THINGS THAT ARE DIFFICULT IN LIFE: realizing that adults have to wear pants 99% of the time, figuring out how to get stains out of kid’s clothing, finding the remote after someone other than you used it, and balancing post-school activities for multiple kids while still getting in homework and a dinner that doesn’t come from a drive through window. Know what’s worse? (well lots of stuff, but bear with me) Calling your husband to tell him you purchased an entire bowling alley lane — and that he gets the honor of helping you install it. Man, he was so excited he was just speechless!
The day started out like most of our weekends do. We both had separate auctions to attend in order to stock up on awesome goodies for our day job over at Waldomidcentury. Adrian was headed up north to dig through a series of barns that hadn’t been cleaned out in over 3 decades (!!!) and I was headed down south to claim dibs on furniture from a school that had closed and the contents were being sold. He was going to discover dusty, forgotten treasures and I was stoked to gather as many vintage school chairs and table legs as my little arms could carry!
My alarm went off at the horrible hour of 4:40am — and I did the same thing that everyone else would have done and said, “nope” and hit snooze on the alarm. When it went off again, I double checked the auction page to acquire the address for Google Maps, in order to determine how much longer I could sleep in. The page loaded and in large letters it read: AUCTION CANCELLED! I was heartbroken. There were Heywood Wakefields with my name on them! Quickly, I searched for another location to pillage and attending the auction of a bowling alley out in the far western sticks sounded appealing — plus, I could sleep in for another hour. Yussss.
The day was rainy and the two hour drive to get to this small-town alley seemed to take forever. The establishment was packed, dimly lit (because it’s a bowling alley – duh) and the auctioneer was slow. Painfully slow. Some are fun and fast and feel like they do on TV, but I was hanging on for inexpensive lockers and so I endured the turtle-paced torture for 7 long hours. The outcome? Lockers (yusss) and a bowling alley lane (whaaaaa!?). Like the thing you throw balls down (that’s what she said). We had been actively casing the wood from other people’s lane-removals on Craigslist for the better part of 6 months and although they were more reasonably priced than buying new countertops, they were still enough to make me cry and worry about how I was going to keep the lights on. So when in Rome (and by Rome I mean a bowling alley auction), you buy your very own lane!
The easy part was bidding in. The hard part was calling the husband to let him know. He wasn’t exactly shocked (he knows me well), but the impending removal process all seemed a little daunting with our extremely tight schedule for the furniture stuffs. Like any good first time project-doer we Googled what we’d need before we went. This is one of those rare times that the internet is a dirty, dirty liar. There is little information available and what is there really only applies to lanes that have been installed in the last few years. There were, however, videos that showed folks using tractors to haul lanes out, but that just wasn’t in the cards. (But seriously though, who is that really in the cards for?)
Now, I had several older gentlemen (who appeared to be expert lane extractors) try to fill me in on what I needed to bring back with me. I played the girl card and asked what I’d need to tell my husband to bring and they were more than happy to make me a list 100 pieces long. I came home, relayed the crazy-long list to the hubster and he whittled it down to what seemed like the necessities. For those interested, you will need a Sawsall, circular saw with 4-8 carbide blades (seriously), 48″ level and several hand clamps, eight 2×4’s for leverage, furniture dolly and long pry bars to have on standby and a plethora of extension cords. If you’re removing the pin deck or approach you’ll also need a large standard screw driver, impact wrench with variable speeds, a hammer, several large drill bits and pointy-stabby thingys to get glue out of a screw head that’s recessed inside a hole. Got all that?
So off we went with the help of four of our friends and family members. Everyone was excited to help as they know what having a kitchen that functions means to us — and for that we’re eternally grateful. We borrowed a flat bed trailer from a family member as bowling lane isn’t lightweight in the slightest! The 6 of us arrived at the lane at 9:30am and set to work (and didn’t leave until almost 4:30pm). Lucky for us, the gutters had already been removed and we could see down to the floor and ball return below (which we had to be careful to not damage or cut the wires too as someone else had purchased that separately).
The owner of the alley was on hand to give us all sorts of awesome stories about the parties and benefits and events that his venue used to hold. In a small town, a place of refuge that isn’t the grocery store or someplace that is a straight up bar is golden. This space had seen it all over the years and listening to him share his past with us was heartbreaking, knowing that it sold for pennies on the dollar and was gutted piece-by-piece. It fostered many amazing memories and hopefully my countertops can do it justice! We learned that the lanes originally came from Japan, that the market for bowling used to be HUGE in the 40’s and 50’s and then suddenly it crashed and all the alleys were gutted and the lanes were shipped to America for cheap and that’s why bowling became so huge in the 60’s and 70’s here. #themoreyouknow Really, it just means I can tell people that I have imported Japanese countertops, but somehow it doesn’t sound as good as saying you have a reclaimed bowling alley!
