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Encino Bowl: A Trip Down Memory Lane

The classic '60s bowling alley was once filled with teens competing in bowling leagues, birthday parties and unrivaled crinkle-cut french fries.

If you were a kid living in Encino in the 1960s, you were well aware of Encino Bowl, located at 15945 Ventura Blvd., which is now the discount clothing department store. It was the go-to place after school for birthday parties and weekend fun that seemed to last forever. There was even a coffee shop at the bowling alley that had incredible crinkle-cut french fries served in red plastic baskets.

What more could a kid ask for?

The bike racks in front of Encino Bowl were loaded with Sting Ray bicycles, the most popular bikes of the era. Carpools would pull into the bowling alley parking lot and drop kids off. There was even a "babysitting room" for the toddlers who were too young to bowl, or whose parents were serious bowlers and needed time to themselves.

Encino Bowl was first opened in 1962 by co-owners Irv Miro and Harry Grant, a maverick in the bowling business, who operated several other alleys such as the Victory Bowl in the San Fernando Valley. Grant initiated the "Grant Classic" bowling tourney, which took place on Monday evenings. There was a competitive spirit at the Encino Bowl, with many top bowlers playing there. Some were even professionals.

"I used to go there several days a week after school," top neighborhood bowler and Birmingham High School alumnus David Leon fondly recalled. "I would even do my homework sitting at the desks keeping score of my bowling game and order those amazing french fries to be delivered to our lane, just by pressing the button for the waitress. I thought that was so James Bond."

The Grant Classic tourney continued at several other Grant-owned bowling lanes well into the 1980s and even '90s. Grant, who died in 2009 at age 95, was a true maverick in the development of bowling as a family sport in Southern California. Encino Bowl was his favorite establishment. Leon said Grant told him how sad he was when it was closed in the late 1980s. 

"It was his favorite bowling alley. A second home to him, really," said Leon. "I remember seeing Harry [Grant] and the resident pro teacher Foy Belcher having their dinner and reading the newspaper sitting in the spectator seats on many occasions. They were real fixtures there."

Encino Bowl was known visually for its '60s yellow-orange and avocado green signage with retro-style lettering. Three of the classic '60s bowling alleys remain on Ventura Boulevard: the Corbin Bowl, Woodlake Bowl and the former Kirkwood Lanes in Studio City, now called Pinz.

Encino Bowl was also popular with young boys for its vast array of pinball machines.

"You could easily spend a whole Saturday at Encino Bowl," Leon said. "It didn't even matter that they played Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass type music over the sound system, not the Beatles. You just were so absorbed in that world when you were there. It was a mix of adults and kids culture in one establishment."

Now if I could just get an order of those french fries...

