Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, April 12, 2015, pg. 9
For those readers who have been upstairs in the Parker-Kessler Block at 101 N. Superior St. in the "furniture" section on the right when you go up the steps, you may have noticed that the floors were unusually uneven. This is because it wasn’t a normal floor: this was once a bowling alley! Yes, a bowling alley on the 2nd floor in downtown Albion. It was begun in the 1936 as Albion Recreation, owned by Italian immigrant and prominent Albion bowler Bernardo Paniccia (1891-1945). It was a six-lane operation that became popular with bowlers in the Albion area and with area youth.
In 1939 Paniccia sold it to Elvin Tedrow Wingard (1886-1971) and it became known as Wingard’s Alley. Elvin was a Coldwater bowling alley proprietor. His son Harry Wingard (1921-2013), a well-known Coldwater athlete, was assigned the task of managing the Albion operation. Both father and son are interred in Riverside Cemetery in their native Montpelier, Ohio. Note: After selling his business to Elvin Wingard, Bernardo Paniccia opened Paniccia’s Tavern on Austin Avenue in 1940.
On the morning of Tuesday, February 9, 1943, an Albion Police officer discovered the bowling alley on fire at 4:50 am. The fire destroyed the business, but fortunately the brick walls confined the flames. Unfortunately, it was water damage from putting out the fire that destroyed much of the inventory of Bishop’s Furniture on the first floor. The damage was estimated to be $50,000, half of which was because of water damage. Owner of the building at the time was Paul J. Hawes, who operated his drugstore on the corner of the first floor of the building. Fortunately insurance paid for most of the damage and the building was repaired although the bowling alley never reopened.
In an interesting sidelight, local clergyman W. Dale Cryderman of the Free Methodist Church happened to be in the area at 4 a.m after taking a friend to the railroad depot. Cryderman, a former professional photographer for the Detroit Times, saw the fire and helped Fire Chief William C. Schumacher haul the fire hose up the main steps, and knock down the main door of the bowling establishment. According to the account printed in the Albion Evening Recorder, "The chief handed him the hose with the admonition: ‘Squirt it.’ The water he poured on the alleys and furnishings may have prevented the shellac on the alleys from developing into a sudden explosive fire." Rev. Cryderman also helped get a hose on the roof of the building adjacent to the north. Unfortunate for Cryderman, however, is that he left his camera at home.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a 1941 photograph of some Albion High School "A Club" girls bowling at Wingard’s. The girl with the ball is Naida Sawchuk (Mrs. Frederick Koon 1923-1989). This photo is from the AHS 1941 annual, which that year was designed to look like a "Life" magazine issue. Our second photo is a close-up from an August, 1940 postcard. Here we see the Wingard Coca-Cola sign out front which states "Wingard’s Alley." How many of our readers remember Wingard’s in the Parker-Kessler Block?
1941 Albion High School "A Club" girls, Naida Sawchuk holds the ball
1940 "Wingard’s Alley"
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic