Let’s Roll: Covina Bowl

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Covina Bowl is one of the area’s granddaddies, built during bowling’s boom in 1956 and still in operation. It just turned 60. Much of the center is original, with flagstone cladding, a 60-foot sign, oddball Egyptian and Polynesian touches and some evidently original lamps.

I’d bowled there a couple of times on a Sunday morning despite the drive. A 60th anniversary party on Feb. 11 drew me back. They had a cake shaped like the building, including the soaring A-frame roof, a sweet touch and an inspiring bit of cake architecture. (Rice Krispies helped.)

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After the party, I bowled two games, although I’m not a fan of cosmic bowling, which is what was going on that night. The lanes seemed to be in good condition. The art above the pins depicting a stylized Art Deco skyline was a cute way to dress the place up.

The balls weren’t so hot, though. In my range (10, 11 and 12 pounds), most had too-small holes, and the one I settled for scraped my thumb — waah, waah, waah. There were a lot of 14- and 15-pounders, which tempted me to move up except that my arm might have fallen off.

The scoring system worked fine and the screen graphics were good. After whiffing on the second ball in a frame, the screen showed animated pins guffawing silently at me. Deflating, but I couldn’t help but join them.

Covina Bowl is one block off the main drag, cutting down on its visibility, and you can tell from the enormous footprint, nearly a square block of land, that the pin palace was once a center of community life. These days, not so much, and its days as a bowling alley may be nearing an end. Enjoy Covina Bowl while it lasts.

There are decent places to eat nearby: a Northwoods Inn of a similar vintage, several Mexican restaurants, Capri Deli a couple of miles east and a Norms in a round building (a former Steak Corral “family westaurant”) with an amazing sign that lights up in sequence.

Address: 1060 W. San Bernardino Road, Covina

Number of lanes: 50 (count ’em, 50)

Owner: Brunswick

Year opened: 1956

Architect: Powers, Daly and DeRosa

Neighbors: Home Depot, Mar y Tierra No. 3, Northwoods Inn

Air hockey: Yes (and nine billiard tables)

Bar: Yes

Coffee shop: Closed

Pro shop: Yes

Ambience: Fred and Barney would love it, except for the cosmic bowling

Deal: $2 games and shoes after 6 p.m. Sundays and 8 p.m. Tuesdays

Hours: 10 a.m to 11 p.m. Monday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday, 4 to 11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.

Website: http://www.bowlbrunswick.com/about-us/297/1

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  • Don Anderson

    Back in the 1980s I worked in West Covina and would eat lunch about two or three times a month in the Covina Bowl’s coffee shop. They had a decent Chef Salad which was my usual, with Ranch Dressing. And they had some good help, once we all got to know one another. I have some good, if faded, memories of eating there while catching up on my reading.

  • DebB

    I’m not much of a bowler, but I hate to see the genre suffering and the bowling centers closing. The architecture of this one is pretty special and unique – I really hope that if they close down, someone will love and reuse the building rather than bulldoze it!

  • Elizabeth Moonrose

    My Grandfather, Frank C. Dean was an amputee since the early 1900’s. He worked there (after retirement age until he died at 86) as a scorekeeper for teams back when they still kept score by hand. Sometimes he kept score for four teams at once. He was also great at billiards for decades. He was very well loved by employees and teams. They called him “Pop” Dean. I know he once had an article in the newspaper that included him. Wish I had a copy of that now. My Uncle, Phil Dean was once a bowling instructor there. He also performed in the banquet room singing.