Inwood Lanes: Bowling Memories Wanted

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Inwood Lanes bowling alleySo often,  MyInwood readers write in to share their memories of the old neighborhood.  Not only do I appreciate these valuable personal histories, I’ve decided to actively encourage them.

Flipping through a 1972 issue of “Heights-Inwood,”   a former neighborhood weekly newspaper, I came across a steady stream of advertising for a bowling alley called Inwood Lanes, once located on 651 Academy Street at the corner of Broadway.

If you have memories of the old bowling alley, fond or otherwise, please share them in the comment space below.

Again, this is your Inwood as well and some things you just can’t look up in a history book.

Inwood Lanes, 1972 Advertisement
Inwood Lanes, 1972 Advertisement

I look forward to hearing from you.  Scroll down a bit further to leave your memories in the comment box below if you can spare the time.

I put out the call and My Inwood readers responded.

Steve Harris was kind enough to send in this description and photos from the 1960’s.

Strike & Spare Shop “I had the Pro Shop called Strike and Spare Shop on the corner of Broadway and Academy from 1963-68. I drilled balls, sold bags, shoes, trophies, did the engraving and in the summers sold uniforms to most of the many softball teams in the Inwood Bar league. I also played for Dolans and Ray-Vans Nest.

I bowled at Inwood from the age of 14 and am still friends with John Kourabas. His Father Chris owned the bowling alley and Al Morik was Chris’ son in law.

Inwood  steve- herb milt- zanedis
Inwood Lanes, late 1960’s.

Pro Shop 1967I have a few old pictures and so many memories of the days and nights I spent there. Chris Kourabas had a smile that could light up a room without needing light bulbs. John owns Paradise Lanes now in Yonkers.”

Thank you Steve and everyone else for contributing to this Inwood bowling time capsule.

24 COMMENTS

  1. Cole,
    Inwood Lanes was owned by the family of my childhood friends John and Chris Morick who lived in the apartment building on the north west corner of Park Terrace East and 217th Street. The owners were their grandparents (maternal as I recall). It was a treat to bowl for free because you knew the owner and I recall a few Morick birthday parties there as well. I’m not sure when the lanes closed, I believe they were still in operation when I left the neighborhood in 1977. I lost track of the Morick family after I moved away although a friend recently told me that their mom, Helen works/ed at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital so you might learn more that way.
    Still loving the site, keep it up and let me know when the next “History Night” is scheduled.
    John Murtagh

  2. I used to bowl at the Inwood Lanes when I was a kid. I bowled in a Saturday morning children’s league with my friend, Joey Sheehan. This would have been the early 1980’s, probably 1981/1982. We really had a good time and I know I looked forward to it each week. We even competed in a Junior Bowling Championship, sponsored by Coca-Cola. I also used to go, every other Friday, right after school to bowl with Br. Robert Fagan. He was our fifth grade teacher at Good Shepherd. He would take any of the fifth graders who wanted to go and we would bowl together. It was really well done and he would give us trophies at the end of the year for participation or most improved, etc.

    My grandfather, Bill Murphy, bowled in a men’s league on Thursday nights. It was mostly the Men’s Club from Good Shepherd; it was called horseshoe bowling. They had a big dinner at the end of the year each year. My mom and grandma, Lois Hughes and Claire Murphy, bowled in the women’s league on Sunday nights.

    What I remember most, other than the bowling, was the FABULOUS hamburgers you could get from the concession stand. Nowhere else – PK’s, the old Doubleday’s, the Mighty Burger – came close! It was truly “good, clean fun” that kept you entertained. It was a great loss when the place closed. I still love to bowl.

  3. Hi Cole: I didn’t go to Inwood Lanes, but my kids did from time to time…some with Brother Robert as mentioned by Jennifer Hughes. We did, however, as teenagers frequent “Bowlerama” which was between Broadway and 9th Avenue on 218th Street, sort of a little north of where Don-Glo is now. It was a pretty large facility. I was never much of a bowler, but it was kind of a social thing to do in the late 50s.

  4. Hi Cole: I didn’t go to Inwood Lanes, but my kids did from time to time…some with Brother Robert as mentioned by Jennifer Hughes. We did, however, as teenagers frequent “Bowlerama” which was between Broadway and 9th Avenue on 218th Street, sort of a little north of where Don-Glo is now. It was a pretty large facility. I was never much of a bowler, but it was kind of a social thing to do in the late 50s.

