Torrance’s Palos Verdes Bowl served up strikes for more than 60 years

The Palos Verdes Bowl’s distinctive sign as seen on the center’s final day of business, Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Eric Sabroff)

The recent closure of the Palos Verdes Bowl in Torrance after 61 years of operation brings the number of bowling alleys in the city to two, Gable House Bowl and Bowlero.

It also marks the end of an era on Crenshaw Blvd, where the alley’s celebrated Googie-style space-age “BOWL” vertical sign had become a familiar landmark over the decades.

The architecture firm of Johnson, Engen and D’Angostino designed the 24,000-square foot bowling center at 24600 Crenshaw in 1957 in a style retroactively known as “mid-century modern.”

Palos Verdes Bowl was built on a rectangle of land that once was part of Lomita. The 15-acre site, just east of the Torrance Crossroads shopping center, was the last parcel of land Torrance annexed from Lomita.

The center had 24 lanes with state-of-the-art automatic pinsetters, a cocktail lounge and restaurant, a coffee counter and a toy-equipped nursery for children. During its first years, it would stay open 24 hours daily.

The construction firm Jackbilt Corp. began building the $600,000 facility in July 1958. The lanes opened for business in December 1958, probably just after Christmas, if this Los Angeles Times ad is any indication:

Los Angeles Times, Dec. 28, 1958. (Credit: Los Angeles Times historical archives)

The official dedication for Palos Verdes Bowl, featuring Torrance Mayor Al Isen, the usual dignitaries and those responsbile for building the project, took place on Jan. 29, 1959.

The building featured distinctive, locally quarried Palos Verdes flagstone both inside and on a gently curving exterior wall. The outsized, free-standing exterior sign became such a landmark that private pilots flying into nearby Torrance Municipal Airport used it for naviagation.

The Bowl prospered for decades under longtime owner and manager George Brandt, who created a family-friendly atmosphere. In its early days, the center was the home base for KHJ-TV Channel 9’s local “TV Bowling Derby” program.

During those days, it was one of many such bowling centers in Torrance. The earliest mention of a bowling alley in the city that I can find is a 1924 listing in the city’s business directory for the American Bowling Alley at 1953 Carson Street in downtown Torrance.

This old-school bowling alley would go on to operate under a variety of names over the next four decades, including as the Monticello Bowling Academy, Torrance Bowling Academy and Torrance Bowl. The last mention of the bowl in the Torrance Herald comes in 1963, so it can be assumed that it closed shortly thereafter.

The advent of modern automated pinsetting combined with the need for cheap entertainment for postwar suburban families led to the proliferation of more modern bowling centers during the 1950s.

The Bowl-O-Drome on Western Ave. in Torrance was the first, opening in 1957. (I wrote about the still-operating center, now rebranded as Bowlero, in 2018.) In 1958, plans were announced for a 48-lane bowling alley at the new Del Amo Shopping Center, which later would morph into the Del Amo Fashion Center of today.

The Del Amo Lanes opened in December 1959. The idea for it no doubt came from the South Bay Bowl up Hawthorne Blvd. in Redondo Beach, which opened at the South Bay Center complex in 1956. Further information on Del Amo Lanes and when it closed is scarce.

Lucky Strike at the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance offered bowling with a nightclub atmosphere. Sept. 29, 2006. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

Another mall bowling center opened at Del Amo Fashion Center’s new Lifestyle Wing in September 2006. The Lucky Strike Lanes positioned itself as an updated, faux-retro version of the classic bowling alley aimed at appealing to younger bowlers. It closed in 2013.

Torrance’s other main bowling center, the Gable House Bowl, opened in 1960 and is still operating at 22501 Hawthorne Blvd.

But the Palos Verdes Bowl is not.

Owner George Brandt had been finding the economics of operating a bowling center less than favorable in recent years. In 2019, he announced his decision to demolish the bowling alley and replace it with a shopping center featuring three separate businesses: an Aldi grocery store, a Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurant and a Kinecta Federal Credit Union branch.

Bowlers enter Palos Verdes Bowl in Torrance on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

Despite a last-ditch attempt launched by the Friends of Palos Verdes Bowl group to save it, the Palos Verdes Bowl was not designated a landmark by the city of Torrance under its Historic Preservation Ordinance enacted in 2017, and the shopping center plan became a reality.

A packed house of bowlers bid the Palos Verdes Bowl farewell on its final night of operation on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.

The now fenced-off building is set to be demolished, with construction on the shopping center starting shortly thereafter.

As for that iconic signage, the neon letters from the freestanding “BOWL” sign and the “Palos Verdes Bowl” sign on the building both have been donated to the Hollywood Sign Museum.

Bowlers hit the lanes at Palos Verdes Bowl in Torrance on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

Note: Special thanks to Eric Sabroff.

Sources:

Daily Breeze files.

“Friends of Palos Verdes Bowl seeking Landmark Status,” Change.org website.

Los Angeles Times files.

“One of the Last Great SoCal Bowling Alleys Could Soon Be Gone,” by Chris Nichols, Los Angeles magazine, Sept. 4, 2019.

“Out and About: Donna Visits Palos Verdes Bowl,” Torrance Chamber of Commerce website, Nov. 1, 2018.

Torrance Press-Herald files.

Palos Verdes News, Jan. 21, 1960, Page A2. (Credit: Palos Verdes Peninsula News)
The Palos Verdes Bowl sign after the bowling center’s closure. Feb. 18, 2020. (Photo by Sam Gnerre)
The Palos Verdes Bowl site after the building was torn down. (April 2020 photo by Sam Gnerre)

Published by Sam Gnerre

I worked for the Daily Breeze for 33 years as its archivist and librarian. In 2009, I started this South Bay History blog in order to explore interesting historical people, places and events in the South Bay and Harbor Area. I post a new article every week.

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