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!