About Bowlmor Lanes

617 SOUTH STATE STREET FAIRMONT, MN 235-5719

Dave Pederson and his wife Nancy have owned The Bowlmor, one of Fairmont's popular indoor recreation spots, since 1980.

Over the years, Bowlmor Lanes has been a gathering spot for those who range from regular, avid bowlers in competitive bowling leagues to those who bowl occasionally with friends.

Besides bowling, people enjoy eating burgers, chicken strips and fries prepared there, visiting and drinking beverages in the lounge, playing arcade games, and playing on simulated golf video machines in the adjacent Tee Box room.

But our history actually dates back to the 1940s when The Bowlmor opened as just an eight-lane alley!

Here is a history of the alley put together for our 75-year anniversary in 2015!

The Bowlmor History Outlined

In February of 1940, Harold Grove resigned his respected position as assistant cashier at First National Bank in Fairmont to speculate on a new eight-lane bowling alley. Bowling was quite popular in the area with leagues for men and women. But Chase & Wilson held the monopoly in the area, and they only had four lanes.

So Grove contracted with Knud Pederson, who ran an ice business in town, to build a bowling alley on property Pederson owned in the Ward Addition. The address of the new alley would be 412 North North Avenue.

Construction on the property began and the newspaper of the day was abuzz with the excitement of these ultra-modern facilities for this new recreation. The bowling alley would have the latest technology, seating for 50 spectators, a locker room and lavatories in the basement and a soda fountain in the storefront.

The project ran into snags, including some of the walls caving in during construction due to heavy rains in the area. At the same time in June 1940, Grove and his wife Stella were up in the Twin Cities area picking up their daughter Yvonne, a student at Macalester College. Their son Jimmie had stayed back in Fairmont.

Due to the blinding rains in Shakopee that night, Grove and his family were in a car accident which killed Grove instantly. He was only 47. 

Due to their injuries, Stella and Yvonne were not aware of Harold's condition until the next morning when it was left to Reverend Harold Booch, Grove's best friend and pastor, to break the news to them. Grove's funeral was at the Congregational Church, and he was laid to rest in Lakeside Cemetery.

Due to her injuries, Stella was unable to attend her husband's funeral, but she continued with the plans for the bowling alley. Her brother, Roy Haugen agreed to manage the bowling facilities while Stella would run the soda fountain.

The soft opening of the alley was August 21, 1940 when its advent tripled the number of lanes in town. Bowlmor's only competitor also underwent some remodeling at this time. The first day at the newly minted The Bowlmor had "good attendance," and a grand opening was planned for later.

Stella made it about 18 months before deciding it was time to sell. On the morning of January 22, 1942, the Daily Sentinel announced that, after weeks of negotiating, Ken and Hilda Bowman had bought The Bowlmor. "All employees of The Bowlmor will keep their present positions, including Houseman Axzel Clausen and all pinsetters," the story said. Bowman had been with the Nelson Ice Cream Company from 1926 until January 21, the day before the story broke. Similarly to Haugen and Stella, the mister ran the bowling part of the alley while the missus ran the soda fountain.

Sometime between 1942 and 1946, William "Bill" Cernoch of Jackson moved to Fairmont and bought the business part of The Bowlmor. Cernoch had grown up and gone to school in Petersburg, Minnesota, and then farmed with his wife Agnes in Jackson. Sometime in either late 1945 or early 1946, Cernoch moved to Fairmont. One story reported he bought the business from Louis Grewe, who had been president of the Fairmont Bowling Association for awhile. But the time frame between those four years is a bit in shadow. It wasn't until 1949 that he finally purchased the building from Pederson. Photos from those years were found in the walls of the building when Tech Builders moved into the spot and did some remodeling.

The top two female keglers at the time were Rosemary Theisen and Ruth Becker. Top male keglers were Frank Wos, Glynn McLaughlan and Nicky Brockman.

After Bill bought the business, he kept the soda fountain but didn't make any meals. Over the years, several people rented out the storefront counter and had a variety of restaurants in it.

In February of 1946, Connie Ackmann installed booths in the soda fountain and announced his intention to run a 24-hour cafe out of the Bowlmor storefront serving everything from hotcakes to homemade pies to cokes.

On February 4, 1950, the Sentinel reported that "fuses blew and steaks remained cold" when Curt and Cecil Myers threw the grill switch to open the Bowlmor Milk Bar and Cafe. The Myers' had taken over the restaurant from Mrs. Harold Stevens who had operated it as the Stevens Cafe.

However, it seems the Milk Bar was ill-fated, as a Sentinel story from April 5, 1950, just two months later, reported that Mr. and Mrs. Leroy Pilgrim were having a grand-opening of their Maid-Rite sandwich shop and ice cream bar in the front portion of the Bowlmor building. In the same story, it was said the Myers were preparing to open another restaurant in downtown Fairmont.

In 1958, Cernoch decided it was time to expand. He bought some property in the 600 block of South State Street and began building a 16-lane, $80,000 alley. This was just after The Bowlmor had moved from pinsetters, usually boys who made a nominal fee per game to reset the pins between bowlers, to automatic spotters.

Cernoch had to get the property rezoned from residential to commercial; however, the only residences at the time were across the highway from his property. While citizens got together a petition to prevent the rezoning, the commission eventually voted in Cernoch's favor stating that "if ever there was a natural break between a business and a residential section, it is a 100-foot state highway."

While bowling was still a very popular recreational activity at the time, Saul Pett had some scathing remarks for the sport and felt it was part of the "creeping paralysis of American independence known as togetherness. In bowling, the disease is carried to the ultimate. Friends bowl together. Enemies bowl together. Management and labor bowl together....It brings out the worst in people. Women wear toreador pants. This tends to narrow them on the top and widen them in the middle, with a Freudian subconscious wish to look like bowling pins. The men wear slacks and a frown."

In 1960, Cernoch added on an additional eight lanes.

In 1965, Cernoch finally parted with the old location of The Bowlmor at 410-412 North North Avenue for $25,000. The buyers were Elmer Fandel and his wife, operators of De Lyle's Academy of Beauty Culture.

And one year later, on August 10, 1966, Cernoch sold what was now known as Bowlmor Lanes to Matt and Donald Koppinger, avid bowlers. Matt also owned another six-lane alley in Kasson, Minn., which he sold before moving to Fairmont. Both brothers, and Matt's wife Henrietta, were AMF certified bowling instructors.

According to land records, the Koppingers held onto the property until 1976 when they sold it to Augie Hedtke who then sold it to Dave Pederson in August 1980. In 1993, Dave and his wife added auto-scoring capabilities to the alley.