by Kevin Walsh

THE ghost of the Diplomat Bowl still holds forth on Snyder Avenue east of Flatbush Avenue in Flatbush, across from the former Flatbush Town Hall (before it was annexed by the city of Brooklyn and then became part of Greater New York, Flatbush was a separate town in Kings County. It has been abandoned for a decade or more.

Snyder Avenue runs from the heart of Flatbush, Flatbush Avenue just south of the Dutch Reformed Church, all the way east to Ralph Avenue. Originally known as Grant Street, it was renamed to honor a prominent Dutch landowning family (as so many of Brooklyn’s streets have been); it wasn’t named for the Brooklyn Dodgers’ cleanup hitter Duke Snider, who spelled his name differently, anyway.

In the late 1970s I belonged to a bowling league here, and being carless and living in Bay Ridge, bowling here took dedication. Each Tuesday night I rode the B16 bus down Fort Hamilton Parkway, transferred to the B35 at 39th Street, got out at Church and Flatbush Avenues and walked 7 blocks. After awhile, the league switched to Mark Roth’s Rainbow Lanes on Avenue X and Knapp Street. That meant a half-hour ride on the B4 to Nostrand Avenue and Avenue X, and an 8-block walk. Like I said, I was dedicated in those days. Rainbow Lanes has similarly been closed for years. At Rainbow, there used to be a Burger King across the street at Knapp and Avenue Y and the bunch of us would pile in there for a post-league meal. I’d get back to Bay Ridge around 2 AM, and most times, I had school the next day. At 8 or 9.

“AMF” stands for American Machine and Foundry, and for many years was a leading manufacturer of “recreational machinery” such as Pinsetters, bowling pins, bowling balls, ball returns, lane surfaces, automatic scoring equipment, and bowling center furniture; eventually AMF operated bowling alleys itself.

Today, among old-school Brooklyn alleys, I believe only Shell Lanes, Gravesend and Melody Lanes, Sunset Park, remain; newer alleys have been built in the hip, hep, happening areas like Williamsburg.

As always, “comment…as you see fit.” I earn a small payment when you click on any ad on the site.



Saima October 16, 2021 - 4:16 am

I used to be dedicated like that when I was younger too. Ah, youth!

Matt Perlstein October 16, 2021 - 5:38 am

Used to bowl here and all the time in the mid-60s. It was down the block from Spinelli’s pool room which was closer to Flatbush Ave just around the corner from the Albemarle Theater. You could see “The Dip” from a few of Erasmus’ windows.

Anonymous October 16, 2021 - 8:24 am

Kevin, did you ever run into Ralph Kramden when bowling?

Peter October 16, 2021 - 9:43 am

Many of the woes bowling alleys have faced are based in sociology rather than economics. For decades, leagues provided most of their revenues, but more recently league participation has fallen way off. It’s not something particular to bowling, either; for example, casual adult amateur softball and basketball leagues are way less popular than they used to be. It’s basically that the whole concept of group recreation isn’t what it used to be.

Sunnysider October 19, 2021 - 5:39 pm

Could be that the last generation or two is more interested in computer games than actual physical ones.

christopher thomas brady October 16, 2021 - 10:14 am

When AMF bought Harley Davidson in 1969 they cleaned house by making them throw out
a ton of old blueprints and mfg. data they felt they wouldnt need anymore and H-D has been
kicking itself in the ass ever since.
I think AMF also made a couple monorails for some worlds fairs.

John T October 16, 2021 - 10:34 am

There’s still Gil Hodges Lanes on Strickland Avenue in “New” Mill Basin, formerly Mill Basin Lanes. It’s been there for decades, but a truly forgotten corner of Brooklyn unless you had a reason to be there.
One day you should weite about the mill of Mill Basin that used to be there, plus the rents of Mill Road (the fullpast of which is still seen in property lines).
On the 1960s AMF also attempted to sell monorail systems to cities. Their model was based on the experimental French design (featured in the movie Fahrenheit 411), and is best know from the NY Worlds Fair 1964-65. Of course, there were no sales.

Phil+Freedenberg October 16, 2021 - 12:37 pm

Been gone since ‘75, but I recall the Nostrand Av bus route was/is B44 to Av X.

Dan October 16, 2021 - 3:52 pm

The Diplomat Bowl is currently owned by ‘Roffe Properties LLC’ of Merrick, NY. The building is not listed for sale anywhere I can find, and the NYC property taxes of $56,303.92/year are paid in full.

William Mangahas October 16, 2021 - 6:47 pm

I remember Diplomat Bowl, used to have lunch there a few times when I worked at Lafayette Radio Electronics back in the late 60’s & early 70’s.

Never bowled there.

Artie A October 17, 2021 - 2:59 am

Windsor Lanes on 15th and 41st Street. Was a movie house till 1960 or so. Then a bowling alley till it burned down in about 1964.

Sunnysider October 17, 2021 - 12:52 pm

Bowling alleys require enormous amounts of space. With rents being what they are, having one in a crowded city is too expensive.

The vast majority of alleys I bowled at in the 70s and 80s are gone. Off the top of my head: Astoria Lanes on 31st, Norwood Lanes on Grand Avenue, Strand Lanes on Broadway in Astoria etc.

The last bowling alley I visited looked more like a discotheque. No thanks.

Peter October 18, 2021 - 6:42 pm

Space issues are a big reason why racquetball has declined greatly over the past few decades. A racquetball court takes up a fairly large amount of space, 40x20x20, and isn’t suitable for any other use. They’re not particularly cost effective.
Even golf, as immensely popular as it may be, is facing the same issue in many areas. An 18-hole course takes up between 150 and 200 acres of land.

Dave October 17, 2021 - 8:09 pm

My brother and I were kicked out of a bowling league about 1976. We had a serious drinking problem. We didn’t drink enough.

Alan October 19, 2021 - 9:18 am

Back in the 60s I went to a bowling alley on Utica Av. between Church Av. and Linden Blvd. I do not recall the name of the place. It was 10 lanes located in the basement of a building a couple of doors down from the Rugby movie theatre. Then a huge bowling alley called Sid Gordon’s (likely named after the baseball player) opened a couple of miles down Utica Av (around Farragut Rd., I think). It was in its own dedicated building and I think it had 64 lanes.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.