to J.C. Rapp’s College Bowling Alleys, an immense “amusement palace” at 443 Emerson. The building included pool and billiards tables, a Peninsula Creamery soda
fountain, a restaurant, a cigar store and even a barber shop---conceivably in case you wanted to get a trim between frames. A Palo Alto Times article in 1923 informed the public that Rapp was soliciting “high class patronage” for his establishment---perhaps not the type of clientele that would always be associated with the
sport.

By the 1940s, local bowlers had moved down the street to Indian Bowl at 735 Emerson, “in the heart of the automobile district.” The purveyor of “the fastest boards in town,” Indian Bowl used the not-so-P.C. Stanford moniker as its namesake and logo. And its offer of 50 dollars to anyone who bowled a perfect 300 game perhaps does not seem so generous until considering that bowling a line (10 frames) cost two dimes until 6 PM and a quarter after that. The Indian Bowl advertisements from that era also recall the pre-
mechanized days of bowling---“Pin boys are always available!” boast the fliers."

BTW Does Stanford's Tressider Union still have bowling lanes?


John
Charleston Gardens
on Sep 25, 2011 at 2:18 pm
John, Charleston Gardens
on Sep 25, 2011 at 2:18 pm
Like this comment

I am glad we got rid of the bowling alley. Like liquor stores, they should all be gone.


Class of '83
Barron Park
on Sep 26, 2011 at 10:24 am
Class of '83, Barron Park
on Sep 26, 2011 at 10:24 am
Like this comment

The bowling lanes at Tresidder Union are long gone.


P.A. Native
Mountain View
on Sep 26, 2011 at 10:37 am
P.A. Native, Mountain View
on Sep 26, 2011 at 10:37 am
Like this comment

I agree with John, bowling alleys are like liquor stores...wait...WHAT!?!? Ohhhhhh, they're things that John doesn't like. Well then obviously they should all be shut down.

What's next John?


parent
Monroe Park
on Sep 26, 2011 at 1:56 pm
parent, Monroe Park
on Sep 26, 2011 at 1:56 pm
Like this comment

this would have met with much more protest if the students in the townhouses would be attending PAUSD instead of Santa Rita
that stretch of el camino is much safer since the deadheads stopped camping there during concert week


Jan
Crescent Park
on Sep 26, 2011 at 7:03 pm
Jan, Crescent Park
on Sep 26, 2011 at 7:03 pm
Like this comment

My kids and I enjoyed the free bowling program during the Summer. It was a throwback to simpler times. We will miss it!


what the #@^
Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 26, 2011 at 7:14 pm
what the #@^, Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 26, 2011 at 7:14 pm
Like this comment

Over 60% of the City of Palo Alto Development Center employees are now contract employees.Those making local zoning, building, etc. decisions are made from company employees that have won outsourcing contracts thru the city. You all wanted to get rid of city employees that had institutional knowledge and were held accountable for their actions and now you're crying in your beer how local business's are disappearing because of decisions made by outsourced employees who could care less about your concerns. Y'all are too funny!


Jim from Lynnwood WA
Midtown
on Sep 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm
Jim from Lynnwood WA, Midtown
on Sep 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm
Like this comment

My neighborhood used to be Moreno and Indian Drive. I grew up there in the late 50's and through the 60's. My buddies and I used to go to the bowling alley for the pool tables and the first computer game I ever saw. It was a trivia game with half a dozen categories. Our parents would drive us there and pick us up hours later. No concern, at least expressed, about us being unattended. How about the Indian Bowl in downtown, I think it was on Emerson, anybody remember that???!!!


danny
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2011 at 8:59 pm
danny, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2011 at 8:59 pm
Like this comment

If I had run for city council, my campaign slogan would have been 'Save the Bowling Alley'.

Actually, I mentioned to McNellis that he should put the bowling alley in Alma Plaza.


Old Palo Alto
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2011 at 11:10 am
Old Palo Alto, Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2011 at 11:10 am
Like this comment

Why blame the city council? The owner made the decision to sell.


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