Tuesday, August 21, 2012
The photo above depicts Freddie Voelpel's restaurant as it stood at 372 Hempstead Avenue between the years 1950-1957. Freddie Voelpel was a bowling legend who at one time captured the Long Island bowling championship in 1944. The following year, Voelpel was on track to win a second championship before he suffered a serious mishap. At his day job in the NY Daily News print room, he lost the tips of a couple fingers on his bowling hand when it got caught in a print roller. He managed to continue to bowl competitively after that, but he never returned to the top of his game.
Freddie Voelpel was part of a pretty substantial bowling culture that existed on Long Island back in the '40s and '50s, wherein names like George Young, Andy Varipapa, Joe Falcaro and Tony Sparando would compete in tournaments and bowling halls like Mid Isle Lanes (formerly Heinemen's) on Peninsula Ave in Hempstead (now the site of a public storage facility) and Falcaro's own hall in Lawrence (Falcaro's closed down only about ten years ago).
In 1944 Voelpel took his winnings and bought a stake in a bowling venue called Baldwin Modern Lanes, but then he made a business decision that would later come back to haunt him, one that he would later regret. Thinking that there was no commercial future in bowling, in February 1950 he sold his stake in Baldwin Modern and bought the restaurant you see pictured above. (He named it after himself because, well, he couldn't find a better name for it). This was right around the time when the deployment of automatic pin-setting machines was about to revolutionize the sport by obviating the need to rely on "pin-boys" to reset the pins. (Voelpel never gave these newfangled machines a chance but was the first to admit his mistake years later in an interview). As a result, commercial bowling would enjoy a huge upswing in the coming decades.
On the other side of the coin, around the same time that he got bought his restaurant, those local, family-run eating establishments such as Voelpel's were getting crowded out and losing business to cheaper fast-food joints that were popping up all over Long Island.
Freddie Voelpel was simply a victim of bad timing. Aside from that, the combination of his day job and managing the restaurant left him averaging around four hours of sleep a night with no time for any leisure activity. In 1957, he sold the tavern and moved to the South Shore where he bought a boat and lived his life in semi-retirement.