The following information was found in the Beloit city directories at the Beloit public library.
The first bowling alley in Beloit was opened in 1899 by Henry Dorrbaker. This was a bowling alley and a buffet located at 426-428 State Street. Mr. Dorrbaker's residence was also at this same address.
February 12, 1902: There seems to be an acute shortage of bowling pins, which may cause the local alleys to close temporarily; bowling spots in Rockford and Janesville are in the same fix.
Mar 8, 1902: Ernest Forsberg, who is well-known to bowlers of Beloit, is reported to have rolled a perfect 300 game in the East Rockford League.
February 26, 1903 Henry Dorrbaker sold half interest in his bowling establishment to Perrie Smith, who formerly owned an interest in a Rockford, IL bowling alley building.
The 1904 directory listed three (3) bowling alleys. Along with Dorrbaker's, a Mr. Rouse had a bowling alley and saloon at 317-319 State St. and a Mr. Evans had a bowling alley at 346 E. Grand Avenue. Sam L. Evans bought the bowling alley from Perrie Smith on February 20, 1904. "Sam, who is a well known bowler and will undoubtedly run a popular place."
1907-1908 directory listed Dorrbaker's and a Mr. A. F. Goss at 210 State St. Mr. Rouse's establishment was listed only as a saloon after 1906.
In 1912, Mr. Dorrbaker sold his bowling alley to William Williams. Mr. Gross' bowling alley was now owned by the Missner Brothers.
In 1914 William's Bowling Alley was listed as being owned by R. S. Jenson and the bowling alley at 210 State Street was run by Fred Missner, Jr.
1915 thru 1919, Patrick J. Dorr opened a bowling alley at 624 4th Street. It was called Dorr's Bowling. Mr. Jenson still had his alleys at 426 State Street. The alley that was at 210 State Street was not listed again until 1930.
Dorr's Bowling Alley was the only bowling alley listed in 1920
In 1922 the YMCA opened a bowling alley at 530 Public Avenue. The YMCA and Dorr's were the only alleys listed from 1922 thru 1928.
From the Beloit Daily News, September 19, 1922: The Beloit Bowling Association for the men was first sanctioned in October 1922 with the YMCA being the first officially sanctioned house. The elected officers were President: W.F. Thompson, 1st VP: Judge John B. Clark, 2nd VP: Larry Rosenthal, Secretary: Walter Perkins, Treasurer: Russell Mason. Sam Slaymaker, general chairman, reported on the slate, and said that triple qualifications for officership were considered by the committee - men held in high esteem by bowlers in particular and by the public in general, men who would work for the good of the game, and give time to making the association a live organization, and men who would adequately represent bowling in the city. There were 25 members at this first meeting. Tom Bedell was made chairman of the printing committee, and upon the report submitted, it was decided to have the constitution printed in an official booklet. Stationary also will be printed. There were 10 other members on the Board of Directors. The 1923-24 season had 170 sanctioned members and 1924-25 season there were 219 sanctioned members.
The women were listed as having an organiational meeting on September 15, 1922. They elected their President: Mrs J.W. Thomas, 1st VP: Mrs R.L. Elliott, 2nd VP: Mrs. I. Goodall, Seretary: Mrs. H. Rett and Treasurer: Miss Irene Rau. There was no information found thru the middle of December saying if they became sanctioned or not. There were several ladies leagues bowling at this time. I will continued researching this matter.
The following article was reprinted in the BDN special bowling insert magazine on February 26, 1992:
The Beloit Daily News started on January 27, 1926 at Divine Alleys. It was called Beloit Daily News Tournament and was a city bowling Championship.
On February 5, 1926, Herb Kemman completed the 18 game finals at Divine Alleys by winning the first playoff between all of the top men bowlers.
Kemman, well known for his baseball pitching with the Beloit Fairies, outdueled 34 other contestants: including five other finalists, Harry Bruce, Carl Sparks, Morris "Red" Everson, Tony Therkelson and Lyle Davis, Jr.
The tournament was truly a test for the best. Only Beloit bowlers with an average of 170 or better could compete and 35 of the 37 eligible bowlers took part.
The field was large enough (Divine Alleys only had 6 lanes) that the six-game qualifying round was split into two sessions and the tournament started one day earlier than planned, on January 27, 1926.
Bruce and Therkelson, members of the Freeman team and the top two average bowlers in the City League, led the qualifiers with the scores of 1163 and 1152. Everson, the average leader of the Yates League, was next with 1148. Kemman and Davis, both of whom bowled for the Fairies team, qualified with 1137 and 1126 totals. Sparks, a member of the Daily News team, finished at 1100.
Kemman flashed some signs for what was to come when he shot a 245 in his fifth qualifying game, the highest game of the qualifying round.
The top six bowlers returned to Divine's February 3 to start the 18 game finals, with six games scheduled on each of three consecutive nights.
Kemman wasted no time taking the lead. He rolled a 233 opening game, finished with a 223 and had three games of 190 or better for a 1211 six game total.
