Remember When, Chattanooga? Olympic Lanes in Hixson was one of the city’s premiere bowling houses

Chattanooga News-Free Press photo via ChattanoogaHistory.com / Olympic Lanes in Hixson is shown in September 1961. It was later renamed Brunswick-Hixson Bowling Lanes.
Chattanooga News-Free Press photo via ChattanoogaHistory.com / Olympic Lanes in Hixson is shown in September 1961. It was later renamed Brunswick-Hixson Bowling Lanes.

In the early 1960s, Olympic Lanes at 5150 Hixson Pike was one of five local "bowling houses" that were homes to league and leisure bowlers.

According to newspaper archives, the 32-lane bowling center was called Olympic Lanes until it changed ownership in the late 1960s. It was rebranded Brunswick-Hixson Bowling Lanes after the owners filed for bankruptcy, records show. The bowling location ultimately closed in 1986, according to a column in the Chattanooga Times dated Sept. 15 of that year.

When Olympic Lanes opened in the early 1960s, it was managed by L.B. "Pappy" Jackson. A column by Times sports columnist Bill Fisher in 1986 noted Jackson held the record for appearing on the most bowling teams in one winter season — 12. In the 1960s, league bowling was booming in Chattanooga, with an estimated 3,000 participants, Fisher noted.

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"I was in charge of organizing leagues at Olympic, and any time I needed someone to fill out a team, I called on Pappy," Fisher, a former bowling center manager, wrote. "He not only finished out the season with all of the teams, but was also averaging over 180 in several of the leagues."

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When construction of Olympic Lanes was announced in the spring of 1961, a newspaper report noted the total cost was to be $750,000. The report in the Chattanooga News Free Press added "the modern building design will embody the latest features of contemporary architecture."

The article said, "The lanes will be equipped with Brunswick Gold Crown automatic pinspotters, pinfinders and underlane ball returns. In addition, the building will house a snack bar and other facilities: there will be indoor and outdoor playgrounds and parking space for 300 cars."

Air conditioning with "electronic filters for smoke control" was also part of the building plan. In the 1960s, about 42% of American adults were regular smokers. Today, the percentages is only about half that, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over time, the number of bowling houses in the Chattanooga area have dwindled. In addition to the Brunswick Lanes closing, the Star Lanes in Hixson, Fort Lanes in Fort Oglethorpe and Tri-State Lanes on Ringgold Road in East Ridge have also closed through the years, according to a 2016 report in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

To read previous articles in this series, visit ChattanoogaHistory.com or join the "Remember When, Chattanooga" public group on Facebook.

Remember When, Chattanooga? is published on Saturdays. Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645.