by Mike Corrigan

In my lifetime, I've had the misfortune of witnessing the eradication of three of Spokane's vintage bowling alleys -- three Lebowski-worthy, family-friendly fun centers that were unceremoniously leveled, gutted or otherwise erased from history to make way for ... what, exactly? Something that added one-zillionth as much to the enrichment of the community as did the previous tenant? You be the judge: Imperial Lanes at the 5-Mile Shopping Center now houses a Starbucks and a Hollywood Video. The Diamond Bowl site on North Division was magically transformed into a vacant lot. Now we're told that Spokane's venerable Colonial Bowl (founded in 1960) will be razed by the landlords over at Gonzaga University and replaced with an apartment complex for their students.

It's not as if Colonial (or the others I just mentioned) wasn't still popular or profitable at the time of its termination. It was. It's just that property owners in each case decided they could serve some higher purpose by taking out an old bowling alley and putting in something new, shiny or more lucrative.

Well, it's all over but the griping for now. Colonial Bowl's last hurrah was actually a rather low-key affair on Friday, March 18. Next stop: oblivion.

These photographs were taken near the end of Colonial's 40-year run on a sunny March afternoon about a week before the bowling alley closed its doors forever. As on a thousand previous such days, a group of elderly bowling enthusiasts were gathered here for a little league sport, camaraderie and friendly competition. While they were probably all acutely aware of their fun center's imminent demise, you couldn't see the sense of loss in their smiling faces or in the way they merrily -- yet purposefully -- leveled balls at those tenpins. Nope. It looked like they were all having the time of their lives.

Publication date: 03/31/05

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