Skip to content

Fire at the Moose Exchange

I’m sorry to report that on January 30, 2014 the Moose Exchange suffered a major fire, and although the bowling alley was spared except for some water damage, the building will be unusable for quite some time. The fire raged in a ground-level storage room in the rear of the building, directly above the pinspotters. Fortunately, the concrete floor shielded them from heat, and there was no evidence of high temperature: no melted chassis covers, and no charred pins. However, a significant amount of water did enter the bowling alley, wetting the lanes and submerging the back-ends of the pinspotters. The firefighters did remarkable work controlling the blaze, and considering the amount of water they used to extinguish it, very little remained downstairs at the end of the day. However, when the time comes to reopen, we will need lots of replacement parts for our 82-70Bs and a complete refinishing of the lanes and approaches. At this time I cannot post pictures from the bowling alley, but they’ll be shared here sometime in the future.

Please consider donating to the Moose Exchange, especially for the upcoming Raise the Region fundraiser advertised on the website. All donations will be matched by the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania, and are tax deductible.

Exchange

Smoke rises from the Exchange in the early afternoon of January 30. Photo by Gary F. Clark.

1658509_659713280737956_1601692590_o

Rays of light (or hope) stream into the second story ballroom. Photo by Oren B. Helbok.

1077267_659713377404613_2003076306_o

The famous art deco grille room, water damaged. The fire burned behind the wooden wall in the background. Photo by Oren B. Helbok.

181287_534538533255432_2115884032_n

The Moose Exchange Bowling Alley in better days. Photo by Oren B. Helbok.

82-70A Manual

I received a nice surprise in the mail recently from Ken-Cliff Lanes: an original (and complete) parts and service manual for the 82-70A, one of the rarest pinsetting machines in the world today. Glenn had done a parts run to Snyder, Texas, and as usual, he brought home all the manuals he could find. Why an 82-30 house would have a book like this is anyone’s guess, but in any event, Glenn thought it was more relevant to my collection than to his.

IMG_1093

The 82-70 was AMF’s second generation machine, unveiled in 1962 and initially installed throughout 1963. The new machine offered many improvements over the 82-30, including continuous pin distribution (thanks to storage bins above the table) and a circuit through which the table could detect out-of-range pins and automatically advance to second ball. It was brilliant in theory, but the debut version was highly prone to failure in the field. Most notoriously, the micro-switches in the pin distributor were easily fouled by dirt and debris, and if just one of them failed, the distribution sequence was compromised and pins piled up on the bin assembly. Proprietors were thoroughly unimpressed, and AMF engineers scrambled to redesign the distributor and bin. By 1964 they had completed the 82-70B, which featured a fully mechanical distributor and bin that wholly eliminated the troublesome electrical system. The new assemblies proved hugely successful, and most “A” machines were converted. Today there are just six unconverted units known to exist, one of which is seen in operation here:

This promotional film from 1963 introduced the 82-70 to potential buyers:

Finally, two pages from the manual offer additional views of the machine in its original form:

8270A pg1 8270A pg2

The 82-70A debacle provides a glimpse into a dark period in AMF’s corporate history. By the early sixties, the bowling boom had already begun to plateau, and the number of new installations each year had tapered off dramatically from its peak in 1959. AMF’s stock prices nearly halved in the midst of 82-70A installations, and while there were numerous factors at play, the initial problems with the new pinspotter dealt a hard blow.

More AMF Items Arrived

I’m still alive and kicking, and still involved in the bowling business from time to time. Graduate school is moving along, I’ve caught up on a ton of deferred automotive maintenance, and my helper assures me that his garage will be open for business this fall, at which time the Streamlane pieces will be relocated for body work and painting. We’ve learned the hard way that in a town with only one surveyor, you should never tell the guy that you aren’t in a particular hurry.

Some time ago now, Glenn sent me a box of AMF goodies he’d acquired from a number of sources: a couple from eBay, some that he’d commissioned, and others from various salvage operations. Of peak interest, Glenn searched two places, one in Oklahoma and one in Texas, and found a few of the original Streamlane numerals. Most incredibly, he recovered two #1’s archaeologically from the sandy earth of Tulia, Texas, where the masks had been stored outside Tucker Bowling. Glenn was there for a visit and a parts run, and he decided to poke around the remnants on the bone pile to see what gems might still be around. Thanks to him, I now have both numbers 1 and 2, and will not have to use the replicas for my restoration.

