Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bowling Alley Artifacts Planned for 2009 Exhibit by Ben Hogwood - Queens Chronicle

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Woodhaven Lanes may be gone, but it is far from forgotten.

The Queens Historical Society is planning an exhibit that focuses on losing history in Queens and will feature the bowling alley, which closed in May. Marisa Berman, the executive director of the society in Flushing, said the exhibit is still in the works, but it is expected to go up in the spring.

Jim Santora, the long-time president of the Ball and Chain bowling league which previously played at the alley, tried relentlessly to save the business. Now he is trying to gather memorabilia so others can see the memories he was surrounded with for years.
Queens is losing landmarks that may not be considered historical in the eyes of the city, but really are to local neighborhoods, Santora said. “One thing I learned trying to save Woodhaven lanes ... is how important the old bowling establishments are to a community,” he said.
For example, Gerard Montuori, known to his extended bowling family as “Mr. G.,” met his wife at the alley. After their wedding ceremony almost 15 years ago, the two went to Woodhaven lanes to have their pictures taken in tux and gown.
And when Santora’s father died earlier this year, it was his bowling buddies who helped him deal with the loss and who came out to the funeral.
Rumors of the lane’s closing first circulated over a year ago, when word got out that Brunswick Bowling, which had leased the site for most of Woodhaven’s nearly 50-year existence, was renegotiating.
When Brunswick decided not to renew, locals pegged their hope on John LaSpina, a bowling alley owner interested in the site. However, Parkway Management Corp., the property owners, eventually rejected the bid.
The last hope was lost when the city denied a request to designate the building as historic. Santora knew it was a longshot: the building wasn’t very old and, at least on the outside, wasn’t historically significant.
Now Santora is looking for items from the alley that can be put on display. He has a few of his own to offer. During its final days, Santora looked around the alley for something that still said “Woodhaven Lanes.” Most items had been marked with “Brunswick” instead.
At first, he couldn’t locate anything but the sign outside on the structure, which was much too big to keep as a souvenir.
Then he noticed, on the machine that pushes balls back to bowlers, a plate that bore the original logo. He looked at others and managed to find four of these. Santora secured them from management, keeping two for himself and giving two to friends.
He is hoping to find some bowling shirts and awards from the alley, as well as memorabilia from the protests to keep it open.
“It was a place where you go and, like the old song, everybody knows your name, knows your history. Sometimes they know it better than you,” he said.
To lend memorabilia to the exhibit, email Santora at