By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Aug 04, 2005 at 5:37 AM

{image1}John Okopinski wanted to renovate his Riverwest bar and bowling alley, the Polish Falcon's Nest 725 (aka "The Falcon Bowl"), but his patrons were adamantly against the idea.

"They told me to keep it (the same). That it was 'retro.' I had never heard that word before in my life," says Okopinski, 59, who has run the Nest since 1982 and lives above it with his wife, Lynn.

Hence, aestetically speaking, time stands still at 801 E. Clarke St., complete with two old school bars, wood-and-linoleum-floored "party room" where the Polish Falcons still meet every month and a six-lane bowling alley in the basement that, according to Okopinski, is the fourth oldest in the country, built between 1899 and 1901.

But many Falcon customers do not usually stand -- or sit -- still for long.

For most of the year, activities take place every night of the week. Cribbage on Monday nights; Wednesdays is dart ball -- a once-popular game where players throw darts at a 4x4-foot board embossed with a baseball diamond -- and bowling leagues swarm the scene every other night of the week, with "open bowling" on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 11 p.m.

Summer in the Nest is different. A little quieter, perhaps. Due to lack of air conditioning in the basement, Okopinski closes the bowling alley and suspends dart ball and cribbage leagues until Labor Day. Instead, he spends time behind the bar, watching baseball and catching up with his softball-playing pals who stop in after games.

"I have met such a variety of people here. So many customers who have become good friends," says Okopinski, a Milwaukee native who taught gymnastics for the Polish Falcons before running the bar.

The Polish Falcons of America is a not-for-profit fraternal benefit society and insurance company owned by insuranced members. Members belong to local "nests" where they hold monthly meetings and participate in social, civic and athletic activities.

The Polish Falcon's Nest, the only one left in Wisconsin, provides space for wedding receptions, anniversary parties, theater and dance performances and benefits for score of local groups.

Tap beer, shots and tavern pizzas are the usual fare, but mixed drinks and micro beers are also on the menu. "And we sell anything in a bag, you know, chips or whatever," he says.

Recently, Okopinkski, who grew up on the South Side, battled a serious illness. As soon as his health permitted, he got back into the nest where he says little has changed since his surgery.

"The only change, really, is I have to use a lighter bowling ball," he says.

The Falcon Bowl opens every night at 5 p.m.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.