As I have stated oft-before, my favorite region on Earth is Joshua Tree and its environs, which includes one very special place. Just off Highway 62 heading into the hi-desert towns (Morongo Valley, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms) one would take a left, about four miles down a dusty, windy road until you land at Pioneertown.
Pioneertown is a real town, with real residents (Pop. 350), although it was once a film set for Western movies and television shows in the 40s and 50s. ("Cisco Kid" and "Judge Roy Bean" were filmed there.) I love this place more than I can express as it encompasses so many of my favorite things - the California desert, show business and Wild West iconography.
On our recent trip to LA, Reid, my mom and I headed to our place in Twentynine Palms, where I insisted on taking Reid to see the little town for hisself. I also wanted to introduce him to Pappy & Harriet's, my favorite honkey tonk in the entire world.
On this visit along Mane Street, I discovered Pioneer Bowl and JOYJOYJOYJOY! OMG, how could I have not known about this wonderful, magical place? I entered through a creeky wooden door and I swear, I heard country music angels singing in my ear, and then I realized it was Patsy Cline on the jukebox. HEAVEN.
Built in 1947 by A.E. Thompson, Pioneer Bowl is a six lane-site to behold. And talk about Western cred! Roy Rogers rolled out the first ball in 1949 and Gene Autry frequently taped his show at the Pioneer Bowl. The walls are covered in comical murals depicting behind-the-scene antics during tapings of Western pictures.
Before the installation of automatic pinsetting in the '50s, kids were hired as pinsetters, and according to the Morongo Basin Historical Society, Pioneer Bowl is one of the oldest bowling alleys in continuous use in California.
On your way to the bathroom, you pass through a room packed full of vintage pinball machines. I couldn't tell if they were playable or not but they were real beauties, remnants of time long gone.
It just kept getting better and better. Though our time was limited, we sat the bar to take it all in. The bartendress was a lovely, chatty woman who could not have been more excited about her place of employment. She happily shared all kinds of anecdotes and info about the place and pointed proudly to a large framed black-and-white photograph of Roy Roger's famous inaugural bowl.
"And you know he bowled a very decent 198 ... while wearing cowboy boots!" she laughed. "He was just one of those people who did well at everything, I guess."
Then, we noticed a big boxy television set circa 1970 that was playing an old Western movie. "You keep watching," she advised, "and you'll see Pioneer Bowl in many of the scenes." I thought our luck was golden but the TV is set up to play (on DVD) only films and TV shows that were filmed in Pioneertown. SO FUN.
Just down Mane Street, there was a group of fancy photographers roaming about. Because it was so chilly outside, they kept wandering in to get tea, coffee or hot chocolate. Each one had the same thing to say: "This place is a-friggin'-mazing."
I cannot express here in this space how much I want to have a party at Pioneer Bowl. Seriously. I don't know who would come but it would be worth it. Do you know how they keep score at Pioneer Bowl? With pencil and paper! The 'lounge' area is filled with vintage vinyl furniture, the kind you dream of finding in some backwoods vintage store. The entire place reeks of authenticity.
So, if I had a party at Pioneer Bowl, who would come? Maybe you?