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