Well, if you are reading this you survived the holidays and the long cold month of January. Most of the beautiful twinkling lights have been taken down, and the Christmas memories have been refreshed by the credit card invoices you are now receiving in the mail. I have already had to stop writing and correct the title from 2023 to 2024, which I’m sure won’t be the last. February is the short month that most everyone is usually glad to see gone because then spring is just around the bend. But remember this year is Leap Year which means 29 days. Of course, the “groundhog” will tell us how long till spring. The full moon this month is the 24th and is known as the “snow moon”.
Last month we talked about cheese, snowmobiles, and M & R Feed and Hardware, and that brings us to this month’s story. What was a popular thing to do in February in the early 80’s? Well, play pool, of course, some sophisticated people may call it billiards, but the country folk call it pool, and for many years pool was very popular in our area. Gert Shoemaker had a little store in Hopkins Gaps and when she passed Ford Shoemaker her son took over, and even after the store was no longer in operation Ford had a pool table and a drink machine in the store. On weekends, the younger boys would go to Ford’s and shoot pool.
There was a pool table at Carroll Yankey’s store. My uncle also had a pool table in his basement and on Sunday afternoons the family would gather and as the older ones talked, the younger ones played pool. Also, if you were good enough you could make some spending money in a game called three, six, nine in which the only balls on the table were one through nine. The balls had to be shot in sequence, the one first, the two ball second and so forth, and when the three, six, nine ball was made those were the money balls. Any number of people could play from two to six, and if you had six people playing and you made all three money balls at 25 cents each you could win $3.75 in one game.
And with minimum wage in 1972 at $1.60 an hour. With gas at 32 cents a gallon, that was good money. If we factored this at today’s gas prices that would be 12 gallons which is about a value of approx. $36.00. But most folks were there for the fun of the game and time spent among friends. I remember one old timer that liked to shoot pool and a common way to play was that losers play. Whoever lost would pay the 25 cents to the table to play the next game.
On one game, I broke the balls which means I shot first and started shooting and ran about 5 balls without missing. The old timer looked at me and said, “Boy, you’re shooting like your broke!”, which meant I didn’t have another quarter to pay for another game. I had to laugh and to this day I remember the good times I had with that old fellow.
Now back to M & R Hardware, we opened a game room in the early 80’s. It included three pool tables, two to three pin ball machines and several video games including that most remembered PAC-MAN. On Sundays we would have Pool tournaments which would have a surprising following. One Sunday in which we held the first qualifying tournament there were over 40 individuals that participated to see what bracket they qualified in. To determine who played who a “Kitty” was formed with the exact number of players that were in the tournament. Each individual drew a number, and number one would play number two, number three would play number four and so on.
If there was an odd number, there would be a BYE put in the pot so the person that drew that would have a first round bye. Now there would be, as in all games and sports, some individuals that excelled and others that just were not as experienced and could not compete with the best players for one reason or another. For this reason, we established three brackets A, B, C. During this qualifying tournament depending on where you “placed” depended on which bracket you were placed in.
The top 14 were in the A group, the next 12-14 were in the B group and the remainder were placed in the C group. Then on certain weekends, we would have tournaments for that group only. This would give every individual a chance to win a trophy regardless of their experience level. Now a C bracket player could play in a B bracket tournament and so on, but an A bracket player could not play in a B bracket tournament. There was also a following of observers. They just wanted to watch the most experienced players and to cheer on their favorites. At times it was hard to find a place to park.
The tournaments also expanded to ladies, youth, doubles, and yes, even mixed doubles. A good time could be had for all. When the tournament was over, the trophies would be handed out and a Polaroid picture would be taken of the winners. Unfortunately, some of these photos were damaged in the 1985 flood but a few remain and when I pull these out and look at them it takes me back to those days when people would gather and compete and have just clean fun. I hope you enjoy my trips back to memory lane and stay warm.
Until next time.
Believe it or not.