Hidden Memphis: Big Daddy’s Bowling Alley [Photo Gallery]
Did you know that there used to be a bowling alley under the Kroger at Poplar and Highland?
No? Me either.
Someone asked me about it last week, so I asked Twitter, and all of this asking led to a call from Kroger's PR team, inviting me to come check it out.
Poplar Plaza (the shopping center that's home to the Kroger) was built in the late 1940s, with some additions built in 1960. Like many buildings at the time, there was basement space alloted for a fallout shelter. Not, mind you, that a basement 12 feet below ground would have done much good to protect you from nuclear fallout.
Once the threat of nuclear annihilation was no longer imminent, many of these spaces were converted for other use. The one below the Kroger opened as Big Daddy's Bowling Alley sometime in the 1970s (we think).
The bowling alley had 18 lanes, concession stands and locker rooms, and was, according to many locals who bowled there, a haven for underage drinkers as management allowed patrons to bring their own alcohol.
Here's a rough diagram of how the space was used:
There's not much information online about Big Daddy's, but I did find this Memphis Daily News article from 1996 heralding the opening of Laser Quest (now I feel old), that mentions that Big Daddy's had closed the year prior after a fire.
There's very little of Big Daddy's left currently. The scorers tables, furniture and hardwood bowling lanes are long gone, and the rest isn't far behind. Now that there is a brand new, larger Kroger opening in March in the same parking lot, Big Daddy's will be demolished (along with the old Kroger) to make way for more parking.
Here are some photos of what remains of Big Daddy's Bowling Alley.