The bowling alley opened September 1959 at 146 East City Center in St. George with several owners including: R.M. Reber, Bill Barlocker, Charlies Pickett, A.W. McGregor, M.K. “Conrad” McGregor, Klein Adams, Maeser Terry, Bill Hackwell, Doyle Sampson, and Grant Clove with the intention of providing a recreational facility for local residents. In 1963, R.M. Reber bought out the other partners and became sole owner of the business.
It opened with 8 lanes and included four billiard tables and a snack bar with Ray Thompson running the Dixie Bowl. The bowling machines came from Brunswick company and included the first automatic pin setters.
The public responded favorably with a steady patronage, and morning women’s leagues were started, which tradition continues to this day, Horlacher said.
By 1968, the Dixie Bowl’s business had dwindled. At that time, Horlacher’s husband, Chuck began managing the bowling alley and the facility was remodeled with four more bowling lanes added. An arcade room was also installed on the west side of the bowling alley. In addition, men’s and women’s leagues were organized, along with mix doubles leagues. There is also a junior league that bowls on Tuesday evenings.
Enthusiasm for bowling picked up again, and MaryAnn Horlacher said a number of local bowlers became regulars, unless health issues intervened. Some of these regulars included: Marilyn and Ray Squires, Lorna McArthur Rogers and Doris Hutchings.
Another regular bowler is Wanda Herman. She is 81 years old and still bowls in two leagues and is president of one of the leagues, plus she runs the bowling alley snack bar and cleans the facility, MaryAnn Horlacher said.
Nick Nackos, 92, and his wife, Laura, 90, are another set of regular bowlers. Nick bowls in three leagues while Laura bowls in four leagues. Gus Penzari at 94 years old, also still bowls at Dixie Bowl.
What is it about bowling that appeals to all ages?
MaryAnn believes it is because bowling is such a social sport. It is both an individual and team sport, which builds comraderie. It also helps that Dixie High and Pine View High Schools hold twice a week bowling classes at Dixie Bowl. Dixie State University also holds bowling classes here as well.
“We have so many birthday and Scout troop parties and business and Christmas parties here at Dixie Bowl,” MaryAnn Horlacher adds. “It is so family friendly. On Friday and Saturday nights, parents will drop off their kids here because they know they will be safe and have fun.”
“We care,” said MaryAnn Horlacher. “We know them (the patrons). It’s like your neighborhood soda fountain. “When so many things have gotten so impersonal, Dixie Bowl hasn’t.”
MaryAnn said there were two things her husband, Chuck would never change about the Dixie Bowl. First, he would never consider installing underground ball returns, because people like to see the ball visually returned. Second, he would never consider removing the wooden settee benches where bowlers sit, because the benches help bring people closer together than if there were just chairs.
Another family business tradition is the snack bar, which includes the original grill from the business’s 1959 opening.
“We have the best cheeseburgers in St. George,” MaryAnn Horlacher said. “because they are cooked on a seasoned grill.” The snack bar menu also includes hamburgers, corn dogs, fish sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, French fries, onion rings and tator tots, plus homemade tartar sauce and fry sauce.
Another unusual aspect associated with the snack bar is that over 50 years of gum is stuck under the snack bar counter, and Chuck Horlacher directed that the gum never be removed, “because it is history in the making.”
From the time the bowling alley opened, it also had a jukebox which played musical favorites until the 1990s when it was replaced by a CD player.
Above the bowling lanes, an original clock advertised “Adams and Pendleton Chevrolet Cadillac.” The clock was later updated and still today advertises “Bradshaw Ford Mercury.”
Chuck Horlacher died on Aug. 31, 2009 at the bowling alley. His son-in-law Robert McCombs now manages the Dixie Bowl. Curtis Reber, John Reber’s son, and a nephew of MaryAnn and Chuck Horlacher, also worked at the bowling alley for about 20 years.
Another main stay at the bowling alley is a rotary dial telephone, which is still used by management.
“I love the people,” MaryAnn Horlacher said. “The people I’ve met through here have become good friends. There’s something about a bowling alley that brings you back to a small town feeling, and it’s something you can keep doing no matter how old you get.”