The tournament was virtually over after the 13th through the 18th games. Kemman put a 1200 tally on the board, including a tournament high game of 256. That gave him a total of 3548 pinfall to 3369 for Bruce.
On the final night, Kemman rolled a modest fifth-highest block of 1051, but his lead was never threatened. He finished at 4599. Bruce took second with a 4423. Sparks was third with 4412.
Starting with the second tournament, the Daily News tourney was conducted during the holiday week between Christmas and New Year's Day.
The 1930 directory listed a new alley at 635 4th Street, owned by L. P. Lindeman which was named the Beloit Recreation Center. Patrick Dorr opened a 16 lane alley at 646 4th Street and carried the name as Dorr's Bowling Alley. The bowling alley at 208-210 State Street was now owned by the Divine Brothers.
In 1930, Garry Heup and Jim Divine won the ABC championship in Cleveland, Ohio. Heup bowled 727 and Divine had 612 for a total of 1339.
The Women's Association was started about 1932 by Nora Kay from Janesville. She came to Beloit to help organize the Association for their first season. The Women's Association was chartered on September 26, 1934. The association, up to 1935, consisted of two leagues, Gateway League and Freeman Shoe League. All business was conducted under the head of "Gateway Women's Association. There was no recorded organization fo the Beloit City Association. From notes of the minutes of the meeting held on January 13, 1936, the association name is given as "Beloit Women's Bowling Association and there was a total 103 women.
In 1935, John Davis was the state champion all event winner with a total of 1899 pins, bowling 660 in singles, 612 in doubles and 627 in the team event. John was also the Midwest Doubles Champion.
In 1936 the Beloit Recreation Center became known as the Gateway Recreation Alley owned by Dominick DiGiralamo. The Dorr's Bowling Alley changed owners and became known as the Rex Bowling Alley owned by Herman "Budd" Schultz and Harry Bruce.
While browsing through an old book on the history of Beloit, dated 1936 and published by the Beloit Daily News, it is stated that Henry Dorrbaker could rightly be called the "father of Beloit bowling" having introduced the sport here when he opened the first alleys in 1899 on the west side of East Grand Avenue near the central bridge. Bowling grew rapidly in popular appeal and now (in 1936) through the fall, winter and summer attracts more active participants than any other game.
In 1936, C. Lyle Davis, who was residing in Beloit at the time of his election, was the president of the Wisconsin State Bowling Association.
John Davis bowled on the World Championship Milwaukee Heil Team in 1939 and 1940. He had a total of nine 300 games to his credit.
Nora Kay held the All-Events record title, with a 1757 total, at the WWBA State Tournament from 1931 until it was broken in 1940.
In the 1940's, there were only three bowling alleys: Gateway Recreation Center, Rex Lanes, and Greyhound Lanes. The Gateway was run by Dormund "Dormy" Hills and had 16 lanes and conducted the Beloit Daily News Holiday Tournament for many years. The Greyhound Lanes had 6 lanes and was at the site where the Beloit Inn (500 Pleasant St) is located. It was later called Imperial Lanes and then Pulaski's Lounge and Lanes. The Rex, only 4 lanes at this time.
In 1943 the Rex Bowling Alley had a new owner, Vic Cooper. The Gateway Recreation Center was still in operation.
1946 thru 1949 The Rex was still owned by Vic Cooper. The Gateway Recreation Center was now owned by Jas Harred and Dormund Hill. A new alley opened at 308-310 Pleasant Street called the Greyhound Bowl owned by E. G. Baldwin and A. E. Munroe.
In 1951 The Gateway and Greyhound bowling alleys were still open. The Rex was now owned by William and Lester Dooley. A new bowling alley was added at 1911 Park Avenue called Bonnie's Tavern and Bowl owned by Vito Bonafede.
In 1954 The Gateway (Dormund Hill), the Rex (William and Lester Dooley) and Bonnie's Tavern and Bowl (Vito Bonafede) were still in business. Greyhound Bowl changed names and owners. It became known as Badger Bowl, owned by Howard and Gayle Voigts. The Voights later teamed up with John Gesner and opened a new establishment at 604 Pleasant Street called Imperial Lanes.
1959 brought about a big change to the bowling centers in Beloit. Dormund Hill and Lester Dooley joined together and built a new center called Bowl-Aire Lanes at 2547 Park Avenue. Hill sold the Gateway building to the Beloit Corporation. The Rex, at 646 Fourth Street, stayed in business for three more years before becoming the Iron Works Lounge then called the Brass Rail.
1959 Doug and William Rubnitz opened R & R Bowl at 1400 Cranston Road. Both the Gateway and the Rex were still listed in the 1959 directory with Hill and Dooley as owners.
In 1960 the only centers listed were Bowl-Aire Lanes, Imperial Lanes and R & R Bowl.
