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Saturday, July 22, 2017


Tales from the Hall – Part I

The game of pool has been around for a long time. Actually, pool is a later derivation of billiards. In billiards, there are no pockets and the rules are different, and it is played with only three balls, two white and one red.

In researching the game, the earliest reference I can find lists two “pool rooms” inSalisbury in 1899. One was owned by Percy Brewington on Division St. and the other one was owned by Charles M. Mitchell and was located on Dock St.(which is now Market St.). By 1907, Mitchell’s was the only one still in operation.

Salisbury must have tried to enhance their image by 1940. The two establishments are listed under “Billiard Parlors”. One was the Arcade Billiard Parlor in the Arcade Theater Building. This was where WMDT is now located. It was operated by L. F. Stevens. The other was Moody’s Billiards Rooms on W. Main St. run by Moody Williams.

The 1950 phone book has only one listing under Billiard Parlors. It was the BilliardCenter on E. Main St.

The first “pool hall” I can remember was Salisbury Pocket Billiards on Baptist St. Many a young man of my generation fondly recalls his memories of that place. The building is comprised of law offices now, and I’m not even sure the people who work there know what went on in there some 40-odd years ago.

It was truly a mecca for the local young men. There were legal laws such as no one was admitted under 16, a law that was fairly relaxed by the mid-sixties. And then there was the unwritten law that barred women, so much so that if a wife wanted to contact her husband or boyfriend, she waited in the car outside until the next customer arrived. She would then ask him if he would tell her husband or boyfriend that she wanted to see him. The message was always delivered and, with much grumbling, the husband or boyfriend would go see what she wanted.

Since this was the era before drugs, I never saw any illicit activity in the pool hall. There was never any drinking in the pool hall with the exception of Friday afternoon. A few of the older men would knock off early Friday and bring a bottle to the pool room. They never offered any to the younger patrons.

My mother always told someone if they called at home for me that I was down at the “smoky ol’ pool parlor”. Compared to today, it was relatively tame.

There were never any fights. Smoking was permitted and you just put the butt out on the floor. At the end of the day it was cleaned up by Squirrel or Harlan, the two mainstays in those days. They also had 5 gallon cans placed strategically for the “chewers”. These were nasty and the ultimate occurrence was if the cue ball managed to find its way in one of them – yuck! Even big, hardy men didn’t like retrieving that cue ball.

All of the tables were 4½ by 9 feet in size and all of the balls were 3 1/8 inches in diameter. When the popular “bar table” appeared on the scene, the size was reduced to 4 x 8 and the cue ball was increased in size to 3¼ inches. This was to allow the cue ball to follow a different path under the table and be able to be returned to play.

NEXT WEEK – The Pool Hall – Part II


Anonymous said...

I shot some pool with you and Paul when in Georgia. Do you remember? I didn't fare well then as I haven't played since 1969.
I was fairly good when playing at Guys and Dolls in Marlow Heights.
I did enjoy the game with a few beers. Good post George !

Anonymous said...

I missed the sale of the tables when Salisbury Billiards closed.I have no idea where they went,but I really wanted one for the nostalgia and to play pool on.I lost many games of pool there.

NCJokerman65 said...

From 1960 to 1969, I was a regular at the pool hall. I remember Harlan, Squirrel and Snake. I never could beat Charlie Schaub or Bobby Brown but I was a fair shot. It was good recreation at a fair price. There was never any trouble because the "bosses" would throw you out. I remember when they had exhibitions there. Wimpy Lassiter I think. Nice article.

JoeAlbero said...

NCJokerman, Luther was a great player. I met him back in the early 1980's in Norfolk/Virginia Beach where I played in my first U.S. Open 9-Ball World Championship.

Man, if only we could plug our brains into a port and allow others to see what that experience was like.

Anonymous said...

Joe, is it true you won the World Championship once?

JoeAlbero said...

anonymous 1:27, absolutely not. I've broken some World Records but never a Championship of that magnitude. I can even say I was present when Mike Sigel broke and ran out in the U.S. Open Straight Pool World Championship. If you are into Pool and you know ANYTHING about straight pool, THAT was probably the greatest thing anyone in the world could have ever seen. I can't remember if it was 300 balls straight or 500. Nevertheless, he called a ball on the break, (something NEVER done) and never stopped until it was over. Absolutely incredible.

I've been to my fair share of U.S. Open Championships but as any professional should tell you, there is and there always be someone better than you. It simply depends on who is having a better day.

Anonymous said...

I took the bus from Fruitland to the "Pool Hall" by age 14 and learned the hard way how to play. I still say "rack em Squirrel" when I finish a game now. My mother never knew I went there and still doesn't. LOL

JoeAlbero said...

anonymous 2:10, Great story, thanks for sharing. I used to LOVE to tell the people who asked if I'd like to play them, "If you like splinters, go ahead and rack". My hands always remained soft, blister free and never any splinters.

Anonymous said...

I used to shoot pool there in the mid to late 1970's and very early 80's.

I was 16 when I started going there, there was drinking beer going on if you were 18 (legal age at that time), no hard liquor.

I never saw any problems there, some older guys used to play cards at a table in the back, don't remember money on the card table. They probably played by points and they all knew what the were spending.

Was the same with pool, gambling wasn't allowed but it was usually for a beer, or no money changed hands anyway, wasn't big money that would cause a gunfight or argument.

We did the same when we went bowling, didn't see money change hands but bet the opposing team just enough to make it interesting and try to do your best.

Anonymous said...

If anyone knows where a person can go to shoot pool (within 10 miles or so of SBY),please share.A 9 foot table would be my preference,but an 8 foot table will do.

Guimo said...

Rack 'em, Squirrel.
W. Newton Jackson, III

Anonymous said...

Villege In and Hoppers only 2 place I know . (Salisbury ) me. ..

Anonymous said...

Oh George , bring back those memories at SeaPak , and Marlow Heights . You , Paul and myself in Georgia .

Anonymous said...

Anyone k ow of gentleman named Scott Brown? Used to own the old dairy queen on south Salisbury boulevard. Was supposed to be pretty good back in day, sold business to try and pursue his dream

Anonymous said...

I don't think he sold the business, he lost it. He also had gambling and womanizing issues which cost him beautiful wife, marriage and family.

Anonymous said...

My daddy used to take me in there when I was a little girl of about 6 yrs old (1970-1971?). There was a short pool stick in there that I played with. Also remember daddy and squirrel playing cards there and at a dinner I think....

Anonymous said...

Stunning quest there. What happened after? Thanks!