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