Kimberley’s hidden gem: the Elks Club bowling alley

A behind the scenes look at one of Canada’s last remaining manual pin-setting bowling alleys.

The Kimberley Elks Club is home to one of Canada’s last remaining manual pin-setting bowling alleys.

Last week, the CBC reported on the hidden gem, and the Bulletin followed up to get a behind the scenes look at the Elks’ little piece of history.

Manager Melody McArtur says the 10-pin bowling lanes were originally purchased in 1951 for $6500. A few years ago, the lanes were refurbished to acrylic lanes, and the pin decks were replaced. Other than that, says McArtur, not much has changed in the bowling alley.

One of the most unique parts about the bowling alley is that it still runs on manual pin-setters. Teenagers and kids who are hired at minimum wage to set the pins. They receive tips and always have fun, says McArtur.

McArtur adds that over the years since the mine closed, leagues have tapered off and only one league remains: the men’s league. She says back in those days, if you weren’t at the club by 4p.m., you weren’t getting a seat.

““Everyone, who books the space for parties, seems to have a really good time. They always talk about starting a league but we’ve not had much uptake on that. We’ve had some interest in a mixed league but only five people or so, and you really need eight to run a successful league,” said McArtur. “We’re optimistic though, and we hope to get a few more leagues going over the next year, wether it’s ladies, mixed, or corporate.”

If you’re looking for a little side business, McArtur says the basement space is potentially up for grabs.

“There is potential for someone to take it on, the little canteen. In the past we had a lady who cooked breakfast sandwiches and hot dogs, she made some good money. It would be a great little business for someone looking to spend a few days a week at work,” she said, stating that it would be great for someone who is retired.

McArtur adds that the Elks club has a “stigma” that only members are allowed in.

“People walk by and think they can’t come in. We would really like to engage more of the younger people in town. We are more than happy to have non-members come to the Elks club. They just need to come and sign the guest list, and a member will sign in with them,” explained McArtur. “There’s been a lot of work done on the space in the last few years and we get lots of compliments on the change. The one thing that hasn’t changed much is the bowling alley.”

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