Image

Image

Several other goods came out of the box. Glenn had new decals made for his chassis and J-box covers using the original graphics, and he shared a couple of them with me. Mr. Pinspotter was the early spokesman for AMF’s Pinspotter Division, and his likeness was liberally applied to their machinery during the fifties and sixties. Ironically, it was mostly the mechanics who saw him, and not the public. These will soon grace my tool chest:

Image

Other curiosities include these builder’s plates from an 82-30, which Glenn removed before the frames were scrapped. The serial number on the machine plate is very close to the numbers at Mustang Lanes, and so these will make a great display next to the masks someday. Based on the number, 64,738, this machine was built in the spring or summer of 1959:

Image

Image

The letter “B” in 82-30B is so far unexplained. I talked with a few old timers, and none of them could explain the designation or say with confidence what upgrade it might refer to. By process of elimination, a likely possibility is the introduction of the 5850 chassis in 1956, but there were numerous upgrades through the late fifties, some of them quite major, and never again did the designation change. It remains a mystery.

Lastly in the treasure trove, the eBay hawk of Ken-Cliff scored a complete case of original AMF scoring pencils, and was gracious enough to send along a sample. Along side is a yellow Telescore pencil. If you’ve ever bowled at an alley with the scoring projected overhead, then you’re certainly familiar with these messy yellow-leaded pencils. The Pindicator tag in the picture, which is marked “82-70” and dons the newer block-style AMF logo, probably came from a MOD IV mask, or possibly a Streamlane 21.

Image

A Brief History of Mustang Lanes

Having buried myself in graduate school and left the Streamlanes in limbo all winter long, I decided to keep my hand in the game by diving into some research on their age and origin. Until recently, I only knew the name of the place they came from, and I could only really guess how old they are. At the time of crating, Daryl Tucker told me his crew had pulled them from an alley called Mustang Lanes out in Denver City, Texas, which had closed and liquidated in 2009. In hopes of getting some more information, most of all the year the place had opened, I made some phone calls to Denver City and talked to the locals. Thanks to them, I now have this brief history to present.

My first call, a cold call indeed, went to the Denver City Chamber of Commerce, who immediately put me in touch with Jack Owen, current owner of the building that was Mustang Lanes. It sits on the northwest corner of the big Y-intersection in Denver City, where route 83 intersects 214. Jack bought the building in 2011 to use as an oil supply company, and it came with a great deal of remnants still inside: all twelve lanes, a couple hundred bowling balls, pins, and all sorts of parts and tools. Just the pinspotters, the masks, and the front ball returns were missing. Otherwise it was still pretty much a bowling alley. Jack took some pictures for the record and then dismantled what was left. The lanes were cut into pieces and sold as bar tops and the like, and the rest went to scrap. Jack sent me these pictures:

Mustang Lanes Front

Mustang Lanes

Mustang Lanes Dismantling

Jack shared an interesting story about the building. During a walk-through he noticed that the main iron beam supporting the roof had a nasty bend, and he asked around town to find out what could have caused it. Several people told him that during the construction of the building, the only tornado to ever strike Denver City had passed through the site and leveled the construction. The roof had been lifted off the frame and sent crashing into a field, a twisted mess. Crews later retrieved the wreckage and set it back to rights, reusing as much of the material as possible. The tornado records indicate that the storm occurred on May 15, 1957.

The tornado put the brakes on bowling in Denver City. New plans to open the alley did not materialize until February of 1959. At that time, The Denver City Press reported that a group of local investors had just broken ground on a new building at the Y-intersection that would house the city’s first bowling alley. Many details had already emerged. The investors planned on an eight-lane Brunswick house, and the manager was scheduled to leave immediately for a six-week training course on Brunswick equipment. Fortunately for AMF fans, this was not to be. The story was soon supplanted by a second Press article reporting that businessman E.D. Calfee from nearby Seagraves, Texas, had made “satisfactory arrangements” to take over the project from the local investors. Calfee had had plans to open his own bowling alley elsewhere in Denver City, but noting the superior location of his future competitor, he negotiated a take-over and compromised his original plans. The Press reported:

“Arrangements were completed Monday afternoon for the establishment of the city’s first bowling alley, with actual construction of the building to begin within the next few days. The twelve-lane bowling alley will have the latest automatic equipment. Calfee said that it is so new that none has as yet been installed anywhere, and that it was first shown February 14 at the National Bowling Tournament at St. Louis. [This is slightly overstated. He’s referring to the AMF “Magic Circle” ball return.] Calfee had originally announced the bowling alley to be located on the Plains Hiway just south of O. & C. Clawson Lumber Company. Shortly after his original announcement, plans were also revealed that a local group had also incorporated to also build a bowling alley on a site at the Y. Since then, satisfactory arrangements have been made for the local group to withdraw their plans. Calfee said the selection of the site at the Y was decided upon because of its better location.”

