Strikes on Broad Street

By on October 18, 2017

 

 

 While not confirmed, it is believed that this is Jerry Gochnauer, who was a pinsetter at the Lititz Lanes.

 

Memories of the Lititz Bowling Lanes

By Cory Van Brookhoven

Some Record Express readers may remember the Lititz Bowling Lanes, which operated behind what is now the Toy Soldier Restaurant & Pub on North Broad Street for almost 40 years.

Very little has been written about this popular attraction, but it is known that the lanes were responsible for at least one happy marriage and more than a few post-game toasts at the Warwick House barroom next door.

It all began in January of 1946 with William Hollinger, who built the lanes where the Snavely Sales Stables thrived for many years.

The bowling alley was a downtown hot spot for many years, featuring eight lanes, a snack bar, and pinball machines. And over the course of four decades, at least three perfect games were recorded.

“I watched my step-grandfather Charles Hammer bowl a perfect 300 game at the age of 88,” said Bill Pope, who has fond memories of the lanes.

During the early years, pinsetters, typically local boys, reset the pins by hand after every customer’s roll. Just picture it &tstr; a young man seated in a corner near the crashing pins, quickly having to set them back up and return every ball for 10 frames all night long. It could be dangerous work, but as the saying goes, someone had to do it. And for a kid those days, earning $1.50 per shift was quite an incentive.

Some of those same pinsetters were also at the lanes as students. Gym classes for elementary and high school children were held there for many years. Today, the Warwick High School bowling team uses Dutch Lanes in nearby Akron for home matches.

“I had a lot of fun walking from the high school to the bowling alley for gym class, bowling a game or two and then walking back to school,” Pope recalled.

In 1954, the lanes were purchased by Roy Weit and Paul Getz. Their first big high-tech upgrade was the installation of automatic pinsetters.

“We were one of the first houses in the county that had machines,” Weit said in a 1985 interview.

Over the course of its existence, as many as 12 different leagues featuring hundreds of bowlers filled the building, and bowling box scores were a regular feature in the local newspaper.

During the third week of October in 1947, J. Rubrecht rolled the high single game of 222, and G. Stoyanovitch had the high triple (three game total) of 574. Recognizable local names on the league’s eight teams included H. Reedy, A. Fleckenstein, L. Rossi, M. Rosenberg, and E. Kreider.

In the 1940s and ‘50s, bowling was flying high in Lititz, as the community league was made up of teams named after birds. Sixty years ago, Thrush was the top local team with 21 wins and 3 losses. Conversely, the Robins were 4-20, according to the Oct. 17, 1957, Record-Express sports section. The paper didn’t report first names in box scores during that time, which may have been a blessing for the Robins, who lost to the Doves that week partly due to Weller’s 344 series (115 per game average).

In 1963 and ‘64, the Sensenich Corporation of Lititz, which is famous for making airplane propellers and still operates next to the Lancaster Airport, started to manufacture bowling pins. Lititz Lanes was the company’s unofficial testing site.

In October of 1967, Ellie Kreider, who played Minor League baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies 20 years earlier, had the high bowling series for Lititz’s Major League at 560. “Doc” Wertsch was not far behind with a 523. Roy Weit bowled a 214 in the Jr. Industrial League, Ruth DeWald had a high game of 197 in the Rock & Roll League, and Flossie Schmeck made the newspaper with a 187 for the Cross Country Mixed League.

Forty years ago, Dennis Beck bowled a 206 for the Lutheran Men, and Stauffers of Kissel Hill had a big night with a high team triple of 2,584 in the Industrial League.

The lanes were busy most of those years.

“We were solid every night, two times a night, during the league season,” Weit said during the 1985 interview.

Another memory for some is all-night bowling on New Year’s Eve. April Ottey remembers.

“I had just broken up with someone and my friend invited me to all-night bowling on New Year’s Eve in 1980,” she said. “Little did I know that it was a double date; she and another friend played matchmaker without forcing the hand. We both had a great time and began dating, and in May of 1983 we got married and have been very happy ever since.”

By the early 1980s, things started to slow down. The lanes filed for bankruptcy during the summer of ‘82, but kept operating. In July of 1985, Ray Wells, owner of the Warwick House, purchased the property. By October of that year, the Lititz Bowling Lanes were dismantled and the building was demolished to make way for 24 additional parking spaces behind the restaurant and pub. All that is left today are a few tables, made from wood salvaged from the eight lanes, which are still in use at the Toy Soldier.

I remember being so upset when I saw it being torn down,” Pope said. “We need another bowling alley in Lititz.”

Cory Van Brookhoven is the president of the Lititz Historical Foundation and a regular contributor of local history features to the Record Express. He welcomes reader feedback and questions at coryvb@hotmail.com.

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