Rolling down memory lane: After 41 years, Sandwich's Idle Hour Lanes under new ownership

A game of bowling lasts 10 frames, but memories made in a bowling alley last a lifetime.

After owning and operating Idle Hour Lanes, 927 E. Railroad St. in Sandwich, for 41 years, Ron and Bonnie Miller decided to sell their bowling alley.

“It was hard to leave, but it was time to move on,” Bonnie Miller said. “Everything has changed in the sport of bowling. Pinsetters and scoring were manual, now everything is automated and computerized. We have done it a long time, and now it’s time to retire.”

The Millers sold the bowling alley last month to the Partridge family, who also own Pinheadz Bar & Grill and Yorkville Bowl in Yorkville, Roadhouse Country Bar & Grill in Yorkville and Pinheadz Entertainment Center in Naplate. Idle Hour Lanes will be renamed Pinheadz at Idle Hour Lanes.

The idea for a bowling alley started with Bonnie Miller’s father, Wesley Scent. He partnered with Arthur Andersen to build an eight-lane bowling alley in Sandwich. It was built in 1947 and opened for business on Aug. 28, 1948.

A community competition was held to name the new bowling alley, with a prize of a $25 war bond. During the bowling alley’s grand opening, Mrs. Wesley Leland of Sandwich accepted the award on behalf of her husband, who had chosen the name “Idle Hour Lanes.”

In the 1950s, two additional lanes were added to the bowling alley, as well as automatic pinsetters. A locker room was added in 1964, and an addition to the front was completed in 1968.

Bonnie Miller remembers her father going to the high school football games to round up pinsetters. Ron Miller was one of the Sandwich High School students who worked at the bowling alley. He was employed there for 10 years.

In March 1972, Idle Hour Lanes was sold to Harold Jovanovich. Ron Miller purchased the bowling alley from Jovanovich in April 1976.

The Millers updated the bowling alley and added new technology through the years. A pro shop was opened in 1976, where a billiards lounge had been. In 1982, new wooden lanes were completed, and solar heating was added in 1983 and 1984. Computerized scoring was added in 1992, and the scoring system was modernized and overhead screens were added in 1996.

During the Miller’s time of ownership, all of their four children and one of their seven grandchildren worked at the bowling alley.

Four generations of Bonnie Miller’s family worked at Idle Hour Lanes.

Even though they sold the bowling alley, the Millers plan on supporting the new owners and the bowling business. Bonnie Miller still bowls on leagues at Idle Hour twice a week.

Ron Miller said he appreciates all the years of community support and the help he had from longtime employees, including Ron Henrich and Jerry Casner.

“We were lucky to be part of a community that supported us as they did, not just people from Sandwich, but from all of the surrounding towns,” Bonnie Miller said. “We have a lot of good memories and met a lot of nice people over the years. We want and hope for the bowling alley to continue. It just won’t be in our family anymore.”

Changes to the bowling alley

The bowling alley’s new general manager, Brandon Partridge, said that even though Idle Hour will be the third bowling alley he will manage, it still will be a family business.

“My family wants to keep Ron and Bonnie’s legacy going,” Partridge said. “We couldn’t have asked for nicer people to buy from. We want to add to what they’ve done over the years.”

Since the bowling alley changed hands, 15 TVs, six 112-inch projector screens, two jukeboxes, new chairs, black lights for cosmic bowling and six draft lines for beer have been added.

Future changes expected in the coming year include installing new flooring, adding two rectangular tables per set of lanes and five live video gaming machines, and expanding the arcade to include skee ball and other games. New rental bowling balls and shoes also will be offered.

The bowling alley’s lanes are wood with a synthetic plastic overlay. By next summer, the lanes will be changed to fully synthetic. The step-up approach will remain the same, but a handicapped-accessible ramp will be added.

“We wanted to update it and make it more modern, but we will be keeping some of the vintage aspects, like the wooden benches and the ball return above ground,” Partridge said.

The locker room will be moved near the arcade and pro shop. The old locker room will be converted into a birthday party room with a half wall and a view to the lanes.

“We plan on offering more party options and expanding our events as much as possible,” Partridge said. “We will add karaoke and acoustic live performances in the bar area. On Fridays, we will have free bingo with a rolling jackpot. On Mondays, we will offer bar trivia. We plan on keeping pricing, leagues and tournaments the same, and even offer beer specials.”

In the past, Idle Hour Lanes was closed during the summer. Now it will be open seven days a week, year round. Shorter 12-week leagues will be offered in the summer. The bowling alley also will participate in the Kids Bowl Free program, which allows students to bowl two free games every day from April 15 to Oct. 1.

“We want to attract new bowlers and offer more options for the youth,” Partridge said. “We are even thinking about starting a bowling team at Sandwich High School. Colleges give out a lot of bowling scholarships. Bowling is a lot of fun, and it’s important to get the younger generations involved.

“(Bowling) is great entertainment, and we look forward to entertaining people from Sandwich and the surrounding areas,” he said.

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