A man walked into 2105 Eastern Ave. yesterday to look the place over, thinking about buying it from a family that has owned the building for 65 years.
Bernie Ruzin hopes the guy likes to bowl.
That's what people do at 2105 Eastern Ave., that is what they have done there just about every day since October 1927.
They bowl: seven lanes upstairs, seven lanes downstairs, $1.50 a game, seven days a week.
"I was 6 years old when my father bought this place; it used to be a broom factory," said Mr. Ruzin, now 70. "I remember my father taking me down there and walking on the rafters before the alleys were put down. He was born in Krakow, Poland, came here when he was 16 and opened a grocery store at Collington and Gough -- that's where I was born -- and one day he opened a bowling alley out of the clear blue sky. My father was a pretty shrewd old man."
Mr. Ruzin still loves bowling -- he was the Evening Sun duckpin tournament champ in 1961 with a 133-pin average -- but he
doesn't want to work anymore.
So he's got the old Patterson Bowling Center on the market, a fun house just cater-cornered from Holy Rosary Church on Chester Street, perhaps the only bowling alley in Baltimore with a tin ceiling.
A sign on the wall heralds current high rollers -- Dorothy Ciuchta with a three-game set of 447 pins and Paul Becker with 482 -- and a golden eagle glares out from a shield of stars and stripes hung on a column halfway down the alley.
"All of my life's been spent in that bowling alley. I met my wife, Vera, there. She was walking by outside one day while I was looking out the window and I walked her home," Mr. Ruzin said. "Now we want to get out. Not that we didn't enjoy it. Plenty of memories."
A lifetime of memories acknowledged by a big sign that patrons see on their way outside, a handmade sign that says: "Vera and Bernie Thank You."
They are the parents of two grown children who "don't want anything to do with an alley," he said. "I've had it for sale for over a year now."
Lou Krasnodemski worked there as a pin boy when he was a teen-ager, back before the Brunswick automatic pin setters were installed in 1960.
Now 55, Mr. Krasnodemski is the alley's only full-time employee.
He rents shoes, sweeps the lanes, works the register, and fixes the gears and chains behind the scenes with a pair of pliers he keeps in the back pocket of his work pants.
"You never know if somebody else will keep it as a bowling alley," he said. "It doesn't make any difference to me. I'm getting a little too old to be climbing over the top of the machines."
Across his right eyebrow, he wears the badge of a pin-boy -- a small scar left behind by a flying duckpin that cracked him in the temple.
"You had to sit back there behind the pins before they had the automatic ball rack and you had to watch so you didn't get hit," he said, pointing to the thin white line above his eye. "I had to get a couple of stitches."
Patterson Bowling is most busy when various leagues are competing -- the senior citizens from the Booth Center or grade-schoolers from Holy Rosary who heave balls down the wooden fairway as a nun keeps score.
"A lot of our league members are dying off," said Mr. Krasnodemski, marveling that the cost of renting shoes has only risen from 15 cents to 50 cents in 35 years. "We used to have eight teams in the senior citizens' league on Wednesday afternoons. Now its down to eight ladies. A lot of them died or had strokes or just got too old to bowl."
Mr. Ruzin simply hopes that 2105 Eastern Ave. isn't too old for bowling.
"I'm going to meet with the guy who's interested in buying again next week," he said. "He wants to keep it as a bowling alley. I hope he does. We have a good business, a good crowd comes in here.
"But I'm done with bowling," he said. "I love bowling, I'll tell you that. It was a great thing for me, but I'm done now."