Marnette's  tavern is the oldest building in Lester. It was moved to the present location from across the Rock Island tracks. It was a bowling alley at one time with a lodge hail upstairs. George bought the building in 1929 for $200.00. It had three pool tables in the large part at one time. Before World War II, George took out the tables and put cement on the vacant lot next door thinking that he would add on. War came and plans were forgotten. During the war, the one pool table was moved to the back room and Mary and George started frying hamburgers on Saturday nights. Eventually they put in ice cream, candy and started serving coffee.

The following is a tribute from Bob Vogel, a great nephew.

George Marnette lived in Lester, Iowa, an obscure little farm town with less than five hundred residents. The biggest key to his character was the pool hall he ran. (More aptly called a saloon.) The two story building on the corner served as home and business for George and looked like the last surviving remnant of a once thriving boom town. There was a metal sign on the side of the building that no one had been able to read for years. It was more to hold the building together than for identification. The handful of regulars during the week didn’t need a sign and on Saturday night when the streets were lined with cars (they still park in the middle of the road) the pool hall was the only place open anyway.

Stepping inside the screen door, the same old spring slammed the door with a bang that was so familiar it’s not noticed anymore. Everyone was greeted by name as they stepped in and only those familiar enough did not need to stop and adjust to the sudden darkness. The place was lighted only by old beer signs whose clear coverings had yellowed with the smoke of many tons of tobacco.

The uncovered wooden floor and the long oak bar added to the darkness. There were tall wooden stools to elevate you “belly up’ to the bar. The wall behind the bar was cluttered with old fading pictures, each having its own story, and displays of products having long since gone out of business. The newcomer could spend hours exploring these knick-knacks, but an old Hamm’s beer sign with its “land of sky blue waters” stimulated your thirst.

George was there, sitting on his stool or leaning against the bar puffing on his ever-present cigarette. With a voice that had rusted with the Edsel out in the salvage yard George always said, “Hello, Bobby”. (Hello pronounced Yellow). His tall, lean frame with weather beaten skin stretched over it, moved methodically to serve you, then settled back to ask how you were. Inevitably George was lured into telling stories about his days out West.

After journeying from town to town working wherever he could find a job, George left the West. The West was being tamed from the rugged existence it once was. The crazy old characters George met in the silver mines who “knew how to live” after coming out of their deep graves are no longer around. George told of the hazardous task of tunneling through the earth in search of silver with little fresh air to breathe and in constant fear of a fire or cave-in.

George had traces of the stories he told in the lines on his face, his scarred hands, and the tired look in his eye. He seemed sad that such wild times had passed, but I felt that George, sitting behind the bar of the pool hall preserved a part of a less sophisticated time. The pool hail has been remodeled and made into a supper club now. The decor is supposedly rustic but, with George, the sign has disappeared and any feeling of country life has been lost to a new, profit-making generation. George and the pool hall represented more than a lost relative or building. Both are gone now, there can be no replacements.

The antique bar was preserved (how pleased George would have been)! A slight adjustment was made to get it to fit in the “new” lounge.


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