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Bowling in Dallas was once the perfect game.
From the 1940s to the 1970s, area establishments boasted regular crowds of bowlers of all ages, from novice to semi-professional. Its popularity extended beyond the local level and made it a “headline sport” featured alongside professional football.
In part one of a two-part series, see how The Dallas Morning News covered each round of the sport’s popularity.
Bowling in The News
A sport this popular quickly found its way into The News† According to the Texas State Historical Association, the turnverein movement that originated in Germany arrived in Texas in 1851. In Texas, the movement was responsible for community buildings focused on athletics called Turner Halls, many of which included bowling lanes.
One of the first mentions of bowling in North Texas was about an 1894 match between Dallas and Houston teams. The event was part of Saengerfest, a traveling music festival in Texas with similar German roots.
Parks, like beer gardens, gave Dallas residents opportunities to bowl outside. In 1933, an article looked back at Dallas’s once popular beer gardens, including Meisterhan’s, which had a small bowling alley.
Other early coverage included advertisements for equipment and fashion. Bowling made its way into home goods with items like a 1940 lamp with a bowling bowl base. Department stores targeted fans with advertisements for bowling styles that were both fashionable and functional.
During World War II, the styles crossed the divide between defense work and bowling as The News noted that split skirts were being showcased for both uses.
long time news sportswriter Harless Wade wrote a regular column on the Dallas bowling world beginning in the late 1950s. His column signaled that focus had moved from advertisements to leagues, tournaments and establishments.
In 1956, the Dallas city directory from the John F. Worley Directory Company listed eight bowling alleys. By 1961, that number had tripled. the same year, The News reported that 40,000 Dallas area residents bowled weekly.
Bowling alleys in 1956:
- Brantley’s Bowling Alley, Inc. (1807 N. Harwood St.)
- Cedar Crest Lanes (3023 S Lancaster Road)
- Lakewood Lanes (6337 Oram St.)
- Morse Hap Bowling Alleys (1507 Young St.)
- Oak Cliff Lanes (309 E. Jefferson Blvd.)
- Pleasant Grove Bowlanes (7812 Lake June Road)
- Superior Lanes Inc. (4150 N Central Expressway)
- Texas Bowling Center (324 W. Seventh St.)
Bowling alleys added by 1961:
- Bowlero Bowling Center (314b South Oak Cliff Shopping Center)
- Buckner Bowling Center (400 S. Buckner Blvd.)
- Capitan Bowling Center (1030 Dragon St. & 2327 N. Henderson Ave.)
- Dallas East Bowling Center (1007 Jonelle Ave.)
- Forest Bowling Lanes (2720 Forest Ave.)
- Hampton Bowl (2036 Kraft St.)
- Hart Bowl (3641 W. Northwest Highway)
- Industrial Bowling Center (1030 Dragon St.)
- Jupiter Bowling Lanes (11336 Jupiter Road)
- Morse Hap Bowling Lanes (1507 Young St.)
- Preston Forest Bowling Center (828 Preston Forest Shopping Center)
- White Rock Bowl (10221 Garland Road)
- Zangs Bowling Lanes (333 W. Kies Blvd.)
- Cotton Bowling Palace (3417 Inwood Road)
- Fiesta Lanes (2020 Saturn Road)
Lakewood Bowling Lanes (6337 Oram St.)
This bowling alley was in The News by 1943 when its manager, Garner Wells, put out a statewide challenge to crown the best of Dallas. Chances are high that serious bowlers spent time there in the 1950s. The venue was home to teams and leagues, and hosted tournaments like the Dallas Bowling Officers Tournament in 1963.
White Rock Bowl (10221 Garland Ave.)
This bowling alley opened in 1956 with 16 lanes, automatic pin-spotters and a nursery available for the women’s leagues. A business opening advertisement promoted its year-round air conditioning and grill.
Superior Bowling Club, Inc. (4150 N Central Expressway)
Proprietor Joe Earnest believed bowling was a sport for everyone. He capitalized on that by revamping Superior Lanes from a standard bowling alley into an exclusive club that he said was the first of its kind.
Mickey Mantle Lanes (Exchange Park)
Some bowling alleys were more famous than others. Mickey Mantle moved his family to Dallas for bowling. His business opened February 1959 as part of Exchange Park off Harry Hines Boulevard. Being attached to the baseball legend drew interest as did its modern conveniences like its under-alley ball return. Its opening celebration was attended by Academy Award winner Dorothy Malone and Mantle’s fellow baseball stars.
Bronco Bowl (2600 Fort Worth Ave.)
The 1961 grand opening of Bronco Bowl was a major draw for enthusiasts and the curious alike. Hollywood star Jayne Mansfield attended the opening ceremony, which was a four-day affair.
This popular spot stood out from its competitors for its 78 lanes, miniature golf course, salon, health club and more. The facility had space for 3,000 cars in its parking lot and 300 children in its nursery.
Don Carter’s All-Star Lanes (multiple locations)
Famed bowler Don Carter made his mark on North Texas with his bowling alleys. According to the United States Bowling Congress, he was known for many firsts. He was the first bowler to win every major tournament and the first athlete in any sport to sign a $1 million endorsement contract.
Rolling into the future
Beginning in the 1970s, bowling coverage tapered off as the sport’s popularity waned and businesses closed. According to the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame, this marked the end of its golden age. This museum is in Arlington, making it a convenient visit for local bowling aficionados.
The 1975 city directory from RL Polk & Co. listed 11 facilities. Those not listed ten years before were Big Town Bowlanes in Mesquite, Circle Bowl (10011 Denton Drive), Expressway Lanes (5910 N. Central Expressway) and Jack & Jill Bowling Lanes (10221 Garland Road).
Four years later, there were ten. The only new entries were Don Carter Bowling Lanes West (2440 Walnut Hill Lane) and Forum Bowling Lanes & Lounge in Grand Prairie.
Despite its more limited role in Dallas, the sport never disappeared.
Coverage about the sport in The News continued into the 1980s and 1990s, but it revolved around tournament results. Tournaments, leagues and teams were constant features beginning in the 1940s and that continued into the 2000s.
The second part of this two-part series on bowling in Dallas will cover leagues, teams and bowling from the 1980s to early 2000s.
Update: Correction: The previous version included a misspelling. “Morse Hop” has been corrected to “Morse Hap.” The bowling alley Cotton Bowling Palace was incorrectly listed as not being included in the Dallas city directory in 1965.
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