the doors of Towne & Country Lanes in Burlington opened for the
first time in 1958, Bob and Betty Wilson, Ed Impens and Sheila Siegler
Nearly 50 years later, the bowling center and the foursome are still
Towne & Country will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its July 11
opening day, but the festivities already have begun. The four bowlers
were honored last month for their continuous participation in bowling
leagues since the center opened.
The center is owned by Merrill and Lorraine Draper, who with Don and
Pat Schreck bought the lanes in 1971. The Schrecks decided to get out
of the business in 1977 and the Drapers bought them out.
The Drapers’ daughter, Theresa Riemer, is the general manager and
runs the day-to-day operations.
“They treat everybody (nice),” Betty Wilson said of the
Drapers. “They greet everybody and it’s just like home.
We’re here a lot.”
The building Towne & Country occupies now was built well before the
bowling center was even conceived. The building used to house two
companies — a Cooper’s, Inc. (Jockey) underwear
manufacturing factory and Torrent Manufacturing (now NEL Frequency
Controls), which made electronic components.
When Cooper’s decided to close the factory and move operations to
its home base in Kenosha and Torrent relocated elsewhere in Burlington,
Vincent Lois, Ed Rueter and Clyde and Evelyn Anderson bought the
building and converted it to a bowling center. It had 12 lanes when it
opened and six more were later added.
The business was originally to be called Pine Lanes, but it opened as
Towne & Country Lanes. A sign featuring a large bowling pin
standing on a bowling ball stood out front. The front of the building
looks the same now as it did then.
The business struggled during its first 13 years, Draper said. The
additional six lanes, which are in a separate area from the original 12
lanes, were added because the U.S. government had plans to construct a
large air base at what is now the Bong State Recreation Area. The
original owners anticipated the extra business from the base, but when
the plug was pulled on the project, business suffered.
“They had more lanes than they could support,” Draper said.
“In the 13 years they had it, it lost money every year.”
That was exacerbated by the fact that the owners had experience at
running a bar, but didn’t have experience running a bowling
center. Also, the 1950s and early 1960s were not good years for the
bowling industry, Draper said.
Draper, originally from Richland Center, and Schreck, a Burlington
native, worked together as bowling mechanics in Madison. Schreck had
done work at Towne & Country and knew the owners, so when they
approached Schreck about buying the center, he talked to Draper and
together they bought the business.
The first thing the new owners did was get the bowling leagues in order.
“The league structure was very bad,” Draper said.
“When we came in in 1971, that’s when we were able to start
building it up. When we came in, there was no junior leagues, no senior
leagues and no couples leagues.”
There are now 33 leagues, covering every day of the week.
Draper said it took at least five years for the business to start
showing a profit. To help control costs, Draper and Schreck did their
own maintenance and had help from their families as well.
It took awhile for people to accept the new owners, even though Schreck
was from Burlington.
“When we first came in, a lot of people were turned off because
we were outside people,” Draper said. “Some of the things
we were doing they objected to.
“As time went along, I think they saw we were sincere in what we
were doing and we weren’t cheating anybody. As time went along,
we just grew.”
The Drapers were helped by the bowling boom of the 1970s.
Today, Towne & Country draws some of the best bowlers in the area
for league play and is the host of the Miller Lite All-Stars
Tournament, which is in its 16th year. The scratch tournament, which is
held in December and early January, attracts more than 350 men, women
and senior bowlers from Wisconsin and northern Illinois. The finals are
taped in mid-January for later broadcast.
In the last few years, Towne & Country also has been the home of
the Burlington and Catholic Central high school club bowling teams.
Draper is the vice president of District 3A of the Wisconsin High
School Bowling Club.
Draper, who also owned Surfside Lanes in the Town of Somers for 20
years, shows no signs of slowing down. He still comes to the lanes
every day and also bowls in leagues.
As for being around for another 50 years, Draper said,
Towne & Country Lanes Timeline
Towne & Country Lanes in Burlington opened July 11, 1958 and
weathered tough times early on to become a thriving bowling center.
Here’s a quick tour through the history of the lanes.
JANUARY 1958: Clyde and Evelyn Anderson, Vincent Lois and Ed Rueter buy
the building, which housed Torrent Manufacturing (made electronic
components) and Cooper, Inc. (Jockey underwear factory), and convert
into a bowling center, originally to be called Pine Lanes.
JULY 11, 1958: Towne & Country Lanes opens.
1971: Merrill and Lorraine Draper and Don and Pat Schreck purchase
business from Lois and Rueter.
1973: Original bowling pin/bowling ball sign removed after being
damaged by vandals.
1977: Drapers buy out Schrecks’ share of business.
APRIL 1978: Bob Amann rolls the first 300 game at Towne & Country.
DECEMBER 1988: Theresa Czerwinski (now Woyak) becomes first woman with
a 300 game at the lanes.
1993: Drapers begin Miller Lite All-Stars Tournament, which continues
to draw hundreds of the top bowlers in the area.
2003: Brunswick Anvillane synthetic lanes installed on all 18 lanes.
2006: Ebonite Vantech automatic scoring system installed on all 18