Last evening we ate at the Three Spoons Diner in Greenfield and I noticed an old cigar box on display. What we kids grew up knowing with was the Daniel’s Brothers Pool Hall. Older people knew that same place as Daniel’s Brothers Cigar Company, manufacturers of hand rolled cigars. I posted a photo of the box on Facebook and there seemed to be some interest in pool room memories. So, I decided it was time to revisit an article I wrote for the Times-Gazette back in October, 2002. Enjoy.
TROUBLE IN RIVER CITY
Published October, 2002
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 the proper “English” to the 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!”