Archive for May 11th, 2011

Gutter Ball

May. 11th 2011

A party invitation!

Fairways Bowling Lanes, Route 9. Westbound. Natick, Massachusetts. 3:15 PM. Sharp.

The year is 1971.

The occasion: Bradley Reisenhardt’s  birthday party.

I’m was not a big fan of Bradley Reisenhardt. We never collected baseball cards or burned leaves with a magnifiying glass together. Nor was Bradley part of my bicycle posse or chestnut hunter/gatherer of friends.  Yet, why not attend? His birthday party was a bowling birthday party held Fairways Bowling Lanes.

After May 2oth I will write about Fairways Bowling Lanes in the past tense. Fairways, the hippest, retro bowling alley west of Boston is days away from closings its doors forever.



No party. No last bowl. No last waltz. No last slide down the polished lanes only to land hard on my ass.

Sad yet true,  the closing of Fairways marks the end of an era.

Fairways Bowling Lanes opened in 1955. It’s architectural style is true to 1950s  form. Its color scheme screams the 1950s; aqua, tan, and a retro shade of puke green.

At Fairways, you rented bowling shoes. Cool shoes. Ones with burgundy and tan leather stripes with a big numbers on the back heel to indicate your shoe size–not your age. When you returned shoes after bowling, the teen behind the shoe concession sprayed each pair with disinfectant. Who wants that job? PU.

Fairways has plasic contor benches. You mold into their curvilinerar form. We gravated to the curvature of the bench. Somehow it felt cacooning and comfortable to sit in this particular spot between taking turns to bowl.

Fairways is a candle pin bowling alley. Small balls. Small pins. No Fred Flintsone and Barney Rubble big bowling balls.

Easily distracted, I would watch bowling balls magically fly back and clink to a stop on the  automatic ball return track. I would hit the pin reset button just to watch pins reset.  Hit. Reset. Hit. Reset.  A modern marvel to a child of the Baby Boom Era. A perfect bowling score.

There is a 1950s style scorekeeper’s desk complete with an ashtray. Who kept score? Only serious bowlers. We kept rolling bowling balls until something made contact. I was never a serious bowler; a social bowler. A birthday party bowler. King of the gutter ball.

When I was an undergraduate at Boston College, I returned to Fairways with friends. One of my friends from the Midwest exclaimed, “What. No beer? What kind of a bowling alley is this?”

I replied, “A sober one?”

Fairways  attracts families, groups of friends, church groups, veterans, leagues, and was perfect for couples on a double date.

Fairways is well lit. Warm in winter. Cool in summer. One of its post World War II charm? Air conditioning.

A close neighborhood friend read me an article in the Boston Globe noting the closing of Fairways. She dug the article out of her newspaper recycling  bag just for me to read.   I felt stunned to learn of Fairways demise. A sign of the times. Who bowls anymore when you can sit in front of  a laptop and play virtual checkers, bowl, or kill aliens with someone in Uzbekistan? In the end, the article noted the high cost of heating and  cooling the mammoth 26+ lane alley.  Wasn’t this a reason–warmth and cold—that attracted customers in the first place?

Fairways is a pristine example of 1950s architecture. It is emblematic of the post World War II era. Two friends chimed in. Where are local, state, and/or national historic societies to save Fairways? Bill Gates. Steven Spiegelberg. Where are you? Be white knights and please rescue Fairways in Natick, Massachusetts. You can bowl for free…….

At my neighbor’s house, we mimicked each other……..they way we use to bowl at Fairways. Legs spread wide. Two hands on the ball. A pendulum swing, back, then forward. With a jerking motion, we would  project (throw) the bowling ball down the lane. Roll baby, roll.



ANOTHER gutter ball.

Try again. Who is keeping score?

I am in a way.

I can count on two hands the number of buildings being knocked down or going out of business from an era when America freshly defeated fascism—and a communist lurked under every bed. Our national social and architectural heritage is being destroyed with each tick of the clock.

 I want to toss one last gutter ball at Fairways before it closes.


Pretty please?

That ball is going, going……………………………gone.

Brendan Ben Feeney

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