  5. I was alerted to your website by my friend Steve Harris who by the way is always finding something interesting about our old neighborhood. He’s great like that.
    John (Murtaugh), I remember you hanging out with my nephews John and Chris and I’m sure I was at the lanes when you bowled.
    Jennifer how the heck are you? How’s Mom and Dad and is Grandma still around?
    My father Chris bought Inwood Lanes in 1947 and ran it until 1972 when he gave (actually he sold it to me by raising the rent as he was the landlord of the building) it to me to run. I owned it until Columbia Presbyterian Hospital approached us to lease the entire building. The deal fell through in the end but I had closed the doors (reluctantly) in June of 1986.
    Inwood Lanes was truly one of a kind. Our clientelle was so varied, from the president of a bank (Al Mosher) to some who were real close to being homeless but we all got along and had a great time.
    One of the things that stands out in my mind was how the Dominican people who had moved into the area took to the sport of bowling with such a passion. They couldn’t get enough of it. Some were there when I opened the doors at 11 am and others were there until the wee hours of the morning or until I got so tired I made them go home so I could get some sleep.
    I hope we hear some more from some of the bowlers it brings back lots of good memories.

  6. Before the TV show ‘CHEERS” there was Inwood Lanes, the neighborhood place where everybody knew your name. We didn’t have a “Norm” or a “Cliff Claven” but there were plenty of characters who made Inwood entertaining.

    Everyone who came to “the alleys” was family, and the credit for that goes to my grandfather, Chris Kourabas, and my uncles, John and Nick Kourabas. From the family members such as me who called Inwood their second home, to the league bowlers to the occasional patrons, we were one big happy family because they made us feel at home. It was like home to me – I bowled, ate and drank for free (the burgers were outstanding!), played pinball and video games (five quarters for a dollar) and hung around with my family.

    There are too many memories of Inwood to list, but I guess I share my uncle John’s recollection of the passion that the Dominican population showed for bowling. I was particularly thankful that one Dominican, Laura Diaz, showed such a passion for bowling at Inwood — so much so that I ended up marrying her. So whenever anybody asks me if I still have any souveniers from Inwood Lanes, my answer is clearly yes – my wife Laura.

  7. To say that I grew up in Inwood Lanes would be an understatement. My grandfather (Chris) and Uncle (John) owned Inwood Lanes. I was born in August 1960 so I would imagine my first trip to “the lanes” was in September 1960.

    My fondest memories are from those rainy winter Saturdays when the place was jammed and all 16 lanes were busy – and we had to have a waiting list for all those parties that wanted to get onto a lane. We would have the TV tuned to Channel 7 at 3:30 to watch the PBA Tour and to see if Ernie Schlegal (a pro bowler and former Inwood employee) would make the telecast. It was lots of fun there – especially on those busy days when we all chipped in to work. And finally when the crowd died down, I was able to bowl a few games…priceless.

    I learned a lot in that place – not just how to bowl – but how to work behind the counter, cook, clean, fix the machines, tend to customers, use the “dumbwaiter”, play video games, etc etc…It really taught me a lot about life – not that I new that at the time.
    It was and will always be, a big part of me.

    To sum it up – Inwood Lanes was “Cheers” before “Cheers” was even thought of…I still miss it.

  8. I am John Kourabas’ brother, the other uncle of the “Morik Boys”, as they have been affectionately known well into their manhood. I guess you could say that Inwood Lanes bonded us all in a way that would not have otherwise happened. It only takes one word, one look from one of us, to have memories exploding in our heads of that place. It grounded us, it taught us a great deal about other people, (certainly taught me), and was simply a place to “be”. I honestly do not know what I would have done had I not had “the alleys” to go to on the weekends and nights, especially in the summer. For me, on a very personal level, I loved to observe all the characters, from the regulars to those who encountered the place for the first time.

    One quick story that my family knows: my dad, when I was about 13, decided that I needed a job so he “hired” me to be the day man at Inwood for the summer of 1963. He told me my pay would be 10% of whatever I took in. I had visions of unimaginable wealth. I opened the place each morning, and handed it off, usually to Adolph “Al” Weiss who was the night man and came in to manage the place as it got busy with leagues.

