View Full Version : Favorite Pool Hall no longer in existence
03-08-2002, 09:01 AM
Seeing the post about your "favorite pool hall" made me think back about 40 years to when I first became fascinated by the game. I lived in Dallas at the time and there was only one place open on a 24/7 basis that had pool tables. It was a bowling alley at the corner of Lemon & Inwood named Cotton Bowling Palace. It was my home away from home all night, every night, for about a year. I think it had about a dozen A.E. Schmidt tables in an area set apart from the bowling lanes. There was a pretty decent restaurant there and a barber shop. Since it was about the only real action spot in Dallas at the time, road players would appear from time to time...Detroit Whitey, Freddie Sessions, Eddie Kelley, Kilroy, U.J. Puckett, Fats, "Pots & Pans," San Jose Dick, and others whose names have faded from my mind at the moment. Probably our best local player was Billy Stroud, now legendary cue maker, who was only about 20 years old during this period of time. I spent a lot of time with Alfie Taylor who later became a road player. Brunswick was selling Willie Hoppe cues for about $18 and Rambow would make you a cue for $35-$40. I was entranced by the glamour of late night pool action, the "characters" who hung out there, and just the whole scene. After about a year in this environment, I figured out that I'd never make it as a pool hustler and went back to college, eventually becoming a college professor.
Cotton Bowling Palace became, I think, a Chevy car dealership. But no other place comes close to having the magic, in my memory, of "Cotton Place" back in the early 1960's. So I ask you, what pool hall, no longer in existence, holds a special place in your mind & heart?
Kelly's Billiards in Coconut Creek Florida. I lived there, open to close on the weekends and spent many a night after work until close. I went through 4 owners, countless managers and waitresses, poured my own beer, made my own food and loved every second of it. I miss that room, it was beautiful and my home. Just closed a few years back. Sad day for myself, Phil from So Flo and a few others.
03-08-2002, 10:12 AM
I know just what you mean. Isn't it amazing what a significant slice of our lives those old and vanished pool halls are? When I am with a couple friends from the old days who are still alive and kicking, we find ourselves still chewing over old pool hall memories.
03-08-2002, 10:23 AM
My favorite was Lou Butera's pool room in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. It was about 1968-1969. The room was on Main street, a couple blocks from Public Square. You took a set of steps from the side walk, down below a furniture store and some other business to the basement. The only windows were around the front door. It was a true basement, with low ceilings, concrete floors, no windows in the walls and it did not have a ladies restroom. There were about ten tables, one 9' and the rest 8'. One set to the side, away from the others, had shimmed pockets and faster cloth and rails. That table was used by Lou on the rare occasion that he wanted to practice and for some money matches. There were old movie house seats lining the walls, no high pool hall chairs. Unlike today's pool rooms, there was no music and no television. You would only hear the sounds of pinball, conversation and the clicking of balls. Except for an occasional card game in the back room and a couple of pinball machines, this place was there for pool and pool only. There were a variety of characters, all regulars, you would see there almost every day. The ages varied from teenagers, I was about 18 at the time, through 80 plus and skill levels that varied just as much. It didn't seem to matter what the skill levels were, every one would figure out a fair spot, match up and play for something. At 18, I played for everything from table time straight pool to $100 a rack 9-ball. Not much by todays standards, but in 1968, in a small town, that was a substantial bet. The room closed when Lou moved west. I think it stayed vacant for a long time and, I believe, a year or two ago, they demolished the building. Although, today I would think twice before entering a place like that, at the time, it was the greatest. I had some very good times there and I have some very fond memories of that place. Rich R.
03-08-2002, 12:24 PM
Abe's Congress Billiards in Miami. (The old Congress, not Leon's place where they later moved) Open 24 hours, 21 tables, one of the top actions rooms of it's time. Over the years millions changed hands in Abes and every known player came there to match up in the winter time. I left the little pool room I began playing in, and I would say earned my Ph.D. in pool at the Congress. My game increased so much in that environment it was unbelievable. Thinking back, without the opportunity to be around players like that on an everyday basis and learn, I wonder how anyone can really learn to play regardless how many racks they shoot in on their basement table. It was a priceless education.
