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An Ode to Zoo Lake Bowling Club

The Bowls Club is about to close down — again. Or is it?

Petitions for saving the Zoo Lake Bowls Club reappear with steady regularity while Jozi's favourite hangout remains at the very same place for 81 years. Ksenija Micic is unmoved by the rumours.

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Illustration by Leigh Le Roux

I remember the first time I went to Zoo Lake Bowls Club, I was the tender age of 18 and dating my first serious boyfriend. You know, the first love takes away your flower first serious boyfriend. And considering that our dates used to take place at the Rosebank McDonalds it was not a surprise (at least when I think about it now) when the young boy took me to Bowls Club to have a fun time with all the St Johns boys and girl equivalents. I have never been more bored in my life, jocks and jocks getting drunk all around me and I had no-one to talk to let alone get drunk with.

Flash forward to a few months later when I started college, I was only too skeptical about my fellow classmates wanting to go party at the Bowls Club. Of course, this was a very short-lived feeling because now in the right company, Bowls Club was the best place for us poor students to hang out, feed and intoxicate ourselves.  

Two years later the unimaginable happened — the bowling club was closing down. Now, having moved out of home into a place of my own, the Bowls Club had become my second family, nursing my thirst and feeding me R20 lasagna (that honestly rivaled my own mother's) since I decided to impoverish myself and live 'independently'. This of course meant that I was visiting the bowling club even more frequently now with its impending doom and closure. 

...the rumor became truth that there was one last shindig at the Bowls club before its inevitable end. And of course I had to be there.

Imagine our ecstatic pleasure when we discovered that Bowls Club was still around a few months later! Only perfect timing, the bowling club was the only place that one could afford to buy a person a shooter for their 21st birthday. Of course by that I mean many shooters and still have spare change for shooters of your own.  

I would like to say that I made the mistake of having my 21st birthday at Bowls Club. But how could I consider that a mistake at the time when I was rejoicing that it was still there, and I could bring my own cake? Well when I got home to my mom in a drunken stupor from the aforementioned shooters for my birthday dinner that is how I might say a mistake was made.

And then a few months later the rumors surfaced again that it was closing down. You might trick me once but I won't let you trick me twice. So I'm a little cynical, even in youth but if you think of how emotionally attached we became to this watering hole and how it toyed with these emotions that it was closing but really wasn't, well... I wasn't convinced.  

I was correct — it didn't close. In fact, there was yet another closing down party just before I left college and until a few months ago I hadn't been back to the bowling club. Surprise, surprise: it was still around. Same menu, same awful service that is far more noticeable now that you're a little bit older. The only difference is that I'm there for a Sunday lunch and not a Tuesday night of debauchery. 

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Illustration by Leigh Le Roux

But the vibe is still the same and that's what brings it home. Upon embarking on my journey as a semi-functional working adult I have since ventured to other bowling clubs with far older patrons and delicious chicken but seriously no pulse. Or rather to say that there is a danger that should a pulse become evident the clients might die of heart attacks or something that way related. Either way, it was beautiful that the Zoo Lake Bowling Club was still around with its far steadier pulse and youthful crowds.

So we enjoyed a few months of affordable tipsy Sunday lunches and the occasional bowling birthday party until the inevitable petition came around again... "Save Bowling Club". Like really, this again? Although I must admit I was ever so slightly torn when my friends really believed that this was the end (until I remembered that they might've missed out on the countless other 'ends' there'd been till now.) I was unmoved by this petition. 

13 July was supposed to be the last day that they had to be open. On Friday 12th July I was there. I saw that a friend I would have never pictured to be a Bowls Club attendee was there too, and I realized how much of a hold this place has over so many of us. And how much of a marketing tool this petition actually was.

And what to say to this having realized what a farce their 'closing down' parties have become? Well for me, it only encourages more of us to get together more often outside in the sun and end the week off with a sense of togetherness before Monday rears its ugly head. And that's not so bad after all. 

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Illustration by Leigh Le Roux
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Author Ksenija Micic
Date 03 September 2013

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