Pete Katic (1897 – 1943) was born in Austria-Hungary. Pete and his family arrived in the United States in 1904 and settled in the West Park area of Cleveland, Ohio. Margaret Kovacs (1899 – 1980) was born in Czechoslovakia. Margaret and her family also settled in West Park.
Pete and Margaret married on October 21, 1921. They lived in the home of Pete’s parents, Mike and Barbara Katic, who, in 1911, constructed a two-story 26-x-36 foot house which still stands at 12404 Bennington Avenue.
A neighborhood landmark was established in 1920 when Pete Katic, a barber by trade, built a 29-x-35 foot, two-story frame building at 4676 West 130th Street which housed a first-floor store with a 4-bedroom dwelling upstairs where Pete’s daughters Dorothy (1922), and Helen (1924) were born. Pete operated his barbershop and a pool hall on the first floor. The prohibition of alcohol, then in effect, limited Pete’s sales to homemade wine, soft drinks, candy and tobacco products.
Cleveland was, at that time, the 5th largest city in the United States and a growing bowling town. In the back of the building, Pete originally built a 4-lane bowling alley (26-x-95 feet) and named it the West 130th Recreation Hall. Also around this time, blueprints were designed depicting plans to build a larger recreation center at West 140th Street and Lorain Avenue, where Pete owned property. The Depression stalled those plans because banks had no available money for investments, so instead Pete added more lanes to West 130th Recreation in 1930.
With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Pete installed a 30-foot handmade mahogany full-service bar in his establishment, serving cocktails, cordials, beer and spirituous liquors. No more relying on wine and soft drinks! The pool hall was shortened to one table with added seating, and the barbershop was remodeled to a serviceable kitchen. “The Rec” had weekday open bowling, 7 pm and 9 pm nightly for mens, womens, business and church leagues, along with Saturday open-bowling and leagues.
Through the years, many neighborhood teens were employed part-time to work as “alley boys” or “pin chasers”. You could usually identify them by a jammed finger or two. Their duties included clearing fallen pins by hand, then setting the lanes and returning the bowling balls as quickly as possible to the players. By 1936 wooden pinsetters were developed, operated by using a rope and lever system to raise and lower the wooden lift frame to reset the pins. It was quicker but still hazardous work.
In 1938 with bowling becoming more popular than ever, Pete was approached by Clevelander Sam Levine, editor of an up-and-coming bowling publication titled The Cleveland Kegler which would become one of the oldest bowling newspapers in the country. While Pete supported the newly found weekly, he became good friends with Sam. Often during Sam’s visits to the bowling alley Pete would take time from his bar duties and bowl a game or two with Sam, with the loser springing for the check. But when it came time to pay, Pete always covered it.
When Pete died of heart failure in 1945, his wife Margaret continued the family-oriented business with daughters Helen, Dorothy, and Dorothy’s husband Andrew Joniak. It was difficult to lose the head of the household and business manager, but the desire and need to succeed resulted in an informal home-like social atmosphere. Helen married Joe Hosta and raised son Russ, and daughters Lynn and Roberta (Robby) at the Rec, and all participated in the family business.
In 1957 one of the first AMF state-of-the-art, fully automatic pinsetters in the West Park area was installed at the West 130th Rec. This resulted in alley duties going from a manual setting, to a much more efficient way to sweep the lanes. Pins were set with improved accuracy and ball return.
Daughter Helen took after her father Pete. An avid bowler, she brought attention to West 130th Recreation when she was the only Clevelander to win four match game championships. She qualified for the National All-Star Tournaments 10 times. She finished 5th in 1952 with a 190 average and won the All Events title in 1949 in the CWBA tournament. Helen was named to the Cleveland Kegler All-Star first team four times. She toured with the Professional Women’s Bowling circuit, carrying a lifetime 180 average. In 1978 Helen’s achievements were recognized when she was inducted into the Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame.
When Helen retired in 1985 there was an opportunity to sell the business. West 130th Recreation was purchased by an investor who operated it a few years before going out of business. The building went up for auction. The great-grandson of the carpenter who built the bar was excited to find it and successfully bid for it. The back-bar was initially sold to the Big Fun store in Coventry. Subsequently it was sold to Zappitelli’s Family Pizzeria in Mentor where Helen’s family saw the fully restored and operating back-bar upon a visit in 2010.
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Updated 1 June 2014