No contest in my case, Bill; like many, I'm fondest of the very first room I was ever in. Although we had one guy who did go on to finish 3rd nationally in 3-C in either '70 or '71, we had absolutely no pool players of consequence and if anyone ever bet $5 or more, the sweators stood five-deep. But one could hardly ask for a more perfect retreat from adolescence, and I can still feel the same sense of finally "belonging"...especially on Friday evenings and nights, just like now.
03-08-2002, 06:00 PM
I am glad one of my two favorite pool halls-TULSA BILLIARDS PALACE( in Tulsa,Oklahoma) still doing very well.My other favorite place was Players in Augusta,Georgia and it doesn`t exist any more.
03-08-2002, 06:27 PM
My father has told me about the ol. Halls. The one he always tells me about was "St.Elmos" in Downtown Norfolk. This is where he used to play when he was a youngster. He told me about the action and how thats what got him in business. All the roadies used to stop there, Wimpy, Mosconi, etc. The pool room was operated by Weenie Beenie (Bill Staton). Weenie Beenie is alive and well and still makes his way up here for the U.S.Open. Anyone ever heard of St. Elmos and care to share a story of the Old Room?
The type of action that I heard happened back in those days unfortunately does NOT exist anymore.IMO
03-08-2002, 06:39 PM
I don't remember that place, I do remember Beanies place in I think it was Shirlington, VA. I think it was called the Guys & Dolls or Guys & Gals or something like that. I played in a few tournaments there in the early 70's.
03-08-2002, 06:50 PM
Now that you say it, I believe your right.
Bills pool room was up near richmond?
I will ask my dad tonight and also find out more about St.Elmos
03-08-2002, 07:00 PM
I like your answer, it made me think about the first place I began going. First as a fly on the wall, and later as one of the guys. It was the first time I think I was ever treated as an equal by adults even though I was still a kid.
Ihave 3 rooms that I was real fond of, and none of them exist today. My favorite has to go to the first room that I played in. There was a few good players, but rarely any high dollar action. I sure enjoyed my time spent there. Sawdust on the wood floor, some spitoon cans, 3 pinball machines, two paid off by gambling, tap the cue on the floor for a 10 cent rack or a good shot. No Juke box, 9 and 10 footers only. Moon and Trigger playing one side was real entertaining at times. A place I could spend 12 to 14 hrs in and say, what your closing? The owner gave me an unused Willie Hoppe made in the 30's if I promised not to sell it, and I still have it to this day.
My second favorite room brought in some of the players you mentioned plus many more. San Jose Dick is here in Phx. Alphie Taylor lived here as well, years ago. I guess what I miss is the older style rooms and the action available. Its still there in a different way, but I don't play near as good or as much as I use to.
I forgot to mention the first room is a parking lot. I mean how can a good old pool hall be replaced by a parking lot?
03-08-2002, 08:51 PM
The first is the best, huh? Mine was below street level, the back entrance was a dungeon with planks over dirt that ran for 40 or 50 feet with a 90degree turn(someone was always slipping off the planks into the muddy dirt; you'd smell like urine all day after that). The front entrance had a window as big as this computer screen, this was the only natural light source. Old men at dominoe tables playing count or moon, spit cans, rack boys and an owner who carried an ice pick and never lite his cigar. Open golf tables, ring five/nine and Pill pool tables. It was heaven on earth. I got snowed in this place during a freak blizzard in 1962 and me and three of my buddies played pool for 48 hours straight, we were young high school kids and it was a great adventure. I learned more in that place than in any school setting:) It was probably a real pit but not to me.
P.S. No woman ever except for the cook lady and she had no teeth:)
Brads Pool Hall in Galesburg Il. was my first, and still my favorite.
