Tales from the Hall – Part II
As the center of the universe for many of my generation, the pool hall on Baptist St. provided many a necessity for a young man. The fact that you might actually get into a game of pool was secondary to the camaraderie that could be had by just showing up. It was where everyone met on a Saturday to make plans for the upcoming evening and night. It was not a hang-out for ne’er-do-wells as was usually the case with a pool hall. The clientele consisted of future presidents of large companies, future doctors, lawyers and people who genuinely contributed to the betterment of society.
The real surge came in the spring of 1962. That was when the movie, The Hustler, came out. It starred Paul Neuman and Jackie Gleason. I saw it six times and savored every viewing. C. R. Hook relates that he saw it with a date and after the movie they were going to the old English Grill on Main St. to use the phone. Their path took them past the pool room and the sound of the balls clicking together took precedence over any interest he had in the girl. Such was the magic of the game.
C. R. told another amusing story about O. J. Brittingham. It seems it was just before Christmas and O. J. was the Santa Claus in the little house on the Court House lawn. O. J. was shooting a game of pool when he realized that he had to go on duty at Santa’s house. He simply went out to his car and came back in with his Santa suit and proceeded to change right there. Remember, there were no women in the pool hall. He then walked right out of the pool hall and up Main St. to Santa’s house. C. R. said that about two hours later he and a friend were walking up Main St. to go to Read’s Drug Store to get a soda. As they were walking past Penney’s, which was right across Main St., C. R. heard Britt’s raspy voice inquiring where they were going. When they told him Read’s, he said “Well, bring Santa back two packs of Luckies”.
In those days we followed the pool players from the major players such as Minnesota Fats (Rudolph Wanderone), Luther (Wimpy) Lassiter, Willie Mosconi and Jimmy Caras to the local favorites. It seemed like every town had their “player”, and when two of them got together it was glorious. They would square off and the match would last for hours. Just being a spectator was a real treat.
I’m sure there are a million more stories that can be recalled from the long ago experiences in “The Pool Hall”.