Knocked Down for the Last Time
Another One Bites the Dust
by Tommy Towery
According to a news story on WHNT, it’s the end of an era. Established in 1959, Plamor Lanes represents a rich history in the Huntsville sporting and recreation communities. Neighbor Jerry Damson Automotive Group bought the Plamor property two months ago. The iconic bowling house will close its doors for good at the end of April. See the story by clicking the link below.
This story seems to complement my memories I published last week, and invites my further bowling memories.
My first memory of going to a bowling alley in Huntsville was the day I walked down the stairs on Holmes Avenue by the Huntsville Times building. Though I do not recall the name of the place, I remember it being dark and noisy with a certain mystique I cannot explain. The alleys were old – I don’t know how old or when it first opened, but it was long before I was born I am sure. I also cannot recall how many lanes were in operation, but the one thing I cannot forget is there were no automatic pin setters and the pins were set up by pin boys who risked their lives daily sitting in the pit where the balls ended up. The pin boys would jump down in the pit, clear away any fallen pins and then put the bowling ball on a ramp and shove it on its way back to the bowler while quickly jumping back upon their perch to away the next ball crashing into the remaining pins. After the second ball, the remaining pins would be put into a carrier and a handle pulls down to reset the pins in the proper place for the next frame. Should any of them not align properly or fall over, then the pin boy had to quickly jump back down and reset them, risking life and limb from some bowler who was not paying attention to what was going on. Scores were kept on paper sheets using big fat pencils which reminded me of the ones I used in the first grade.
About the time I started school at East Clinton my mother and aunt started bowling on a league and they would go to the YMCA in West Huntsville and practice some days. There was a three or four lane alley there and they would take me along for one reason. I was their own personal pin boy. I spent many hours setting pins for them without pay, and although I did not tell them, I really had fun doing so.
My first real game was probably bowled at Playmor and I am sure I never expected a bowling ball to weigh as much as they did. The alleys did not seem to cater to women or kids back then and most of the balls were 16 pound balls. I, like many before me, could not use the finger holes to grip the ball so would shove the ball down the lane by spreading out my feet and rolling it “granny style” with both hands. It was a miracle for it to even get to the pins, much less knock any of them down.
As I grew older, and stronger, my bowling skills improved and I remember bowling with many of my Lee High classmates and fellow Boy Scouts. I remember the Pin Palace was the first time I can recall seeing automatic pinsetters and the overhead scoring projectors, where an audience could see how good or bad you were bowling. It was the northern most bowling alleys on the Parkway and the one were many of my friends from Lee elected to go bowling. My mother bowled in a league there so I spent many nights sitting there and visiting with my classmates whose parents also bowled in the same league. They had great French Fries. It wasn’t actually on the Parkway, but sat so close that we all thought it was. I also remember spending a lot of evenings with my girlfriend whose parents also bowled on the same league there. We ate French fries and drank cokes and held hands, and would often sneak outside when we could.
The summer before my senior year I made a road trip with Bob Walker and his mother to Washington D.C. to see his brother. I was amazed when we went bowling one night to see "duck pins" for the first time and the small ball used to try to knock them down. Duckpin bowling is a variation of 10-pin bowling. The balls used in duckpin bowling are 4-3/4 inches to 5 inches in diameter (which is slightly larger than a softball), weigh 3 lb 6 oz to 3 lb 12 oz each, and lack finger holes. They are thus significantly smaller than those used in ten-pin bowling. The pins, while arranged in a triangular fashion identical to that used in ten-pin bowling, are shorter, smaller, and lighter than their ten-pin equivalents which makes it more difficult to achieve a strike. For this reason the bowler is allowed three rolls per frame (as opposed to the standard two rolls per frame in ten-pin bowling).
The other bowling alleys I remember in Huntsville back then were noted in my book The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Growing Up in “The Rocket City”
Starlight Bowl – To add to the entertainment complex of Traylor Island, this bowling alley was another favorite of my classmates. Often we went over there after leaving Carter’s and sometimes we even bowled a game or two. It burned down sometime after I left Huntsville. When our parents were bowling there my girlfriend and I would tell them we were going to walk over to Carter's and see who was skating, but we actually found an empty backseat of a car in the parking lot and had some personal time.
The Parkway Bowling Lanes was another fine bowling alley that had good French fries. It seems that I can recall more about the snack bars and especially the great tasting French fries than any other part of the bowling alleys. I do remember that these lanes had some fun pinball machines as well as the alleys.
Plamor Lanes is remembered as being one of the older bowling establishments on the Parkway. Located right next to Putt-Putt on Lehman Ferry Road, it was still the Parkway to us and the two of them offered a double feature of things to do on a weekend night. It is odd, but my most dominate memory of the place was not the bowling, but the juke box. One night I was there and I heard this fantastic song playing and I had to run to get to the juke box before it ended so I could see the name of the song. It was The Beach Boys singing “409,” and I could have bought the record 10 times over with the money I shoved into the slot just to hear the song play again and again.