John Horn August 09, 2011 at 03:24 PM
I remember Birmingham High School friends "streaking" through Encino Bowl in the late '70's
Terry August 09, 2011 at 05:08 PM
Harry Grant gave me my first real job as a junior bowling coach that supervised the junior league and created tournanments. I used to be there almost everyday bowling. The coffee shop had the best hot fudge sundanes and french fries.
Bob Kirk August 09, 2011 at 05:40 PM
And never forget the top PRO-- Foy Belcher!
Teri Conn-Jenkins August 09, 2011 at 07:51 PM
They need to bring that back to our neighborhood. And a book store too!
Annette Weinberg August 11, 2011 at 08:11 PM
I was on the Birmingham High bowling league there and that's when you wrote in your scores by hand. Ronnie Carmona was on my team. He used "creative scoring." I lived in walking distance to the bowling alley so I was always over there. I also remember playing the pin ball machines and just hanging out. That was my childhood!
Alan Rifkin August 20, 2011 at 10:10 PM
Bowling teams would pay kids to keep score--I forget how much per game, but it was always spent on fries and chocolate cokes in the coffee shop.
tom vito August 25, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Great place for my boys and me to hang out for few hours. Finding a ball light enough for my young sons to lift and try to roll down the ally was always a challenging task. Great place to beat the heat in August besides the Sherman Oaks Galleria, home of the Valley Girl.
Hal Lifson August 26, 2011 at 03:55 AM
Alan you were one of the smart kids who knew HOW to keep score! Good for you! Glad you reinvested that money in the Coffee Shop! helped to keep it going into the '80s I am sure! Loved the krinkle cut fries in the red plastic baskets! Sure miss the Encino Bowl! Did we really need Marshall's there? And what about the Fireside Inn next door with Buddy Worth at the piano? Thanks for reading! Hal
Hal Lifson August 26, 2011 at 03:56 AM
Foy Belcher was the man! I remember that Brylcreem hairstyle of his! And his name embroidered on his gold short sleeved Encino Bowl logo shirt. He worked at the front desk, the shoe renting desk and and of course, gave lessons! We miss the Encino Bowl!!
tom vito August 26, 2011 at 04:12 AM
Hey Hal., you mentioned the Fireside Inn, boy that place had a big rep.for being "A Cheater''s Joint". And close by was the Ram's Horn. With baited breath looking forward to future articles. Still a Sherman Oaks / Encino guy at heart. ps: --- How about Tail of the Cock, Ventura & Coldwater Cyn.
Hal Lifson August 26, 2011 at 04:39 AM
Hey Tom Stay tuned all those places will be covered but Tail was a Studio City place so maybe can't do that one for Sherman Oaks Patch right away...we'll see. I am trying to write for the Studio CIty Patch. Write to the editor at StudioCity.Patch.com and tell him you would like to see my articles there on SC. I would greatly app. it. Now, keep reading and check me out on PalmDesert.patch.com and beverlyhills.patch.com also! Send more ideas for stories and of course I will try get to them all. Right now, I am only doing once a week in Encino, so I will need a lot of time to get to all this stuff! Take care, Hal
Bob Kirk August 26, 2011 at 07:00 PM
Hal, this is great stuff. It seems there was more fun stuff to do back "then' the Bowl, Flooky's & Batting cage in Sherman Oaks, the Tarzana minature golf course, game room & trampolines & 19c Taco Tuesdays @ Jerry's next door! I have left & returned to Encino but when I 1st came in the '60's there was also some good eating like Loves @ Woodley, Ah Fongs, Blue Boy Burger (!), Babe;s Steak Hut (I believe in a white diner like bldg. north side of Ventura between Woodley & Libbbit ) Thrifty's counter service (85c burger & fries!) @ Zelzah & Ventura [Petco!] & walk up rear to go service @ the original El Torito.....we even used to cruise through {tresspass.....} the old high waled Al Jolson property (or we thought he owned it) that became Sav-On @ Lousie...keep it up!!
Hal Lifson August 26, 2011 at 07:34 PM
Thank you so muuch Bob...want to ask you about stuff for upcoming articles...please email me @ hallifson@aolcom
tom vito August 26, 2011 at 08:37 PM
Bob Kirk: Great memories you have, I was a "Joisey" guy transplanted to the area in 1977. Love's BBQ & Ah Fongs I remember well. Bennihana's also, could that joint still be there. Thrifty's ice cream cone cost 10 cents. The El Torito, I recall was on Balboa / Ventura next to the pond w/ the ducks and the adobe building. Also that was a great place to picnic. At El Torito's happy hour they served tacos & burritos for free. The batting cages in Sherman Oaks that same property also had miniture golf. Thanks Hal & Bob for allowing me to exercise some brain mass.
Amy May 15, 2012 at 04:33 AM
What came after the bowling alley? Who put up the blue tiles?
AL June 21, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Spent a lot of my childhood at Encino Bowl. My father was in several leagues and knew Harry and Foy well. My brother never wanted to pay for his bowling shoes (more cash for fries or pinball). He would ask if he could bowl in his socks? Foy would just let him have them free. Great times!
Patrick Flatley October 28, 2012 at 07:25 PM
I used to keep score at Victory Bowl on Friday nights when I was about 14 yrs. old. We'd get 25 cents per bowler X 2 leagues to get $5.00 for Saturday junior league. that cost $1.50 and the rest went for great french fries and cherry cokes. I saw Don Carter, Carmen Salvino, Steve Nagy, Dick Weber and the best of the day at Victory in the Harry Grant Classic. Of course Foy Belcher was my coach. His brother's name was Claire. Harry's son was the General Manager when they moved to Encino. Harry Jr. owned one of the great "new" Thunderbirds. Anyone know what became of Harry Jr.?
john kapit December 03, 2012 at 06:12 PM
im sooo sorry that you all have lost a special part of your lives. sadly to say that bowling is a dying sport with all other online activities now. back in the day you had skating rinks, bowling alleys, miniature golf, drive-in movie theatres and arcades and that was it! All of which are now becoming just memmories. bowling alleys are closing up all across the country. :( so sad my grandson wont be able to see how it used to be.... FUN! (John Kapit, Detroit, Michigan)
Napoleon Solo December 03, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Adrays, then a vacancy, now Marshalls.......ah progress...
jeffrey December 04, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Encino Bowl became a clothing flea market or cheap clothing store for a couple of years before it was torn down.
Maury Fagan June 05, 2013 at 06:11 PM
Maury The concourse at EB was my living room. How about some names like: Abe Cohen, Mike Barasch, Ozzie Palermo, Chris Cross, Shel Hippo and Bob Collatos, Danny Freitas, Ron Lex, Laury Riback, John Abramson, Norm Baker, Larry Brizendine, Bobby Pearson, Pete Nadian, Smokey Surina, Johnny Clares, Of course Harry Jr, Lynwood Denard, Sue and Bruce Miro, Kenny Hawkins, Dennis Green, Al Gore, Al Trip, Of course Foy, and Gary Kruger, Rich Frees, Rick Lyday, GARY FLECK, Zubby, The Bird, Mark Berkes, Fingers, and thank you Harry Sr for these names and experiences and making it all possible I will miss you Hopefully you are in a good strong Gin game up there

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