It was just a pool hall. First floor, downtown, 5 steps up from the street. In the beginning I got kicked out over 10 times for being too young at age 14 but persistance paid off and they gave up and let me play on the back table...right inside the back door. One pinball machine, no radio, a TV that was turned on for the the state basketball tournaments and the World Series and that was it. They had 8, 9ft tables all in pretty good condition.
Pool was a dime a game or a penny a minute and when you finished a game you just yelled "RACK" and Perry or Shirley Bradshaw (Yes..a guy named Shirley) would come. I quickly learned NOT to yell "RACK" more than once, 'cause that really pissed them off....being hurried by some punk kid.
One restroom back in the corner, about 6'x6', with a door that was open at the top and the bottom and the sink was outside the toliet room. I never saw a female in there. It just wasn't done!
The pop cooler was filled with cold water to keep the soda cold and putting peanuts in Pepsi was, for some reason forever unclear to me, very popular.
I lived there, skipped school to go there, had my Mom drag me out by the ear, my Dad forbade me from going there, my "straight" friends put me down for me going there but man I loved it there and I loved pool.
Then at 16 I got a car and discovered all kinds of other things in the world.
I REALLY wish Brads was still there. It closed in the mid 60's and is now a parking lot. No pool halls in town.
Magic Cue 43rd and Broadway New York City. Fred
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote: JimS:</font><hr>It was just a pool hall. Then at 16 I got a car and discovered all kinds of other things in the world.
I REALLY wish Brads was still there. It closed in the mid 60's and is now a parking lot. No pool halls in town.
Regards, JimS <hr></blockquote>
ok, you guys are killing me with this thread. it's all very similar to my experience. also, let me say that there has been literature created in this thread.
call it 1955 to 57ish, i'm a ten year old kid in burlington iowa. hard on the mississippi. on a bend. down by the river on the south end of downtown was "earls palace pool hall".
maybe 10 tables lined up away from the street. out the back door is the river. i wrote an unpublished country song that had the lines: "the rules are on the wall, just the same for one and all, not at all like other games that children play." the song is called 'earls palace pool hall (it was sweet childhood to me)'.essentially, it extols the virtue in a pool hall upbringing as opposed to the unfair, and may i say scandalous treatment pool got in 'the music man'.
that's the ultimate beauty of this game. the only thing that matters in a pool room is how well you shoot. i played a lot of hours in earls palace and, yes, you thumped the butt on the floor twice for earl to come and collect his dime. i don't remember considering doing it again after i had done it once. earl woulda throwed me out the back door.
anyway, i've seen some evidence here, from time to time, that there is pool in burlington iowa. izzat true??
and is, by any chance, earl's palace still there??
I regret that I don't know if Earl's is still there but I do think I'd of heard of it if it were. The good news is that pool is very much alive and well in Burlington.
There's a new place, Whitey's Bar & Billiards (Whitey Walker...has been a road player and his dad, they tell me used to be plenty good). Whitey's has, I think, 20 7ft, and I know it has 5 GC's, a snooker table and a 3 cushion. Tournaments every Sat & Sunday, in-house leagues are coming soon (he just opened in Oct) and the MidWest 9 Ball Tour has a stop there with $5k added in May. Parica was there in October for the $5k added. 2601 Madison Ave....used to be a bowling alley...across from Krapo (sp?) Park.
I'll try to remember to find out about good ole Earl's.
Regards, JimS~~just down the road a piece.
03-09-2002, 08:58 AM
Great description! As you say, you learn more in an environment like that than in school. I loved the line about the owner....carried an ice pick and never lit his cigar. I can picture that guy!
03-09-2002, 09:06 AM
A great description. I have noticed in reading through the posts that people recall even the small details of the first pool room they played in. It made me think of some of the details of the place I mentioned in my original post. The sounds, for instance. The one piece of music that they were forever playing on the sound system was a song entitled The Stripper by Dave Rose & his orchestra. And since the place was a bowling alley, the sound of those 64 lanes of bowling....
