Verdugo Hills Bowl – Fond Memories Part 2

Some of the most vivid memories come from Kathy Reger Souza, who began bowling as a kid in 1970:

“Verdugo Hills Bowl was a world unto itself, an air-conditioned haven on a scorching July summer day and a warm glove in January cold. It was accessed through the front entrance off Foothill or the rear entrance just off the upper parking lot. It seemed to have something for everybody, from the large billiard area (I distinctly remember the black and white ‘No Minors Allowed’ sign at the entrance to that area), pinball machines, candy machine, cigarette machine and ‘LusterKing’ bowling ball cleaning machine to the bowling ‘aids’ under-counter display that stocked everything from moleskin to wrist supports and cloth ball polishers, not to mention the bowling ball and bag sales counter on the left side of the front desk. 

“And, of course, the wonderful snack bar. What a classic, old-fashioned bowling alley café with the eight or so stools at the counter and tables along the floor-to-ceiling picture windows that overlooked Foothill Boulevard, the La Crescenta post office across the street, and the walkway ramp and stairs to the front door. The smell of hamburgers, French fries and other snack bar fare was tantalizing and enticing. In one 12-year-old girl’s opinion the snack bar had the best ever Cherry Coke over finely crushed ice in a glass!

“One amenity offered by VHB that escaped me was the lounge. Between the dark, slatted paneling that housed it and the dark, one-way glass facing the lanes, it was always a mysterious and forbidding place to me. Every so often I could see silhouettes of patrons sitting at the bar through the darkened glass, which added to the intrigue of who and what was in there. I always thought, ‘One day I will go in there and see what it’s like’ – although I knew I’d never be 21.

“It all started with a ‘Youth Summer Programs 1970’ brochure distributed by the City of Glendale Parks and Recreation Dept. at the end of third grade. Among the offerings of baseball camp, swimming lessons, day camp and the summer library reading program was ‘Beginning Bowling.’ This course of instruction promised to teach your youngster ‘the fundamentals of bowling, including the basic 4-step approach.’ Ball and shoe rental would be included in the nominal cost. This sounded great to a stay-at-home mom looking to get an 8-year-old girl and 10- and 12-year-old boys out of the house a few mornings a week. This auspicious beginning launched my six-year involvement with the Verdugo Hills Bowl Junior Bowling program, a run resulting in numerous awards, tournament travel all over Southern California and a lifetime of memories.

“Junior bowling was a large program, drawing 100-plus youngsters ages 8 to 18 from all over the La Crescenta, Sunland, Tujunga and Montrose areas. The leagues my brother and I belonged to were either on Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings.

“The Friday afternoon leagues during the school year were the best. Mom picked us up from school after the 3 p.m. bell and we went directly to the bowling alley. If we had a few extra quarters, we’d play a quick game of pinball or buy a Butterfinger out of the vending machine. In between frames, kids would run back and forth to the snack bar buying hamburgers, French fries with lots of catsup and Cokes, among other kid-friendly junk food. Most of the lanes were taken up by this Friday league and the snack bar always did a steady business. Mom usually stayed and cheered us on and my Dad joined her later in the afternoon. Win or lose, after we bowled, we would head up Foothill Boulevard and home to Tujunga, usually stopping at McDonald’s or Pioneer Chicken for take-out dinner, or occasionally at Shakey’s Pizza for a team dinner with teammates and their parents. Afterwards we’d go home and watch ‘The Brady Bunch’ and ‘The Partridge Family.’”

Great memories, for these were truly the “golden years.” But nothing lasts forever. Next week we’ll hear about the last years of Verdugo Hills Bowl.

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical
Society of the Crescenta Valley
and loves local history.
Reach him at