Posted 2/16/16 (Tue)
By Cecile Krimm
Back when Kenny Granrud and Elwood Oien built Crosby Lanes, quonset huts were considered “modern” and bowling was “America’s fastest growing sport.”
The opening of the new six-lane center with automatic pin-setters and “tele-score” screens to magnify bowler’s tally sheets cost $100,000 to build in 1958 -- a gargantuan sum in those days.
It turned out to be a great business for many years but an even better investment in the community of Crosby.
In the days leading up to the lanes’ demolition last week, former owners and bowlers alike shared fond memories of the place.
Fifty-eight years have dimmed the details a little for the founders of Crosby Lanes. Elwood lives today at the St. Luke’s Care Center and Kenny is at home with his wife, Ruth.
As Kenny tells it, he and Elwood were both farmers looking for a winter-time business enterprise. While managing four lanes in the basement of what was once the Forsgren Law Office, bowling became quite the craze.
“It looked like it was fitting to build something like that,” said Kenny, and the number of people on leagues in the 1950s is somewhat astounding.
Sunday night had a starter league for beginners; Monday there was two shifts of mixed bowling; Tuesday was ladies night with two shifts; Wednesday had two shifts of four-man teams; Thursday it was teams of five men.
How many bowlers is that? Roughly 400 a week. In a town only a few hundred people bigger than the Crosby of today, the bowling alley was the place to see and be seen.
“Friday was about like a Sunday night league -- a free-for-all,” said Kenny, followed by open bowling all weekend.
And, as Ruth points out, “There were a lot of kids in Crosby then.”
“It was a live thing, no two ways about it,” said Kenny, who took training to become a certified bowling instructor.
“I was only 4 years old at that time,” said Doug Oien, Elwood’s son, but he has fond memories of the lunch counter, which was run for a time by Mrs. Leo Hallgren.
“All I can remember is, she had red hair,” Doug said.
In later years, others leased the cafe.
Danny Hansen remembers the lanes as a hot spot after high school football games, which used to be played just down the street at Vournas Field.
“Like now, they go to Self Serve, then they went to the bowling alley,” said Danny, for burgers and other “fast” food.
Art Strand, who helped out in those early days when Oien and Granrud wanted some time off, recalls “just the lobby of the bowling lanes, people standing there and watching.”
Back then it was so busy, “You had to call for an appointment a lot of time," said Strand.
Bowlers paid $1.20 for three games, Strand remembers.
Everyone in the community -- and outside, too -- patronized the place.
“The base supported it big time, all the base guys were bowling,” said Danny.
Les Bakken and his parents owned the lanes in the late 1960s.
“I started bowling when I was a kid,” said Les. “I practically lived up there.”
Throughout the history of the bowling alley, the school had at least a several-week session each year when physical education classes consisted of bowling.
“They bused kids up there during the day,” said Les, and the school got a discount.
Les worked at the lanes all through high school and Bakken is named by several people as one of Crosby’s better bowlers.
“Les Bakken was really the best we had in Crosby,” said Bernie Dokken, who bought the lanes in 1976 and ran it with the help of his wife, Bev, who grew up in Noonan.
The couple lived in Adrian, Minn., when they were interested in getting into a business and heard the lanes were for sale.
“It was really a busy thing when we came into it. It was really booming,” remembers Bernie.
At that time, there were leagues three nights a week, plus a senior citizens league.
Bill and Shirley Fennell were the last to own the lanes, purchasing it from the Dokkens in 1995.
By then, outmigration had taken a toll on Crosby’s population and there weren’t nearly so many young people around who wanted to bowl.
"Bowling kind of went to pot," said Strand, and the lanes were damaged one winter by busted water pipes.
The lanes closed for good in 2004.
While those who loved bowling at the lanes are mostly glad the property will be put to a good community use in the future, most remark on what a shame it was not to have the lanes running during the oil boom.
“A lot of people were looking for things to do,” said Ruth.
“If it was running today, it would be a booming business,” said Bernie.
Les is more pragmatic.
“You just give up some things to do others,” he said, and while it’s too bad Crosby no longer has a bowling alley, he isn’t sorry the town will finally have a new daycare facility.
As the self-appointed historian of the lanes, Danny Hansen has nothing against daycares, but he hates to see the place fall to dust.
“It’s too good a place to tear down,” he said, but he's saved many pieces of memorabilia.
Few of the people who spent a lot of time at the Crosby Lanes have photos to share, though.
“I’m sad to say I never did get a picture of it. I was too busy, I guess,” said Bernie.