03-09-2002, 09:14 AM
I agree that there has been some literature created in this thread. There's some in your post...sweet words to describe sweet memories. Seems like reflecting on those moments in our youth when we were first caught up in the pool obsession brings out the best of our writing ability.
03-09-2002, 09:52 AM
Vagabond...You're sure right about that! Rack & Grill and Robbies cannot compare to what Players used to be. Sad that the place closed up a few years ago, after being open just a very short time!
When Q-Guy mentioned Billliard Congress in FL, I'll never forget it, its where I first saw a 6x12, had no clue they even existed, played some guy in the late 60s that wore green flashy pants and bug eyes like Peter Lory (spelling is probably bad), I must of kicked in 6 or seven nine balls in out of order and he quit me, I was glad, don't think I would of won in the long run, I was only 19 then. Bensingers is my comparison to Congress/Miami. Others, the small rooms around the Johnston City IL area. One that had an unusual feel and decor was in St. Louis where Ardel Laseur (Blackie) used to play at. Devallie's/Beanies in VA with the fiberglas floor tiles was neat. Steve Gumphrey gave me the breaks and busted me, little did I know that its was impossible to make a ball on the break at that table. I saw Carella take St. Louie Louie down to his jewlery, lower the bet only to see Louie come back and bust Mike. I do tho especially remember the "sounds" and smells (powder) of the old days with the house man racking for change. There was also a neat room in DuQuoin IL that Fats played at, forgot the name. BF
03-09-2002, 10:10 AM
dan...I was in Earl's Pool Palace in Oct. of 1975. The World 9-Ball Championships were being held in Burlington, and the best players in the country all converged on SW Iowa for this tournament. You name 'em, and they were there! Buddy Hall was a skinny young man back then! I beat Keith McCready out of $1800, but it was on the hotel 'green room' table, not at Earl's!
03-09-2002, 10:18 AM
My first real poolhall experience was in Chicago at Marie's Golden Cue. This was 1972, and all the top players in the city used to come in every week to play in the handicapped tournaments. The top players in the city now, were up'n'comers then, including Tom Spenser, Tom Karabatsos, Joe Gold, Waterdog, RocketMan, and many others. This was before Chris Crisman opened his room, and he used to hang out at Maries too! Dallas West, Wendall Weir, Leon Ledford...it was great getting to play those guys! What an experience! Marie's is still there on W. Montrose, and is owned by the same family, but imo not as nice as it was 30 yrs ago. The players don't much go there anymore.
03-09-2002, 11:34 AM
My favorite was a dark and dingy place. Blackie's pool hall was my first experience in a pool hall. It was a place where a tall and lanky 17 year old boy could get a beer and play a game of eightball with his friends. There were probably 10 to 12 wonderful old tables there. The place was frequented by several old men, at least by the 17 year old's standards. They played dominoes and snooker, a game the boy didn't understand. There was no load music, in fact I don't recall any music at all. A young man like myself had to mind his manners or leave. Nothing fancy about the place at all, but to the 17 year old it was great. In about 1975, urban renewal tore the place down, along with a lot of other old historic buildings.
03-09-2002, 12:55 PM
I know exactly who you played. It was a guy named Al Mooney (sp?) He was a good player from Phily, and yes he would have pulled up if he did not like the game. I will tell you a funny story about him. One night a bunch of kids come in looking to play. One of them is the player. They ask the houseman Marcel Camp if anyone wants to play a little 9 ball. (They have no idea where they are). Gary Pinkowski is sitting there and says to the kid "come on I will play you some" They go to the table (at the Congress the balls were always on the tables. you got a cueball from the house man.) Gary asks the kid what he wants to play for. The kid says $2.00, and Gary throws the cue on the table and tells the kid to forget it. Gary was sitting there doing nothing anyway, but still wouldn't play. Al Mooney says to the kid "I'll play you some". To make a long story short, Al ends up beating the kid and his friends for over a thousand as Gary has to sit there and watch. Now the kid tells Al he will play him some Straight pool, Al says no. Danny Diliberto tells the kid he will play him some, and they play. I don't have to tell you what happened there. In the end Danny tells the kid He doesn't want to really take his money like that and he will give him a chance to get it back. He will play him 100 to 50. The kid has gotten more then 50 every game so far so he agrees. Needless to say, he never got to 50 again. They left with nothing and I am sure they never who the people were sitting around the room. I always found it interesting, a guy would be playing his wife on one table, and on the next table two guys may be playing $1000 one pocket. People would come and go without ever knowing there was a whole other world going on around them they were not aware of.
