Memories of the now extinct but not forgotten Bronco Bowl
Bronco Bowl opened in 1962 with Hollywood celebrity Jayne Mansfield
headlining the event. This entertainment playground included something for every
restless soul - slot cars, bowling, pool, archery and golf. Don’t forget the Hinkle’s snack bar, dancing at the “The Pit,” and those great concerts featuring performers
like the Everly Brothers, REM, U2, Clash, B-52's, the Alarm…an endless list. And, oh, yeah, they had a bowling alley.
(Photo courtesy of Gayla Kokel.)
Bronco Bowl Memories
Arriving in Oak Cliff in 1963 from small-town Ohio, my family thought the year-old Bronco Bowl was an amazing place. My family would bowl there on Friday nights, then as an eighth grader in 1965 I saw my first concert there... a number of acts, headlined by Chubby Checker. My friends and I would walk or bike there for Saturday morning bowling, and when the slot track opened, I thought I had found heaven. There was a slot track establishment on Davis St., but the track at Bronco Bowl won out for its sheer size. Later, my dad would take me to the Bronco Bowl parking lot for driving lessons... I literally learned to drive at the Bronco Bowl.
Bronco Bowl continued to be a great local spot for entertainment well into my adulthood. There were bands at the "Cuebowlarrow" Club I'd come in from college to see with friends in the early 70s, which seemed odd at the time, but again, here was a decent "local" club, right in the neighborhood, a rarity back then. When my wife and I moved to Oak Cliff in the early '80s, we would occasionally bowl there with friends, attended friends' kids' birthday parties there, and when we had our own kids, taught them to bowl there. One son grew up to be a drummer, performing in and winning "battle of the bands" contests there when he was in high school.
And later, the Bronco Bowl had the best concert venue in the city, beyond doubt. Full bars in the corners, comfortable seating, and by far the best sound. Saw Third Eye Blind, Tonic, Ben Kweller, The Strokes, Brian Setzer Orchestra there, among others. More than anything else, we hated to see that venue go. And although we were happy to finally see a Home Depot in Oak Cliff, it was NOT worth the loss of all the Bronco Bowl had been to us.
I grew up in North Dallas. When I was just out of high school my brother took me to a concert at the Bronco Bowl. None other than Frank Moreno and Mahogany Rush!!! It was one of the best concerts ever!! All seats were great. You felt like you were right up close and personal with the band. I can still hear “All Along the Watchtower”. So sad that the bowl is gone. Wish someone would’ve bought and refurbished the place. We need places to go for all around family fun, not more Home Depot’s, walmart’s, etc. Lisa J
Being an ut-of towner, I had never heard of the bronco bowl, until the Dallas Morning News ran an article in the 90's, about the remodeling of the concert hall. Shortly after reading the newspaper article I attended a Bruce Springsteen concert, at the bronco bowl. I was amazed at the quality of sound and the amazing seating arrangement. There was not a bad seat in the house. In a dallas morning news interview, Mr. Springsteen stated that "it sounded so good in the Bronco Bowl, I hope I only play bowling alleys from here on out". After this first show, the Bronco Bowl immediately became my favorite place to see a concert. The spectrum of awesome acts booked into the bowl was unbelievable. I saw Grand Funk Railroad on their reunion tour, Chris Isaak, Blue Oyster Ccult, April Wine, Nazareth and a Great White/Dokken double-bill that was probably on the last big tour, for both bands. On top of that there were the great smaller shows in the clubs. These included an incredible set from the Pat Travers band that I saw in the canyon club, around 2002. What a great place for a show. The Bronco Bowl will be missed. A true Dallas icon
My first concert ever was Wham at the Bronco Bowl on February 7, 1985. Thankfully my taste in music has improved. I also saw the Smiths there and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Also, back in about 1982 or 1983 I spent the night there at a church lock in. What fun playing video games and bowling all night! I can't believe that place was torn down. Shame on Dallas!