I won’t lie, we all had out happy faces on and knew this task would be daunting, but worried that it could become complicated. It would be easy for accidents and injuries to happen, it could take longer than the time allotted, something with the substructure that we couldn’t see could cause complications — we just didn’t know. So like anyone would, we jumped right in. We used the level to make a straight line across the lane and clamped it down. The saw cuts easily where the hardwood and softwood meet as there are no nails, but every other cut was torture on the blades as it met roungly 20-30 nails. Because of this, a single blade on the saw was really only good for a few cuts.
The Sawzall was used to separate the substructure from the lane itself. Next, we used the 2×4’s to pry up the individual lane sections and pop them loose. We used them like oars and rowed the lane down a few inches so it was as close to the dolly as possible before lifting.
Lifting the alley sections from that position was the most tricky as one person had to be “in the pit” while the others were lifting a solid 500-600lbs from their ankles. I can hear chiropractors everywhere cringing and my trainer telling me to lift with my knees. Likewise, I can also hear my knees telling me to shove off and filing a request to do something normal for a change.
Each piece was rolled down the lane and onto the landing a few inches below, where you sit and keep score. Our new found giant skateboard slid with ease and the small step down wasn’t horrible. The challenge, however, was figuring out how to lift it up the small set of stairs that led to the upper bar and dining area, while simultaneously turning it on it’s side to fit through the ball holders. Please note, I’m sure there’s a less kinky sounding phrase for that, so I apologize to alley owners everywhere for not knowing, but I’m hoping know what I mean. The area where you go select a ball and wonder how anyone has such misshapen fingers and what happens if you actually get your digits stuck inside a ball while trying them on. Yes, that area.
It was awkward and a little scary as two people had to essentially “catch” the weight as it’s center of gravity changed and was pushed up the stairs. To make things trickier, the dolly had to be relocated up the stairs and as close to the edge as possible without rolling backwards as the lane section was lowered down onto it.
Once down, the lane was then left vertical and small nails that stuck out everywhere were hammered down so we didn’t have to question when our last tetanus shot was. It took one person on each side to literally ride it like a skateboard to keep it from fishtailing to either side and slamming into walls. The others guided the front and pushed from behind. Out the front door she went and we then stacked them onto the trailer with 2×4’s in between so the gnarly nails and metal bars didn’t scrape the surface they were to rest upon.
Rinse. Lather. Repeat. One by one until each section was removed and the wood underneath that created the substructure had also been harvested. The alley came out in 6 long sections and unfortunately we had to leave the pin deck (where the pin setter puts the pins down at the end of the alley) and the approach as time ran short and those sections involved more tools and patience than we came with.
I inquired about the galvanized pipe that the bowling balls sat on. The balls had all been sold at auction and taken that day. The pipe, however, remained. He said it was all ours if we wanted to uninstall it and I’m not kidding, I think my heart literally skipped a beat — or 6. For those who remember from our kitchen demolition (not by choice) post, I mentioned that I’d like to have exposed cabinets that are more like a commercial kitchen and are really just open shelves rather than cabinets. Although it has to be dusted, I hate cabinets more than I hate black licorice and that’s saying something. That said, I didn’t know how I was going to be able to afford the pipe to make my “close-to-ideal-as-budget-currently-allows” kitchen possible. We had drawn up plans the cost of pipe alone was somewhere around the $400 mark – EXCLUDING fittings, which are rouhgly $3-$5 each. EACH! In the back of my head, I was expecting to admit defeat and pick up free cabinets on Craigslist and just tell myself I’d get that kitchen someday. Well this day. someday became TODAY! Tears welled and Adrian raced to uninstall the long lengths.
It was time to pack up the tools and thank the owner for his kindness (did I mention he even bought us lunch?) and wish him the best in life and get some straps on the trailer and head home. Adrian made an impromptu safety device to ensure the poles stayed on the trailer and didn’t launch through a driver’s windshield on the way home. He’s a handy little McGyver like that.
We all slunk into our cars and headed home. We didn’t have enough juice left in our muscles to unload things that night and in the morning we cleared space in our storage unit and offloaded them onto the dolly and slid them into place. We had never been so exhausted. We slept for 12 hours straight!
Here they sit, waiting for their time to shine. The clock is ticking, as winters in Wisconsin aren’t exactly known to be dry or warm (go figure), so as soon as our roof installation is done (watch for that post next week), we’re going to be on it like two coats of paint!
We’ll need to rent a floor sander cut things to size before the weather turns bad. Before we can even think of counters there’s floors and tile to deal with and I just can’t hardly wait! It’s funny how the smallest bit of hope can change your disposition towards something. You guys — we might have a kitchen by Christmas! Can Santa put a new refrigerator in my stocking? Is that a thing?
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via Sarah Rae Smith at The Day I Bought A Bowling Alley & There Was Much Rejoicing