During the ’30s and ’40s there was, at the foot of Russ’s Hill, a pool room. It was nothing fancy, just two tables with bench seats on the sides. There was also a window in the back that looked out onto the water or the flats, depending on where the tide was when you looked out. The pool room was quite popular in the early evening. Most people smoked then, and John smoked a pipe, so the room was pretty smoky most of the time, and because of that, the window was left open.
I was in high school in the early ’40s, and my folks let me play pool, but I had to be home at 9 on weeknights and earlier if I had homework. Pool was a nickel a game, and we played the usual variety of games. I usually played with Eddie Blackmore, John’s nephew; I also played with Lloyd Brimigion, Punk Gray, and George Boyce, among others.
John had a cue ball for each table plus a spare. One good reason for the spare cue ball had to do with that back window that I mentioned earlier. You see, a player often needs to “draw” or put backspin on the cue ball, and to do so, he aims the cue stick at the base of the ball. Most of the time this works OK, but once in a while, especially when you hit hard and low, it causes the ball to go sailing off the table and onto the floor or . . . out the window. So, if it went out the window and into the water or the flats, the first thing we got was a lecture from John on how not to play pool.
Obviously, if the tide was up, there was nothing we could do but beg John to break out the spare cue ball—which he always did. There was, however, an unwritten rule that those who caused the ball to go through the window must now retrieve it when the tide went out. If it was daytime and the tide was out, all of us in that game would go down back (where the Fish Pier is now), take off shoes, roll up pant legs, and go hunting for that cue ball. If the tide was up, we’d have to wait until the next day. But it was our job to do it, and we did it.
Montelle L. “Monty" Small
Ed. Note: Russ’s Hill is School Street, the one that goes by the Opera House. The building that housed the pool room is still there; the current owners have remodeled it into a charming little cottage.