The Pool Hall - 1971

This is a Polaroid image of our finished pool hall, taken probably in 1971. It was a Christmas present to ourselves that year. Mom, dressed in one of her sailor suit-derived dresses, is shooting pool with Ernie Lopez, who, at the time, was Kitty Holland's husband. He occasionally did electrical work for us. In turn, we screwed him. I'm not sure how - this was one of Mom's business deals - but I think we promised him something in return for electrical work and didn't give it to him. Anyway, there was bad blood between us after that. I was sorry about this because I liked the guy.

Our pool hall was originally a one-car garage; Mom and Ernie are standing in front of the garage door. We nailed it shut, installed a small window in the middle and removed the springs. That was an interesting job. Even when the door was up there was some tension on the springs, and in the process of removing them I thought they would take off my arm. Putting up the wooden slats on the exposed ceiling was a major effort on my part, as well. I would have to clamber up ladders and, sometimes, like Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, lie on my back on a sort of loft that ran lengthwise across the room, nailing slats. I had a sore back and arms for days afterwards. We did the conversion during the winter, and I recall that it was always cold in there. Since the garage door wasn't insulated, this was always the coldest room in the house.

That pool table had little in common with the rather poor quality of the furniture we normally bought. It was a slate table and weighed a ton; I was surprised to see it delivered to our door in the flatbed of a Datsun mini-truck. I helped the installation guys move it through the back yard and the den into the pool hall (we had already nailed the garage door closed, alas!). The effort reminded me of a scene in "The Ten Commandments," when Egyptian slaves moved heavy stones around for Pharaoh. (Mom claimed to have been an extra in this scene.)

We hadn't yet put up all the beer signs we would later install in this room; you can see a couple of pathetic Busch lights that represented a start. All of these were on the same circuit, and all were fed from dangerously undersized wire I routed around the room. (Imagine a bunch of electrical signs and lights all essentially being fed from extension cords and switched by an under-rated switch.) As a teenage electrician I was a major threat, and it is a surprise to me that an electrical fire didn't start in this room.

There was never really enough room in this converted garage to manipulate a pool cue, and Mom got around this by buying short cues. It still made for some tricky shots, with the end of the cue frequently being up in the air. Given the electrical system and trying to dodge eye-level pool cues, we could have just as well named this place "The Danger Room."

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