This plaque on the City of Princeton Historical Walking Tour was oh-so-close to being correct. Only the year is incorrect. The 30-by-100-foot brick building was built in 1916 by Harry Drake and utilized as Drake’s Garage for many years before being purchased by Isaac Craite and converted into a bowling alley in 1944.
Princeton Times-Republic, April 6, 1944: “A deal was concluded the first of the week by I. J. Craite for the purchase of the garage building now occupied by the Princeton Motors for storage and automobile paint shop, and formerly occupied by Jule Fenske.”
Craite sold the Princeton Theater, which he had purchased in 1943 from Major Dennett Barrett, in July 1944. By that time the new front of the bowling alley was almost completed. “The new recreation center will no doubt be an asset to our little city,” the newspaper reported.
Local bowlers at that time were competing in leagues in Berlin and Montello.
The new Brunswick lanes were installed in August, but were not completely sanded and finished until September. State-of-the-art Brunswick B-1 pinsetters could recover and reset the Red Crown King Pins quickly and accurately.
A meeting was held September 5 at the Community Hall to organize a men’s league; another meeting was held September 8 to organize a women’s league.
Fourteen teams signed up for the men’s league. The first league officers were Vince Weiske, president; Frank Nickodem, vice president; H. J. Emmerich, secretary; and H. A. Megow, treasurer. George Ostrander, William Knaack, Lyle Priske and Lester Fredrick were chosen as directors.
Nadine Megow was elected president of the women’s league, along with Mrs. Edna Bratsch, vice president; Mrs. Clarence Oelke, secretary; and Mrs. Elda Siekierka, treasurer. Mrs. Adeline Gruber, Mrs. Marge Giese, Mrs. Joseph Drill and Lucille Roguske were directors.
The bowling alley opened to the public on Friday, September 29. Play in the men’s started Monday, October 2. The women’s league began play Thursday, October 5.
Craite issued the following news release to the newspaper: “Refinement beyond the most exacting bowler’s fondest dream is to be found in this new Brunswick Centennial equipment, featured at Craite’s Bowling Lanes. Higher scores, uninterrupted fun and healthful exercise awaits everyone in this new equipment designed by bowlers for bowlers. You’ll find roomy new octagonal design seating arrangements which means greater approach privacy. We’ve got new non-interfering scoring devices with chalk holder ash-trays. Spectators will get a clear view of the allys and they’ll get comfortable seating too.”
Craite hired a manager, soda fountain clerk and pin boys before the opening.
Princeton Times-Republic, October 5, 1944: “A large crowd of bowling enthusiasts attended the opening of Craite’s Bowling Alleys last Friday evening. Only the most favorable comment on the equipment and elaborate appointments was heard. In the game between Steve Kroll’s State Champ team (of Berlin) and Princeton Oldtimers, the former was victorious.”
George Hess rolled the opening night’s high game of 227.
Craite sold the bowling alley to Bob Giese in 1945.