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Richard's Story

Taxi Alley and entrance-way to the notorious 8 Ball Pool RoomThis story is true. It tells how former WSGS Broadcaster Richard Blount from Hazard came to learn and love the game of pool.

The year was 1958. The date was March 3rd and the reason I remember it so well it was my 13th birthday. I had finally become a teenager. It was on a Saturday, this birthday of mine and there were at least 6 or 7 inches of snow on the ground and it was very cold as I remember.

Now Saturday's were "town days" back then. Everyone always came to town, especially the kids. We went to the "Show" (movies) to see the Saturday western double features and then to the Drug Stores for a 5 cent cherry Pepsi. That was about it. What I didn't know was that day would be burned into my mind and heart forever as this was the day I would embark on something totally new and exciting to me.

I had a friend who was quite a bit older than me, Larry. He had his driver's license and worked part time for the Firestone Store in town. I ran into Larry on the street and he asked me to go with him on a delivery that afternoon. The delivery was in town so I knew it wasn't going to take very long so I agreed to go. We got back to the store around 4:00 in the afternoon and I still had no idea what was in store for me. I was soon to find out, however.


Finally, I mustered the courage to go in, not knowing how much that step into the Eight Ball Pool Room would change my life.

I looked at Larry and said " I can't go in there, my mom and dad will kill me." Larry just smiled and told me to come on in, it would be okay. He opened the door to the eight Ball and held it for me, waiting for me to go on in. I just stood there, scared stiff and then finally, I mustered the courage to go in, not knowing how much that step into the Eight Ball Pool Room would change my life.

Dark and smoky was a mild description of this place. I had a hard time seeing where I was going let alone what was going on. I found a chair along the wall and as my eyes roamed the room, I suddenly was in awe, to say the least. My heart was pumping so fast and the excitement I felt was like none felt before.

After sitting there a few minutes my eyes started to focus and I could see the six Brunswick pool tables, two pinball machines, the jukebox and pop machine. Every table was in action and I just sat there, watching, taking in as much as I could as fast as I could. It was the most exciting day of my young life and the best birthday I had ever had. But, as excited as I was I was just as scared, fearing my mom and dad would find out I was in there.

Now I had been in Pool Rooms before, the Royal Bar and Main Street Lunch were both located on Main street and both served food and beer. Four pool tables were in each place. I was allowed to go in and eat but that's all. No pinball or loafing in there. The Eight Ball was different. It was located below street level and didn't serve food or beer so the kids could play there (with their parent's permission). Some of the old-timers in town called the Eight Ball "The Underworld" because of its location.

As I sat watching all the action a short, very fat man smoking a huge cigar came and sat down beside me, grinning and blowing smoke in my face as he watched my reaction. I didn't know who he was but soon found out. Paul "Dog Head" McIntyre. He and his brother Don "Banjer Belly" McIntyre ran the Eight Ball. The rack man was Charlie "eye" Robinson whose brother "Hardwater" who was one of the best pool players around at the young age of 16.

Dog Head asked me what my name was (he knew) and I told him but asked him not to tell anyone (meaning my parents) that I had been in there. Dog Head just grinned, blew more cigar smoke my way and said nothing.

Larry came over and between the two of them they gave me a really hard time about being in there and what my parents were going to do to me. I was still excited but even more scared when Larry looked at me and said, " come on, let's shoot a game of pool." My eyes got big as saucers and I said, " I don't know how!" Dog Head looked at me and said, "go ahead, Larry will show you how. It's not that hard. Thus, my pool-playing career was about to begin.

When I went home later on that evening I was still as excited as I could be about the Eight Ball and the fact that I had just played pool for the first time. But I was also worried. Worried that my parents would find out. I had never done anything in my life that I enjoyed any more than playing pool but I knew my mom and dad would never give me their permission to go to the Eight Ball and play.

Dog Head had given me a card to have my dad sign, giving me permission to play. You had to have a picture of yourself on the card also. I knew it was no use to ask my parents but I wanted to play so badly I was desperate. I called my best buddy Jerry and ask him to come over to my house, that it was an emergency. We lived on the same street and by coming the back way Jerry was there in less than five minutes. Jerry and I grew up together with only six months (March - October) separating us in age. We were just about inseparable in those days and there wasn't anything we wouldn't do for each other.

