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Nostalgic Pastimes

Retro recreational activities put a new spin on old favorites

By Meghan Diemel

Courtesy of The Howard. Image by Ryan Hainey Photography.

What’s old is new again – that’s true for fashion, and it’s true for how we’re choosing to spend our free time. Whether it’s bowling, arcade games or even a time-honored tradition like curling, we’re getting out and enjoying the company of others in nostalgic ways.

And the best part is you can’t complete any of the activities while holding your smartphone!

Boutique bowling: a new twist on an old favorite

When Carey Sharpe and Jenna Golem took on the task of renovating the dilapidated Eagles Club in Oshkosh in 2017, the building had a bowling alley tucked away in the basement, making it a natural fit for inclusion in the renovation for what is now known as The Howard.

“When it opened in 1927, there were 10 lanes [downstairs],” Sharpe says. “They were in pretty rough shape. The boiler had flooded several years back and there was standing water down there for years.”

Sharpe and Golem decided to gut the bowling alley, keeping the pinsetters which were still in working condition, but installing new ball returns. They salvaged some of the lanes underneath but had to add a completely new top to them.

Courtesy of The Howard. Image by Ryan Hainey Photography.

“The rest of it we completely gutted and redesigned,” furthers Sharpe. “It’s dramatically different than what it was when we purchased it.”

At the newly renovated lanes at The Howard, you won’t smell the scent of stale tappers from the days of old. Sharpe and Golem have put significant work into ensuring the alley provides the fun of bowling, but in a more upscale, unique setting. As a boutique bowling alley, lanes are rented by the hour and the bowling is complemented by a craft cocktail menu – along with great wine and craft beer choices – to quench your thirst. Sharpe says their two incredible chefs and café manager have also created a delicious menu for those snack needs when you’re tossing strikes.

“The people who are going to be drawn to this are maybe not your more serious bowler,” Sharpe says. “Not that they wouldn’t want to come here, but it’s for people who are a little more casual about bowling.”

Arcade games bring the kid out in all of us

Retro games and retro pricing: nothing could make an adult arcade game fan happier than a visit to Player 2 Arcade and Bar in Appleton. Home to more than 50 games – the majority arcade games – they span from the 1970s-era to the ’90s for those folks 21 years of age and older to enjoy during a night out.

“We’ve made a valiant effort to get machines that our customer base loves,” owner Michael Joyce explains. “All of the arcade machines are a token per play, and the pinball machines are 50 cents per play.”

The games, which run their original hardware, are complemented by an extensive beer menu – featuring several 16 ounce “tallboy” options as well as tap and bottled beer. That combo makes Player 2 a great place for a fun night out with friends, Joyce says.

“I wholeheartedly think it’s an experience, without a doubt, unlike any other you’ll find in the Fox Valley,” he says. “It’s not easy to keep the machines that are 30 to 40 years old running, so I think it’s a one-of-a-kind experience that you’re not going to find within an hour and a half radius. It’s competitive and fun.”

Curling continues to gain interest

Every four years when the Winter Olympics dominates our television screens, people are reacquainted with the sport of curling. With the success of Team USA in 2018, the Appleton Curling Club saw another bump of interest in its offerings. The club, which was established in 1939 by Ray Fallon and Harold Mather, moved to its current Westhill Boulevard location in 1960.

“Part of the reason for the passion that many have for the sport is the camaraderie and the social aspect that you get from curling,” explains club president Todd Good. “It is really open to all ages and all levels in some respects. It can be very competitive, which is one of the things I like about it, but you actually do get to know the people you’re curling with and against.”

If you’ve never tried curling before, many clubs – including Appleton’s – host introductory nights.

“Generally with clubs, the equipment that a beginner needs is provided by the club,” Good adds. “The rocks, the brooms, the stabilizers and the sliders that you need to put on your shoes, so you can slide across the ice when you’re delivering, are all provided by the club. You really don’t need to bring anything along with you besides yourself, warm clothing and your tennis shoes.”

In Appleton, club membership dues are approximately $300 a year. New members get an introductory discount, and all memberships cover about five to six months of curling (November through March) two to three nights a week.

“It’s a great way to spend your winter, because there aren’t a lot of activities we have that you can be active, meet friends and meet really interesting group of individuals,” Good adds. “It’s across all walks of life and all interest levels. It’s a great way to meet new people in the region.”

Party like it’s 1999 – leave the smartphone at home

No matter if you decide to go out for a cocktail and a few hours of game play, or you challenge yourself to take up a new sport like bowling or curling, these new-old recreational activities are a great way to meet new people and explore our region in greater depth. Allow yourself to be in the moment and enjoy the company of others – put down that phone and get out and explore!

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