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Papp’s Bowling Alley in Bordentown to close – is bowling a fading sport?

Scott Olson Collection: Getty Images News
Scott Olson Collection: Getty Images News

My dad was a decent bowler – probably in the 250 to 300 range I’d imagine.

He had a slew of trophies that he’d take home whenever he’d competed in leagues – and every once is a while, he’d take me along to watch.

There was something always magical about going to the bowling alley (or as he’d call it kiddingly, the “bowllin’ allo!”)

I loved the sound of the pins falling, the balls hitting the wooden alleys, and the smell of the floor wax mixed with cigar smoke.

But that was in a simpler time.

Today bowling alleys are part of entertainment complexes, if they exist at all.

One in particular will be closing its doors – leaving one to wonder what of the future for the sport.
It turns out that Papp’s Bowling Center in Bordentown – run by Babe and Betty Papp – will be closing after 50 years in business.

The space will be making room for a sporting goods store – but will leave behind many memories – memories of families taking in a few frames – of leagues that would compete voraciously – and about kids just looking for a cheap night out.

However, regulars wonder if, when the alleys close down, the sport itself has seen its best days.

According to this:

A pristine example of vintage Americana, the 12-lane, L-shaped facility hosted everything from birthday parties to tournaments as generations of locals filled its yawning interior to compete for fun or for money during an era when families were more likely to spend their recreational time together. After Thursday, it will close forever, a relic of a more innocent time and its owners’ decision to retire.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” owner Andy “Babe” Papp said in the empty bowling center as he thought about the sale to Cheyenne Mountain Outfitters that was cemented over the weekend.” I’m going to miss the people. People from 3 years to 100 years old would come here.

In 1945, part of the 1940-1960 golden era of bowling, the sport was a billion-dollar industry in the United States alone. There was a resurgence of the sport from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, but these days, bowling is usually part of larger entertainment centers where videos, food and laser lights compete for a more upscale clientele than bowling originally attracted.

In Las Vegas, private bowling lanes can be found either in top-dollar suites or as part of massive entertainment complexes on the bottom levels of casino hotels.

Babe and Betty will be leaving a legacy behind once their beloved bowling alley closes. And so too another vestige of days gone by when a trip to a bowling alley was as much a part of the atmosphere of the place as actually throwing the ball down the alley and knocking down the pins.

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