Monday, September 27, 2010

A Commodore

Hiya, I'm back after two days of rest. How was your weekend?

Today I am writing about a couple of places that are on the entertainment side of our history.
This art deco building is built in the late 1920s by George Conrad Reifel  and designed by H.H. Gillingham is home to two of this city's legendary venues.

First is the Commodore Bowling and Billiards. The lanes were established in 1930 but as a young man named Frank showed me today there are a few things there that predate that.

The paintings along the walls are all done by this J. Denney and apparently about two years before the place opened.

There is a write up on a gentleman by the name of Mitz Nozaki, one of the most respected men in five pin bowling. He worked that the Commodore Lanes from 1930 to 1962. Then, after the owner Frank Panvini, passed away Nozaki owned the Lanes from 1962 to 1990. Nozaki passed away in 2004.

But before then he had stories to tell of the Commodore Lanes. He recalls a time in 1932 when a gentleman rode up on a horse which he tied to a telephone pole outside before coming inside. The man was Roy Rogers. Shoes have been rented to the likes of Jack Benny, Clark Gable and Buster Crabb.

The photos on the walls tell of the history and recognition that this place has. More recent celebrity visitors include the cast of Twilight, member of AC/DC and the Jonas Brothers.

From the moment I walked down those stairs I have to admit that I could feel that I was in the oldest bowling alley in Canada.

The changes that this bowling has seen. Gone are the days when the lanes had to be sanded by one person - on hands and knees handplaning and levelling then shellac. Now it is all done by a machine. And young people don't have to risk injury by setting the pins themselves. Once again the age of machines helps out.
And you may really like the murals as you descend the stairs from street level to the basement where the lanes are.

These bowling lanes have been around a long time and I hope they are here for many more years to come.

Next we have the Commodore Ballroom - a few doors down from the bowling alley in the same complex.
In December of 1929 the Commodore Cabaret. Thanks for the Great Depression the Commodore closed for a brief period but reopened in November of 1930. It is known for the sprung dance floor - a horshair lining under the floor. My research has also just informed me that there is a grand spiral staircase leading to the upper levels.

It has known many owners since its creation. For almost forty years it showcased the talents of such artists like Sammy Davis Jr., Tommy Dorsey, bandleader Charlie Pawlett.
In 1969 Drew Burns took it over and made the night club into a rock haven. Acts such as Powder Blues Band, David Bowie, The Police, The Stray Cats, Devo, Red Hot Chili Peppers, James Brown, Oasis and so many others have graced the stage over the years. It did close for awhile in 1996 but after a major renovation it reopened under the banner of the House of Blues in 1999. It was voted in 2005 - during its year long celebration - as Vancouver`s favorite nightclub by a landslide. (This according to the Georgia Straight paper who held the annual contest.)
While walking around the Commodore today I happened to look down.

BC Entertainment Hall of Fame. I will have to go back, maybe next week, take a bunch of photos then write on the Hall of Fame. But this just proves that looking up can make you miss things!

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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