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Hippodrome Bowling Alleys – The Hipp
Photos and article by Al Labelle

The official name was Hippodrome Bowling Alleys, but to many who lived in Southbridge from 1920 to 1988, it was simply the Hipp.  It had many existences and two locations. The first owners were Isaie Labelle, Louis J. (Jay) Labelle, and Adelard (Ed) Laperle.  The original Hipp opened on March 20, 1920.  It consisted of 12 alleys and 5 pool tables.  Jay Labelle was the manager. Initially, the name was to be the Auditorium Alleys, but since the location was in the basement of the Hippodrome Building at 6 Elm Street, the name was changed to Hippodrome Bowling Alleys.

The Hippodrome was an entertainment center opened on June 8, 1915 by the Blanchard Brothers, theatrical entrepreneurs.  It contained a large oval floor used for dancing, roller-skating, auto shows, and indoor sports.  Its capacity was 3,000 people.

In 1925, the Hippodrome was remodeled and on January 14, 1926, it reopened as the Strand Theater. Ed Laperle died on August 15, 1924.  His share of Hippodrome Bowling Alleys was sold by his widow, Mary, to Jay Labelle.  Isaie Labelle was Jay Labelle’s father and he died on February 11, 1931, leaving Jay Labelle sole owner. In 1940, the Hipp was expanded to 16 alleys and 6 pool tables. On June 6, 1941, Jay Labelle died and his sons, Albert (Al) Labelle and Jay L. Labelle became the owners of Hippodrome Bowling Alleys.  After a few years, Jay Labelle sold his portion to his brother, Al Labelle.

In October, 1963, the Hipp moved from 6 Elm Street to 121 Ashland Avenue.  The official opening was October 28, 1963.  Using the vernacular of the time, it was now doing business as Hippodrome Lanes. In 1970, Al Labelle retired and his son, Albert (AJ) Labelle, Jr., took over ownership of the Hipp.

On May 5, 1988, AJ Labelle sold Hippodrome Bowling Alleys, Inc. to Marc Arsenault.  The doors were closed for the sale.  Given the economic realities of the times, they never reopened.

Don and Jan Whitney bowling at the Hippodrome in early 1950's
(photos by Bob Haynes)

Photo of Al Labelle in my office - March 5, 2009

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