When the going gets tough, the tough go…bowling? Well, Sandy and I do! On Fort Myers Beach there’s only one name that’s been synonymous with bowling in our small town for over 50 years – Beach Bowl. Located just a bit off-island across from Skip One Seafood, Beach Bowl has something for everyone – a game room fully appointed with billiard tables, a full bar, and a cafe with tasty treats at prices much easier on the wallet than beachfront eateries. It was here that Advertising Manager Sandy Sandness and I went one Friday afternoon to roll some thunder and shake the dust off a long work week.
We were greeted upon entering with a blast of fresh cold air conditioning – a welcome treat from the muggy air outside – and the welcoming personage of Bill Maurer, who with his sister Carlene Maurer, has owned the popular local gathering spot since 1999.
“This place was built in 1963, and my sister Carlene and I have owned it for 16 years – since 1999,” Bill told us. “We’re a family run company, and we’ve got regulars who have been coming here since before we bought the place. We’ve got leagues, Glo-Bowling on Saturday nights, we do corporate parties, kids’ birthday parties. We also have corn hole competitions Thursdays at 5pm and Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments on Tuesdays at 7pm in the room where our pool tables are.”
Beach Bowl also has a pro shop, senior matinees twice a week and a special deal that runs every day: 3 games, with shoes, for only $12. Otherwise, it’s $4.50/game and $3 for shoes.
On the day Sandy and I went, we settled into our spacious lane area, put on our shoes – which have velcro straps and are very comfortable – and enjoyed an ice cold Corona as we let the comforting sounds of a bowling alley settle us into a weekend mood.
I don’t know if it’s the clack of the pins, the sound of a ball rolling across a freshly polished hard wood floor or the familiar scent of Beach Bowl’s homemade pizza, but this place always relaxes me.
The game we played, however, was not quite as relaxing as Sandy and I realized it had been far too long since we enjoyed a game of pins and a cold beer. We rallied at the end, though, Sandy with a strike and me finally picking up my spares so we at least broke a hundred. Whew!
After the game, Bill told us some funny stories about his years at the helm of Beach Bowl – including his memories of a league of lunatics I once belonged to called, appropriately, the Gutter Mouths.
“Oh, yeah, I remember you guys!” he told me, laughing. “Y’all were crazy, but a lot of fun. And I still see Joe (Monroe, a Gutter Mouth alum and member of popular local band, The Oysters) and his wife, Karen – she runs our website and our Facebook page.”
The Gutter Mouths used to make their stand during Glow Bowling night, when Beach Bowl more resembles a disco hall and everyone has a great time attempting zany moves like bowling backwards while listening to rock and roll music. It was, and still remains, the most popular night at Beach Bowl and is something everyone needs to experience.
“It’s the only night we actually take reservations,” Bill said. “We all have a blast!”
But some of Bill’s favorite memories are of the kids. “I love watching six and seven year-olds – their expressions, the way they get so excited and jump up and down – they really get into it and it’s so much fun to watch,” he said.
As we were chatting, the star of a birthday party being held at the other end of the bowling alley walked up and shook Bill’s hand.
“That’s Bud – he celebrated his 93rd birthday today,” Bill told us as the spry, rosy-cheeked man walked merrily out the door, ball in tow.
Sandy and I stared at each other in astonishment. ‘Bud’ didn’t look a day over 65! Both of us came to the same conclusion. When Ponce de Leon searched for the Fountain of Youth, he missed his mark by nearly 300 miles. It’s under the land where Beach Bowl sits.
To find out more, visit beachbowlandpelicansarcade.com or go to their Facebook page.
Keri Hendry Weeg