It now appears the last of these places will now join the others as only memories, with no concrete evidence of their existence or their importance in my growing up. It reminds me of this song by Joni Mitchell.
Memphis, TN - We're home from a wonderful two-week vacation in Hilton Head and we thoroughly enjoyed our trip. We spent a lot of time walking on the beaches and I took a couple of hundred bird pictures I am sure. Here's two of the the ones I like best. I posted it on Facebook, but I know many of you don't do Facebook so I will share them with you here.
From Our Mailbox
Subject: My top ten+ - gone from my view, never my heart.Pat King Fanning
1 The original Lincoln Memorial Baptist church
2 Carter's Skateland
3 The freedom to pray in school, to pledge to the flag, and to sense the PATRIOTIC spirit
4 Zesto's, Bon Air Restaurant (rolls), and Mullins- the way it used to be
5 Our Golden days at Lee High --- esp. choir and musicals
6 Meridian Street when it was the "main drag" from up north to down south
7 (do not laugh) My slender (almost skinny) body -- that I enjoyed so much -- and never dreamed it would change (boohoo)
8 The Big Spring park POOL and playground - designed for Kids to enjoy... (it's beautiful now, but almost too formal)
9 My childhood in Lincoln Village area - where we felt so safe and loved.
10 The BUS that took me to "town" for the day - with my 50 cents to spend. ;-)
With time, I'm sure I could come up with about 50 others places. Wish our children could have enjoyed the life we had. Thankfully Zesto was still around for part of their lives.... yummm... still wish I had a dipped dog....oh my gosh.
Wanna know a funny about Carter's Skateland? I was raised rather strictly and wasn't allowed to dance, or go to movies etc. BUT I could roller skate and bowl - as long as we had the money to do so. It was at Carter's that I found my niche for "dancing" -- the waltz, the two-step, etc... -- with NO idea I was "dancing." Daddy would even come and watch and think it was so "beautiful." Then eons later -- it dawned on me. I was "dancing" - whoa. Neither Dad nor I thought that. But the irony of it all is that I have NO rhythm unless I'm on roller skates. Haaaaa. I could posibly manage a slow dance at one of our reunions, but very self-consciously. So, I may have to wear my roller skates next time. Haaaaaa.
(Editor's Note: Pat, you bring your's and I'll bring mine!)
Beth Weinbaum '65
When I was guessing who Sally was with (missed it completely), I misspelled her last name. I have a dear high school friend with whom I am still in close contact named Sally Price Dowdy (now Rice). Sally went to Lee and was in the band (clarinet) until she transferred to Hazel Green her junior year. Apologies to Sally Dawley for the error.
Subject: Things Gone But Not Forgotten
In my own life things that fit that subject: Amvets Club, Cotton Club, The Jet Star, The Plush Horse, Diplomat, Heritage House, Red Carpet, Kings Club, Pub Club, The Top Hat Lounge, Nearly ever nightspot I worked as a working musician...The places are gone and most on this list don't even stand anymore, but the memories remain for now good and some bittersweet, but still remain. I know I'm forgetting some of the places, but that's all I can remember now. I'm sure we all have stories to tell about our lives in this regard.
Subject: Top Ten Places Now Gone
My list of missed places overlaps yours somewhat, so I’ll list 10 of mine that weren't on yours. In no order of importance:
1. North Parkway Terry’s Pizza: This was bar none the best pizza I’ve ever had. The later incarnations were, at best, only fair and the current bake-at-home version isn’t even reminiscent of the North Parkway Terry’s.
2. The Bon Air Restaurant: Good meat and three family fare, but those rolls have NEVER been matched.
3. Hardee’s: The name still exists, but that’s about it. The current version is OK fast food, but the Hardee’s Huskee was a real treat that hasn’t yet met it’s match.
4. Be-Kon Drive Inn: Just a walk-up window service place in the middle of nowhere on South Parkway. Banana-Orange shakes were delicious and found nowhere else.
5. Wilkerson’s Gulf Station: My favorite of the many hang-out gas stations where you could learn a lot by talking to the mechanics. They weren't “technicians then.
6. Corder’s Music Store: Jimmy’s store at 5 Points was a place where you could sit and talk music even if you weren't buying today. Try that in a Guitar Center Store.
7. The Big Spring Swimming Pool: Coldest water anywhere – Brrr.
8. Mock Electronics: Easygoing little store off of Meridian where you could get advice on a project whether you were buying or not.
9. Chief’s Sportswear: “Chief” Waters was just a cool guy.
10. The Epoch: Best bands anywhere.
I could have gone on, but ten is a good place to stop see what others list.
Glenn (LHS '65) & Marie James
I just wanted to send you a note of thanks for your continued dedication to publishing "Lee's Traveller" every week. I never miss an issue, no matter where Marie and I are in our travels in our wonderful nation.
Even though you may not hear from me, I am there for you in silent support. Hope we get to see you and Sue soon.