Rare Skee-Ball machines burn in fire, but Chicago community comes together to keep league going

A fire that gutted an Albany Park brewery a week ago also took something that couldn’t be replaced: vintage Skee-Ball machines. They were the pride and joy of a little known Chicago league.

"I was just in shock. I screamed for my wife... like ‘Amy, Amy, the machines are on fire," said Chicago Skee-Ball League founder Mike Fraser.

When the Twisted Hippo was devastated by the fire, Fraser’s dreams burned along with it.

"We were just crushed, kind of like, what do you say, what do you do, you know?" said longtime member James Schwark.

Inside were three rare Skee-Ball machines, produced by a Wisconsin company, that are no longer in production.

"I just couldn't believe it. I couldn't process. I was very much stuck and I didn't cry until later," said Fraser, who founded the league in 2011.

"At the end of the day when you see someone going through hardships, the first thing that anybody in this league would say is ‘how do I help them?’" said Schwark.

And that’s exactly what they did. Schwark and his wife Sarah started a "GoFundSkee" raising more than $20,000 in days to support Fraser and help him buy new machines.

"It's easy to do good things for good people. Kind of like what comes around, goes around," said Schwark.

"It was one of the worst weeks and best weeks of my entire life," said Fraser.


With the finals on the line, Glascott’s Saloon in Lincoln Park also stepped up to host the championships. They happen to have two of the vintage machines.

The championships raise money for The Leukemia Research Foundation.

A new "skee-son" starts in the spring and they’re looking for others who want to have a ball. To learn more, click HERE.