Remembering basement bowling alleys in the Tri-Cities

A look at the 'underground history' of this sport in the Tri-Cities

  • Several historical bowling alleys in the Tri-Cities were located in basements. Shown are bowlers at Arcada Recreation in St. Charles sometime in the 1940s.

    Several historical bowling alleys in the Tri-Cities were located in basements. Shown are bowlers at Arcada Recreation in St. Charles sometime in the 1940s. COURTESY OF THE ST. CHARLES HISTORY MUSEUM

  • Bowling lanes in the Baker Community Center basement in St. Charles, circa the 1940s.

    Bowling lanes in the Baker Community Center basement in St. Charles, circa the 1940s. COURTESY OF THE ST. CHARLES HISTORY MUSEUM

 
 
Posted2/22/2017 6:00 AM

As a local sports editor in the late 1970s, it became apparent fairly quickly to me as to what was one of the most popular sports around the Tri-Cities. And this shouldn't surprise anyone.

We spent a fair amount of our time collecting the league standings from area bowling alleys and printing those in the paper. It was a significant task, particularly because it seemed that the bowling "season," as it was, went nearly year-round.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And why not? It was an indoor sport, and a great one at that.

Before the bowling alleys that we are aware of today -- St. Charles Bowl, Funway in Batavia and Bowling Green in West Chicago -- came about, this was literally an underground sport around here.

It's not certain why, other than maybe it was considered somewhat easy to build and maintain a small bowling alley in a basement of a building, and you need that strong foundation to support the alleys.

That's where bowlers tested their skills in the 1930s and '40s on some lanes in the basement of the Baker Community Center in St. Charles and at a spot called Arcada Recreation on South Riverside. The lanes at the Baker Community Center were eventually removed in the early 1960s to make room for the STC Underground youth gathering spot.

Geneva also went for the lower levels to knock down the pins at a spot called Geneva Lanes.

I first learned about Geneva Lanes in 1995 when writing a story about Paul Slater of St. Charles Township and the league title his team won in 1954 in the basement of the building, just to the east of what was Fourth Street Café at the time in the mid '90s.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That spot is now Aurelio's Pizza. The spot next to it, where the bowling alley was located, is currently office spaces. But there is a sign pointing to a lower level, so that must have been the home to Geneva Lanes until about 1959 or 1960.

Learn about cops:

The timing for this sure seems appropriate considering how the role of the police across the country is coming under more intense scrutiny than in the past.

St. Charles police want residents and business owners to understand how the police department operates. To do that, they are encouraging those interested to sign up for the annual Citizens Police Academy to be held in two- to three-hour classes that start at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays, March 23 through May 25, at the police department training room.

Participants will learn about daily police duties, including criminal and narcotics investigations, arrest and search procedures, as well as court hearings, traffic stops, K-9 units and SWAT team procedures.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Classroom and outside demonstrations are part of the program, with students potentially being able to participate with tasks like processing for fingerprints or getting a radar reading on a moving vehicle.

Applications for the free program are available at the police department lobby, or can be downloaded off the city website under "Crime Prevention."

The last day to sign up for the academy is March 9.

Information is available from officer Jim Burden at (630) 443-3835 or jburden@st.charles.il.gov.

Wings feedback:

Plenty of readers agreed with the choices we offered in this column a couple of weeks ago for the best local places to munch on chicken wings. But a few other options were offered, just in case.

Hawthorne's Backyard in West Chicago was mentioned as a great choice, while Riverside Pizza & Pub in St. Charles also earned some raves. Another mentioned was The Lodge on 64 in Wasco.

Soup's on:

If a hot cup of soup is something that helps your winter blahs, then the Batavia United Way has an event right up your alley.

It is hosting a Winter Soup Tasting open house from 7 to 10 p.m. March 9 at Bar Evolution and Tea Tree on River Street. For $20, those attending receive three-ounce samples of soup from 10 Batavia restaurants.

Online purchases are recommended at bataviaunitedway.org.

dheun@sbcglobal.net

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.