I grew up in Oak Cliff in the early 70's. I remember bowling the in youth league on Saturdays with my brother and my friend, Mike. I remember seeing Roger Staubach come in and roll a few games one Saturday morning- that was too cool! My family would go there once in a while on the weekends to bowl. Haha... I remember loading one of my father's cigarettes one time we went there. Started smoking it, and then BLAMMO! It was pretty funny. Anyway, later, I picked up archery, and practiced there all of the time. By the time I had gotten into high school, we had moved further south near DeSoto and Duncanville, so I didn't make it to the BB that often, sometimes to play pool, except for my freshman year in high school when I bowled there for the bowling club we had. I joined the Navy soon after high school- when I came back in 1989, I went to see Eric Johnson there. What a great concert! Saw him a year and a half later. I was really sad to see the condition of the rest of the place though. Always thought it should be rebuilt or refurbished. And now that bowling/recreation centers like Main Event here in Austin are popular again- yes, the BB should have been rebuilt instead of building another sterile retail establshiment. What an amazing place. - B. Gray, Leander, TX
Lion's Club program from Bronco Bowl "Playhouse", 1977, signed by Jim Sundberg.
Hi my name is Tim and I live in Michigan. Well, I don't know much about the Bronco Bowl having lived in Michigan most of my life, but I am a HUGE Stevie Ray Vaughan fan. I know he played a concert there on October 8th, 1983. Someone recently gave me a copy of it and it 's a smoking show. During the show, he mentions that he hadn't been back to Oak Cliff since High School, which would have been early 70's for him. Anyway, i find it so very intriguing that a Bowling Alley/Rec Center could have hosted so many concerts. How many people could fit in the venue? Well, maybe somebody has memories of the show they'd like to share on the Web Site where I got this e-mail address. Thanks and have a nice day.....Tim
I too h7ad many a good times at BB. Born AT Methodist hospital (formerly known as Florence and Nightengale),1948. Idon't remember exactly when I started going there.The one thing I remember,that nobodys mention yet is BOWLING FOR DOLLARS .Ithink Verne Lundquist was M C.
The show was taped and played later that knight. And of course I watched the play back and saw myself on tv.
I even remember the pro who was bowling that night, Carmino Salvino.
Goodby BB,sorry to see you go!!!
Charles Ray, J F Kimball 1967
I attended LP Cowart,Stockard and Sunset. My family and I moved to Oak Cliff in 1967. I remember we were the first Hispanic family followed by two other families in our area. Of course we had the problems that came with that however, our parents would assure us everything would be fine. It was a very interesting time! Gosh, I remember walking to Heights Shopping Center,remember "Orange Julius","M.E. Moses" how about "Polar Bear Ice Cream"! I remember being able to walk or ride my "Ten Speed" anywhere and everywhere... of course I had to stay within my boundaries! How many of us went as far as Ft Worth Ave to "check out" Bronco Bowl,and prayed not to get caught!!(lol) Last but not least my favorite memory, hearing my mom or dad or both, as I was running out the door...... BE HOME BEFORE DARK! COMPRENDES!(understand) :)
Nobody has mentioned the great Metal Shows at the Bronco Bowl in the early ‘80s. I saw Metallica, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Saxon, Accept, Axe, Merciful Fate, Armored Saint, Exciter and many others there. To this day it is still the greatest music venue at which I have seen a concert. The best show ever at the BB though was Quiet Riot. When they went into Mental Health the place went nuts. Someone in the balcony realized that the plastic cushions on the seats were not attached and would fly as good as a Frisbee. Once the first one flew, all the rest followed. There were red cushions sailing through the air all the way to the stage. The band then began flinging them back at the audience. It was an awesome sight. Kevin Debrow was laughing so hard that he couldn’t even finish singing the song.
Twenty years later I was living in Las Vegas and saw Kevin Debrow at a party. As he walked right by me, I said “Bronco Bowl, Dallas, Texas”. He stopped and turned to me and said “what did you say?” I repeated “Bronco Bowl” and he immediately said “cushion fight”. I couldn’t believe it. We ended up talking for about thirty minutes. He was one of the nicest guys I have ever met God Rest His Soul. He even talked about years later playing in the club at the BB. Twenty years later he still remembered that show as the craziest show Quiet Riot ever played. And that the Bronco Bowl was one of the greatest concert halls ever.
