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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Mod! 1965 Denny’s, Ontario

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I never paid much attention to the Denny’s off the Fourth Street exit of the 10 Freeway in Ontario, but it’s worth a look as it’s one of the oldest surviving examples in the Inland Valley.

Built in 1965, this 1409 E. Fourth St. restaurant is relatively unaltered architecturally, according to the Ontario Planning Department. It’s got an angled roof with a zig-zag profile, large plate glass windows and stone veneer columns (over concrete brick). Architects were Colwell and Ray of Orange.

“The design is a Denny’s prototype building that was created in the mid-1950s as part of the Googie movement. The Denny’s prototype design was built for several years in many California locations (mostly freeway adjacent),” according to Planning Director Scott Murphy.

No permit for the freeway pole sign could be found, but the signage has been updated.

There are squat palms by the entry, a feature that strikes me as midcentury. The interior has been updated quite a bit. But the ceiling, like the roof, angles steeply, the lamps hanging on long cords from the ceiling add style and the windows offer natural light and a modest view.

This Denny’s is certainly freeway close. You can walk out onto a little lawn that abuts the off-ramp, which is just feet away from the edge. It’s rare to be that close to a freeway, unless you happen to reside in the song “Freefallin’,” where there’s a freeway runnin’ through the yard.

I can’t recommend the food, not being a Denny’s fan, but it was worth a single visit to admire the place.

There are former Denny’s of the same or older vintage in Montclair (now a sushi bar across from Shakey’s) and Pomona (now a birrieria restaurant at Holt and Indian Hill), for the record.

Denny’s began as Danny’s Donuts in 1953 in Lakewood, became Danny’s Coffee Shop in 1956, switched to Denny’s Coffee Shop in 1959 to avoid confusion with the Coffee Dan’s chain, shortened its name to Denny’s in 1961 and began franchising in 1963, according to its Wikipedia entry.

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