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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Let’s Roll: Brunswick Zone, Upland

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Upland’s bowling alley is relatively modern and located on the busy commercial corridor of Foothill Boulevard, just west of Euclid and cater-corner from Upland High, a recipe for success. At 40 lanes, it’s about as large as they get.

I’ve bowled there a bunch of times, and while it doesn’t have the flair of Montclair’s Bowlium, it’s a little easier to get to for me. It’s my go-to bowling alley, and the place where I hit my high score, 200.

One user-friendly touch is that all balls of the same weight are the same color, making them easy to sort for the staff and to return after you’re done. Anyone who’s spent time poking around the shelves for a ball of their favored weight will appreciate the ease of finding a ball: Here are all the 7-pounds, next are all the 8-pounds, organized in order up to 16. My favored weight, 10 pounds, are all green.

The lane furniture is a little uncomfortable, with swing-out swivel chairs, and as with most electronic scoring systems, entering your name or making changes is tricky, maybe more so here with colored pyramid keys that correspond to elements on the overhead screen, once you figure it out.

The graphics on the monitors are funny. For instance, anthropomorphic pins walk out of jail when you roll a gutter ball. The “turkey” graphic below memorializes my getting three strikes in a row, a rare feat for me. On my most recent visits, the monitors were measuring your rolls’ speed (10 to 13 mph for me) and only showing the last five frames instead of the whole game at once.

Upland is probably due for an update; in 20 more years we might think it’s retro, but at this point it just seems a little behind the times, and the exterior is awfully bland too. But while the Dude, Walter and Donny from “The Big Lebowski” would probably find the place too anonymous, Brunswick Zone is a good place to bowl.

Address: 451 W. Foothill Blvd. (at Euclid), Upland

Number of lanes: 40

Owner: Brunswick

Year opened: 1985

Architect: somebody who thought a faux awning against a brown box really dressed the place up

Neighbors: Upland High, Kishi, Vons center

Air hockey: Yes

Bar: Yes

Coffee shop: No, but Nathan’s hot dogs. And salads.

Pro shop: Yes

Ambience: Families, teens (the future of bowling)

Deal: $2 Tuesdays, with games and shoe rental $2 each after 8 p.m.

Website: http://www.bowlbrunswick.com/about-us/121/1

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