A trip down memory lane for the Gateway

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A mainstay of Wood County is being demolished. Brick by brick, board by board, Gateway Lanes in Mineola is being torn down to make way for an ABC Parts store and warehouse. Some say it’s progress, but most feel that it’s a great loss.

“The bowling alley was an intricate part of this town. It’s regrettable that it’s gone,” says Racheal Everett, owner of the beauty shop beside the bowling alley on East Broad St.

The original bowling center was established in 1960 when local businessmen pooled their money to create a 10-lane bowling alley in the Ford agency building. It was nothing more than a small building with wooden lanes and outdated machines when Bill and Lois Trammel came along.

Originally from Emory, the Trammels spent 22 years in the Air Force traveling the world. Bill Trammel was an aircraft mechanic and later an instructor on aircraft ejector seats. Everywhere Bill traveled, Lois was by his side. While in the military, bowling became a favorite past time for them. 

When Bill retired as an Air Force master sergeant, their family moved back to East Texas to begin a new life. While working as an assistant manager at a Dallas bowling alley, he purchased a bowling pro shop. It was during that time that Bill heard about a small bowling center for sale in Mineola. 

The bowling center was small and crowded, but the Trammels saw potential. The bank loaned them 90% of the sale price, and the Trammels, along with their two children, moved to Mineola in 1982. 

When the Trammels invested in that little 10-lane bowling center, they were really investing in the community. They felt welcomed and part of something larger than just a business because they made the community part of them. Every person that walked through the doors became family, and every child was “adopted” by the Trammels.

“You could bring your kids and not have to worry about them. I wouldn’t let anything happen with anyone there,” says Bill, “If kids got rowdy, I got rowdy with them. Everyone watched everyone’s kids. It was a community type feel.”

The Trammels began enlarging and updating the building. First, they put in synthetic lanes and automatic scoring. Then they borrowed more money to put in an 18-hole miniature golf course. After three years, it was costing more to run the mini-golf than it was making. Bill took out the mini-golf and converted the area to a game room with pool tables. Later, he opened the bar.

People came from all around the county, as well as Lindale and Tyler, to join the leagues and enjoy time with their friends and family. One of the largest leagues around, a full 10-lane senior citizen league, met once a week at Gateway Lanes. 

Bill not only owned the bowling alley but remained active in the sport also. He has bowled six 300 games and won three rings from the American Bowling Congress. 

Lois was the heart of the business. Ultimately, it was the business that hurt her. In 2014, while bringing supplies into the bowling alley, she fell and broke her hip. The accident started a chain of events that led to a stroke. She’s never fully recovered. Bill became her caregiver.

The Trammels, now 85, tried to sell the center but had little luck. 

“I wanted to keep it as a bowling alley for everyone to use. I even asked the city to make a community center out of it, but I feel like no one has tried to work with us,” says Bill.

The Trammels dedicated their lives to Gateway Lanes, but in the end, it just wasn’t enough. In 2018 the property went into foreclosure, and they still owe $40,000 on an outstanding note for updates.

Trammel says it breaks his heart every time he drives by the alley.

“I miss the companionship with the people the most,” he says, “We watched kids grow up there and then their kids.”

The people in the community miss them, too. Todd Evans recounts going to the bowling alley to shoot pool and listen to the jukebox with his friends.

“I was at the bowling alley the first time I heard Nirvana, and I said that band will never amount to anything. I was wrong. I was also there when I heard Billy Ray Cyrus for the first time. I said that man would never amount to anything, and I was right,” laughed Evans.

Gabbi Woodruff remembers going to the bowling alley on weekend nights after work. “It’s one of those places where everyone in the town has a memory in it. It makes me sad that it’s going to be gone,” she says.

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