Between 1983 and 1985 I saw U2, The Pretenders twice, REM twice and a few other concerts at The BB. I’ll never forget those thrilling shows. The Dallas underground rock scene (not yet called “alternative”) was so small that these acts --who played to much larger crowds in NY, Boston and LA—ended up at the Bronco Bowl theater inside a sports complex in Oak Cliff. You gotta admit it was a funky and unlikely venue! It’s lucky for me and that small and dedicated rock crowd that they did end up there. I clearly remember (well, not-so-clearly; it WAS the ‘80s!) during Pretender’s first show at the BB, Chrissie Hynde saying, “I love this place! We’ll come back here again next year!” And sure enough, she did. Then there was that jangly new band with the droney singer from Athens, Georgia. REM played the BB on the “Reckoning” Tour in ’84 and again on the “Fables of The Reconstruction” Tour in ’85. At the ’84 show, a floor-staring, mop-haired Michael Stipe revealed, “This is our first time playing in Dallas.” But the greatest rock-show I have ever seen in my life – a life filled with hundreds of rock shows – was U2 in June of ’83 at an un-sold-out Bronco Bowl. It was the show that restored my faith in rock and started a new era of great music. I have just blogged about it here: http://drewciferstonezone.blogspot.com/2008/10/u2-paints-rocks-red-1983.html
When the Irish Rockers returned to Dallas in ’85 they were superstars, playing at a fully sold-out Reunion Arena. I saw some of the greatest and most memorable rock shows ever at the old Bronco Bowl. When unique places like that vanish from the American landscape, they don’t come back. What springs up in their place are more cookie-cutter nationwide chains like Home Depot. And we need another one of those, right? At The Bronco Bowl, the sound was great, the lightshow was great, and most of all the vibe was intimate, electric and very special. You were real up-close with the artists. I even liked seeing the kids and families in the batting cages and such. They looked at us leather-jacketed spike-haired rockers like we were from mars. Good times baby….good, good times.
Drew in Boston
I'll never forget the day my dad took me to the Bronco Bowl.. the thing that comes to my mind is the little Big race car track.. this must have been in about 1968.. I could barely see up and over the track to the cars. They were so fast and I remember someone telling me how expensive they were. I continued to visit the bronco for many years playing pool, archery, golf and bowling. Never do I remember having a car but that was my dream as a kid. I remember going with my friend Steve Mcdowra... I also remember seeing one of my favorite bands in the 70's at the bowl from Red Oak, I can't remember the name of the band but their best song was GLACTIC LOCOMOTIVE.. Rusty Shoate was the lead singer !
Great to think back on the memories of the Bronco Bowl !
Mike Stanton, born in Oak Cliff in 1958
In the late 60's my parents took me to the Bronco Bowl every Saturday night where my Dad and I would race slot cars. Some of the best memories of my life were at Bronco Bowl. Please let me know where I can find an actual photograph of the slot car track at the Bronco Bowl. Thank you for your time, R. Neill Taylor
I started going to Bronco Bowl in the 60's,my stepfather was a bowler who got many trophies.I don't know if he was on a league or not,as I was the appointed baby sitter.But I would look at the good looking boys that cruised by.And in the early 70's,I ran into a boy I went to junior high with and he introduced me to a boy who was really cute and funny,and drove an old 1953 Ford,that was loud !!! We got talking,and seeing each and we were married in 1972.Divorced in 1994.Too bad.But I so wanted to get my hair done at the beauty shop.Never did.I loved the old lights on the outside.And it gave you a feeling of excitement.Too bad good things die....Carmella
I was a young girl of about 11 when Bronco Bowl opened. My dad was on an Earl Hayes Chevrolet league that played there. I spent an entire evening with Jayne Mansfield and her husband Mickey Hargitay in the bar that night I remember asking my father if I could go live in LA with her because she talked to me about visiting her there.
formerly of Oak Cliff, now
I was a teen from Farmers Branch playing in a band. We played many times at the Pit. I met and stayed friends with a lot of the musicians I met there. In the 60's Oak Cliff was somewhat the forbidden zone for a lot of kids from the suburbs, but as fate would have it, I ended up marrying a girl from Oak Cliff and lived there almost 25 years. Regards, Jay Vinton, Honolulu, Hawaii
Where do you start! Slot cars, bowling, pool, archery and golf. This was the place to be. When i was younger we would stay out late and go to the bb. We would watch the big guys play pool till the place closed and then follow them on our motor scooters to the cotton bowling alley to continue playing over there. We would play on the slot car tracks and bowl on Saturdays in the junior leagues and then pot bowl with the adults for money. Once a year they would have a contest where you could bowl one game, shoot one game of pool, and one round of archery, and one bucket of golf balls and the person with the highest score from all would be the winner. We met some of the greatest people in the world at the bb. Later in life I found the Cuebowlarrow Club and was in love. Tom and Charlott Hearon were the owners of the club and were like family to me. It was so funny to see people leave the church in the back at 12:00 and then they go straight to the bar. My life was the bb from a small child to my adult years. Ok so some of you thing you know me. Well I am Gerald Stark (Sunset 66)
