Daniels Brother’s Pool Room, Reprised

There’s been lots of nostalgic discussion about Greenfield of the 50s and 60s on Facebook. Several times it has included questions about Daniels Brother’s Pool Room so I decided to reprint a column I originally wrote for the Times-Gazette newspaper back in October of 2002.

8-ball in the corner pocket!

There are lots of men my age who have fond memories of the Daniels Brothers poolroom, which was once an important part of life in Greenfield. The establishment was owned and operated by Pearl and Ernie Daniels and was everything great poolrooms used to be.

It was a male bastion where young men learned the ways of old men. It was truly “men only”, as women were required to stand outside and ask entering men if their boy friend or husband was in attendance. Inside, tales were spun, politics discussed, opinions formed, rumors considered, smoke inhaled, cigars chomped, snuff dipped and spittoons filled.

There were eleven heavy oak tables with bright green felt, thick slate tops, genuine leather pockets and decades of cigarette burns along the edges. These tables were lined up from front to back in a long narrow room. Over each table hung an elongated Tiffany style lamp, long turned yellow by layers of deposited smoke tars, casting their soft, warm glow on the green felt.

The best tables were in the front and were reserved for the better players.

It was a nickel a game with the goal being to get good enough to play on the front tables as a regular. I started playing pool on the rear table at an age Professor Harold Hill would have found “troubling”. By age sixteen I was a regular on the second table and a sometimes guest on the first.

Lesser players played eight ball and rotation to make their nickel last longer. The serious gamblers played nine ball on the front two tables.

Up front they had a genuine marble soda fountain, which dispensed the weakest colas and phosphates on this earth.

Across from the fountain was a large display of tobacco products. The wide selection of cigars was shown off inside two Waddell Company deluxe display cases, made in Greenfield earlier in the last century. The poolroom had originally begun life as a cigar store and the brothers manufactured their own brand called The Champion.

If you asked for a pack of matches you were given a pack that had the WWII “V for Victory” emblem printed on them. Even in the fifties they were so old that most wouldn’t strike.

It was one of those places that even if you didn’t have a penny in your pocket you were welcome. Favorite pass times included wondering if Pearl would ever light the always present cigar tucked into the corner of his mouth or how long an old man named Shotgun could go without spitting his tobacco juice into a brass cuspidor.

All along one wall were large oaken high chairs complete with shiny brass spittoons on the floor nearby. From these you could smoke and spit for hours while studying the art of applying proper “English” to an ivory cue ball and playing “position”.

One of the reigning masters was a tall, thin dude named Jack, who had fingers longer than most people’s hand. He had an unmatched style of holding the stick’s grip, oh so delicately, while creating the perfect bridge with the fingers and palm of his left hand. His index finger and thumb would gently wrap around the cue’s tip while the chalk cube was tucked up under his ring finger and constantly available for touch ups after each shot. The man had that gentle “slow hand” that the Pointer Sisters are still looking for. Jack was my hero and even today I judge players by how closely they match Jack’s style of holding the stick.

A few years ago my son started playing at one of today’s pseudo poolrooms, I think they call them “family billiard parlors,” with his friends. One evening he asked if I’d like to go shoot some pool. I said yes so we drove into Hillsboro for the evening. I guess he thought he was pretty good and certain to embarrass the “old man.” Well, there was no describing the thrashing I laid on him that night. He walked away, and remains to this day, in awe. And my mother said nothing good would ever come of all those hours I, “wasted up at that damn poolroom!”

Hope this brought back some memories and if please, if you have memories of life within the hallowed halls of ivory balls, please share your comments with us.




2 thoughts on “Daniels Brother’s Pool Room, Reprised”

  1. Having left Greenfield at the age of 13, (before I was able to snag a boyfriend), and having sisters only, I never knew of the existence of Daniel’s Brother’s Pool Room. Nonetheless, I was able to chuckle at the descriptions and truly appreciate the ambiance of the place, if not the experience of being there, while reading this article. I can only imagine the camaraderie and the good times shared.

