Rossmoor Bowl

By jamason

May 25, 2022

This story got frontpaged on May 30, 2022

35 days ago

I was one of those odd kids who liked to bowl. And no, I don't mean just at some friend's birthday party once and a while. I mean competitively - on a weekly basis - in a bowling league. Every Friday after school, starting around 3rd grade and lasting into high school, you could find me at Rossmoor Bowl. (And you doubted me when I told you I was the coolest!) Lee Ball, the ornery but loveable manager, knew me by name. Larry, the bowling coach whose last name escapes me, helped me refine my backhand release. And the arcade provided an ever rotating lineup of pinball machines and arcade games to play.

Now, I would be lying if I said that I started with pinball. In the early ‘90s, the new arcade fighters were all the rage and cheaper to play. Plus I could go head to head in a way that I couldn't with pinball. And let's be honest, pinball is much harder to master than a Hadoken or Tatsumaki. So pinball was not really on my radar.

But the first pin to distract me from the fighting action long enough to steal my pocket change was Creature from the Black Lagoon. Maybe the references to the ‘50s drive-ins just meshed with my old soul’s love of bowling. Maybe it was the gorgeous woman whose figure is forever etched into my brain. Maybe it was the period correct call-outs which I still repeat without context, much to the bewilderment and chagrin of my family and friends. Of course, the most frequent of these is “Stay Cool Daddy-o!” - a reflection of my poor skills on this machine as a young kid. In the end, I can’t say exactly why or how, but pinball had piqued my interest. 

That interest soon became a full blown desire when Indiana Jones the Pinball Adventure found its way to Rossmoor Bowl. I, probably along with every other kid, loved the action and adventure of the Indiana Jones movies. And here was a pinball machine that would make a gun clicking sound, a high pitched monkey screech, or a loud burp, even if I didn't have any quarters to feed it! When I did have the quarters to play, I found that the modes actually made me feel like I was in the movies and everything corresponded to specific scenes that I remembered. The actual actors provided lines from the movies that fit the gameplay. There was a little tilting playfield in the corner. Multiball was easily achievable and had 3 balls! The Well of Souls mode had 6! The video modes were unlike anything I had ever seen. Even the match sequence tied into Raiders. The theme was so integrated that I couldn't help but obsess over Indy. Every week I dumped all my quarters in it and wished for more quarters.

After Indy, everything changed for me. I still would put an occasional quarter in a NEO-GEO or one of the new 3D racers or fighters over which my peers clamored, but the pinball machines received the rest. I don't know who the operator was for Rossmoor Bowl, but that person seemed to only have Bally/Williams machines. So these machines from ‘92 through ‘99 defined pinball for me and my nostalgia currently forms the basis for my collection. 

Unfortunately, Rossmoor Bowl was torn down in 2006 and I still miss it. I miss the friendly faces. I miss the smell of stale cigarettes and watching bar flies play Keno while they wasted a Friday afternoon. I miss the free games won through bowling feats and high scores. I miss the greasy fries, thick ketchup, and sugary soda. But most of all, I miss being that kid who could play pinball every Friday afternoon following a few games of bowling.

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30 days ago

Great Story! Your bringing me back to the good o'l days. It sounds like I'm a few years older growing up at Rossmoor Bowl in the 70's and mid 80's. I went to Weaver elementary not to far from the bowling alley. I truly miss that place and your right about the smell, you would walk in the door and the place had that vibe of action on the floor.
What a great center to grow up by. The old Fox movie theater at the other side of the parking lot (now a Bank of the West). The cheap Thrifty ice cream around the corner from bowling. Our Family ate at that Marie Calendars at least once a month. Shoot out to the Parasol Restaurant and Fried Chicken Mondays right out the front door to the Bowling Alley. Even a Great Library in that center (Saw Ray Bradbury on a Saturday morning as a Kid reading Martian Chronicles). We rode our bike's everywhere in that center.
The pinball I remember, and I would say this was my first arcade is Centaur! When that came out there was always a line for it. The tough guy on his motorcycle, the sounds, what a fun game. I also remeber a Flash Gordon.
Many Fond memories. Thank You for the flashback and making me feel old.

24 days ago

Great write up! My best friend and I loved that place as well. I don’t ever remember bowling there, but we would hit up the arcade at least once a week thru high school. The operator always had the latest titles. Thanks for sharing your memories, it brought a lot back to me as well. Shoutout to the $2 movies behind the bowling ally, a second home as well!

22 days ago

Great story, thanks for sharing. I remember bowling there also in the late 80s as a young adult (so a little older than you). My parents eventually moved to Rossmoor so I would still occasionally stop by for a game or two. They had a Medieval Madness shortly before closing down and I'm still kicking myself to this day for not asking about buying the game. My old stomping grounds was Plaza Lanes in the late 70s, early 80s. Still remember playing my first SS game there, Bally Lost World. Too bad these places are only memories now.

3 days ago

We were neighbors!! I was playing Pinball over at Valley View Bowl just east of you. I miss Rossmoor Bowl. There was a Laundromat just north of Rossmoor Bowl behind Jack In The Box that had Striker Extreme, Cyclone, and Lethal Weapon 3. We spent HOURS there. May still be there. It’s been years.

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