Parkers on Washington Avenue in Houston. Pasadena Squirll, Red Perry, Jockey and a host of other characters along with the owner T.J.Parker. Everytime the pay phone would ring he would say it was Fats and said he was on his way.
I have a neat memory or two from Marie's, Scott. Not only was that where I was playing when I began writing about pool, but in one weekend handicap 14.1 tournament, I ran 45 and out to leave a kid in the 2-hole. (The opponent was named Tom Ross; he became a well-respected teacher in Arizona, and is BD's latest staff addition, writing our mental-game instructional column.) Thus pumped up well out of my alleged mind, I joined a ring 9-ball game that included Michaels and Spencer - and actually won a few barrels! GF
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote: JimS:</font><hr> Hi Dan/neighbor,
The good news is that pool is very much alive and well in Burlington.
2601 Madison Ave....used to be a bowling alley...across from Krapo (sp?) Park.
I'll try to remember to find out about good ole Earl's.
Regards, JimS~~just down the road a piece. <hr></blockquote>
and the memories just come flooding back. the park, pronounced kray-po was where we would go ice skating in the winter and picinicing in the summer. had a neat curly-q slide that was about the ultimate in entertainment. i seem to recall that winter started in late september and stayed till may. my kids don't believe me that i trudged thru snowdrifts taller (much) than i was to go to school. 'course maybe i shouldn't have added that it was ten miles and uphill both ways, goin and comin. really a wonderful place to be a kid. have not been back since leaving over 40 years ago. maybe. maybe.
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote: George Fels:</font><hr>(The opponent was named Tom Ross; he became a well-respected teacher in Arizona, and is BD's latest staff addition, writing our mental-game instructional column.) GF <hr></blockquote>
well, george, i just checked my latest bd and i guess you have a change. anything you can say about the departure of mr. fancher??
I have several pool halls I remember with plenty of memories of the players as well...I'll tell you about one that I spent two years of my life in...in Dubuque, Iowa (54-56)... I was from Chicago going to college and on my own for the first time in my life...I lived off campus and had two roommates who were "certified" alcoholics...The hall was on Main St. just down from the bank and sold newspapers and magazines to the locals and had a soda fountain marble bar with stools with wooden seats...The owner (he was about 50 then) was the best player in town and had the only break down cue see anywhere...Honestly, he kept it locked up behind the cash register and only played with it occasionaly when someone would come in looking for a game...There were about 4 9-footers which were kept pretty clean and one snooker table...The snooker table got most of the action...we (mostly college students) played on it constantly...Usually 5 to 10 cents a point...with 5-8 players in a game and using all 15 red balls, this could get right lucrative to some players...some times we would play the same game with a "wild 6 ball"...you could shoot it any time during the game (as many times as you wished) but if you missed it once, you lost all your points pus 6. A good player could make a few dollars quickly if he was in stroke...On the regular tables we played a game called 'straight pool" not to be confused with 14-1...after you missed a ball you would line the pocketed balls up from the spot to the back of the table (any extra balls were lined up ahead of the spot) and the next player would try to run all 15 balls...I heard that it was also called 'line up"...I never saw any great players in there and I found out last year that Robert Byrne grew up there and probably played in the same hall before me (he's about 5 years older than I) He recently has retired to Dubuque...I have some more halls I would like to mention but will let someone else have his (her) turn...