The bowling alley opened as-planned in 1959. It was initially called the Denver City Bowling Club, and leagues were organized by the summer for both men and women. No doubt Calfee was a man of business. The switch from Brunswick to AMF was probably motivated by the two companies’ very different approaches to outfitting bowling alleys. While Brunswick offered its automatic pinsetters for outright sale (about $8,500 per machine at that time, which is approximately $66,000 today), AMF offered its pinspotters on lease contracts only. Perhaps to limit his overhead investment in the business, Calfee arranged a fifty-year lease of equipment with AMF and then sold the operation as a turn-key business. After changing hands at least once, Ray Baker purchased the facility in 1963 and ran it until the lease matured in 2009, at which time he closed it and retired at 90 years of age. The unorthodox length of the lease probably accounts for the fact that Mustang’s equipment remained in its original condition until the day it closed, a nearly pristine example of the boom years of bowling. From a business standpoint, the equipment was so outmoded in 2009 that AMF didn’t make the trip out there to reclaim it. Instead it was dismantled by Tucker Bowling of Tulia, Texas, a well-known and respected purveyor of both modern and antique apparatus. That fall, Ken-Cliff Lanes proprietor Glenn Hendrix visited the Tuckers’ facility and took these pictures, which show the hulks of Mustang’s ‘spotters shortly after they were stripped of parts. The scene is completed by the early Magic Triangles, which we removed for restoration:

AMF Magic Triangles

82-30 Frames

82-30 pits

82-30 builder plate

82-30 pinwheel

82-30 hulks

A few mysteries remain. Primarily, Jack Owen wrote me that “older folks” in Denver City have fond recollections of hand-setting pins at the old bowl, which is said to be the only alley Denver City ever had. Having not heard their testimony myself, I can only offer this educated guess. The Denver City Press reported that the alley was due to open around April or May 1959, and the serial numbers on the pinspotters date them to precisely that time. AMF boasted in the New York Times that year that their back-orders on pinspotters were tremendous – in the neighborhood of 12,000 units – so it’s plausible that when Calfee took over and opted for AMF equipment in favor of Brunswick, his name was added to a short waiting list. After boasting the latest and greatest automatic equipment, did Calfee open his alley with pin boys?

If you have any pictures or information to share, I encourage you to post comments or e-mail me directly. My contact information is given in the “About” section of the blog. Thanks for reading!

New Parts from Colorado

There isn’t much time for hobbies as I muscle through graduate school in New Jersey, but I did acquire some new parts this month that I’m really excited about. It started a few weeks back when I was cruising through eBay, just paging through some AMF memorabilia, and stumbled upon a major surprise – five Streamlanes fresh off the ‘spotters. I couldn’t believe it! The pictures were delectable:

The first thing I noticed was the gray reflector shield over the halo, one of the several parts I’ve been looking for. The old parts manuals don’t even show the shield; they just list the part number and denote it with an asterisk. Chomping at the bit, I naturally began stalking the seller right away. eBay listed Holyoke, Colorado as the item location, so I pulled it up on Google Maps and found an alley called ScorMor Lanes right off the main drag of town. The satellite images confirmed the small size of the building, very likely a six-lane victim of economic downturn. I could only imagine the other treasures inside, and considering the asking price of $450 per mask, I thought I might have a good chance of getting parts without buying one whole. I sent my findings and conjectures to Glenn, who replied with (of all the things) the owner’s phone number! Man of many connections, Glenn had gotten a tip months earlier that ScorMor was going to liquidate, but their 82-30’s were older than his and he opted out of the parts. I called the owner, we worked out a deal, and now this week I took delivery of a nice big box of goodies.

IMG_0825

IMG_0835

ScorMor Lanes opened in 1959 with an installation of six 82-30’s, which were already two years old at that time. The ball returns were overlane with Brunswick racks, and of course the masking was Streamlane. As you can see, ScorMor had the downsweep fillers with perforated sheet metal comprising the upper panel, the idea being that pin chasers could look through and see what the bowlers were up to. These fillers never had a top rail. Rather, each of the two adjacent masks had extension pieces six inches long, so that half of the filler’s top rail belonged to the odd mask, and the other half belonged to the even. My plan is to cut two foot-long sections of top rail from my donor mask, replace the perforated panel with solid sheet metal, and ultimately make these two fillers into the lost end-pieces.

