The meticulously maintained Metro Bowl boasts the sights, sounds and technology of 1950’s bowling with a lively atmosphere perfect for a 21st century family outing.
Metro Bowl: Fabulous '50s Fun
It’s almost magical how a certain song can take us back to an exact time and place. Smells are perhaps even more powerful in conjuring up vivid memories. There are scents I associate with my boyhood and the men I looked up to — you know, manly smells like saw dust, Old Spice, shoe polish, an old garage, leather and — yup — bowling alleys. The combination of lane wax, piles of bowling shoes that have seen thousands of feet, beer and cigarette smoke all mix together to form that distinct bowling alley smell that permeates old school alleys from coast to coast. If this rings a bell, one walk into downtown Crystal Lake’s Metro Bowl and you’re back home again.
While some commercial establishments remodel to capture the 1950’s American-style motif, Metro Bowl is the real deal, and the present owner, Jim Contos, has taken the utmost care in preserving Metro Bowl’s original ’50s atmosphere.
Legacy of Bowling in Crystal Lake
Metro Bowl’s Crystal Lake roots date back to the 1920s when Jim Contos’ grandfather, Bill Metropulos, opened the four-lane Crystal Pocket Billiard and Bowling Alleys on Williams Street where Wickham Interiors is now located. The Metropulos family home was located just around the corner on Brink Street, but as Brink Street become less residential and more commercial, the family decided to make Brink Street the site for a new bowling center. And so, in 1954, Bill and Mary Metropulos’ home was moved to South Williams Street and ground was broken for the new 10-lane Metro Bowl.
When it opened at its current location in 1955, America was enjoying an era of prosperity. Homes were an affordable $10,000 and cars were just $1,700, one week’s worth of groceries was a mere $20 and a gallon of gas was 23 cents. There were marvelous new items too, like electric typewriters, fish sticks, TV dinners, Coca-Cola in a can and a thing called the transistor, which put a radio in your pocket. Elvis was king and consumerism rocked! Along with the many new products, there were also some very important grand openings that year: Walt Disney opened Disneyland, Ray Kroc started McDonald’s and the Metropulos family opened Metro Bowl.
Except for some glazing modifications, today, this contemporary-style commercial building retains its original sleek modern-era limestone-and brick-façade and outstanding neon signage — true Americana.
The cocktail lounge with its wraparound bar, chrome cash registers and warm glowing signage, a spacious billiard parlor with a dedicated jukebox, original hardwood alleys and vintage pin setters all add to the appeal of this retro masterpiece. Further, part of Bill Metropolis’ 1920s Williams Street bowling alley still exists to this day, in lanes 7 through 10, which were carefully brought over from the original establishment.
It was around 1966 when Jim began helping out at the family business — he’d sort bottles after school for 15 cents a day. Through the years, he’s enjoyed serving more than four generations of Metro Bowl cus-
tomers, and along with his son John, who works there full time, they continue to carry on the family tradition.
A Family Establishment
Today, as in the beginning, Metro Bowl is not just a bowling alley, it’s an affordable place for Crystal Lake families and friends to come together. Just ask Jim Contos, who proudly says, “No bells and whistles here, just a good deal at a good price.”
So forget simulated bowling video games — head out for the real deal at Metro Bowl where bowling is a time-honored family affair complete with hand scoring and an authentic atmosphere. •