    As to my newfound wealth, as anyone who knows anything about the bowling business will tell you, the people that came into the place in the middle of summer were the Con Ed man to read the meters, the “towel guy” to deliver the towels that the bowlers used to wipe their hands, the “beer guy”…and on and on. But nary a soul came in to bowl! I was lucky if the day’s haul was a dollar or two.

    When I whined to my dad about this his answer to me was, “Do you bowl as much as you want ? Do you eat for free?” Yes to both. Discussion over. Then it was time to wait for the “Drake’s guy” to come in and deliver the Yodels, Ring Dings and other snacks that helped fill the time and my stomach on those long summer days. I loved every minute of it!

  9. By the way, the flyer about the grand re-opening refers to the place having been shut down because of the fire in August, 1972. For a few desperate minutes, I thought my brother was trapped inside as I watched the building burn. But he was not..he had brought his girlfriend home to Brooklyn. I will remember that night as long as I live.

  10. Two Chris Kourabas stories:

    The night Bowlerama burned down, we heard about it and rushed up to 218th and Broadway under the subway tracks to watch. Standing there was Chris with a big smile. He was thrilled that his competition was no more. The story was it burned on purpose for the insurance money.

    When I rented the store at 4840 Broadway from Chris , I had a bathroom in the cellar that didn’t work , a sink that only had cold water and a wall on Academy street that wsa open to the street behind an advertising sign. So I put up cardboard to block the air flow and then put up an entire wall of contact paper in a wood grain patern to hide the whole thing. Well, winter came and I was freezing in there. I asked Chris to come down to the Pro Shop and see what I was talking about. He told me “I rented you four walls”. I got upset and yelled “well, I only have three walls” and proceeded to tear out the whole false wall I had put up exposing me to the elements again. He just smiled and said “I always said you were crazy” and left me standing there. We laughed about that for many years to come.

    By the way he was a great man and taught me lots about business and life in general. And he was very generous, we used to go to Bickfords on Dyckman and Broadway most nights for coffee and eggs or muffins and he NEVER let anybody else pay.

  11. My father, Jerry Sherman (157 Vermilyea Ave), used to set pins at the Inwood Lanes for 14 cents a game in 1949/50 when it was called the Pepsi Cola Club. He set pins there and at Costa’s Pool Room and Bowling Alley on Broadway and 207th Street. “Setting pins there at the age of 16, but was not old enough to bowl!” he remembers.

  12. As the Korabas’ and Morik’s know, the site is now home to Inwood Community Services, Inc. I’ve been hunting for any memories and pictures of the location when it was a bowling alley, and this site is a jack-pot! Thanks Cole for pointing me to myinwood.net! Our agency operates a variety of services today from 651 Academy Street including counseling, English as a second language, after-school programs, summer programs, and community development/mobilization initiatives. In a sense, some of the old “vibe” was carried over into a new generation. Interesting side-note: the old lanes are actually still under the plywood and carpet flooring!

  13. I only recently discovered this site and thoroughly enjoy reading so many stories that stir my childhood memories. I grew up around the corner from Inwood/Academy Lanes (4848 Broadway) so I naturally spent quite a bit of time there. I was also (regrettably) one of the annoying little brats who used to throw open the door to the Pepsi Cola Club (downstairs from Inwood lanes) scream childish things at the people attending luncheons inside. One of my great memories of the place was watching, in total awe, a blind man who bowled there regularly. I believe he was the same man who ran the newstand on Dyckman and Broadway but I’m no longer sure of that. Someone would drag over one of the coat racks and align it with the lane and he would make his approach by holding onto the coat rack as a guide. I’ll never understand how he knew where the foul line was but he was a heck of a bowler.

