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Untold Stories: From Riches to Rags

When he was in top form and at the height of his fame, Greenleaf (with crown) was the target of every player in the world.

Houle, at the time just out of the U.S. Navy, would have been in his mid 20s. Greenleaf would have been in his late 40s. Houle then was living off the rather sizable bankroll of his father, who had a successful trucking business. Greenleaf then was apparently a filthy down-and-out hobo.

“I was going into a poolhall there, and I saw this ragamuffin — and I knew immediately who he was,” said Houle, interviewed by phone from his Pennsylvania home. “I couldn’t believe he was such a mess. This guy was into everything. He was into drugs. He was into anything he could get. He would go down in the basement with the Chinamen and smoke what they smoked down there. He was a total mess.”

Greenleaf was still going around with his hair plastered down with greasy Pomade. But Houle said that was about the only similarity he noticed between what he then beheld in that divey poolroom, and the other Greenleaf — the one famous for full-length fur jackets and dignified suits. Houle said the poolroom was seedy and most certainly dangerous. It was the sort of place that one does not enter without first making a mental note of the exit doors. But the down-and-out Greenleaf did not seem the least bit out of place.

“The place was on the waterfront,” recalled Houle. “The poolhall was not a very good place. It was a walk-in. There were a lot of seedy people in there, so I was wary. And when I walked into the poolroom, he was in there. I hadn’t seen him for so long. He was drinking. There were just a few other players in there.

“But he was looking familiar to me when I saw him with his slicked down hair. With the Pomade, he was totally different from everybody else in the poolhall. His hair was always plastered down all the time. It was always slicked down and greasy. He was a very weird character. He was very off the wall.”

Greenleaf was not then playing in any tournaments — at least not any that Houle was aware of. He said Greenleaf didn’t mention a wife and he appeared to have been hiding out alone. In fact, shortly after coming across him in that dockside poolroom, Houle discovered that Greenleaf had taken up residence in a flophouse. And Houle described it as exactly that: a place where one literally flops.

“There was this rope across the room where you hang your arms across the rope, and they’d doze there until somebody else came along and wanted the rope,” he said. “That’s where I found him once — hanging on the rope.” I had never heard of such a thing, but Houle insists that residents would grab the rope and just rest awhile. “There were no chairs and you’d fall as soon as you lost your grip, but nobody cared. That was where Greenleaf would sleep, hanging over a rope, in Boston, right down by the waterfront.”

But Houle said that Greenleaf was in such a pathetic place in his life, was so penniless, that he would even get kicked off the rope from time to time to make room for other vagrants.

For your final essential, you’ll need a cue rack. If you don’t care what it looks like, you can find decent racks for under $100.

ADD-ONS: After your table, lighting, seats and rack, you’re pretty much out of money so don’t expect to purchase any other games. Instead, look to add wall decorations and maybe a dartboard piecemeal at a later date.


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