I grew up in Redwood City, CA for the first 12yrs of my life. I recall celebrating my friends' birthday parties at Mels Bowl. I also recall being a horrible bowler. Like most sports I participated in, I wasn't very good. I sucked, to put it bluntly. Being left-handed made it more difficult to learn from others. At least that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. Regardless, of my lack of ability, I somehow always managed to have fun when I played. It must be some sort of masochistic tendency I have. So, it was much to my dismay when I read a while back that the bowling alley where I first learned to bowl-badly was no longer standing. Without further adieu, and any more gutter talk lets segue into today's topic: The demise of Mels Bowling and the struggle to preserve a nostalgic piece of history.
Stretched out over a two and half acre lot, the rectangular building looked fairly ordinary and did not stand out in architectural style.
|Mels Bowl in Alameda had a similar sign in 1964. Now Mels AMF South Shore Lanes. (Alameda High Yr. Book)|
So who is this Mel guy? You may ask. He is Mel Weiss who owned three other bowling alleys designed by Goodwin Steinberg: Mels Palm Bowl in San Jose (built in 1957), Mels Southshore in Alameda (1960) and Saratoga Lanes in San Jose (1959).
The drive-in chain's popularity held sway for a little over 20 years before it started to lose its appeal due to the competition of quickly emerging fast food restaurants such as McDonalds, Jack in the Box, Burger King and others. Ironically, by 1976, the first Mels built was the last to be demolished.
The 140 S. Van Ness Ave. location had a huge parking lot in front for drive-in service and another parking lot in the back for Mels Grille Room which provided a little fancier experience with valet parking, candlelight dinners and a cocktail bar. This drive-in is probably the most famous Mels location as it was featured in the nostalgic George Lucas classic, American Graffiti (1973).
- California Signs page 15. Roadside Architecture.com website: http://www.roadarch.com/signs/ca15.html
- Clifford, Jim. Mels Bowl, a Trip Down Memory Lane. July 8, 2011. Redwood City Patch website. https://patch.com/california/redwoodcity-woodside/mels-bowl-a-trip-down-memory-lane.
- David, Heather. Mels Bowl Redwood City. [Photo]. Flicker.com
- Mels Bowl. Draft Historic Resource Evaluation April 15, 2011. Appendix E
- Mels Bowl Sign. [Photo] Waymarking.com website: http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM2YHB_Mels_Bowl_Sign_Redwood_City_Ca
- Tale of two Signs. August 30, 2013. Walking Redwood City website: https://walkingredwoodcity.com/2013/08/
- Williams, Dave. Why I Stopped Watching Football Part 2 (June 8, 2017) California Bowling News.com website: http://californiabowlingnews.businesscatalyst.com/assets/060817.pdf