A Tribute to Larry Donovan, owner of Gala Lanes and the Galaxy World Arcade

Larry Donovan (1928-2012)

Larry Donovan was born in 1928 in Kalamazoo, MI.  He grew up on the family farm in Lawrence and later moved to the city of Paw Paw. He was also a citizen of Halifax, Nova Scotia. In high school Larry was an outstanding athlete with varsity letters in football, baseball, basketball, and track. It was with no surprise when he went on to college at the University of Notre Dame. Larry graduated in the class of 1950 with a degree in finance. He had a strong work ethic after graduating and in 1959 he opened up a bowling alley in Kankakee, IL. He named it Gala Lanes.

The Gala Lanes concept was such a success in Kankakee that Larry opened two additional locations in Carol Stream (Gala North) and Naperville (Gala West), with Kankakee being Gala South. It wasn’t documented why the Carol Stream and Naperville locations were chosen but they too were very successful.  One of the draws of Gala Lanes was the arcade, named Galaxy World.  The arcade was an addition to Gala Lanes after Disco went out. Unlike most bowling alleys that had a half dozen arcade machines, Galaxy World had well over a hundred. While Mom and Dad were bowling in their leagues, the kids would be in the arcade playing games.

The Carol Stream location specifically was unique since the arcade token was designed with two grooves on one side.  One reason for the unique token was that Carol Stream was a test market site for Midway Games located in Franklin Park, IL.  The second reason was that you couldn't bring tokens from other arcades and use them in the grooved slots of the coin mechanisms.  However, if you had any left over you could use them at other competing arcades! Marketing brilliance. If you look carefully at Larry’s coin design it also appears (speculation) that the 3 larger stars resemble the locations of Gala Lanes on a map. Carol Stream, Naperville, and Kankakee.

Galaxy World T-Shirts (click shirt to purchase)

Gala Lanes and the Galaxy World Arcade 

Larry was an avid golfer, a member of the Medinah County Club (Medinah, IL), and Oakland Hills Country Club (Birmingham, MI). Larry loved to ballroom dance, and most importantly was a lifelong fan of the Chicago Bears. He was a joke teller, loved to sing, to hear a good story, and always had a smile on his face.

We all have memories of playing arcade games, winning prizes, or being banned from the Galaxy World if not once, multiple times.  It’s been over 20 years since the Galaxy World / Gala Lanes name has been sold and gone. Larry sold Gala Lanes / Galaxy World to the Brunswick Corporation in 1997. Seventeen years later (2014) Brunswick sold its bowling interests to Bowlero Corporation.  In 2018, the Carol Stream location was razed. 

Larry Donovan touched thousands across the Chicagoland area with Galaxy World. He did business the right way.  In tribute to Larry, Hanker Personalized Products in Lombard, IL brings you the Galaxy World t-shirt. We are sure that this will bring back great memories of the arcade era. In the request of Larry Donovan’s obituary posting (2012) it was asked that contributions be made to both the University of Notre Dame, and the Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center in Augusta, Michigan.  Hanker will honor this by making a contribution (no grooved tokens) from the proceeds of the Galaxy World T-Shirts.


Hanker Personalized Products
413 Crescent Blvd
Lombard, IL 60148