Posted by: Mike James | August 2, 2009

Bowling for Beers

obarf2click for larger image
Find me and win a prize.
Many don’t even realize that the Ocean Beach Bowl even existed. It was located on Bacon Street between Newport and Santa Monica Ave. Its eight lanes were built in the 1940’s and were connected to the Arizona Cafe*.

*while they occasionally served food, the Arizona Cafe was in reality one of the best dive bars in San Diego.

In late 1980 the Ocean Beach Bowl become home to a unique Monday night league.

My brother Ron was a member of OMBAC (Old Mission Beach Athletics Club), he proposed a Ocean Beach version to pursue our athletic endeavors. The Ocean Beach Athletic and Recreation Foundation or OBARF was born.

The first activity was a Bowling League. Members included many James Gang employees and friends from the Sunshine Company Saloon.

The league was also where my brother Rich developed the national fad of “Disco Bowling.”
Now I won’t say we weren’t very good, but our best OBARF bowler, with a 162 average, was a certified blind accountant (he was certified blind, as an accountant I’m not so sure). He was a hell of a spot bowler.

Being connected to the Arizona Cafe, allowed cocktail waitresses to keep us supplied, without missing a turn. We kept them busy throughout the evening.

We also kept Little Joe, the Alley Manager, busy as well. Little Joe had been working at the O.B. Bowl since he was a kid. He later became a popular bartender at the Arizona with Big Joe and Middle Joe.

Being that the lanes were pretty old, demanded they have constant attention.  “Little Joe, ball stuck on Lane 5.” “Little Joe, need pin reset on Lane 1.’ “Little Joe, man down on Lane 3.”

I loved Bowling Night, I even bought my own shoes and a bowling ball.

A few years later, Brunswick, who leased the old equipment, decided to rip it all out. That was a sad day, but a fortuitous day for the James Gang. In 1990, after the James Gang lost their lease on Newport Avenue, they were able to move into the old bowling alley building. If it had not been available they most likely would have been forced to move out of O.B.

They say on a quiet night, if you walk by the James Gang, you can hear the thunder of falling bowling pins and the strains of the BeeGee’s “Staying Alive.”



  1. Mike, I loved reading this. I can imagine the fun time you and your brothers had there. I always knew there had been a bowling alley there and wish there still was something similar in our town. Thanks for the story….

  2. Also….I think I counted 15 moustaches in that photo. Those were some heady times eh?

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