Hannah Levine, 17, has been knitting since she was 8, and with ample time to spare during the pandemic, she’s put her needles to good use.

The San Bruno teen has been running Hannah’s Warm Hugs since middle school, knitting hundreds of hats and giving them to sick children in hospitals. In addition to hats, she’s made scarves, flags and sweaters and anything else you can make with a ball of yard and two needles and now a pandemic’s worth of time to kill.

In addition to making her own pieces, Hannah has enlisted friends and relatives — including her grandma who taught her to knit — to kick in with knitted and crocheted items, too.

She’s dropped off her creations at San Mateo Hospital and at Ronald McDonald House in Palo Alto. Because of the quarantine, she doesn’t get to see on which heads her hats end up. But she has a feeling about their effect.

“If you get a hat from a stranger, it’s different than if you get a hat made by someone you know,” she said. “A hat from a stranger says the community is there, right beside you. That you haven’t been forgotten.”

There are so many bags of hats waiting for new homes that they fill up a pair of living room chairs, forcing her family to find other places to sit down.

Hannah is so good at knitting hats that she can even do it while talking to a reporter about knitting hats.

“I’m a little bit on auto-pilot right now,” she said, answering questions by phone in her living room while making a yellow hat with white speckles.

Whenever she has a few moments that require little thinking — such as answering questions from the Chronicle — she picks up the needles.

A high school senior, Hannah says she plans to attend college and medical school somewhere or other and to keep knitting, even when the course load gets more challenging. The more you knit, she said, the less you need to think about it. Maybe someday, she will work in the same hospitals taking care of patients who once wore her hats.

Thinking all those thoughts made her fingers fly and, before long, the hat produced during a Chronicle interview was done. Into the living room bag it went. She said knitting during a news interview is a little like knitting while watching TV.

“You forget what you’re thinking about, and then you look down during a commercial or a break and you discover you’ve finished several rows without even knowing what you’re doing,” she said.

Bowled over: The last bowling pin has fallen at Cloverleaf Bowl in Fremont.

“I feel absolutely awful,’’ said owner Mike Hillman. “But there was nothing else I could do.”

In March, Hillman shut the front door for what he thought would be a couple of weeks. The other day, he made it official. Even when the pandemic ends, the 44-lane bowling alley that his grandpa bought half a century ago will not reopen.

But there’s a small silver lining. For the past weeks, Hillman has been selling off his beloved bowling palace piece by piece. A South Korean bowling alley bought 22 automatic pinsetters. A Daly City bowling alley bought spare parts for 20 more. And a Hayward pool hall bought two bowling lanes. Bowling will live on, even if Cloverleaf won’t.

“They’re been picking us clean,” Hillman said. “I feel like an organ donor.”

Still up for grabs are the automatic bumpers that kept a kid from rolling gutter balls. You can have those for $500 a lane which, Hillman said, is a “steal” if you are in the market for bowling alley bumpers. Over the years, each one has enabled countless kids to turn a gutter ball into a strike, and $500 is cheap for something that can do that.

For decades, Cloverleaf Bowl was a place for serious league bowling, the kind with trophies that go on mantels, and for little kid bowling, the kind with bumpers that keep the ball from landing in the gutter. Couples have fallen in love on the lanes and at least one couple has gotten married there. Before the shutdown, it was open 19 hours a day. You could start bowling at 7 a.m. and keep bowling until 2 a.m. On Saturday nights, the pins glowed in the dark. In the middle of the night, a game cost as little as $2.

Hillman, who rents the building, said the landlord told him the lease will not be renewed when it ends in 2023. There are plans for a housing development on the site. Bowlers have filled the lobby with protest signs.

“Keep Cloverleaf alive!” said one sign.

“Important part of Fremont’s past that should be part of our future!”

Five months with no income is harder to deal with than a 7-10 split, Hillman said. His argument that social-distance bowling is safe went nowhere. He promised to open only every other lane, to rub down the bowling balls with sanitizer, to squirt disinfectant in the rental shoes. But the State of California found bowling to be a non-essential service.

“They sent me a form letter,” Hillman said. “Nobody listens.”

Scores of distraught bowlers have posted condolence messages on Facebook after Hillman announced the closure.

“Grew up bowling there with my dad,” wrote Gary Hamamoto.

“Thanks for (getting) kids away from screen time,” wrote Suya Lee.

“You are the only culture this city has,” wrote Debi Pavlecic.

Karen Keever said she met her husband at Cloverleaf. DeAnn Okamura remembered holding her daughter’s 10th birthday party there and vowed to “keep that signed bowling pin forever.”

It’s the kind of moping that would have sent people to the bowling alley’s Spare Room lounge for a beer, except that’s closed, too.

Hillman understands. He’s been coming to Cloverleaf since he was 1, when he rolled his first bowling ball.

“It’s never just been about the bowling,” he said. “It’s been about our town and our family. A whole community has grown up here. It hurts to see it go.”

Steve Rubenstein is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @SteveRubeSF

Continue Reading