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A Sad Farewell to Vintage Pool Rooms

Kenneth Avery is a Southern humorist with well over a thousand fans. The charm and wit in his writing span a nearly a decade.


Note of explanation . . . this piece is a truthful account about an establishment I saw frequently, and the place was in my hometown of Hamilton, Ala., And my wife and I still reside there. This hub is not made up of regimented phases and sentences cut to perfect tense and meaning. These are MY thoughts from age 13 through 18. Thanks, Kenneth

I first met my good friend, Randy. By the way, this is his real first name. I would publish his last name, but you never know how it will turn-out. At least, for the record, I wanted to share this event to prove to you that even junior high schooler’s like me can think when we have to.

Randy was the coolest guy who was also in the same junior class with me, but he was much more polished, more worldy than any guy that I knew. My friends were conservative. Nothing wrong with that. They were happy that way. Randy, my laid-back, worldly friend, was smooth and when he would pass by in the hallway in our high school building, I would always detect the awful, stench of something that people use as a habit to relax with. Do you need me to tell you of this dangerous chemical? Please tell me that you have watched those Public Information announcements via TV with the tag, “if you have started. Stop. You will be happier.”

But it was not as much the stench that I told you about as it was Randy’s way of speaking . . .hip, cool, and against The Establishment. You know the type. Later on, Randy and his older brother, the now-late George, formed a Rock Band entitled The Sounds of Time. With the help of the late Jerry Roby, a fine bassist, sadly he was shot while in the middle of a dark drug buy. But I liked him. Randy, George, and Jerry all wore long hair. And would sling it backward when they walked. And yes, all three did get that dreaded stench on their clothing from frequenting an iconic business in uptown Hamilton, called the Hamilton Pool Hall.

This “business,” mostly penny ante, would not be a good place for Tom Cruise and the late Paul Newman to film their film, “The Color of Money.” I wondered why Randy and his brother and friend, Jerry would be rebellious and “cut” school. Not “skip” school. That sounded so sissy. And there were no sissy terms or sissy people associated with their band. They had something going and were going to ride it all the way into the station.

Alas. Good memories. Sad memories. Tactfully speaking, Randy and his brother and their best pal, Jerry, also his real name along with Randy’s brother, George, had absolutely nothing to do with this true account of the topic at hand: Hamilton, Alabama’s one and only POOL HALL. But the sophisticates call them a POOL ROOM, and even more insulting, the Upper Crust, Metropolitan crew lays the tag on them as a BILLIARDS ROOM.

Oh, the sad, rustic evolution of the pool hall. I remember when I first heard of our pool hall, first I was excited just like Christopher Columbus when he set foot on Plymouth Rock, or in relative terms, when Neil Armstrong sit foot on the moon. “One small step for man . . .” You know the rest. July 20, 1969. I was watching our black and white TV in our living room, but this too, is not to be confused with our pool hall. I can’t help getting carried away at times.


First impressions are forever impressions. Something like that. When I walked in uptown Hamilton, Ala., the two blocks from our school building, my non-cool buddies had reached our pool hall---across the main street of town. The hall was wide-open. At first thought, an open door means that there is no shady business taking place. Wrong! I am sure that a lot of illegal football bets were taken there under the mask of a good old-fashioned pool game. People of my hometown, God bless their hearts, were not that bright. Easily deceived.

A haze of that awful stench that we found on Randy, George, and Jerry was truly the foundation of this main street business. Oh. Their drummer, Denny Vick, was so straight-laced that he did not bother to hang-out with Randy and his friends. But that was his business. People respected Denny. His dad owned a big lumber company outside of Hamilton. Vick could afford to be made sport of. I didn’t. I liked him. And Randy and the rest.

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Mind you that we were not inside of the pool hall, but across the main street of town. There was a lot of laughing and talking inside this colorful business. Cursing, filthy jokes, both activities shared by worldly, hard-working men of pride. But mostly the guys who settled into the pool hall were our high school senior boys and they did their share of cursing, laughing at filthy jokes and innocent people. I told you this was partly a sad hub.

This could be a point of discrimination in my day. There were NO women found inside the pool hall. Not even the loosest females shunned this establishment. This should tell you something about the real atmosphere where guys loafed, laughed and used that product which created that awful stench. And the guys who always “cut” school, ended up here no matter the day or time, but not as much in the mornng when school was really rolling.


As the years went by, the pool hall and its glamour slowly begin to wane and fade from the popularity and safety presented for guys who loved to hide in this scab, eyesore of the nice American folks of our hometown. We could only assume, and this is not from sitting one foot inside the hall, that the guys who loved the hall, just found new interests such as finding as many loose girls as possible because they knew that the Vietnam Conflict was raging on and on and the guys knew that they just might be drafted and as all soldiers friendly and enemy will tell you that a relaxed man is a happy draftee.

The pool hall finally closed. But the mysterious fact was why then was the front door always open when no pool hall owners or guys who yelled, joked and told filthy jokes? Where were they? Surely not all of the guys went to Nam. I did see one or two of those good-hearted rebels. Yes, Randy, George, and Jerry did spend a lot of their time “playing pool,” but with their sudden success of their rock band, this distracted them from sneaking into our pool room.

The pool room never shut down completely. Although it was empty. The building was never demolished. But . . .life has a way of presenting the tried and true, whatever comes around, goes around, so in Sept. 10, 1975, I walked into this once-colorful Hamilton icon. The icon had changed identities. It was now a county-wide newspaper. The one where my 23 year (or so) career began

During these years, while I was at my desk designing display ads that I sold . . .I just couldn’t help wondering who had been here and what all was said? And yes, call me looney, but at times I could hear the guffaw’s and filthy jokes of a time gone by.

Casper the Friendly Ghost had nothing on these memories.

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© 2022 Kenneth Avery

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