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Route 66 landmark in Oklahoma City hits 50th year

ROBERT MEDLEY Modified: August 31, 2009 at 4:51 am •  Published: August 31, 2009
The cracking sound of balls striking pins, the weekly birthday parties, the league tournaments, live music and just plain bowling fun draw people from across states and across oceans to 66 Bowl.

Sightseers stream to the bowling alley on State Highway 66 with the neon sign depicting a ball encircling a bowling pin and hitting three smaller pins. The sign reads: "Snack Bar. Lounge. Arcade. Pro Shop.” The script is a clue to when it was built.

This year, 66 Bowl, 3810 NW 39, is 50 years old.

Owner Jim Haynes, 77, a former bowling supply salesman, bought the bowling alley in 1978.

"I see people all the time out there who take pictures of the sign and they do come in and talk,” Haynes said as a group of older adults bowled on a recent weekday morning.

In July, three people in their 30s showed up from Finland. "They mentioned that this was on the list of things to do if you came to the United States. I was very flattered.”

But there was bloodshed before the first balls rolled down the lanes.

At the east corner of Willow Springs Avenue and NW 39 Expressway in July 1958, construction began on a $500,000, 24-lane bowling alley, according to a June 20, 1958, article in The Oklahoman.

Ferrill Martin, executive vice president of Educators Investment Corp., the original owners, said he hoped the building would open by the end of the year. But delays slowed the work.

According to newspaper accounts, the owners used non-union labor. A picket line of men formed by the Oklahoma City Building and Construction Trades council showed up at the site on Sept. 3.

A worker who crossed the picket line, James Perry, was struck in the mouth. "Perry’s teeth were loosened and stitches were required inside of his mouth,” Ferrill told The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City police showed up to keep the peace, and the violence waned. Work resumed.

On Dec. 5, 1958, someone tried to burn down the building. Investigators said someone with a fire accelerant caused "a considerable amount of damage to materials stored at the rear of the building,” according to newspaper reports.

On March 28, 1959, the "tenpin emporium” opened its doors.

The new 66 Bowl was "revolutionary,” with automatic pin-setting machines.

Gone were the summer jobs for boys who set up pins by hand and returned balls to bowlers by rolling them down a track.

Wiley Bell was manager from 1964 until 1978.


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