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote: Brady_Behrman:</font><hr> My father has told me about the ol. Halls. The one he always tells me about was "St.Elmos" in Downtown Norfolk. This is where he used to play when he was a youngster. He told me about the action and how thats what got him in business. All the roadies used to stop there, Wimpy, Mosconi, etc. The pool room was operated by Weenie Beenie (Bill Staton). Weenie Beenie is alive and well and still makes his way up here for the U.S.Open. Anyone ever heard of St. Elmos and care to share a story of the Old Room?
The type of action that I heard happened back in those days unfortunately does NOT exist anymore.IMO
Brady Behrman <hr></blockquote>
Brady...I don't think Weenie ever owned St. Elmos, but I'm sure he must have played there at some time.
Actually, you should speak with Rusty Miller if he comes to the US Open, with weenie, this year, since he has many St Elmo stories to tell from the time he hung out and played there during and after WWII. Back then Lassiter was stationed there in the Coast Guard, and he along with Rags and Earl Shreiber were the best players in town and took on "all comers" for a TON of money. I don't think Weenie got there until at least the 50's. - Howie
I've heard many stories about St. Elmo's from my father and Uncle. Both were involved in quite a few "shinanigans" there during Wimpy's heyday. I had the pleasure of playing there during the late sixties and remember it as a very special place. My uncle's name was also Rip and I believe he worked for Brady's dad in one of his ph's for many years. The building where St. Elmo's was located is being renovated and converted into office space. There was also a pool hall on the other side of the river in Portsmouth, Virginia called "Metro Pool". It was a steep climb up a narrow staircase on top of an old warehouse. I used to sneak one of my dad's cue sticks and play there when I was underage...boy that was a long time ago. Metro was a very nostalgic room that saw lots of action for many years. Wow---what a flash-back! Rip
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote: Rod:</font><hr> San Jose Dick is here in Phx. <hr></blockquote>
"San Jose" Dick. There's a name I haven't heard for a while. If memory serves me right, SJ Dick played at the old California Billiards on Stevens Creek Blvd in (where else) San Jose. Among many others I remember from that room are Scarecrow, Memo, Al the Plumber and houseman "Hollywood" Harry Sims. Crow is now one of the best table mechanics in NorCal and now never picks up a cue.
Congress...I remeber walking into that place as a lil Voodoo, seeing the Big Dollar Golf game, 3-C worldbeaters and pool players galore. It was a purist delight. Q-Guy owned another favorite PH...its still open but it will never be the same. The PH I miss most is the Q-Master, which was located in Davie Florida. The best Sunday 9-ball tournament in the south. For $20 you could get in the box with a plethera of champions. It was a proving ground and a education for young guys like I was. Now, everyone wants to play handicaped tourneys only. Remeber, spots are for leopards!!!
Do you remember the Time Square Cue Club, I think I got the name correct, it was upstairs. We used to drive up from Ft. Hood to play and then drive back. We spent about 6hrs driving to play about 4 hrs.
Since I have absolutely no knowledge of the circumstances under which he left, Dan, I don't have anything to say except that I regret he's not with us any more. I thought his column was superb, and I looked forward to it each issue. GF
03-10-2002, 07:21 PM
I remember it well. I had been working a couple of years after my year at Cotton Palace, but when I quit my job as a school psychologist I went back to the pool world for a few months. Cotton Palace was no longer available, so I hung out at Times Square Cue Club. Buford Cohen and Joe Falco were the owners. I recall many of the regulars...some of the names are Dicky Carson, Joey Torma, Lemon Dave, Walter (the old guy whose pants always looked like they were about to fall off), James Pilfry, Vernon Litton, George McGann, Tommy Hicks, Big Un(Phil Redwine), Gerald Billingsly, Stanley Cook, and so on. None of the regulars were top players, but we had the occasional road player come through. I played Richie Ambrose there, not knowing who he was. St. Louie Louie was around for a while.
I still keep in touch with a friend from that era (mid 1960's). I probably saw you guys in there as I was there most every night.
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