I still recall vividly Aug 3rd 1985, my brother and I went to one of the greatest concerts ever, R.E.M. where playing the Bowl that night. What a great experience, and my first time to the Bowl ! I wonder if anyone has relics of the Bowl for sale , I'd love to have something tangible to go along with that great experience ! -JK
I found your Bronco Bowl page and thought I'd share a bit. I saw several shows there in the early 80's: I was at the same U2 war tour as mentioned above. Not only was Bono walking all over the arena with a white flag, but he was stage diving in the pit...I help push him back up once. Try touching Bono on the back today. In less than a year you couldn't see them in anything but a giant arena. I bought one of those sleeveless t-shirts...the same one Bono wears in the Red Rock concert videos. Wish I still had that shirt... I also saw the Pretenders in the Bowl twice. Finally, I saw a very memorable show with Greg Allman, Johnny Winter and Edgar Winter. A rare treat. I sure miss that venue. I also miss the Ritz Rock-n
Roll off Northwest Hwy & Harry Hines. Anyone remember the Ritz? I still have two mugs from the free beer night. I'd sure like to hear from other Ritz patrons...not much online about that place. - TK
Wow! What times we had at bronco bowl. I am 56 years old but I remember every day and night I spent at bronco. i was a pool player and i guess i knew just about every one there. don spiker, cat daddy, willie, b.d. , benny hinkle and his wife,wesley, ralph mongomery (my pool playing running buddy),gary phiel -a great bowler- larry (we called him queenie ) a personal joke , carl webb...apple club manager,,,too many to mention....i loved the carrol club also....i used to live in mustang village before bronco was even built and i have many pictures as boy play about where "the pit" was. I remember the somethum else show that ron champman hosted there.wow i even remember the night as teenagers , ralph mongomery and i drank too much...thats how i became close friends with ken mayfield....ha ha..he arrested met wice that night as he let me go the first time and then arrested me again when i could not be quite...i"ll never forget being handcuffed and face down in the dirt in the flower bed near to walkway in bronco....i hustled pool there for many years andi also remember the grand opening as i saw what i thought was the most beautiful girl in the world ...jayne mansfield.there are so many memories as i live there many hours everyday...do any of you remember when they stayed open all night and the pool section was in the near back of the bronco.......i had many first experiences at bronco as a teenager.............no in 2006...many years later and many friends that have passed away.......bronco maybe gone...but in my heart brown will be there and live forever.....i drove by there today...and saw the home depot standing there and remembered all my dear childhood and teenager friends....................oh yes one more detail...i rememer the broken arm i got in the parking lot as my best friend tinky chappell and i were fighting over our last ,,,hot beer,,, we were crazy teenagers...anyway.! ...today and ever day i pass broncos old location a small tear comes to my eye...when i remember my life back then ..all you bronco family members ....never let bronco die in your mind and hearts........regards....phil gray....ps..maybe some of you remember me!
I was a manager at the Bronco Bowl from 1997-1999. I have great memories already shared by others on this site of sound checks, meeting bands and the patrons that I would see at least once a week in the center. My fondest memories however would be the great people I had a chance to work with at the bowl. The pride of work that everyone from the sales department in the offices in back to the dedicated guest services folks at the bowling counter to the Off duty D.P.D that would run security for the center was always geared to make sure people had a good time. I miss each and everyone of these people and I would love to see and hear the success story's of life after the bowl. I will always hold the Bronco Bowl in high regard as some of the best memories of great folks I could ever hope to work with. If I never said it enough then I say it now. THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. -Chris (Thank YOU Chris -- from oakcliff.org)
I thought I would drop you a line about the archery section of the bowl. My dad was one of the men that set this recreation up in the bowl. I also was an archer. In fact our whole family was into this sport.. We also own some grocery stores in Dallas along with my uncle. This was a great place for everyone.. safe and fun..- Charles
My memory is slightly askew of the Bronco Bowl. I once lived in Mustang Village, a Housing Project located where the Bronco Bowl now sits. I remember when the BB was being built and I thought it was so regal. As I turned into a teenager, we spent many fun evenings there. That's when it was a real bowling alley - Mary
Hi, I had the pleasure of enjoying the Bronco Bowl back during the early punk days...saw the Clash, U2 (War tour),b-52's,the Alarm,...it was just the coolest venue...walking by the archery things, the giant Bowling pin, heading for a punk show. It didn't get much better than that. Bono ran up and down the stairs all over that place toting a white flag. I don't live in the area anymore,is it still standing and do they have any shows there anymore? Thanks- Kevin Blair MD