When it comes to bowling, 50,000 Frenchmen can't be wrong. OK, make that two Frenchmen, one writer and one photographer from L'Equipe
magazine. They were in the Mound City recently to do an article and a photo spread on bowling. Where else in the world would the truly suave go for that assignment but to our Mound City, which is the Cooperstown of bowling, the home of the International Bowling Hall of Fame? Sure, they went to the bowling Valhalla downtown, and to places such as Tropicana Lanes and Strike-n-Spare, both giant 50-lane bowling Ponderosas of pins. But the French also wanted something rustic. Dale Bohn, executive director of the Greater St. Louis Bowling Association, knew just the place: Arcade Lanes. "They got a blast out of it," says Bohn. "They had a great time at the place." The pair spent three hours at the 10-lane Arcade, according to Jim Lampson, who has been running the place for 42 years. The Arcade is a second-story joint that Lampson has kept pretty much the way it was when he first took over. "It's loaded with all types of antiques to bring back who we are," says Lampson. "I'm a great believer of saying and telling the truth and looking at the person and saying, 'You're no better than me; our ancestors both come over here and looked a mule in the butt.' That's the way I was taught: Never lie; tell the truth and look a person in the eye." The lanes don't open until about 12:30 p.m. or so, and they close at 6 p.m. during the week, but on Thursday, Friday and Saturday the lanes are open "until customers leave" around midnight. The Arcade is a popular place for parties, and some companies have rented all the lanes for big bashes, which include bowling, liquor and food. For those bashes, it's 27 bucks per person, which Lampson calls "a damn cheap night." Aside from the article in L'Equipe
, there has also been a film made about Arcade Lanes which Lampson says was dedicated to his wife, Odi, who died in 1993. He quit bowling when she was in a wheelchair for the last five years of her life. Lampson's 77th birthday was Sept. 15, but he's not going to fade away. He's starting a Thursday-night league, and he says he's going to start bowling again. And put some pictures up on the wall of great bowlers. And keep prices at $2.75 a game and 2 bucks for shoe rental. "Here's a place to come where your ancestors, your mothers and dads used to come to go bowling, to have fun," says Lampson. "My real theory is when you bowl in my place, I'd like to see you walk out with enough money to have a sandwich tomorrow." No wonder the French love it.