1962, Viking Lanes was built in South Beloit, IL. The Viking Lanes is owned by Don Summers of Rockford (he also owns Don Carter Lanes and Cherry Bowl Lanes in Rockford) and Bob Chips is the manager.
In 1983, Tom, Jim, Bob, and Jerry Pulaski bought Imperial Lanes and changed the name to Pulaski's Lounge and Lanes. Pulaski's ran the Lounge until the Project 2000 group purchased the lounge and demolished it to make room for the Beloit Inn on the property.
During the years our association was serving bowling centers in Beloit, Wi, South Beloit, IL, Roscoe, IL and Rockton, IL. The centers were: Rex Bowling Alley, Beloit Recreation Center (later called The Gateway Recreation Center), Greyhound Bowl (later called Badger Bowl), Bonnie's Bowl, Bowl-Aire Lanes, Imperial Lanes (later changed to Pulaski's Lounge), R & R Lanes (later changed to Diamond Lanes), Viking Lanes, Edgewood Lanes and The Wagon Wheel Lanes. There may have been other alleys (centers) that were served over the years that I may have missed.
1977, Les Dooley added 16 more lanes to Bowl-Aire Lanes to make it the biggest House in the area. In the early part of 1990, Les Dooley sold Bowl-Aire Lanes to Gary Schele. The name had a minor change, dropping the (-) between Bowl and Aire. Gary modernized the center and ran it for about 5 years when he sold it to the American Red Carpet Bowling Organization out of Milwaukee WI in March of 1996. The Red Carpet Bowling organization left the name as it was. It was managed by Gary Schmit and Douglas Taylor.
American Red Carpet sold several of the Red Carpet Centers, which included Bowl Aire Lanes, to AMF Bowling Corporation. AMF took over operations on July 1, 1997. AMF changed the the name to AMF Bowl Aire Lanes. Douglas Taylor continued as manager until the spring of 1999 when Fred Dahlke took over. AMF continued to run the center for about three (3) years and then they put it up for sale. Gary Schele bought it back. He dropped AMF from the name and returned it to the Bowl Aire Lanes name. After doing more improvements and less than a year later, at the end 2000, Steve Beck and Rick Secoy bought the center. Gary Schele continued as manager until the end of the 2000-2001 bowling season.
1992, the United States Congress voted to change the reference from bowling alleys to bowling centers.
Kevin Majors, Denny Schuster and Don Williams purchased the R & R Bowl from Doug Rubnitz and assumed the leadership of the establishment on January 1, 1987.
R & R Bowl was managed by Mark Peterson during the 1989-1992 seasons.
R & R Bowl was purchased by Larry Hesker and Bob Kamppi, Jr in 1995. Bob bought out his co-owner in August of 1996. The name was changed shortly after to Diamond Lanes. Gail Meyers was the manager from 1999 to 2001. Bob died in a tragic auto accident in May 2002.
In August of 2002, Dan Bucholtz and Pete Kirchner purchased the Diamond Lanes Bowling Center from Jim and John Patch. The Patchs handled the transaction due to the loss of Bob Kamppi, Jr. Dan is the owner-manager starting with the fall of 2002.
August 1, 2011 Steve Beck sold Bowl Aire Lanes to John Fiedler and Bill Cliffe. With this change, they renamed the center to Rex Lanes in honor of when Les Dooley, in the 1940s, owned a center in downtown Beloit called Rex Lanes. Rex Lanes closed their doors the summer of 2013 and remains closed.
Edgewood Lanes closed after the 1996-97 bowling season.
At one time, nearly 8,000 men and women were bowling in the Beloit Bowling Associations with the women out numbering the men. Leagues were running mornings, noon and two night shifts.
It had been generally accepted for many years that the winner of the Beloit Daily News Tournament was the bowler of the year. This was changed with the 1992-1993 season when the Men's Association implemented a point system to determine the Bowler of The Year. The Women followed shortly after with their own format.
A note from a former resident of Shopiere, Jerry Wood, now in California:
I just read this litle piece of history. It was very informative and interesting especially in connection to my youth in Beloit and remembering all the old houses. San Diego has a population now of around two million people, 2nd largest in California and we are down to four establishments as a matter of fact there are probably more places to bowl around Beloit than here if you don't take into consideration the bowling places on the military bases around here. Thanks for putting that info in the paper, I'm always happy to read about the history of Beloit especially when it comes to sports and anything to do with the late forties and early fifties. Did you mention the little bowling alley in Clinton? My history of bowling goes back to 1947 and it started in the basement of the Shopiere Congregational Church on Shopiere road. Someone from the church would set up the pins and I would try to knock them over. I don't think I was using a regular bowling ball but I did this every week prior to going to (we lived in Tiffany at the time ) Beloit to the Rex Bowling Alley. I usually would go to the movie across the street and watch the serials while my dad bowled. I think the church was one bowling establishment that you missed. Submitted by Jerry Wood.
More research and information will be forth coming as I find time to research history. If you disagree with or have other information for this article, please call me or e-mail me at: