MUNCY – “We had a lot of fun, especially on Friday nights,” exclaimed Betty Kisner. Going back to 1948 when Cloverleaf Lanes was built, a few of the old time bowlers got together last week to talk about their times and experiences at one of Muncy’s most favorite recreational past times. Cloverleaf Lanes was purchased by Muncy Hospital on July 19, 2012 and is set for demolition sometime this month before October 1st.
But that wasn’t the original name. “It was called Bowl-Arena Lanes,” said Sonny Hull who purchased the building and the business in February of 1964 from George Wilt for a total fee of $75,000. “I raised all the money I could to buy it,” he said.
Hull also owned the Bowling Center in Montgomery which originated in 1949. He purchased it along with his brother Marshall Hull and a friend, Philip Hall. “I wanted to combine the two bowling facilities,” said Sonny. Brother Marshall came up with the name change.
Bud Kisner, who bowled frequently at both places before the Montgomery lanes closed in 1966 said there was also a driving range up until about 1950.
Spike Frey remembers setting pins when the Muncy Bowling Lanes first opened. “I also worked the concession bar when I was a pin boy,” he added. At first pins were aligned manually on spots, and it wasn’t until a few years later when spikes were mounted to set the pins according to Hull. “And in the early 50’s B-10’s, the semi-automatic pins were added,” Hull said. In 1957 they were fully automatic.
“I worked with those pin boys for about a year,” Hull explained. “I would be hoarse every night I came in. They would play tricks on the bowlers.”
Kisner recalled the Friday night traveling league. Frey said that in 1961 the team went to nationals in Detroit. “It was a great team event,” he said. “We bowled singles and doubles.” Feigles Dairy was one of the first teams formed. “The sponsors bought our shirts and put our names on them,” Frey said.
Barb Snyder who was the manager for the last 25 years said that at one time there were 17 different leagues formed. “We bowled on different teams,” Frey said. “At one time there was a waiting list to get on a team,” added Bud Kisner. “There were 4 teams that bowled Monday nights.” Hull said he bowled 7 days a week. Saturdays and Sundays had open bowling.
Hull also explained that over the years the different hospital presidents would approach him about selling the 9 acre property, so he decided to rent out parking spaces. “They would land their helicopter between the two buildings. I said to the pilots, ‘Are you crazy?’, but then I built them a landing pad, heliport, behind the building to land the helicopter.” This was about 25 years ago, he recalls.
Initially, Hull said he was approached by the hospital to sell the property for $180,000, but Sonny wanted to build another bowling lane instead. Then about 6 or 8 years ago, he started to negotiate terms for the sale of the building and at a closing for sale, he sold it to the hospital for $1.375 million. He said it took him $700,000 to pay off expenses. The operational expenses were so high, it’s almost unaffordable for young bowlers. “It cost me $35,000 to install 8 new decks and synthetics about 4 years ago.” Hull also sold some of the equipment to Lewisburg Lanes.
He said that people told him it was sold before he even knew. “Everybody knew before me,” he replied. “People liked to bowl there. I didn’t like to do it.”
Since 1965 the recreational sport of bowling has slipped according to the bowlers. “The sport is starting to go downhill,” said Kisner. In the 40’s there were 1800 people registered with the Lycoming County Bowling Association, and in 1964 those numbers jumped to 4,000. Now it’s below 1800 according to the members. “Now people are playing games with their fingers,” Hull stated.
The bowlers also reminisced about prices. Sonny said he remembers bowling for 45 cents a game. When the lanes closed, it was up to $3.50 a game. Spike Frey said he remembers when games were 25 cents each on Saturday afternoons. “We would bowl sweepstakes. Whoever got high game, won the profits.”
Bud Kisner said he was the 38th person inducted into the Lycoming County 700 club around the mid 60’s. “I remember bowling for 15 cents a game in the 40’s and 50’s,” he added.
“Now they bowl 2 games with no scoring done by hand.” Automatic scoring came in 1992. Hull replied, “I felt it hurt the game. Manual scoring really helped the kids with arithmetic. They used pencil and paper during the tournaments. Someone had to keep score.”
Barb Snyder said there were Wednesday night leagues for the women, and Hull said the women were heavy smokers. “I would pick up 30 butts off the floor after the women bowled on Wednesday nights.” Betty Kisner said a lot of the women didn’t smoke at home, and instead would smoke a lot at the bowling alley. “They didn’t want their parents to know,” she said. Hull said the air inside would be blue from all the smoke. The ladies league still existed when Cloverleaf Lanes closed.
Snyder also organized after school leagues for ages 6 to 11 on Thursdays for the Young American Bowling Alliance.
A snack bar was put in around the late 90’s, and before that there was a lunch counter. Spike Frey said he used to work there making hamburgers. There were ten lanes and the facility had been remodeled about 3 or 4 times over the years.
Much was done by hand back in those days. Bud said he will miss being young enough to bowl everyday. Spike said he will miss the camaraderie the most and all the groups he bowled with, while Sonny says he will miss the people the most. “Many of them have now passed on.” Snyder said she will miss the socializing. “Right now about this time, I would be setting up the leagues, getting them ready to go.” Sonny Hull said Snyder did a good job while she was employed there. “We will miss this place more when the winter comes,” concluded Hull.
Cloverleaf Lanes remained opened for bowlers until June 21, 2013. Peyton Edkin was the last bowler, and Larry Long was probably the longest bowler. He started at age 7.
The sign has come down and is in the safe hands of Wade Meyers.
The first bowling alley to appear in Muncy used to be on N. Main Street and only had four lanes before the Bowl-Arena Lanes were built.
Demolition is expected the first of October. It will be a sad time for the bowlers and so many memories were held there.
“You always knew where you were going to be on Friday nights,” they said.