Remembering Marcy Skowronski
Aged 93, she ran the Holler House, the nation's oldest sanctioned bowling alley
When I began reviewing taverns for Urban Milwaukee in 2014 I made sure that the Holler House, 2042 W. Lincoln Ave., would be one of the first I would visit.
The Holler House:
- was a corner bar in a working class neighborhood
- had been in business and owned by the same family for over a century
- had been little altered over the years
- housed in its basement the nation’s two oldest sanctioned bowling lanes, tended to by human pinsetters.
Equally important, behind the bar I would find Marcy Skowronski, who at the time I visited, was 88 years old, making her among the oldest bartenders still working in the city. I wanted to be sure to visit while she was still around. As it turns out, I could have waited another five years, which happily, I did not. Last Thursday, December 5th, the former Marcella Snopek died at 93. A Mass of Christian Burial was held at Saint Mary’s Catholic Faith Community followed by burial today at Wood National Cemetery.
As Milwaukee as it Gets
When Marcy was not working in the bar, she was above it, in the apartment where her late husband Gene Skowronski (1920-1990) was born during Prohibition. His parents, who opened the place in 1908, operated it as a licensed soft drink parlor at that time, hiding liquor bottles in his crib. “Who would look for liquor in a baby’s crib?” Marcy would exclaim as she retold the story. On the day I visited, Marcy had declined a ticket to a Milwaukee Brewers game offered by a customer. She explained that she was so short that when the fans stood up, all she could see were their backsides, so why not catch the game on TV instead, where she could see the action on the field? She was funny, wisecracking, and, as her death notice mentions:
She was a bundle of energy and was always up to some sort of shenanigans 24 hours a day, which used to drive Gene crazy.
You want shenanigans? Once upon a time Marcy and the gals got to drinking, and turned the family tavern into a sort of strip club. They removed their bras and tossed them up in the rafters. (Marcy had a special closet in the basement filled with costumes that they could dress up in.) Over the years, dozens more brassieres were added by customers. It got to the point where the building inspector ordered them removed as a fire hazard. The order was immediately rescinded once Ald. Bob Donovan objected. The bras remain today.
Marcy and the Holler House represented a quintessential Milwaukee experience. No other combination of tavern and personality better defined the rapidly vanishing classic corner tavern scene in this city. As one customer recounted in the Journal Sentinel obituary of Marcy, “She had the funniest stories and it was just a hoot to listen to her.”
Indeed, Marcy Skowronski was a Hoot. And a Holler.
For more about Marcy and the Holler House bar, read our 2014 review.
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