Olympian Bowling Alley

It was during the middle decades of the past century when Ted Butterworth owned and operated the Olympian bowling alleys in the Dowlin Block on Main Street.

This place was a large, dingy, smoke-filled, dark and cavernous expanse of floor space on the second floor, rear. It saw sunlight only when it shined through the westerly-facing windows in late afternoon. Otherwise the place was lit by lamps over the pool tables that took up most of the floor space. The bowling lanes were at the far end of the room in an elevated area above the floor level. Ted’s cash register and counter space from which he sold candy and other things was between the pool tables and the bowling lanes.

This sporting complex was a hangout for high school boys in the afternoons following classes and they kept the pool tables busy.  Men stopped in after work to practice bowling before supper.  During weekday afternoons Ted charged ten cents to bowl a game. On Saturdays and week nights the fee was a quarter for league bowlers.  The pins were “set” by pinboys who received a percentage of the fees taken in. Automatic pin setters were yet to be invented.

When Ted Butterworth, an aging gentleman, retired to lead a less demanding life, he sold the business to “Dooley” Vivaldi and his son, Bobby, and the pair continued the business until Bobby’s untimely death. Dooley, by that time in advancing years himself, lost interest in the business and closed the place.

The Olympian was popular with league bowlers for two reasons: First, the lanes were regarded as high-scoring alleys. Secondly, it was convenient to the Lafayette Club’s bar on the second floor of the Hoosac Savings Bank building next door. It was reached easily by exiting an open window; going over a fire escape and adjoining roof to another open window at the bar and returning by the same route. This would seem to have been a hazardous undertaking during the winter months during the ice and snow season but nobody ever got hurt. It did produce long matches and dismay among those bowlers who didn’t drink.

The Olympian lasted a long time but it wasn’t the oldest bowling establishment in North Adams. The original Casino alleys were the first and was originally in a wooden building off Center Street behind the Kimball block. It burned to the ground one cold winter morning in the 1920's.

Adapted from a story for the North Adams Historical Society.