As Jane Weitzel recently filed through memories in her brain, a 40-year-old photo of her younger self posing in front of Sweetheart Lanes hung on a corkboard behind her desk.
Removing her teal glasses, she told her story.
She and her husband, Jerry, were hard workers who thought, ‘Why not work for ourselves?’ and they liked bowling.
While on vacation in Loveland in July 1972, the Weitzels closed on the purchase of Sweetheart Lanes from its previous owners and, on Aug. 1, 1972, they marked off their first day as the bowling alley’s new tenants.
“That’s how the building used to look,” Weitzel said, turning around in her chair to point at the old photo.
Where there is now a modern concrete front was once a triangular ski lodge-esque roof sheltering the alley’s front doors. Brick stacked high and low around the building’s exterior, and wood letters spelled “Sweetheart Lanes” across its front.
Inside the alley, invisible to eyes probing the photo, 12 maple and oak lanes stretched toward 12 sets of 10 pins, and bowlers, not computers and cameras, recorded with pens and pencils their spares and strikes.
As if by the magical hands of plastic surgery, all of that had been replaced or updated Thursday when the alley turned 50.
Remodeled in 1990, Sweetheart Lanes’ front entrance has undergone a face-lift with stone accents.
Inside on lanes 1 through 6, the 1982 seats – tan and maroon plastic pieces – carpeting and ball racks looked washed-up next to their gray, black and aluminum counterparts installed on the adjacent 18 lanes.
Last year, LCD TVs stepped in for older-model screens responsible for the display of scores, and next to the alley’s 24th lane rests a $30,000 lane machine that has relieved employees of the relentless task of oiling and cleaning the lanes by hand.
“Oh, I love it,” said Dennie Thompson of the updates to the alley he has bowled in since the mid-’70s. “It really brought it up to date. They almost made a new bowling alley out of it.”
Thompson not only bowls in one of Sweetheart Lanes’ several seniors leagues but also is responsible for the new black vinyl tiling beneath the seating areas and the carpet that will go down in the next couple of days throughout the alley.
Excusing himself to go bowl and knocking out a spare in the process, Thompson returned to explain that through his business, Loveland Carpet and Tile, he was hired to install the flooring when the alley expanded from 12 lanes to 24 in 1993.
Tom Crites, who is married to the Weitzels’ daughter, Jodie, and who worked at Sweetheart Lanes after an award-winning tour on the pro bowling circuit, said he has seen people bowl 364 days of the year at his mother-in-law’s alley.
“There have to have been 20 marriages that came after people met here,” he said, smiling.
Closed only on the Fourth of July, the alley attracts people from “3 to 93,” Crites said, and especially on Thanksgiving or Christmas when family members tire of one another and need to get out of the house.
A few minutes later, as she showed off the alley’s lounge area and Sweetheart Lanes’ 12 original bar stools, Weitzel answered the question: Why bowl?
“If you want a social outlet, this is it,” she said. “Loveland doesn’t have a country club, but it does have a bowling center.”
Madeline Novey can be reached at 669-5050 ext. 516 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 50 years …
Opened its doors July 21, 1961.
Jane and Jerry Weitzel took over the alley on Aug. 1, 1972.
The alley was the first in the state, Jane Weitzel said, to install automatic scorers in 1982. People came from miles around to give it a try, and the alley’s open bowling numbers skyrocketed.
In 1993, the alley expanded from 12 to 24 lanes.
In 2000, synthetic lanes replaced the maple/oak lanes that used to require annual refinishing.
Last summer, old TVs were replaced by LCD screens to keep score.
for its 50th birthday, the alley is being revamped with new chairs in the seating areas, ball racks and tiling and carpeting.
<a href="http://www.reporterherald.com/ci_18532566tag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.reporterherald.com/ci_18532566Sat, 23 Jul 2011 02:56:35 GMT 00:00″>Sweetheart Lanes celebrates birthday with a makeover