Legendary Milwaukee Proprietor Pinkalla Dies

by Bob Johnson 0

Bob Pinkalla, the second-generation owner of the legendary Pinky’s Bowl in Milwaukee, passed away on Monday. He was 86.

Like Fred Riccilli, whose story was told in the April edition of Bowlers Journal, Pinkalla was a part of the disappearing generation of bowling center owners who were bowlers first, then transformed their passion for the sport into successful businesses.

According to Doug Schmidt’s book, “They Came to Bowl,” it was in 1939 that Eugene Pinkalla converted his tavern at the corner of 27th and Oklahoma on Milwaukee’s south side into a six-lane bowling alley. His two sons, Bob and Wayne, were raised there. Bob would grow up to become a local, state, national and international champion on the lanes, all the while remaining involved in the family business.

Originally known as Eugene Lanes, the center would become better known simply as Pinky’s Bowl. In 1962, it doubled in size to 16 lanes, and it would remain open until 1989.

In his book, Schmidt noted that Pinky’s was a high-scoring house. “During the 1959-60 season,” he wrote, “the ABC almost needed a digital tracking device to track the high scores coming out of Pinky’s Bowl.”

According to Dennis Scott, a former center manager for the now-gone Red Carpet bowling chain in the Milwaukee area, bowling scenes for the 1970s television series “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley” were shot at Pinky’s.

Pinkalla also opened and operated Pinky’s Bowl West in Moreno Valley, Calif., for several years.

Gary D’Amato wrote a detailed obituary for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which is accompanied by a vintage action shot of Pinkalla. That story and photo can be accessed here: http://www.jsonline.com/sports/etc/milwaukee-bowling-legend-bob-pinkalla-dies-at-age-86-b99482345z1-299994111.html

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.