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‘Old-school-style’ Astoria bowling alley a mecca for ‘Goonies’ faithful

Lower Columbia Bowl and Clatsop County's old jail were not as featured in "The Goonies" as the Goonies house or Ecola State Park, but have still garnered almost as much interest from fans.
By Kyle Spurr

The Daily Astorian

Published on June 3, 2015 10:00AM

Last changed on June 3, 2015 10:02AM

Owner Dave Palmberg, front, and manager Casey Gray, back, stand near the window shown in “The Goonies” at Lower Columbia Bowl. The window was featured in a scene where Chunk, played by Jeff Cohen, smashed a milkshake and pizza slice into it while watching a police chase.

JOSHUA BESSEX — The Daily Astorian

Owner Dave Palmberg, front, and manager Casey Gray, back, stand near the window shown in “The Goonies” at Lower Columbia Bowl. The window was featured in a scene where Chunk, played by Jeff Cohen, smashed a milkshake and pizza slice into it while watching a police chase.

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Owner Dave Palmberg stands by a map on the wall showing where visitors to the bowling alley came from. According to the map, people have come from every state and many counties to visit Lower Columbia Bowl.

JOSHUA BESSEX — The Daily Astorian

Owner Dave Palmberg stands by a map on the wall showing where visitors to the bowling alley came from. According to the map, people have come from every state and many counties to visit Lower Columbia Bowl.

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Layers and layers of Goonies-related notes are shown on a board in the Oregon Film Museum Tuesday.

JOSHUA BESSEX — The Daily Astorian

Layers and layers of Goonies-related notes are shown on a board in the Oregon Film Museum Tuesday.

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JOSHUA BESSEX — The Daily Astorian
Manager Casey Gray flips through a sign-in book near the window at Lower Columbia Bowl.

JOSHUA BESSEX — The Daily Astorian Manager Casey Gray flips through a sign-in book near the window at Lower Columbia Bowl.

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A printout of the scene in which Lower Columbia Bowl is featured hangs on a wall.

JOSHUA BESSEX — The Daily Astorian

A printout of the scene in which Lower Columbia Bowl is featured hangs on a wall.

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Data’s jacket, along with an array of inventions, including the Bully Buster and the control panel for Slick Shoes, are on display at the Oregon Film Museum.

JOSHUA BESSEX — The Daily Astorian

Data’s jacket, along with an array of inventions, including the Bully Buster and the control panel for Slick Shoes, are on display at the Oregon Film Museum.

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In the opening scene of “The Goonies,” the sinister Fratellis flee from the county jail — now the Oregon Film Museum — and the crime family takes police on a high-speed chase through Astoria. The chase causes beloved Goonie Chunk to leap from his arcade game toward a window, where he smears pizza and spills his milkshake in excitement.

Chunk’s location is never explained in the film, but Goonies fans have discovered the brief scene was shot inside Lower Columbia Bowl, Astoria’s local bowling alley. Fans call it Chunk’s Bowling Alley.

Lower Columbia Bowl Manager Casey Gray said he is still surprised the scene, which only lasted about 10 seconds, resonated so much with Goonies fans that they make it a point to visit the bowling alley.

“There was no mention of the bowling alley in the movie,” Gray said. “If you blinked, you missed it.”

Gray is expecting thousands of fans to come through his bowling alley this weekend for the 30th anniversary of the film. The bowling alley will host 1980s-themed cosmic bowling Friday and Saturday night in celebration of the cult classic.

During the Goonies’ 25th anniversary, Gray said, about 3,000 people visited the bowling alley. Up to 10,000 could come this weekend.

“We just want them to come in and bowl and have fun,” Gray said.


Same window as Chunk


Throughout the year, the bowling alley welcomes a few fans a day interested in looking out the same window as Chunk. The view is of Marine Drive toward the Astoria Bridge.

“We see that on a normal basis. They are on the coast and come through. I’d say three-fourths just stop in, and don’t bowl,” Gray said.

About six years ago, the bowling alley put a guest book by the window for Goonies fans to sign. Above the guest book is a world map, where fans can mark where they live.

The map is filled with dots in all 50 states and various countries around the world.

Multiple guest books have been added, and include messages similar to those found in a high school yearbook.

Gray plans to remove the dots from the map and start fresh for the 30th anniversary.

“People get bummed if someone already put a dot on the map where they are from,” Gray said.

Gray has met Goonies fans from New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and other countries throughout Europe. One fan came from Tibet with a translator.

A woman came in with a Goonies tattoo across her stomach, and a man visited with a tattoo of Chunk on his arm. Jeff Cohen, the actor who played Chunk, has come back to the bowling alley a couple of times.

“It’s fun to meet people from where they are from and hear their stories,” Gray said.


Old jail


Along with the bowling alley, Goonies fans enjoy seeing Clatsop County’s old jail, used in the opening scene of the movie.

The jail and bowling alley were not as featured in the movie as the Goonies house on 38th Street or Ecola State Park, but have still attracted almost as much interest from fans.

The jail was operational until the 1970s, when the county built a new jail and used the old one as storage and office space.

In June 2010, the old jail was transformed into the Oregon Film Museum in time for the Goonies’ 25th anniversary.

McAndrew Burns, executive director of the Clatsop County Historical Society, which oversees the Oregon Film Museum, said the jail always had an allure to fans.

“Goonies fans have wanted to see that jail ever since the movie came out,” Burns said. “Folks would talk their way in and staff would let them in. Short of the Goonies house, this is one of the spots all the Goonies fans really want to see.”

Attendance at the Film Museum has increased from 9,099 visitors the first year to more than 25,000 in 2014. Nearly 9,000 have already visited this year.

“For people who came for the 25th anniversary, it’s a very different museum than it was then,” Burns said. “It’s a whole bunch more interactive than it used to be. We hope to keep growing and keep doing more.”


Old-school style


Dave Palmberg, owner of Lower Columbia Bowl since 1989, said the bowling alley was owned by a group called Lower Columbia Bowl Inc. during the filming of the movie.

Palmberg does not recall how the bowling alley was included in the film.

“I’m sure they talked to the manager at the time and said we’d like to take some shots,” he said.

The old-school-style building, as Palmberg describes it, was built in 1946 as a car dealership and garage. It became a bowling alley in 1956.

Since the filming, Gray said, the floor has been raised and the carpet and windows have changed. The original windows seen in the film were destroyed in the Great Coastal Gale of 2007.

Despite the upgrades, Goonies fans can still look out the window in surprise like Chunk.

Fans this weekend are just asked not to spill any milkshakes or smear pizza on the window.

“We will need a case of glass cleaner,” Gray said. “Everyone will put their hands on it.”







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