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Bowled over

Photos by Doug Edmunds

October 2012

Six years ago, while shopping for homes, David J. and Jane Frank didn’t know what to think about the odd perk — a full-size bowling lane in the basement — in a Fox Point 1950s ranch.

"We were not bowlers," Jane Frank says. "It was like, ‘Now what do we do with this?’"

In the end, it sold them on the house. Retaining the wood-paneled walls and bowling lane, the Franks created a bowling-themed party room for friends and family (their blended family of seven children range in age from 10 to 32). "People feel they can come down here, relax and have fun," Frank says. With the additions of royal-blue black-reflective carpet depicting bowling balls and pins, lights to the lane, as well as an automatic pin setter, they furthered the bowling theme.

But they didn’t stop there. Soon, an authentic score-sheet board, a popcorn machine, traffic light next to the pins, shelves of candies in glass jars, as well as a push-cart freezer stocked with Push-Ups, ice-cream sandwiches and Drumsticks, rounded out the look. There is even a closet stocked with bowling shoes and bags. "There’s no excuses when people come over and say they don’t have the right shoes," Frank says. David Frank found the perfect home at last for his antique arcade games, which were joined by foosball, air hockey, pingpong tables and an antique bowling machine.

Jane Frank added her personal touch with a custom-designed bar-height red snack counter in the shape of a bowling pin. Hovering behind it is a flat-screen television — complete with surround sound — where parties often include watching favorite sports events. They even custom-printed score sheets and cocktail napkins depicting the name of their bowling alley and their names as "proprietors." Completing the décor theme, they added a Cadillac car couch they found while in Florida, where the scorekeeper sits. "We knew it was perfect because somebody has to sit there and score," Jane Frank says. "We had to have it."

Completing the home’s legend was important. "Every time we say we bought the Schelble house, everybody knows what that means," Jane Frank says.

Scoring the Goods

Every quirky theme needs an expert touch. For the Franks that moment came when, at David’s high-school reunion, they struck up a conversation with his classmate, Krista Hildebrand, whose parents owned Echo Bowl on Port Washington Road in Glendale, which closed in 2004. When she heard about their rec-room bowling theme, she offered up lots of goods, including logoed drinking glasses, bowling-pro posters, bowling shirts, balls and shoes. Similarly, when UW-Madison renovated its bowling alley, they acquired 18 bowling balls.

Bowl Rite in Butler periodically visits the home to maintain the bowling lane, although Jane Frank handles the oiling (to protect the wood) and hand-painted the wooden rails red.

— Kristine Hansen



This story ran in the October 2012 issue of: