Vance Is Stumped! Where in Memphis Was This Miniature Bowling Alley?



I hope you've appreciated the old color slides that I've posted recently (here and in the magazine) showing the ruins of the Russwood Park fire.

Well, mixed in with that tray of slides was this intriguing image, and I need help — yes, I admit it — figuring out where this was, and what the game is, exactly.

I mean, I know it's some form of bowling. But look — the four alleys are very short, the wooden pins are quite small, and the eight pins are arranged in a straight line. I assume some kind of lever mechanism simply reset the pins after you attempted to knock them down. Depending on your skill, notice the three levels of prizes available to you for a dime, which seemed to be limited to large, medium, and small chalk figures, just like the prizes you'd win at old carnival arcade games.

Notice also the signs admonishing players "Please do not roll ball hard."

Does anyone remember playing at this establishment?

And — this would really be great — does anyone recognize the dapper gentleman who seems to be operating it?

Reader Comments:
Apr 5, 2013 10:27 am
 Posted by  rwbrown

Back around 1950 there was a miniature bowling alley on the NE corner of Cleveland and Madison. I remember playing there once but I can't identify anything in the photo to make a connection. Perhaps you can find it listed in a 1950 city directory. The building is still there.

Ray W Brown
CBU ME Dept

Apr 6, 2013 07:45 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duckpin_bowling

Apr 10, 2013 10:49 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I am pretty sure this game was set up at the old Fair Grounds. As you entered the grounds you first passed the Zippin Pippin on your left, with the Kiddie Land rides on your right. The rides the popular Mr. Levy used to own. As you proceeded you passed Charlie Bell's photo booth, the little fishing game and the Ring the Bell. You know the one with the sledge hammer.
Then you curved left and you had an assortment of games. My favorite was "Walking Charlie." This game had crude male mannequins dressed in suits and hats. You threw baseballs in an attempt to knock the hats off the Charlies to win a prize.
I believe this bowling game was right next to "Walking Charlie."
All these games were outdoor midway type stores; covered but with open fronts. I remember all these old game stores having that fan in the back to pull a draft through the summers heat.

May 19, 2013 03:46 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I REMEMBER HAPPY HAL'S SHOW AND TOY STORE. THE YEAR I WAS SIX I WON BE YOUR OWN SANTA AND HAD 5 MINUTES TO GO THROUGH THE STORE AND GET ANY AND EVERYTHING I WANTED. ANYTHING I POINTED AT THAT I COULDN'T REACH THEY GOT FOR ME. I CLEANED OUT THEIR COSTUME RACK. I'VE OFTEN WONDERED IF THE TV STATION KEPT ARCHIVES OF THE ACTUAL EVENT IN 1965.

Jun 6, 2013 01:21 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

This was a game stand at the Fairgrounds amusement park, as described above. The lanes stand about as high as a pool table, maybe a little higher, and you got 2 or 3 balls to roll in an attempt to knock over the pins.

There was still a bowling alley like this at the Sylvan Beach Amusement Park near Oneida NY when I was taking my children there in the mid 1990's.

Chuck B.

Nov 17, 2013 06:59 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Kudos to the person with the phenomenal memory of the Fairgrounds. I walked it many of times, but could not have come up with such detail. And of course the Old Mill wasn't it called, near the Pippin?

Forrest

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

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