Take Two for June 10, 2013

Chris Nichols shows off his bowling trophies

Chris Nichols LA Artifacts - 3

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

This wood bowling trophy from Covina Bowl in 1959-1960 is more rare than one would think. It was damaged when Nichols' home was burglurized.

Now, a little peek back into 1950s L.A. history: The war was over, the car was quickly becoming king and post-modern architecture was just taking off. 

Chris Nichols, editor at Los Angeles Magazine, loves to collect relics from this era and joins us here from time to time to talk about his collection.

He recently dropped by our studios to share a little piece of history from an iconic bowling alley called the Covina Bowl.

First off, what are we looking at here?
Well, they were two trophies from the Covina Bowl. They're 50's bowling trophies that have had a little accident, but they're so rare and so special that I have to hang onto them. I have to tell their stories.

Judging by their condition, I'd say they have quite the story to tell.
Well, they were in perfect shape until someone decided to break into my house a couple years ago. They destroyed these two amazing artifacts and only took a video game. I mean, take the money or the computer, but leave my bowling trophies alone!

What's the historical significance of these trophies?
They're from the Covina Bowl, and I love that they expressed the architectural motif. There's sort of a big, modernist, wood boomerang that they sit on. The boomerang is also the letter 'C' for Covina, which was used in their logo.

And what is the Covina Bowl?
The Covina Bowl is a massive, modernist city of bowling in an elaborate Egyptian, 1950's, modern style. It had 50 lanes, a coffee shop, a cocktail lounge, a beauty parlor and a barber shop. It was the most incredible, colossal height of the American bowling fad. Last summer, I invited the original architect of the Covina Bowl out for a tour. We brought a bunch of folks out to this Egyptian modernist city of bowling, and Gordon Powers came out and did a little tour explaining what the connection is between the Egyptian Ankh and the modernist zig-zag and all the unusual things that he poured into this place. It was also about how bowling exploded after World War 2 and became this huge phenomenon where it transitioned from a dirty saloon sport to a big family sensation.

It must have been something to see. What's the Covina Bowl like now?
It's still a bowling alley. It's still 50 lanes, it still does a lot of business and it's still open late. They have all the new neon or blacklight bowling signs and things that people want nowadays, but they still maintain this original 1955 building in tip-top shape.

I love that these trophies are made out of wood. Does the Covina Bowl still do that?
They have a case of their old trophies but no, certainly not. I love how dowdy and sturdy and early 50's they look in contrast to the sleek and futuristic lines of the architecture. at the time when the Covina Bowl was new, cars were still big, blocky, bulbous steel boxes. It's crazy to think about how extreme something like the Covina Bowl would've looked to people who were used to a traditionally dowdy, squared-off world.

Read about LA's Design Caravan with Chris Nichols here


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