Louisville Magazine

AUG 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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64 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 8.18 Clockwise from left: Sylvia Williams and Johnny Arnett married after meeting at a segregated Louisville swimming pool in the mid-1950s; Syl and Johnny pose inside Syl's Lounge after purchasing and renaming the West End bar in 1990; Syl in the bar with her sons (from left) Alonza, Johnny Jr. and Anthony. "Aw, thank you, sweetheart," she responds, drawing out her words with Southern charm and accepting a kiss on the cheek. On this March evening, Miss Syl, as she's known, is celebrating her 82nd birthday. She might pass as just another senior at a church picnic, but in her bar she's a celebrity in a silver necklace of interlocking rings and an elegant white V-cut blouse. She carries herself with a quick step and wields a buoyant wit that belies her age. Her short hair and gold-accented eyeglasses obscure brown eyes that, in equal measures, telegraph a onetime Marine wife's no-bullshit stoicism and grandmotherly kindness. e bar's over-50 regulars surround her. Many are bonded by time, by lives spent navigating similar touchstones: childhoods in west Louisville neighborhoods; strict parents who took no lip; factory jobs out of high school; urban renewal; civil rights and busing; family picnics in Shawnee Park; plant closures; pensions; life's everyday setbacks and small victories. One of Syl's sons calls the bar "the black Cheers." Syl's Lounge is an institution that has

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