Elmer and Pearl Schoening erected the original facility in the 1940’s. The grand opening was held on April 17, 1948. The first official ball was thrown by then Wood Dale Mayor, Walter Kehoe. Bowling legend, Buddy Bomar, was on hand for the opening. Hundreds of enthusiastic bowlers looked on as Buddy and teammate, Garner Wells, rolled against Elmer Schoening and fellow business associate Bernard Pruyn from Itasca, in an expedition match. Wells had a top game of 224 in the match. The center was then known as Bowlwood Recreation it featured eight lanes and was billed as a Wood Dale’s new modern bowling center. Modern for those days meant manual pin setting equipment, staffed by pin boys.
In 1952, William Witzke purchased the bowling alley. In 1954 Mr. Witzke installed automatic pin setting equipment, which was a giant step forward in that day. Witzke was also instrumental in promoting the center as a family recreation center. The business prospered under Witzke’s management and another 8 lanes were added in 1955. A small cocktail lounge was also added at this time. The facility remained 16 lanes for the next 18 years.
Manfred (Fred) Knufinke purchased the bowling alley in 1971. Mr. Knufinke originally operated a tavern across the street from the center. Knufinke’s corporation from his previous business was called Manfred’s Bierstube Inc. Mr. Knufinke wanted to keep the same corporate structure, but the name just didn’t fit. He decided to operate under the assumed name of Wood Dale Bowl. The center has operated under that name ever since.
Manfred was new to the bowling business but soon showed that he had a knack for managing a business. He was able to secure an excellent staff including a manager, Chuck Hall, from another bowling center. Chuck had previously worked for Grand Bowl in Franklin Park and brought a great deal of bowling experience to the business. He also hired a night manager Lee Tomczak to work the night shift. Bowling was very popular at this time combining this fact with Chuck’s experience, Lee’s management style and Manfred’s business skills the business did very well. In 1973, Manfred decided it was time to expand. The expansion included eight additional lanes, a new modern cocktail lounge, a nursery area for daytime ladies leagues, new washrooms, a sprinkler system throughout the entire facility, an additional parking lot, new storage areas, a pro-shop, and an overall modern look to the center. This modernization made Wood Dale Bowl a bowling center rather than just a bowling alley. In 1976 Mr. Knufinke continued his modernization when he installed new synthetic lanes across the house. GE made the lanes and the product was called Permalane. DBA products installed them. These lanes were the first synthetic lanes in the entire country. Synthetic lanes today represent a majority of the new installations in the bowling industry.
Mr. Tomczak left the company in 1976. Manfred promoted Mike Melone as a replacement in 1977. Mike was raised in the Wood Dale area and worked at Wood Dale bowl since he was fourteen years old. Mike worked at the center in many capacities since he was hired in 1971. He had learned the business from the bottom up. Mike started as a busboy, and then worked as pinchaser, finally he worked as a weekend counter person while attending college. Mike enjoyed working in the bowling business but also wanted to better himself by owning his own business. He was actively looking for a business of his own to purchase. Respecting Manfred’s opinion of a good business opportunity Melone would show prospective business opportunities to Knufinke to get his opinion. The right business opportunity never seemed to present itself. Then in 1977 Mr. Knufinke decided to sell an interest in Wood Dale Bowl to Melone and his other manager Chuck. Hall. Mr. Knufinke decided that by selling a part interest to Melone and Hall he could keep a large interest in the business and still pursue other business interests. In June of 1978 the deal was signed. The fit was perfect. Chuck and Mike made a great management team. Melone concentrated on the business aspects of the center while Hall took care a lot of the day-to-day operations. Melone showed a knack for marketing the business. He was able to involve the business in the community through his work in the Chamber of Commerce and the rest of the community. Hall helped bring that personal touch to the business. Wood Dale Bowl continued to prosper under this arrangement for many years. During this time Hall and Melone were responsible for many improvements to the facility.
High School Bowling:
One of the many accomplishments for Hall and Melone was the start of a Girl’s Bowling Team in conjunction with Mr. Al Ostrowski from Fenton High School. Wood Dale Bowl donated 100% of the practice and match bowling for the team. Chuck Hall especially took this team under his wing. Due largely to Ostrowski’s coaching staff along with Hall’s help the team became very successful. Fenton was able to win Three State Championships during this period; the team dominated the local ISHA Conference. Wood Dale Bowl continues to lead the way in area high school bowling. In 1996 Wood Dale bowl started another Girl’s Team at Addison Trail High School. This program is beginning to flourish under the same arrangement as the Fenton team enjoyed. In 2002 Wood Dale Bowl is breaking new ground by helping to establish Boy’s Bowling at Fenton High School.
Adversity stuck in August of 1987 when Wood Dale Bowl was the victim of a sudden flood. A 500-year flood event hit the area and Wood Dale Bowl was caught right in the middle. All of the lanes were totally wrecked. No flood insurance coverage was in place. Chuck and Mike with their staff and the help of many friends pulled up their bootstraps and got busy! In a one and a half month period they were able to reopen the facility. This was a major accomplishment when you consider the damage involved. Many people thought that the center would never reopen. Perseverance and hard work paid off and Wood Dale Bowl did reopen. The reopened center sported brand new Brunswick Synthetic Lanes. This feat could not have happened without the volunteer help of many friends and patrons. It became evident during this period just how many people felt close enough to Wood Dale Bowl to want to pitch in and help fix it back up. Wood Dale Bowl will always remember their help.
In 1995 Mike and Chuck bought the rest of the interest in the center. They continued to do well. They totally remodeled the center in 1996 including the addition of Brunswick Frameworx Automatic Scoring, Permanent Bumper Lanes, and Cosmic Bowling. This modernization brought Wood Dale Bowl out of the pencil and paper age into the computer age.
Things ran smoothly until December of 1999 when Chuck Hall was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Chuck was sick for many months and died on July 25, 2000. Chuck’s death was a tremendous blow to everyone at Wood Dale Bowl. In memorandum of Chuck our Thursday Sportsmen’s League renamed their league the Chuck Hall Classic. All teams sponsored by the Wood Dale Bowl now bear the initials RCH on the sleeve in remembrance of Chuck’s given name Rodney Charles Hall. To say that Chuck is missed is an understatement. When you do something with your life that you love it tends to show! Chuck loved the game of bowling and was always happy to be around it! If Chuck’s only positive trait were to love what he did and to do it well it would have been one thing, but in Chuck’s case over his thirty plus years at Wood Dale Bowl he also became your friend. Someone once said that thunder is really angels bowling. At Wood Dale Bowl we think of Chuck every time it rains!
Mike Melone and his wife Karen now run the center. Mike still tends to the business aspects of the center. Karen adds a women’s touch to the scene, by serving the customers with a fresh perspective. As always, Wood Dale Bowl continues to be a great place to bowl. The bowling center features a clean facility, with friendly service. Mike and Karen and their staff look forward to the time when you and your family come out and visit them. Maybe this weekend! They will show you why for over 54 years now Wood Dale Bowl has been the choice for many bowlers and their families. Like our motto says, ”Big enough to accommodate your needs but small enough to do it right!”