Wednesday, May 30, 2007


There were actually two pool halls in my life, but both served as places to gather, to grow socially, and to kill time.

One was way in the back of a local beer joint, actually a nice bar for the day, called the “Rec Center,” short for recreation. “The Rec” had red leather covered stools, and matching tufted booths along the opposite wall from the bar. The mirrors along this wall and one large one behind the bar made the room seem immense, especially to a teenage boy walking anxiously through the bar to the pool tables.

We never wanted to be caught in the bar area, while the pool area could be explained away, should our parents see us.

Naturally, we could not order at the bar, but they would take our coke and chip order through an opening in the wooden paneled wall that separated the two distinct areas - the bar and the pool hall.

The pool table area was separated by a gate and wall of oak paneling that included box newels extending from about half way up the wall to the ceiling. The smoke and beer smells and the conversations easily passed between the sections.

The other pool hall was known simply as “The Pool Hall” and was located in the middle of Harriman. Large plate glass windows separated the smoke, ball breaks, and loud talking and cursing from the street. On more than one occasion, I saw a strong snooker break send the cue through one of the windows and down the street. As a ball hit the floor on break or angered shot, you always heard the overly used “Cost extra to play on the floor!” Later, chicken wire was placed along the bottom of the glass to deflect ricocheting balls.

The Pool Hall” was a deep rectangular building, built in the 1920s, with a few mirrors, some raised platform seating, a cigarette machine and a single “coke” machine. Little else adorned this place, it was basically an old west saloon with the bar missing. The walls were painted a baby blue, but mostly covered with dirty jokes and curse words. The floor was wooden, squeaked when you walked over the greasy boards, and were always dirty, with little piles of red sweeping compound and cigarette butts in the corners. Besides the drink machine, there was nothing nourishing in the place so you had to walk across the street to “The Spot” café, if you got hungry.

This centrally located hall was the prime hangout for most high school boys, and the old “long since graduated” losers of Harriman High. Mostly the old and the young mingled pretty well, except for the manager, who seemed to hate anyone under thirty!

If our money lasted through the first round on a Friday or Saturday night at “The Beacon,” with cherry cokes and burgers, and the obligatory pinball game, one of these pool halls were our next destination!

The Rec” was usually only chosen if we knew someone older was coming by and had promised to buy us a six-pack up front. If this fell through, then it was the half-mile on to town to shoot a few games, then stand, leaning back against a parking meter to watch the cruising parade of girls and boys in cars, trying to look cool.

Mostly there were guys and gals on dates, with whom we tried not to make eye contact. I suppose we were a little ashamed we did not have dates or cars in which to cruise ourselves.

Nevertheless, we stood tall as cars full guys and/or gals came by, hoping that we might be invited to “cruise” with them. However, when you stood with Barry and James, you knew few offers would come, at least from the “popular” crowd.

More often than not, we ended up with a car full of guys from lesser important cliques playing the expected role of circling all the local “drive-ins,” hanging out the windows yelling at former girlfriends and their dates, or anyone else we wanted to see us in a car. Being spotted in a car seemed, at least then, to give us some credibility of being liked by someone, and possibly even dateable!

It was not that I was better than Barry and James; it was that alone I seemed to have the knack of fitting in with other cliques. However, I loved those two guys and I would not hurt their feelings for anything. There were at least two times that I declined a “ride” that was only meant for me.

Being free and capable of moving between groups allowed me to have many more “friends” in high school, although my preference was with Barry, Woody, and James. I really do not remember James ever being on a “real date,” but Barry, Woody, and I often double dated when one or the other got permission to take out the family car.

One night, while standing tall in front of “The Pool Hall” two of our class’ homeliest and healthiest girls pulled up and stopped. Barry and I looked at each other, then our watches, and figured “what the hell!”

The only good memory from that “cruise” was that I drank a tall Falstaff that was the coldest beer I have ever had the pleasure drinking. It was an especially hot and muggy night and little ice slivers kept sliding down my throat. I was in heaven! Of course, it was pretty hard to swallow, slumped down in the back seat where no one could see us! We took their free ride, but we had our pride!

