Once upon a time, in a small village called Hoffman Estates, there was a bowling alley where wicked and wild things happened. Or so thought the little girl who lived at 121 Alpine Lane just a few blocks from the bowling alley. She wished her parents bowled and would take her to the bowling alley where she knew exciting things happened. She felt uncertain about exactly what excitement occurred behind the bowling alley doors but she knew it was opened late at night and that alone was fascinating. Once, she dared to peek inside and learned the bowling alley was dark and loud and it smelled of cigarette smoke. In fact just opening the door was like inhaling my first cigarette. Wonderfully wicked.
People were laughing a lot in there. She quickly shut the door, knowing a little girl would never be allowed to go inside alone, and went on her way to Grants Department Store to buy candy necklaces that she made her neck sticky and sweet.
The little girl wished she had parents who bowled. Parents who bowled looked like they lived life to the hilt and were modern. They let their children eat cold shrimp with cocktail sauce and stay up past 10 p.m. to watch the Johnny Carson show. Her parents put her to bed early and the only seafood her mom served was tuna casserole with potato chips baked on the top.
Alas, her parents had no interest in bowling and were able to drive past the busy Hoffman Lanes Bowling Alley without saying, "That place looks hopping. Maybe we should take the kids bowling one day." Oh, sure, the little girl's parents had parties with friends, played Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass on the record player and even did the twist to Chubby Checkers while drinking screw drivers and bourbon and Seven Up. They didn't leave the living room to party much less enroll their little girl in the children's bowling leagues during the hot and humid Illinois summers. Instead she had to go swimming in her backyard pool. It was dreadful. How mean of them. She knew for certain that other children were having much more fun in the air conditioned bowling alley, sipping tall cokes purchased from the Hoffman Lanes lounge.
The little girl had heard Hoffman Lanes had a cocktail lounge and she felt certain it must be a magical place where she could see how adults acted in real life as they sometimes did on the Perry Mason show. She also heard that there was a pool table. The wonders continued.
Her parents weren't prudes, but they weren't playing pool at the bowling alley, either. Cool parents only did that. Those bowling parents, and those bowling children, led lives of great adventure thought the little girl. They knew how to live. If nothing else she could have learned to play pool and when she was broke made some money on her skill. Alas, her parents liked to sit at the dining room table and play pinochle for pennies. Dullsville.
Years passed, and the little girl became a teenager and went to Conant High School. She once dared to walk through the bowling alley with another brave non-bowling friend. To her surprise she saw her Home Economics teacher, Mrs. Senters, having a beer. (She's the lady with the blonde hair in the second row on the far left with the cat glasses.) Mrs. Senters who lectured this very same teenage girl about wearing too short of mini skirts, was guzzling beer at, of all places, Hoffman Lanes. The teenager was shocked to know the woman who taught such skills as flouring a cake pan or hemming a skirt was cavorting at Hoffman lanes with a beer in her hand. This only proved to the girl there was so much she had missed by not going to the bowling alley as a little girl. Bowling at Hoffman Lanes might have opened new worlds for her or at least gave her insight into who liked to drink beer in her village.
The teenager became a young woman and moved away from her village when she was 20 year's old. Perhaps in an attempt to make up for lost time, she secured a job as a bartender at Sonesta Lanes, a bowling alley in Colorado. Sonesta Lanes had a pool table, and cigarette smoke, and even live music played by sext men. She once thought that was sexy when men wore zebra headbands and spandex. Oh sure she worked there a short time and had fun, but it fell short of what she imagined Hoffman Lanes. Besides, she didn't enjoy bowling. She'd rather swim.
Forty Years passed and the girl returned home for her high school reunion. She was so busy seeing friends in her former village, she never visited the bowling alley. She returned to her new village of Phoenix and was angry. She could have gone by herself to Hoffman Lanes, ordered a martini and maybe even shot a game of pool. Perhaps even Mrs. Senters would be there and she would no longer judge her former teacher for being a floozy for hanging out at the bowling alley, and even had a glass of wine with her. Mrs. Senters could order beer, but just one as she probably lived at a retirement home by now crocheting and making cookies and didn't hang out drinking at bowling alleys anymore.
Then she learned that Hoffman Lanes closed. Kaput. Gone.
After some thought, the now mature woman realized that you could go home again, but that didn't mean it would be unchanged. Chapters of our lives at times close without warning. As do bowling alleys.
She heard the news of the closure and went bowling at the bowling alley near her house in Phoenix. The place was dark, and loud and there was a lounge with cheap drinks and three pool tables. She felt bored and bowling hurt her shoulder.
Then she realized Hoffman Lanes will live forever in her imagination as a magical place where wild adventures that she could only dream of happened. Fantasy was way better than the real world. And she forgave her parents for not being bowlers as she tried shrimp cocktail and liked it just about as much as bowling. Not at all. And she lived happily after after, or at least came to terms with her non bowling childhood.
Still, if she could get one more chance to go back in time...she might just pick Hoffman Lanes 1968. Just to truly know what she missed. Until then it will reside forever more in her imagination.