The Storm that spared Leland Lanes

The Storm that spared Leland Lanes

Leland Lanes holds cosmic bowling on Friday nights, where the normals lights go off and black lights go on. CW | Layton Dudley

The building is made of red brick, and a black cloth covers the overhang over the two glass doors. There are also entrances to the left and right sides. Thirty-two lanes sit side by side with disco glow-in-the-dark art above each one, and wood booths sit ready for the occasional snack.

A few years ago, on April 27, 2011, it was close to becoming a pile of rubble.

Across the street, Leland Shopping Center was destroyed by the storm. Leland Lanes got away with minimal damage.

Here, a woman with short blonde hair and a serious but friendly temperament has worked for 39 years. The woman, Trish Hannah, is the 
general manager.

“You can spell the last name forward and backward the same way,” she said.

In 1977, she worked for a sewing plant. She hated it. Doing the same thing repeatedly was not for her. One day she was in Leland Lanes bowling, and the owner asked her if she wanted a job. She was there the day before the storm hit. Business was slow for a little while afterward.

“People just weren’t thinking about bowling right after the tornado,” she said. “Their hearts were with their homes.”

James Smith is the assistant manager at Leland Lanes. He makes sure everything runs smoothly. A few Saturdays ago, there was a waiting list of over an hour to get a lane. During this time, he moved from lane to lane, helping people wherever he could.

Smith was at work on the day before the storm as well. That day, there was a disgruntled customer.

“On his way out the door, he turned around and shouted, ‘I hope y’all get blown away by a tornado,’ ” Smith said. “The next day so many places around us got hit hard, and we barely got hit at all. We’re still here.”

Along the back wall, there is a game room, bar area and snack bar. In the game room, there are shooting games, driving games and an air hockey table. The walls are covered in thick beige carpet with red stripes. Here, one can challenge an opponent to a game of air hockey. The blue and yellow painted machine comes alive with a murmur of air and electricity. With the clink of the quarters entering the machine, the red scoreboard lights up. These games can get heated, with grown men screaming while the puck flies across the room.

On Friday around 11 p.m., the normal lights go off and the black lights turn on. The lanes glow with a faint purple. The bright art above the lane comes to life. The neon purple and yellow becomes bright under the lights. Colored flashing lights spin around, and an occasional white light shines near the edge of the lane. Meanwhile, any light-colored clothing shines. They call it 
cosmic bowling.

At the bar, one can get most mixed drinks for under $5. They also have beer on tap. Along the booths, pitchers of beer are frequently making the trip back to the bar for a refill.

Stephen Long, a senior majoring in biology at the University of Alabama, frequently bowls at Leland Lanes. He likes to add a spin to his ball. With his hand under the ball, he has full control of it without using the finger holes.

“If you are looking for a good place to bowl with low prices, you should go here,” he said. “Not many people know about it. They have a deal where you pay $12 for two hours. Bowling, drinks, friends – it is a great place to go to.”

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