Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler

Montrose Bowl – ‘Bowl For Beauty’s Sake’


There was a lot of hype and hucksterism around the opening of the Montrose Bowl in 1940. Our local paper, The Ledger, dedicated an entire issue to its opening exactly 80 years ago. Many of the ads and articles are fascinating as time capsules of a different era.

The title of this article is from an ad targeting women bowlers, an ad that would never be posted today. “Attention Women! Montrose Bowling Center invites you and your friends to bowl for beauty’s sake. Free instruction!”

The ad is dominated by a full-body photo of film star Jane Wyman (who had at that point just married Ronald Reagan). The photo is taken from the floor, looking up at the standing woman holding a bowling ball. Her skirt is short even by today’s standards and her long bare legs are spread in a wide stance. Between her legs is an upright bowling pin. The innuendo is obvious. The caption reads: “Jane Wyman, film colony luminary, finds health and diversion in the latest of Hollywood’s fads, bowling. Here Miss Wyman shows the relative merits of her lovely ‘pins’ and of those mowed down by the keglers.”

And there’s another anachronism. Throughout the newspaper, the bowlers are referred to as “keglers.” I don’t think that’s a commonly used term today but, in 1940, it apparently was the term for someone who bowled. The term kegler is ancient, from German roots, and is religious in nature. In long-ago church ceremonies, an upright pin represented a heathen or kegle. Round rocks were rolled to knock down the heathen, thus demonstrating religious superiority.

The newspaper was filled with bowling articles, not only about the new bowling alley but also about the incredible benefits of bowling. One article titled “Bowling Proves Health Aid” claimed that, “Bowling is a splendid exercise for the back, the arms, the thighs and the forelegs (?).” Further, “It should appeal to women because it is a good way to streamline the body” and “That women themselves are finding bowling valuable is shown by the fact that nearly one-fifth of all bowlers are women.”

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

Bowling could apparently cure social ills as well. “It is good for a problem child of any age because it promotes companionship and good sportsmanship” and “It reduces fat people and increases the weight of thin people.” A miracle cure! A side bar to this health article proclaimed, “Bowling builds better men, trimming down flabby flesh into strength and good physique.”

A full-page ad showed a pretty cowgirl swinging a lasso over her head: “Round-up of Bowlers” for the grand opening. “Every modern comfort and convenience for the greatest bowling pleasure of your entire family. Enjoy an afternoon or evening of fun and frolic with your family or your friends on our brand new mapleways. Enjoy refreshments at our soda fountain. Plan to have a light lunch at our luncheonette. Reservations are now being accepted. Phone Churchill 1688.”

Other businesses took out huge ads to express pride in their involvement in the new bowling alley. “Don’t miss the grand opening of the new Montrose Bowling Center! Eight streamlined lanes! Real Fun! Good exercise! Jimmy Hicks, general builder. We erected the building!” or “Congratulations to Dr. L. Johns on your fine new building! Plumbing installed by Harris Plumbing. 2277 Honolulu Ave. Churchill 76”. Scanlon’s clothing store offered bowling incentives. “Flash! To all bowlers! We will give away to the first person bowling a perfect game at the Montrose Bowling Center a pair of $10 trousers.”

And of course the bowling alley’s soda fountain, which was apparently a separate business from the bowling alley itself, took out an ad as well. “Orell Valentine announces the opening of the luncheonette and soda fountain, in connection with the Montrose Bowling Center. We specialize in rich malted milks. Ice Cream purchased from Beverly Dairies. Milk purchased from Silver Shield.”

“Come one, come all, for lots of fun! Montrose’s newest, most modern bowling palace!”

Next week, current owners Robert and Helga Berman will fill us in on the more recent history of the Montrose Bowl.