Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Keep the Ball Rolling at 72, Jim Lampson Is Still Welcoming Bowlers to His Legendary Arcade Lanes

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Keep the Ball Rolling at 72, Jim Lampson Is Still Welcoming Bowlers to His Legendary Arcade Lanes

Article excerpt

This curious place in University City is above a lawn-mower repair shop and appliance store. It's been a walk-up bowling joint since 1944. Before that, it was known as Diane's Ballroom.

Signs are everywhere, including this one:

NOTICE: 1) Ash trays are for cigarettes and ashes. 2) Trash can is for trash. 3) Floor is for your feet only! What makes this place special has just emerged from behind the pin-setters. He's covered with grime, and his glasses have retreated down his nose like an errant bowling ball heading for the gutter. He's the author of the sign just mentioned. Jim Lampson, 72, has presided over the eight alleys of the Arcade Lanes for 37 years. "I'm the guy they call The Legend," he says. "When you walk in here, you're at home." You're at home, that is, if you're accustomed to a setting that has walls lined with old wooden bowling pins, antique scythes, saws, barbed wire from 1887, axes, hammers, coffee cans, beer bottles and cans in a glass showcase, old photos, an ancient washing machine, lanterns that serve as whiskey decanters, a radiola, corn grinders, creamers, iron tractor seats, street-car coin trays, cross saws, newspaper clippings, banners, flags, bowling patches, vintage beer signs, and on the south wall, displays of old 300 scores, many of them disallowed by the American Bowling Congress, headquartered in Milwaukee, because of allegations that Lampson doctored the lanes. "They accused me of dressing the lanes. But they couldn't find a block (oiling that causes the ball to groove), those guys from Milwaukee couldn't find anything. Then they said, `Jim, why don't you close the door and close the place? You got an old eight-lane house, why don't you give it up?' Can you imagine someone saying something like that?" His disdain for "those people from Milwaukee" is apparent. And he still maintains a defiant, "show me" attitude. But it's the atmosphere of the place that's important, not the wall full of 300 games. Perhaps it was best said by Bruce Pluckhahn, retired curator of the Bowling Hall of Fame, who wrote about Lampson and the Arcade in a 1994 issue of the Missouri-Illinois Bowling News: "Although Jim Lampson denies his musty old alleys are filled with antiques a `keepsakes' he calls them a there's no question his Arcade Lanes are the `Grandma's Attic' of this, and just about any city you can name. …

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