The last time I ever remember being in “The Pool Hall” was in 1969. I had been distracted by a couple of mini-skirts crossing the street from the pool hall side to the Princess Theater, and rammed a Road Runner in the rear-end with my new candy apple red Mustang! While everyone in the pool hall stood at the window or just outside, I had to walk in and use the payphone to call home. Quite embarrassing, especially since they did not know the full “mini-skirt” story!


Jose said...

I recall there was a local bar on Maple Stree in Los Angeles, my friends and I went in a couple of times but pool was not our thing, right across the pool hall was a bakery and at night two beautiful sisters and a friend of theirs use to take care of it. We spent many nights in that bakery practicing our the dance moves that we were to do the following weekend. See to us it was important to be the first to show the new moves.

I used to have a 71 Chevy Impala and a 1980 Kawasaki KZ400, both great vehicles to go cruising. Cruising was a big part of my growing up days. I cruised the famous Whittier Blvd in East L.A., Van Nuys Blvd, Hollywood Blvd, Puente Hills Mall, Pacific Boulevard in Huntington Park and many other hot spots. In the mid 80 one by one the boulevards were closed to cruising, it was the end of an era.

Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

Ah, you American guys.. so much more wholesome than the mods, rockers, and crombie lads in England! Sighing over the hollywood leading men, somehow our pimply-faced dates never quite made the grade..

Suldog said...

I wonder if there are any places like that now, spots reserved almost exclusively for men to hang out, curse, boast, smoke, maybe even learn something?

My pool hall was at Kenmore Square in Boston, right next to Fenway Park. It was a combination bowladrome and pool hall. I spent about equal time doing one or the other with my buddies every weekend. It was a male domain, mostly, but we'd take girls there to impress them with our toughness!

(There's little better way to get close to a girl than to lean over her back and show her how to hold a cue, by the way.)

BRUNO said...

"The manager of The Pool Hall hated anyone under 30!".....

Ya' sure the manager's name wasn't Ron Southern???

(Lookie there---I insulted TWO people with ONE lame-assed insult!)

I'm back in my "daily rut-tine" again...and it feels GOOD!!!

Fathairybastard said...

Sounds like a scene out of "The Last Picture Show".

My pool hall was upstairs in the student union at Tarrant County College, South Campus, where I started school. I'd get out of class and head up there and play for hours with the guys, mostly Black guys, who hung out there. Huge fun. Learned a lot, and thought I knew a thing or two about the game.

Then the folks and I want on a vacation somewhere, and they had a pool table at the hotel where we were stayin'. After loosing at everything from cards to basketball, I finally thought I had somethin' I could beat dad at and earn some creds.

Turns out, of course, my dad had earned extra money in the service takin' money from guys in pool halls. Who knew. Beat my ass. Infuriating.

I eventually learned not to play any games with him, if I wanted to have any self esteem.

Lots of fond memories of those afternoons in the pool hall though. A more level playing field.

A few friends of mine are signed up now in a pool league, and every once and a while I go after work to watch them play at the local American Legion post. Can't play myself because of my night classes, but they have a great time.

We never had any of that cruisin' stuff goin' on. Ft. Worth was too big I guess. It's always sounded very cool and fun though, but a throughback to "Happy Days" and that era. I guess kids in small towns still do it, but with gas bein' what it is, I bet they don't do much of it.

Les Becker said...

There was a "Pool Hall" when I was a kid, too, and I was always being warned to just "stay away from it". As a 10-year-old girl I used to stand across the street looking at the door, wondering what I might be missing. I had no clue what a "Pool Hall" was even about. It closed down before I was old enough to have it figured out. From a 41-year-old perspective, I miss the innocence, but I'm glad the place closed in time for me to miss the experience, as well.

Anonymous said...

There was one pool hall in my small town. "No Girls Allowed". I mean to say "No Nice Girls Allowed". And being nice girls, mini skirts and all, we did not even walk on that side of the road. But we wanted to know what went on in that mysterious place. Now I know.

Debbie said...

I remember mini-skirts, bell-bottoms, halter tops, go-go boots. I don't think I've ever been in a pool hall though.

Fathairybastard said...

Tag, yer it dude.

Alex said...

I grew up in the video game era, so I never lurked round pool halls and bowling alleys. I just pwned newbzors online.

Mushy said...

Of course you realize this tag has just cost everyone else their Blues fix for the week!