In 1956, the Brunswick Automatic pinsetter made its debut at the height of the 1950s bowling craze, where the number of centers in America nearly doubled. By 1963, the bubble burst and many centers were defaulting on their pinsetter payments. Rather than take on the massive task of repossessing the several-thousand pinsetters, the Brunswick Corporation itself merely took ownership of delinquent centers – overseeing and standardizing operations.
By the 1970s the company was building its own centers from the ground-up, and seeming to follow General Cinema’s strategy: was building many in the immediate vicinity of new shopping centers and mall developments. The corporate-owned centers – many of which were considered state of the art – were branded as Brunswick Recreation Centers; usually featuring billiard halls, meeting rooms, and a few other amenities to compliment the lanes.
The crown-capped BRC Bowler logo began appearing around this time (an alternate variant had long been seen on their bowling equipment), and for decades was the focal point for center-level branding until the 1990s shift from leagues (which were in decline) toward promoting birthday parties and glow-in-the-dark Cosmic Bowling; where nearly all of the centers were then rebranded as the kid-friendlier Brunswick Zone. The Brunswick Corporation exited the bowling industry completely in 2014, and with BowlmorAMF taking over the Brunswick centers, any remaining trace of this logo’s days is likely numbered.
The following are a series of 8×10 prints I found in a leather-bound booklet during my mostly-nights as a pinsetter mechanic at Brunswick Zone Deer Park. All of these centers shown were built in near-identical fashion and aesthetics toward the late-80s/early-90s. Deer Park was opened in 1991 and I’m fairly certain these images were used as promotional material.
Triad Lanes in Greensboro, NC; now a private center.
Cross Keys Lanes in Turnersville, NJ; now Brunswick Zone Turnersville. Deer Park was a clone of this place (with the attached Regional Office) except Turnersville ran A2 pinsetters and Deer Park was built with then-modern GS-92’s.
Watauga Lanes in Watauga, TX; now Brunswick Zone Watauga.
Bramalea Lanes in Brampton, ON, Canada. The exterior signs still read this (complete with Bowler logos) however the interior sports a 90s remodel, and the exterior was just recently splashed with AMF’s fugly red/white paint scheme — a precursor to the inevitable name change.
Concourse area for an unknown center, however pretty much identical to Deer Park’s. We were even still using those wood chairs in the bar until just last winter.
Bowler’s area and snack bar at Watauga Lanes.
Pro shop; at one point these were operated by center staff. Far as I know, they’re now all leased spaces.
Billiard room. Deer Park’s became an arcade.
Arcade games at most-likely Bramalea, guessing from the sign mentioning Canadian loonies.
Nursery… not something I expected to find at a bowling center, but hey at least for some that solved the kid problem on bowling night. I’m told these went away by the turn of the millennium.