Photo of the Week
August 29, 2004 

     Okay folks, a nice surprise this week! At least it will be for those that frequented the Balboa Bowling Alley to bowl, drink draft beer and eat empanadas....or, all of the above.  I recently came across this most valuable image of the interior of the Balboa Bowling Alley.  I remember it well for a period of many years.   I used to sit in these seats watching bowlers when I was still a kid while Dad had a few cold ones at the snack bar.  I will never forget that stale beer smell in the air.  I remember they also sold Ballentines and Red Cap beer in the can.  Sitting in here may have contributed to the delinquency of my later years when I did the same...I also bowled these lanes in High School, College and league.  
     Remember the guy behind the counter by the name of Heavy?  What a great guy!  I think all Zonians knew Heavy.  God Bless him....
     These old lanes are nothing but a memory now and I am so glad we all have this picture to remember the place by.  Niko's Cafe is now built on this old foundation.  I am not sure what happened to the old equipment and valuable old hardwood lanes.  I wish I could go back right now to the time this picture was taken, which was April 17, 1943
     Note the way the ceiling lamps  were set up.  Another curiosity are lanes 1, 2, 3 and 4, on the window side. They didn't have pinsetters...?? Or were the pinsetters behind the wall?   Hope one of you old timer bowlers can answer this question.
     Photo from the Richard Erbe collection.

Long live the memory of the Canal Zone!!!

Viewer comments:

Dear Bill I can only tell you that as of 1947-48 at the Fort Clayton Bowling alley they had manual pin-setting racks that had to be hand-loaded and the ball picked up and started rolling down the return chute manually.

And at fort Clayton this was all done exclusively by San Blas KP orderlies in their off-duty time.

Tom Russell

The automatic pin setters didn't come to Balboa lanes until the 60s.  I set pins during my gym classes in the 1950s.
Yes, Heavy was there, also Louis Ceballos was the manager.  Ten cent beer in a very thick glass.  Saturday mornings when the kids had their league, the Clubhouse truck would drive up with 12 dozen empanadas ($.10 each, full of hamburger & about 5 or 6 inches long.   They were all sold in a heartbeat to the parents to take home.  Louie could never convince the Clubhouse to change his order to more than 12 dozen so there weren't very many left for the afternoon & evening crowd.  Food of the gods.
Such memories --- I bowled four nights a week there & was City Association Secretary for 6 years.  Panama had no bowling lanes then & we got to meet some really wonderful Panamanians as a result.  SCN (think it was CNN at the time) had a 30-minute tournament show on Friday nights with two of the top male bowlers going head to head. 
Thanks for the memories (as someone once said) 


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