Laissez les bon temps roulez!

In Riverwest this cajun phrase takes on a whole new meaning. The good times keep rolling with a Polish flavor and a definite Milwaukee slant. The Alley, in this case, is down the stairs at the back of the Falcon Bowl on the corner of Clarke and Fratney. This place is a real landmark in Riverwest. It sits across from the Riverwest Co-op, a block west of St. Casimir’s steeple and a block south of Onopa. Eudemon comes in the front door and slides onto a bar stool and gives barkeep John Okopinski a nod. “Hi John, gimme a Klisch.” John obliges, putting the pint on a coaster in front of Eudemon. John has a dry wit. Some folks say he’s a grump but it isn’t so. He and his wife, Lynn, run the bar, bowling alley, and hall. They live upstairs. The neighborhood scene changes but the Okopinskis keep the taps flowing and the balls rolling through it all. It’s a good deal and Riverwesters know it. The rumble of the bowling balls and crashing of the pins finds its way up the stairs. Eudemon has come here to bowl, and his thoughts drift to the history of this place. How many balls thrown down the old alleys, how many weddings and parties in the hall, how many dance lessons, tumbling lessons, dart ball games, community meetings, Polish Falcon’s Nest events, spaghetti dinners, bowling leagues, tournaments? He remembers cleaning out a store basement on Holton Street. The basement was filled with the detritus of life. Things we don’t need but can’t quite throw away. Hiding in the corner was a trove of faded glory. Brass trophies with decades old patina filled a long shelf. Little men and women figures frozen on top of fluted columns, their arms thrown back, ready to hurl the ball at the offending pins. Eudemon kept one for himself. A Loving Cup heralding the 46th annual junior bowling State championship in 1948. “West of the River Juniors winning the championship 54 years ago” thought Eudemon, “and people are still rolling those balls tonight.” WEDNESDAY night is open bowling at the Falcon Bowl. Championships may not be on many bowlers’ minds on Wednesdays but having a good time is. Eudemon joins his friends and throws a few strikes. He is not a great bowler but he likes having a good time and the guy in the next lane with the mohawk and the girl with all the tattoos seem to be having a good time too. Eudemon pictures the collective soul of Riverwest floating above Fratney and Bremen Street somewhere between St. Casimir’s steeple and the Falcon Bowl. “Jesus, Bowling, and Beer.” He can see it: Once the Vicar invited the brewers to bring their jars of water to St. Casimir’s basement. He threw hops upon the waters and bade them brew good bock, ales, stouts, and pilsners. He gave a special blessing to Riverwest Stein Beer. “Go forth and consume a pint with care,” said the Vicar. Eudemon throws a gutter ball and the collective soul’s vibrations nudge a bit toward St. Casimir’s. Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 11 – December 2002