2010-12-23 / Around the County

Two-Lane Bowling Alley Resurrected at Lakeview

ERIC GROSS

Fifth graders Sabrina Fiumara and Nick Goodrow set pins the old fashioned way on the Lakeview School bowling alley. ERIC GROSS Fifth graders Sabrina Fiumara and Nick Goodrow set pins the old fashioned way on the Lakeview School bowling alley. ERIC GROSS Nestled in the basement of the Lakeview Elementary School in Mahopac is a most unusual site.

A two-lane bowling alley constructed in 1941 has been resurrected and is being used by groups of children during an afterschool intramural program.

Donn Tobin, the school’s physical education instructor and Lakeview School Principal Jennifer Pontillo invited this reporter to the alley last Friday for a looksee. Tobin researched the alley’s history and according to the U.S. Bowling Congress, the Lakeview School alley is only the second workable bowling alley inside a school anywhere in the U.S.

Fifth graders are the first to use the alley, which is located in a storage area. Tobin said, “Not only are the children learning how an old fashioned bowling alley works, but they are also experiencing history come to life.”

Children have learned to use a foot pedal to set the wooden pins. The ball is also returned by the students since 70 years ago there were no fancy ball return mechanisms.

Tobin, who has been teaching in Mahopac for 14 years, said in his wildest dreams he never envisioned that a bowling alley would be located at his place of employment: “When I first began my career here, I heard about the alley, but we never had access to it. I’m thrilled that our kids can now use the alleys.”

Pontillo called the alleys “amazing. When Mr. Tobin approached me and asked for permission to use the alley, I couldn’t say ‘no!’ This has turned into a fantastic experience for our children.”

Superintendent Thomas Manko was also in awe: “History comes alive in Mahopac thanks to our dedicated staff. Children are learning that bowling was not always the fancy-schmancy alleys of today with strobe lights and loud music and overhead scorecards.”

Cheryl Harlen, historian at the Mahopac Library, researched the alley and discovered when the Mahopac Central School was planned, residents contributed towards the building of the bowling alley in the school: “When the school was constructed some had considered building a shooting range in the basement but instead decided on the bowling alley since Mahopac had no bowling facilities back then.”

The bowling alley was not used just by students. It was made available to the entire town. An advertisement that appeared in a December, 1941 edition of the COURIER advertises community bowling on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings.

Greg Amato, a 60-plus year resident of Mahopac who served as Carmel Police Chief for many years, remembered in 1955 that students stopped using the lanes due to concerns about ventilation. Amato said weekend bowling at Lakeview ended years before when a bowling alley opened in Baldwin Place in 1947.

Harlen recalled her days at Lakeview in the 1970s: “I heard rumors that there was an alley in our school, but students never got to see it. I stopped by recently and was in awe when I finally walked down the wooden alley and touched those pins. Today’s students are reliving history big time.”

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