Pender Street Bowling Alley

Bu N385 1911

There is no photogrpaher’s name attributed to this fine piece of work which I found in the City of Vancouver Archives (Bu N385; annotations mine), taken, probably, in 1911 while the World Tower (later known as the Bekins and, later still, as the Sun Tower) was under construction. The clairty of the image makes it possible to identify major buildings, despite the fog and woodsmoke prevalent in Vancouver at this time. Indeed, it is just possible to identify,with some squinting (and/or a good magnifier), large metal letters upon a rooftop in the distant background. The metal letters spelled two words, one above the other: “Bowling Alley”.

In the 1908 Vancouver city directory, this listing appeared:

Screen shot 2014-03-16 at 10.18.14 AM

Pender Street Bowling Alley was on the north side of Pender between Hamilton and Homer. This business (under different names, owners, and even at slightly different street numbers over the years – 335, 333, and 339 Pender) continued to operate through the 1960s.[i] Except for the fact that Pender Alley was a 10-pin establishment, I know nothing about it or its proprietor.

The history of bowling alleys in Vancouver appears to be a very under-examined subject. Little attention has been paid to bowling alleys that were businesses prior to the establishment of Commodore Lanes in 1930. I am aware of at least two churches in Vancouver that have had bowling alleys in their buildings – presumably as one way of appealing to youngsters: St. Philip’s Anglican Church in Dunbar (which today retains its two-lane alley in the basement), and Fairview’s Chalmers Presbyterian (later United) Church; I’m told that the alley didn’t survive renovations associated with its purchase by Holy Trinity Anglican Church (in 1994).

[i] Pender Street was not the first bowling alley in Vancouver. The first commercial bowling alley I have found was listed two years earlier in the 1906 Vancouver city directory:“Vancouver Bowling Alley” at 58 W Hastings, Malhus and Sass, proprietors.

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