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Mahall Family Remembers 87 Years Of Bowling Alley History

When prohibition was repealed, they opened the bar that attracted mayors, governors and other prominent local figures.

One of Lakewood's oldest businesses, , has changed ownership for the first time since it opened in 1924. Arthur and Tom Mahall, son and grandson of Mahall's founder John K. Mahall, shared some of the institution's 87-year history.

It all started with a two-story brick building built by John K. Mahall in 1924. Back then, a six-lane bowling alley and several pool tables occupied the lower level, while the main floor was a dance and event hall.

Lakewood legend Sammy Kaye and his band, along with others, would play at the Roxy Ballroom, as it was known in the early 1930s, Arthur said.

The bowling alley lobby sat, at that time, between a barbershop and a candy store.

"When prohibition was repealed in 1933, the candy store went out and my dad put in the bar, and it ran that way until 1937, when they converted the dance hall into another 10 lanes," Arthur said.

The Mahall family then did an extensive remodeling on the front of the building to turn part of the lobby into an addition to the bar, and the barbershop area was converted into a kitchen. The rest became the dining room with a lunch special that attracted mayors, governors, judges and prominent local figures.

“Mayor Celeste used to come in every day for lunch and every Friday for the fish fry, and his son would come in when he was governor,” Arthur said. 

Upstairs, the Mahalls, including Arthur and his nine siblings, lived in the four-bedroom apartment. Arthur and his sister Dorie were born right above the lanes, where Arthur would work for 65 years.

“The luck that the two of them had from being born there is evident. They’re the only two siblings still alive,” Tom said.

Arthur and his brother Cornie, or “Taj” as he was better known, also ran the business.

"Automation didn't come out until World War II," Arthur said. "Before that, we had pin boys. We had the whole gammit— high school students to people who were a little down on their luck."

All nine of Arthur’s siblings lent a hand at the bowling alley's operations, as did his son Tom, who started off working summers as a 14-year-old. He evenutally took a job there as a mechanic, and moved into the upstairs apartment with his wife. They lived there for 15 years before renting the apartment out to friends.

“I worked with my dad every day,” Tom said. “I was a manager, a fixer-upper, a go-for. Customers weren't numbers or prices; they were people and they became personal friends. You got to know their families, they got to know about yours."

, but will remain a bowling alley and a restaurant.

Mahall's Twenty Lanes Timeline

1924 – John K. Mahall builds and opens a bowling alley and hall – a two-story brick building on Madison Avenue. The building also housed a candy store and barbershop.

1929 – Four more lanes are added to the lower level.

1933 – Prohibition ends and the candy store closes and the Mahalls add a restaurant and bar.

1937 – Mahall’s converts the dance hall, and adds 10 more lanes.

1958 – The family buys the corner building— the original site of the Lakewood Public Library Madison branch and the city ice field.

1960s – Mahall’s installs mechanical pin setters.

1996 – Mahall’s stops serving lunch.

2011 – Mahall’s ownership changes family hands for the first time.

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