Jose Contreras


June 15, 2000

-- Story by Amy R. Spurgeon; photo by Don Leach


Not a pinhead.


Costa Mesa resident Jose Contreras has been the head mechanic at Kona

Lanes in Costa Mesa since 1990.

And when you enter the alley's double glass doors off Harbor Boulevard


and Mesa Verde, leave your attitude at home. This is his turf. And to

abuse the lanes is to disrespect him.

The 29-year-old father of three has watched many bowlers come and go. But

those 40 lanes are like his babies. And he will do whatever it takes to

make sure all 10 pins are set up correctly on each of them.


Once inside the building, bowlers can find a full-service snack bar,

lounge, arcade and pro shop. Bright orange plastic chairs from the early

1960s are arranged throughout and the scorecards are still just that --

cards, not automated gadgets.

Mosaic tiles in pink, brown and gray adorn the front entrance. And Lotto

machines, The Claw and soda fountains line the walls.

But the biggest attraction at the alley isn't visible to patrons.

Contreras' main duties take place behind the wall at the end of each

60-foot, oil-slicked lane.


The large machines responsible for moving downed pins, strategically

putting them back in place and returning bowling balls to players are

maintained daily by Contreras and his three-man crew.

"These machines are over 4 years old, so we do a lot of maintenance and

cleaning," said Contreras. "It's like a car."

Contreras estimates that each machine operates on 1,500 to 2,000 parts.

Support castings, pin cups, pit supports, pin guides, trip rods, pulleys,

spotty fingers, ear cushions, clutch plates and sleeve distributors are

just a few.

"I'll do anything to make them run," he said. "That's just the way I am."

Each machine has nine switches and a bundle of wires. But just like the

ocean demands respect from swimmers, the machines require careful


OUCH!Contreras has worked bowling alley maintenance long enough to

know that all switches need to be turned off before entering a machine.

But even pros can make mistakes.

One day Contreras attempted to dislodge a jammed ball from a machine when

another ball careened down the lane. Seconds later, he was in the

emergency room with a broken finger. Luckily, it was his first and only

injury so far.

"It was nothing," Contreras said. "I was doing my customer service. I do

the best I can to keep these things running, because it's all about the


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