Pool School

This picture was taken long before I was born. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea that I’m old or something.

Once upon a time, if you were to turn right at this intersection and walk down a couple of hundred feet, you would come to the Top Hat billiard room, a dark, narrow hole full of huge vintage pool tables, old men talking quietly amongst themselves, and young and rough rebels without a cause, sometimes playing for serious money, and often swearing a lot.

If you were to walk a couple of blocks straight up this main drag, you would come to Dino’s on the right-hand side, the other pool hall in town, which was bigger, brighter, with newer tables along with pinball machines and a table soccer game which I was pretty darn good at. Rodney Rodent and I took on all comers and I don’t care what anybody says, we were the team to beat.

Dino’s was also filled with rebels without a cause who swore a lot.

The Top Hat was tough, dangerous, smelly, smoke-filled, and really freaking dismal. Dino’s was newer and livelier, filled with long-hairs and frats and smart kids and not-so-smart kids like me, and maybe on a sub-conscious level, people went to Dino’s to avoid getting a punch in the head at the Top Hat.

Although I preferred Dino’s, I didn’t mind the Top Hat. It was always fun to see Vern Smith run the table there and collect his cash, and besides, many of those greaseballs came from my neighbourhood and I’d known them all my life.

It’s all gone now – Dino’s burned to the ground and the Top Hat was condemned, or whatever, a long ago. It’s very sad.

The question lingers. How do young people now find parties and older guys to buy their booze for them if they don’t have a pool hall to go to? How do kids polish their pool-playing skills and their pinball playing, and of course their table soccer? How can they lean on parking meters out front and watch the traffic and the old man drive by if there’s no pool hall? How do they become better greaseballs and straightforward party animals?

Poor young people nowadays. It’s a concern to think that they don’t have this. Get the kids off their computers and out of the gyms and back into the pool halls where they belong.



11 thoughts on “Pool School”

  1. You and the Rodent played fire wagon fooze ball………. Great pic, especially the signs. I don’t think a pharmacy today would be able to have an honest sign like that. Those signs would have worked well outside Dino;s and Top Hat also.

  2. Hobo, one thing about Orillia – it has such a classic main street. Old brick buildings, no spaces between. Nelson has a main street like this, but Powell River sure doesn’t.

  3. Dennis, I used to like both places but I was such a lousy player they would give me the “insult” which was to put me on a timer vs .25c per game. Dino H was quite the guy and there were always lots of notables in there watching the world go by.
    The drug store on the right hand side was Wrights’ but it burned down. Most of the stores from the 1940’s ( i think the postcard was about then) are not gone. McNabb’s hardware, Pulver’s Varleys, Zellers’ FW Woolworth, Ritchie and Mould.

  4. Thanks Don. For us there was the record store a few stores up, and before I was born my mom worked at Stacy’s. There was Woolworth’s 5 and 10, Zellers, Botman’s Bakery, and the stationary place where I bought school supplies. The Shang, the Golden Dragon, So many great old places. I loved that main street. Great shopping at Christmas. When I was back a few years ago I noticed that parking around there was very expensive and it probably keeps shoppers from going there. I parked way down on Elgin St., couldn’t get any closer without shelling out a few bucks.

  5. DK, you always forget about Fagan’s down stairs pool hall just beside the Shang. Thats where Phil Hanniford & Lester & the older boys played for big money also. Diana and I were in Orillia & went down stairs to an arts and craft store & I recognized the door stairs & low ceiling as the lost home of Fagan’s.
    Cheers from the East!!!!

  6. Mike, it’s true, I do forget about Fagan’s. It was a place I rarely went down to. It was always out of sight, out of mind. Thanks for reminding me.

  7. I remember hanging out at the arcade in the bowling alley and then later in the large shopping mall. Unfortunately I was never any good at either pinball or video games; insert a quarter, play a minute and then game over. I’d usually run out of money within 5 or 10 minutes so hanging around wasn’t very fun.
    It was only in bars that I got introduced to pool tables, but by then I didn’t need anyone to buy me alcohol. I suck at pool too, but playing a game after a few beers is a good way to slow down the drinking.

  8. Quit your day job and start writing seriously if you are fretting about retirement. That’s what mama Marjo advises…

  9. Dennis,

    Love the picture. It reminds me of “It’s A Wonderful Life” for some reason.

    Strangely I did my Doctorate in this very subject. “Poolhall Icon – The Decline of the Greaseball in Post-Modern Canada 1963-1997”

    It’s available from most decent academic bookshops. If you don’t see it on the shelves, then don’t bother to order it as there’s probably a copy propping the door open.

    It’ll be the most riveting 973 pages (+ copious notes, bibliography and full index) that you’ve ever read.

  10. Blue Bayou, what a coincidence. Every night before I go to bed I read a little Mark Twain, then some Kerouac, and then some Decline of the Greaseball. I love the chapter on how to comb a ducktail. It’s very riveting as you say. Pretty well as riveting as can be.

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