The big gray pieces are the reflector shields that mounted over the halo, directing light toward the sides of the Magic Triangle and downward toward the pins. This was an exciting find because the reflectors are not pictured in any of the old parts books, and I could never have guessed what they looked like. You can also see that I managed to get three of the original lane numbers: 2, 3 and 6. (Of six lanes, I guess those were the only three that were still identified.) The two black boxes are the covers for the fluorescent ballast, which mechanics sometimes removed for ease of maintenance. I also bought ScorMor’s 82-30 manual, which is a little worse for the wear but is nonetheless complete and absolutely fascinating to read.

IMG_0843

As time and money allow, there should be more happening between now and spring. My helper is building a garage, which he’ll finish when the weather breaks, and that’s when we’ll do the painting and assembly. As always, check back in a month or two, or save yourself the trouble and subscribe for updates. Thanks for visiting!

News from the Back Burner

Right off the bat, I’d like to give an overdue thanks to Catawese Coach Lines of Shamokin, Pennsylvania, where not too long ago I was a full-time driver. They’ve offered their space, their tools and their expertise since the project’s beginning, and without them I never would have taken this on in the first place. Currently all of the metal pieces are inside their garage, awaiting the attention of their in-house body and paint team. It’s a big job keeping a fleet of buses in top condition, but no one does better work than Catawese and I’m happy to wait. Here’s what’s happening.

The Triangles themselves are basically finished, so it’s really just the metal that needs attention. In particular, I have some clever fabrication that needs to be done by a pro. Notice below that between the two lanes there’s a ball return track, which is masked by a narrow filler piece about seven inches wide. It’s marked #7.

Unfortunately for me, when the masks left their home of 40-odd years – Mustang Lanes in Denver City, Texas – the filler pieces didn’t come with them. Following suit with Ken-Cliff Lanes, I bought an extra mask to cut apart, hoping to use its frame and the sheet metal from one end to create the seven-inch filler – definitely a job for a professional. I took the donor mask apart and marked the best seven inches on each piece, avoiding dents and pock marks. The replica will be better than the original, in my opinion. The original ball track fillers had perforated metal instead of a solid sheet so that pin chasers could look through and see what the bowlers were up to. Not very attractive. The perforation accounts for the darker shade in that photograph.

Another hurdle ahead is paint. I buffed one of the blue trim pieces to get a sample of the color, but most of the paint came off on the pad and it’s tough to say if it will scan. (In place of the rich turquoise used at Ken-Cliff, mine will be closer to sky blue.) Glenn hooked me up with a crucial resource for the paint job – two vinyl decals of the AMF meatball, which is the period-appropriate logo for Magic Triangles of this age. The screens provided by Tucker Bowling have the modern block logo, which replaced the meatball sometime in the sixties:

IMG_0313

All of the resources are together… we just need time to get the work done!

Shields and Halos

Of the many parts missing when the masks arrived, the lighting was almost wholly gone. From the factory, these early Magic Triangles were back-lit by a General Electric 16″ Circline, colloquially called the “halo.” The bulb clipped into the central frame member with the ballast over top, item #10 in the picture. When the pinspotter was turned on, 115-volt power was fed through to the ballast, and the halo flickered on at the same time as the pit lamp. The halo’s light diffused onto the front of the mask through a set of three Plexiglass shields that formed the sides of the protruding triangle, giving the Pindicator a celestial glow visible to the bowler.

Optimistically, I pulled the old ballast from one of the masks and took it to a nearby electrical shop for a look-over. The label was completely worn off and offered no information, so we started with bulbs. I was pleasantly surprised that after all these years, the Circline is still a common item, now available in knock-off form from many other companies. I picked out the “cool white” Sylvania and they matched it up with a Phillips ballast of the same dimensions as the old. They even put the old and new ballasts side by side and showed me how to transplant the old plug. In less than a minute the guy just grabbed the wires and twisted them together. “Cut there and there, splice the common in there, and BOOM! Let there be light.” I confess that I did take cover at the time of testing, but instead of a shrapnel explosion the bulb just calmly flickered on. Phew!

The greater challenge was the Plexiglass, which dried and yellowed during 50 years of service and finally fell to pieces while the masks were stored outside. When the masks arrived there were only scraps of Plexi still sttached. Early in the project, before I pulled off the Triangles, I used cardboard and guesswork to make templates of the shields as best I could imagine them, so maybe a glass shop could cut me a new set.

For many reasons I held off on the expense. During that time, Glenn searched his parts supply at Ken-Cliff Lanes and found a few of the shields that were almost complete – still broken, but intact enough to trace on paper and fill the missing areas with a straight edge. He sent me his tracings, and I had new pieces cut for six lanes – two for me and four for Ken-Cliff – using poly-carbonate instead of Plexi, which should hold up better to heat and resist yellowing.

Glenn already has the shields installed on his Streamlanes. Look for photos at his website, http://www.kenclifflanes.com!