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Church bowling alleys rapidly becoming extinct comment (0)

March 29, 2012

ARLINGTON, Texas — Church bowling alleys are disappearing fast. There are probably fewer than 200 left, said Neil Stremmel, of the U.S. Bowling Congress.

Doug Schmidt, author of the 2007 book “They Came to Bowl: How Milwaukee Became America’s Tenpin Capital,” said that city once had at least 13 church bowling alleys.

“They came with German immigrants in the 1860s,” Schmidt said. “Most closed in the 1980s or ‘90s.”

Milwaukee’s St. Martini Lutheran Church built its eight-lane alley in 1954, said church secretary Trudi Groth. In 2004, four lanes were dismantled to make space for a lunchroom. Two years ago, the final four lanes were replaced by classrooms.

The last time Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in New Haven, Conn., organized a bowling night at the four lanes in its basement, nobody showed up.

“I don’t know if it’s the times, the location,” parish administrator Pat Sundermann said.

It’s particularly sad, she said, because the bowling alley was refurbished a few years ago in memory of Eddie Vanacore, who grew up in the church and died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

The space is used mostly for meetings now, Sundermann said. She isn’t certain when the bowling alley was built, but by the 1950s it was hopping, she said.

“Everybody wants to go down and look and smile and joke, but nobody wants to bowl,” Sundermann said.

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