With another season just starting, a short look back at bowling history in Hamilton is in order.
Bowling “licenses” were applied for on Sept. 28,1833, July 30, 1838; Sept. 19, 1842; March 21, 1843; July 20 and Aug. 17, 1846; Feb. 1, 1848; and Nov. 1 and 10, 1852. All were in the area of James and King streets.
The Hamilton Herald of March 11, 1910, states: “There was at the corner of John and King in 1852, a bowling alley owned by Tom Young and Jerry Hogan. It may well be in the basement today.”
Senator Donald McInnes had two bowling alleys installed in Dundurn Castle in 1874. They are still there today, but covered over. At one time in the 1980s it was a cafeteria with one of the items a “Bowling Alley Burger”.
The Hamilton Spectator of Feb. 1, 1881, noted: “Frank Young made 300 points at tenpins yesterday, the highest possible score”. But the location remains a mystery.
Alleys were located in the Ocean House Hotel from 1875 to 1895, the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club from 1891 to 1915, and the Brant Hotel from 1900 to 1917.
In 1890 four lanes were on the second floor of the J.W. MacDonalds’ tobacco shop at 66 James St., North. The lanes are still there but covered over as it is now a McMaster student residence. The late Bill Bailey, brother of the late Hamilton historian Rev. Melville Bailey, was a pin boy there in 1902 and Walter Helm rolled a 705 (268, 233, 204) in 1905. The name MacDonalds is still faintly visible on the outside.
Alleys were then installed in the Hamilton Armoury in 1905 where Les Slater was a pin boy. The late Ed Buckingham recalled seeing the alleys in 1910 which closed in 1914 and is now a supply store for the armoury.
Then the Brunswick Bowling Club opened in the Royal Templar’s Club at 112 James St. N., which became the Hamilton Bowling and Athletic Club from 1909 to 1913; then Cooper’s and finally the Tivoli Lanes for many years.
The Commercial Club at James and Vine opened in 1907 and in 1909 the Y.M.C.A. raised to 28 the lanes available in Hamilton.
The Connaught opened with nine alleys in 1924 and other bowling places were in the Lister building basement, the Central on King St. E., Robert’s, Hamilton Convalescent Hospital, and the Iron Duke on King St. W., across the street from the Hamilton Herald’s office, which published from 1889 to 1936.
The Dundas Lanes were on Foundry Street and one lane is presently visible in a private business while in the 1920s four lanes were installed in the basement of the Albertonian Apartment building on Maplewood.
In 1939 two lanes were built in the Stelco Canada Works on Wellington Street which employees used for both five and 10 pins. They were on the second floor along with a cafeteria with the Stelco factory on the first floor.
All these “alleys” and many others with their pinboys, manual scoring and bowlers wearing white shirts and bow ties are long gone, replaced by lanes with automatic scoring and bowlers wearing all sorts of outfits. But one thing that hasn’t changed is that bowling is a fun sport with the opportunity to meet life-long friends. From the first alleys in 1833 to the present day lanes of 2010, bowling remains an important part of Hamilton’s history.