Big Ed

I first ran into Big Ed when I saw his ad in the phone book for Big Ed’s Hotel:

Big Ed's Hotel in the 1940 Racine phone book

Big Ed’s Hotel in the 1940 Racine phone book

Naming a hotel “Big Ed’s” seemed so odd and casual to me. Later on, I found out that there were many small hotels in Racine that catered to factory workers who would rent by the week. That made sense. I imagined Big Ed was a big tough guy who would have been able to control a rowdy group of factory workers.

Then I saw this ad for Big Ed’s Bowling Hotel & Alleys posted by Dennis Tully, and it features his wife, who was a state bowling champion. “Beginners prefer Big Ed’s because instructions in the game are cheerfully given.” Hmm. Doesn’t sound like such a bad guy …

Big Ed Mandernak's bowling alley

Big Ed Mandernak’s bowling alley

I learned a lot more about Big Ed from the bowling ad, including his last name, Mandernack. What else could I learn by searching my Racine books and the Internet?


Grand opening, 1917

Grand opening, 1917

Big Ed's Hotel, 1921. Great write-up of the building and the business, and of Big Ed's career

Big Ed’s Hotel, 1921. Great write-up of the building and the business, and of Big Ed’s career

Big Ed Mandernak himself tried to sell his hotel and bowling alley on January 24, 1930. It seems like he was tired of it. I wonder if he was successful and the new owner kept the name — or, was he not successful and he had to keep the hotel?

Bowling alley for sale, January 24, 1930

Bowling alley for sale, January 24, 1930

Rooms at Big Ed’s Hotel cost $1.50 to $4 per week in 1935. That would be from $26.31 to $70.15 per week in 2015 dollars.


There was a fire in Big Ed’s Hotel on April 16, 1954.

Fire in Big Ed's Hotel on April 16, 1954

Fire in Big Ed’s Hotel on April 16, 1954

We knew about the bowling alley, but there was also a restaurant and a tavern. Big Ed’s was a full-service establishment.

Matchbook cover from Big Ed's

Matchbook cover from Big Ed’s

Big Ed's Hotel, 1937

Big Ed’s Hotel, 1937

Here’s a nice obituary from Find A Grave,

Birth: Apr. 28, 1880
Death: Jul. 4, 1940

Racine Journal Times
July 15, 1940

Edward A. Mandernack, Sr., 60, Bowling Alley, Hotel Owner, Dies

Heart Trouble Ends Career of Racine

Sportsman and Business Man; Planned to Sell State Street Property and Retire

Edward A. (Big Ed) Mandernack, Sr., 60, one of Racine’s most colorful sportsmen, died at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at his home, 1351 State street, following a heart attack. Mr. Mandernack, who operated bowling alleys here for many years and who is credited with having made the game popular with women, planned to retire next Wednesday and enjoy a trip through the north.

Lifetime Resident.

Born April 29, 1880, in Somers, Kenosha county, Mr. Mandernack came to Racine as a child and spent the remainder of his life here. He went into bowling as a business following his own success as a star bowler. Friends in his youth nicknamed him “Big Ed,” and the name clung to him throughout his life. Twenty years ago, when women were first taking to the sport, Mr. Mandernack developed a women’s team, which established a new world’s title. Ever since that time, he catered to women’s teams and this year reconstructed his alleys on State street to include a finely appointed reception room for them.

Planned to Retire.

Receiving an offer for sale of the property, Mr. Mandernack was on the point of selling and spending the remainder of his life in a country home, his friends said. The deal was to have been closed next Wednesday. Besides his interest in bowling, Mr. Mandernack was a patron of many boys’ teams in basketball, soft ball and hard ball. He purchased equipment for groups when he felt they really were interested in any sport. In 1939, he backed a senior league soft ball team. Mr. Mandernack was a member of the Eagles, the State Street Business and Professional Men’s association and the Wisconsin and National Proprietors of Bowling Alleys. Survivors are his wife; two sons, Daniel and George Mandernack; two brothers, Peter Mandernack of Kenosha county and Nick Mandernack of Racine; four sisters, Mrs. Peter Pfeiffer and Mrs. Emma Cabels, both of Racine, Mrs. Emil Johnson of Arcadia, Mich., and Mrs. Frank Miller of Kenosha county, and one grandchild. The body was removed to the Heibering funeral home. Funeral announcement will appear later.

Family links:
Mathias Mandernach (1832 – 1893)
Elizabeth Kramer Mandernach (1857 – 1921)

Amanda G. Larsen Mandernack (1881 – 1961)*

Katherine Mandernach Olson (1872 – 1935)*
Elizabeth Mandernach Schliesmann (1876 – 1915)*
Edward Andrew Mandernack (1880 – 1940)
Peter J. Mandernach (1882 – 1975)*
Nicholas Mandernach (1884 – 1957)*
Appolonia Mandernach Schroeder (1885 – 1916)*
Louise M. Mandernach Miller (1888 – 1981)*
Emma Mandernach Cabels (1891 – 1969)*

*Calculated relationship

Note: Surname also spelled Mandernach.

Holy Cross Cemetery
Racine County
Wisconsin, USA
Plot: Block 4, Lot 27

4 thoughts on “Big Ed

  1. My uncle, Leif Larson, owned and ran Big Ed’s from 1964 into the ‘80’s. It was appropriately named Big Leif’s. I believe he and my aunt Nancy bought it from Louie Papara.

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