Monday, June 1, 2020

730 Osborne Street - Park Alleys

Place: Park Alleys (website)
Address: 730 Osborne Street
Opened: 1947
Size: 5,760 square feet
Architect: unknown

It was announced on May 29, 2020 that Park Alleys has a new owner with plans to revitalize the space. That's a great excuse to look back at its history !

May 10, 1947, Winnipeg Tribune

The early history of Park Alleys is a bit of a mystery. (If you can share information or photos, please feel free to contact me!)

On December 3, 1946, the Free Press reported that at that a council committee meeting: "Permission was granted for the operation of another bowling alley at 730 Osborne Street." It was one of at least three bowling alley permits applications heard that year. The property does not appear to have had a rezoning hearing, so information about the applicant was not noted.

There is no mention in either daily newspaper of a building permit issued, the construction, or even the grand opening of the business. The first mention of "Park Alleys" was in a series of classified ads that ran in early May inviting patrons to come have fun and the eight-lane, 5-pin venue.

According to the Henderson street directory the first proprietors were George and Rene Giguere, followed the next year by Orville McInnes.

December 28, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1949, Allott Wellington Bradshaw, who also went by Welly or Brad, purchased Park Alleys and put it on the map.

Bradshaw admitted he bought the business simply as a commercial venture but soon developed a passion for the game. Within a couple of years, Park Lanes was regularly mentioned in the the bowling section of the local papers and Welly had become a skilled amateur bowler.

By 1951, it entered teams in local tournaments under the name "Park House" and began winning titles.

Where Bradshaw truly made his mark was introducing young people to the game.

Park Alleys became a hot spot for child and youth bowling and Bradshaw a respected coach. In 1951, the alleys fielded competitive teams called the Kittens (ages 8-13), Kit Kats (ages 14-16) and All Stars (ages17-20) in tournaments around the city. He was also secretary of the U of M's new bowling league.

Melinda McCracken's wrote the 1975 book Memories are Made of This about growing up in the Riverview area in the 1950s and was a member of the Kit Kat League on Saturday mornings. In passages she described what the lanes were like at the time and refers to Bradshaw as a "warm fatherly man."

Bradshaw was singled out in a 1957 Free Press feature about the growth of the game in recent years: "Bradshaw has done a tremendous job working with teenagers and younger children teaching them the game and sponsoring them in various tournaments."

August 31, 1962, Winnipeg Tribune

Bradshaw also realized that the success of bowling in Winnipeg depended upon the success of the various 5-pin lanes around town.

In the early 1950s he helped establish, and was president of, the Metro Winnipeg Bowling Proprietors Association made up of owners of the dozen or so 5-pin bowling alleys in the city. Its goal was   "promoting bowling and helping one another". Owners met monthly to discuss business issues, plan tournaments and pool their resources to take out ads like the one above. The association went province-wide in 1962.

In 1964, the various provincial associations created the Youth Bowling Council of Canada. Their first national tournament, featuring 30 youth from Ontario and the western provinces, was held at Rossmere Lanes in Winnipeg in April 1965. Winnipeg youth won three of the six national championships up for grabs.

As high profile as Bradshaw was, I could find little about his background. Despite numerous brief mentions in the papers there were no biographical articles or pictures published and his obituary shared few details. He appears to have gone to high school in Winnipeg. He and wife Louise lived on Montgomery Avenue and had two sons, Dale and Douglas.

Bradshaw left in 1962 to work for Assiniboine Downs racetrack. A January 1966 newspaper article notes that he and another man had spent an extended period in Windsor, Ontario studying the harness racing program at Windsor Raceway. By the end of the decade he and his wife relocated to Burlington, Ontario.

Bradshaw died at Burlington in 1986 at the age of 80. Louise died there in 1993.

Sept 15, 1964, Winnipeg Free Press

The next proprietor of Park Alleys was Leonard "Len" Forbes in 1962. Born in Winnipeg in 1920, Forbes was a World War II vet and ran a heating oil company for a number of years before going into the bowling business. He ran it until 1975 when he retired.

The alleys were then taken over by his son, Rob Forbes, who operated them until 2011. Rob was the one who commissioned the distinctive mural painted by Paul Sullivan in September 2010 to replace the building's depressing exterior.

The business was then purchased by Sat Sharma who added a patio area to the front. It was put up for sale a couple of years later.

Interior in 2017, Park Alleys Facebook page

Park Alleys was purchased by Mike Devenney, who also woned St. James Lanes, in 2014. The building underwent interior renovations that summer before reopening.

Park Alleys had been for sale for a few years when, in May 2020, Tod Hughes announced that he purchased it with the intention of reinventing it as a restaurant, bar, live music venue and bowling alley. A reopening date has yet to be announced.

© 2020, Christian Cassidy

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