During the days of my childhood and youth there was a saloon on main street in our town that was called the Pool Hall. It is true that there were a couple of pool tables in the back but it was much more than that. It was a banking facility, a social center, an employment office, a post office, a candy store, a tobacco shop and an orderly bar.
As you entered the front door, on the right was a huge safe that always held enough cash to cover all of the paychecks that would come in on a Saturday night. During the era of the Pool Hall the industry of the valley was primarily ranching and logging with a lot of people employed by both. Most of the ranch workers lived on the ranch and worked six or seven days a week. Many of the men working in the woods stayed out there all week. The point is that, one way or another, none of these people could get to town during banking hours so they would arrive in town on Saturday night with their paychecks and the Pool Hall would be the only place where they could cash them. Quite often folks would get to town too late to mail their letters but they could leave them at the Pool Hall and they would be mailed for them on the next business day at the Post Office. You could even buy stamps for your letters at the Pool Hall.
On the left, as you entered, was a glass showcase with an assortment of candy bars as well as pocket knives and pocket watches. In a glass fronted case behind the bar were tobacco products including chewing tobacco, smoking tobacco, cigarette papers, “tailor made” cigarettes and cigars. On that end of the bar was a cigar cutter and a lighter. When a person pulled out the stem of the lighter an electric arc ignited the fuel on the wick and made a small flame for lighting cigars and cigarettes.
Continuing on the left was the hardwood bar, slightly worn and polished to a fine sheen by many years of use. It was a bar where anyone was welcome but nobody was allowed to be obnoxious or troublesome. Anyone who got disgustingly drunk left the premises, either by invitation or by force. Anyone overheard hitting someone up for a drink was invited to leave and if they stayed and tried it again they left whether they wanted to or not. When I say that anyone was welcome at the bar I mean it. Even a minor could come to the bar and buy a bottle of soda pop but would absolutely not be served any alcohol. However, on the very day that he became of legal age, he could sit up to that bar to order a drink and the first one would be free. The proprietor seemed to know every young man in the county and know exactly when his birthday was.
The back bar was of the same deep quality hardwood with a huge mirror that was always spotless the same as the rows of glasses that were neatly arranged in front of it. There was also a stock of bottled liquors that was nearly as complete as at the liquor store, which was only open in the daytime.
Going back to the right side, there was a case with several guns for sale and ammunition for most any gun in the valley. From there, along the wall were chairs for customers or idlers to sit in. I mention idlers because one didn’t have to buy anything in order to take advantage of the hospitality of the Pool Hall. The proprietors were aware and considerate of the fact that people who were out of funds needed the sanctuary just as much as anyone else. As long as they abided by the rules they were just as welcome as anybody else. Men looking for a job could pass the time here while they waited for for someone who needed workers to come along and offer them a job.
In the middle area were several round tables with chairs all around for people to play cards. Sometimes there was a dealer on hand if someone wanted to play against the house but most often it was just groups of men playing a friendly game of cards among themselves. Sometimes small wagers were made but sometimes the games were strictly for a pastime.
As mentioned earlier, there were two pool tables in the rear and minors were welcome to use them at any time as long as there weren’t any adults wanting to use them. Anyone using the tables was expected to play a quiet and serious game. Anyone bouncing a ball of onto the floor could expect a stern warning and if it happened a second time you were done playing. There was a small fee for each game, of course, to provide for upkeep and repairs to the equipment. If juveniles were playing and adults came in to use the tables the juveniles had to end their game and make way for the adults.
Outside, on the sidewalk in front of the Pool Hall were several chairs, put there for folks to sit and visit or enjoy the day when the weather was nice. Once, a man died while sitting in one of those chairs and a superstitious fellow carved a notch in the arm of that chair so that he could be sure not to sit in it. Quite naturally, someone else carved a similar notch on each of the other chairs.