  14. Its the night after Cristmas, 20000 & 10, and the pictures above,take me back- wayback when. The road for this journey is a time full of love,on a cold winter’s night, as the stars shine above.To a time and a place,and the memories of friends,some still here,some are gone, and will not be- again. “The Alleys-The Alleys,the memories fly,of Cris, john and Nicky, and the times that passed by. And of Mary&;Yaya,Helen&;Electra,&; aunt Martha’s Pot that once broke our elevator.Of stickball,box baseball and summer night ringalevio,and johnny workin at The Alleys that so bugged me,ya kno.Of Inwood Hill Park where we all used to play, coppin smokes with the king rats down Yacht Basin way,and the memories keepa flyin like furious static shots,to remind me-of what once was-and which now, I have not.Bowling&Cheesedogs&the worlds best hamburgers,,sleepin great on the aproaches to 5&;6— some years later.And Homer with his fine hump,and Steve Harris his style,&; the time i decked Bill Bluit,lord it still makes me smile.The suicide sleighrides down sick Deadmans hill,still thrills me to blazes,and it always will. For your information,Bowlerama burned twice, Sid smiled and collected, so neat and so nice.The world greatest pizza was at The Pizza Haven,old man Espizito, was the liquor maven.The old Alpine Lounge was our bucket of blood,singin&dancin at the Nagle Avenue “Y” taught us much- about love. The bakery at Nash’s,the tatooed ladies behind the counter,showed us all that life, goes on, even after.,And a smile from Dave, the tall and nice waiter,made any kid believe, that it was him, he was there for.But ya know every story’s got to have a conclusion,with my memories so streaming now its gettin a bit-confusin.Sometime maybe in the future,maybe on another cold winter’s night,my spirit will move me to continue to write,of the only place in this world i have ever called home,as the gypsy that i am,continues to roam.I dont dwell on what i cant change,not at least anymore,but i’ll never forget what those days and nights, held in store, in a neighborhood still strivin and i hope survivin well,the church of the Good Shepard,i still remember and can hear- the bells,but oops- there i go again, and in grateful and gracious recal,of a prodigal son,and angels that fall,and for those whove suceeded- man- Johnny’s lookin great,and still has all his hair at such a late date.In my heart for forever and ever & still,i’ll remain just a kid,from atop Inwood Hill.So in the spirit of Cristmas,i hope i have got it right,Merry Cristmas to All, and to Inwood–A-Good Night.

  15. I have positive memories working as an occasional pin boy during the mid-to-late 50’s at Inwood lanes. I must have been ten or eleven years old. It was fun and it paid for my bowling at a time when I was fully engaged in the sport. Nice people and lots of fun.

  16. Thanks Cole Thompson for this i spent a lot of time there when I was a Pup.This is the only info I have every seen on this Bowling alley

  17. Bowled mostly on Dyckman St. As a kid, but went to school with John M. As a young adult bowled at Inwood Lanes and had a blast. My thoughts go to Arnie Mercado, one of the “Dominican” bowlers that really took to the game. He has passed away but was arguably the best bowler in the house in the late seventies/early eighties.
    Funny story: I stopped bowling in the early eighties and did not pick up a ball for over twenty years. Started bowling again in 2005 on a whim, found out in a round about way that JK had purchased Paradise Lanes on Yonkers Ave., and took my youngest son down to bowl a few games. I walked in and John just happened to be there. I walked up to him, smiling, and just stood for a moment looking at him. I was curious if he could figure out who I was: it had been over twenty years and I had seemingly just disappeared from the face of the earth. After a short moment I finally said “you don’t remember me?” All of a sudden recognition dawned, and that legendary smile arose. He knew who stood before him, and it immediately was as if I had never left. Needless to say I could not pay for the games that I bowled. We wound up bowling together in the following summer league, and not to blow my own horn, I had a 300 game in my first league game “back home.” The fastest 300 game in Paradise history. ???? serendipitous, no?

  18. Oh, by the way, if anyone is looking for John Morik, he is alive and well, averaging over 220 in the Wed. night league at Paradise. It’s like watching Earl Anthony.

  19. This was what a real bowling alley was like… gritty and no frills. Back then you had to keep your own score.

    As kids we would go hunting for the light weight 8 pound ball. Some of the balls were completely unusable with big chunks broken off of them.
    There was this funny mechanical coin-operated game bolted to the wall. It would test your hand-eye coordination… basically you’d put a coin in the top of a clear tube and hit the button, then hit the 2nd button to see how far it fell.

    I’ll never forget the smell of Lysol they would spray in the rental shoes.

  20. Enjoyed my times bowling there. The Kourabas family always made you feel right at home. Very special!!!
    I grew up right down the block on Vermilyea. Imagine that, not having to get in your car to go bowling………:)

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