  2. Pool, Billiards, Bumper Pool, Eight Ball, Nine-Ball (and Fifteen Ball) have wandered in and out of my life since I was a youngster, with Bumper Pool giving me an idea of the kind of delights that pool could bring into one’s life as I played with a young girl about my age, then, when I was about ten, probably, at a bumper pool table in a community room at a campground in Wyoming, I think, on the way to British Columbia or California on a summer family camping trip.

    Since then I’ve played pool from time to time wherever I’ve been, in college, at Lucky’s Bar (it’s actually named Lucky’s Lounge, but no one calls it that) on St. Charles in New Orleans, where I was a regular for awhile and happily played pool with anyone who wanted to not just sit in the bar, winning probably less than half the games, just playing for the fellowship.

    I’ve never played pool for money, not counting playing that the loser pays for the next game, but I have played for room and board, in Arkansas, where I ran a game room while the manager went on vacation for two weeks (also working there a couple weeks before the manager left to learn the ropes and another week or two when he got back); part of my job was to play pool with anyone who came in who needed or wanted someone to play with. There I participated in several tournaments, never winning any, but counseled – one could say – an old Arkansas pool champion, two years, I think he said, who had given up playing for money so wouldn’t play in tournaments. He’d come in and played and coached me several times, until I finally beat him one game; I’d like to think that I I really won, though he had played me several games when he was coaching me where he gave me a lot of breaks, but whenever I got too close to winning, he’d run ’em all in. But,anyway, I finally convinced him that playing in tournaments, at least in this little game room (it wasn’t really a pool hall as there were other games available, although it was mostly a pool hall), wasn’t playing for money as the stakes were so small that even if one won, you only, perhaps, tripled or quadrupled the amount you payed to play in the tournament. And, I think, more people started showing up to play once they learned that he was playing again, probably to sharpen their skills for playing in pool halls in bigger towns.

    There was another guy who came in to play from time to time just – seemingly – because he loved the game. Sometimes he’d play some games with me, while he was waiting for someone else to show up; sometimes we’d play nine- and fifteen-ball to make the money go further, but several times when he broke he’d run all the balls in. (Several times when playing eight ball, he’s run all his balls in, the eight ball, and then all of the remaining balls in, mine if he was playing with me.) I think that, in part, I convinced the guy in the previous paragraph to play in tournaments again in hopes that I could watch the two of ’em play.

    Oh, I mentioned playing fifteen ball earlier; that was how we made our money go further. In the lazy morning and early afternoon hours, some would come in and we’d play Nine Ball and catch a couple balls as they went in the pockets and then use ’em to add to the unused balls to play a second game of fifteen ball (with Nine-Ball rules).

    Now, as you can imagine, in addition to the types of pool mentioned in the first paragraph, I’ve also played by a variety of rules. Just straight eight ball where the only ball you need to call is the eight ball or you’ve gotta call all the pockets (if you get another of your balls in instead your turn is over, and sometimes the ball that went in is spotted, sometimes not), but in Arkansas was the first time, as far as I recall, that I’d ever played, or even heard about, Ball-in-Hand, which works like this:

    * You’ve gotta call each ball’s pocket,
    * Either your ball or the cue ball has to bump off a rail and your ball has to go in (where you said) or your turn in over,
    * If you miss your ball, not only is your turn over, but the other player can reposition the cue ball anywhere she wants (not just behind the line as in eight ball), and
    * It’s often played where the eight ball cannot be shot straight in, but must bump off a rail (and, of course, if you scratch on an eight ball, then you lose, as is traditional).

    After thinking about pool while coming up with this response. I believe I will be looking forward with more longing to my next opportunity to play some pool; heck, I’m young enough, I guess, to, perhaps, someday, own a neighborhood game room. I can dream, right?

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