Ron F looks back and shares a few memories on azbillards.com
Start - 11-28-2010,
As a curious 13 year old in
the late 1970's I developed a penchant for
bugging my dad to take me to do different things. If I recall the order
correctly, my first quest was to play golf as he was an avid golfer.
Eventually he relented and took me to a par-3 course where he rented clubs
for me and we played a round. It was fun. I enjoyed it and later in life
would become an avid golfer myself. Next on my agenda was to learn how to
bowl and I remember this more vividly. It was during the winter months - I
remember it being cold. And I remember listening to The Cars self-titled
cassette on our drive to Modern Lanes. It was fun, but apparently not as
much fun as I anticipated because I never really got into bowling seriously
later in life as I had with golf. My dad had also been a fairly good bowler
so I'm unsure if these were my ideas or his.
My next introduction to a sport was pool. I remember I had to bug him for
weeks before he relented and finally took me. On the fateful day we drove
down to Charlie LaTorre's poolroom in Pittston,
PA and walked in. Immediately I knew this wasn't going to be anything like
bowling. The place was small. Dominating the front of the room was an old
glass and oak counter, beyond that a pair of 6-card pinball machines and a
joker poker machine and finally, 2 pool tables. I remember thinking the tables were HUGE, as I had never
seen a 4.5 x 9 up to that point. And they were OLD. The first table was a
Brunswick that I would later learn was made around 1959, but the back table
was REALLY OLD. It was a 1929 Brunswick. Beyond the second table was a wall
that was only about 7 feet high, which I found weird since the ceiling had
to be 12 feet above the floor. All the walls were a light brown, imitation
wood paneling; the grossly uneven and undulating floor was covered with a
basic off-white floor tile. I can remember the people in the poolroom being
composed of a much different demographic than I'd ever been before. They
were all men, some middle-aged, but most much older - no women, no other
kids my age. Most were smoking cigarettes or cigars and many were intently
watching the small TV behind the counter which was playing a football game.
Dad got the balls from the really short, really old guy behind the counter
and guided me down to the second table. From the voices and laughs behind
the short wall I can tell there were even more men in the back of the room.
I had no idea why they would want to be back there when all the fun stuff
was in the front of the room. Little did I know that they were playing
Pinochle and Gin for money and having fun themselves. That day, as a
fresh-faced 13 year old, shaped my future in ways neither my dad nor I
could have ever foreseen. After pulling 2 cues off a rack mounted high on
the wall, dad explained, this game is called straight pool and you can hit
any ball you want in. I was hooked on pool from that day on. Dad took me
several more times to Charlie's before I started going down by myself and
playing other, older kids. The fact that you had to be 18 to be in there
was lost on me and since I originally started going in with my dad, apparently
the Charlie was fine with me coming in alone.
I spent much of my time over the next 6 years or so playing on those 2 old
Brunswicks. It was where I learned how to draw the cue ball, how to play a
safe, and how to leave the last ball and the cue ball in positions that
offered a break shot. Straight pool was all we played for a few years, but
then 9 ball began creeping into the room until most of the games played
were 9 ball. 9 ball sets, 9 ball partner games, ring 9 ball (quarter on the
5, 50 cents on the 9). It wasn't until about 2 years ago that I returned to
straight pool in earnest and it's mainly the game I play exclusively now.
Thankfully there is no shortage of interest or of straight pool players in
this area and a game is always just a phone call away.