When I told Jerry what I wanted him to do he looked at me and said, " why do you want to go down there and knock those stupid balls around? That can't be any fun!"

I had already set the wheels in motion for Jerry's part in my plan to get into the Eight Ball. I had a copy of my dad's signature ready and waiting for Jerry to practice coping so he could forge it onto the pool permission card. After a few minutes of practicing Jerry said he was ready. I handed him the card and showed him where to sign my dad's name, my heart in my throat with fear Jerry would mess up and I knew I couldn't get another card as Dog Head would know something was up. But, my old buddy was steady as a rock and when he finished signing my dad's name it looked good enough to take to the bank. I breathed a sigh of relief and said " now, for step number two," which was pasting my picture on the card.

Jerry and I talked for awhile and then he went home, our actions sworn to secrecy. As I lay on my bed staring at the ceiling I was counting the hours, minutes and seconds until school was out on Monday so I could head back to the Eight Ball.

When the bell rang that next Monday afternoon I made a "b" line for the Eight Ball. Now I didn't have enough nerve to go down the front steps (for fear of being seen) so I went to the back door where Larry and I had first went in. I forgot that my mom's office was right in back of the Eight Ball. As a matter of fact, I was so excited that I never gave it a thought.

I gave Dog Head the permission card and he looked at it real good and then said, "okay, you can shoot some pool, fat boy." (I was a rather portly youngster in those days).

I was in hog heaven so to speak but it didn't last long. When I finally got home (long after dark) the first thing my mom and dad asked me was "what were you doing in the Eight Ball Pool Room today?" My heart sank. My first instinct was to lie so I did, saying, "I wasn't! I've never been in there, I added." My dad gave me a very stern look and I knew he was mad. "Don't tell me you weren't in there today," he said. "I know damn well you were and it wasn't the first time so don't lie to me!", he roared. I just stood there, crushed and heartbroken, as I knew the thrill of my life was history. "You won't be going back there," my dad said, his lips drawn tight with a grimace on his face that I had seen many times before (like every time I screwed up and I did that a bunch of times in my young life). My dad's two favorite words were "by hell" and that night he seemed to say them quite often.

The next morning my dad went to the Eight Ball, got my card and told Dog and Don not to let me back in. My life was shattered and there was only one thing I could do to save face. Run away! I didn't want to face all the guys at the Eight Ball, as I was too ashamed. Not of lying to my parents or Jerry forging my dad's name but ashamed that my dad barred me out of the Eight Ball. So the next day I left for school but didn't go. I hid out until both my parents were gone from the house and then I went home, put some clothes in an old brown paper sack and hit the road. I didn't have a clue as to where I was going, only that I was gone. I made it about 2 miles from home, walking all the way and figured it was time to take a rest. I sat down on a rock wall beside a red light hoping to catch a ride out of town.

I did catch a ride but it was one I didn't want. I heard a voice say, " you get in this car right now!" It was my grandmother and grandfather Pokey and Big Ike. Now Pokey was a tough old bird who ran the family like a "Godfather" would and I was too scared not to mind her. She asked where I was going and when I told her she was furious. "You don't have any business in that old Pool Room", she said. I was doomed. How could I live? How could I face everyone? Most important to me was not being able to shoot pool at the Eight Ball. I was sick to death. I stayed in my room the rest of the week, going to school and coming out for meals (we didn't have TV in those days) not knowing that the worse was yet to come.

Saturday morning rolled around and my mom, Pokey and my Aunt Chris (one of my mom's sisters) went to the A & P to trade (buy groceries). When they returned I helped carry all their groceries home as we all lived real close together. When I got through carrying the groceries I looked up and there stood Jerry, grinning ear to ear. My Mom really liked Jerry and most of my other friends, especially Mike (Red). She asked Jerry " what are you two up to today?" Jerry looked at her and said "I'm going to the Eight Ball to shoot some pool and wanted to see if Richard wanted to go with me." I almost died when Jerry told us that his dad had signed his card without any argument at all. I looked at Jerry and told him I couldn't go and ran into my bedroom, tears filling my young eyes.

It wasn't but a few minutes after Jerry had left that my dad came home. The house was real quite and I knew he and mom were talking but I couldn't hear what they were saying. I thought maybe they were thinking about sending me to "Greendale," which was a reformatory for bad kids. I was hoping they would but knew I couldn't be that lucky. (Greendale was a horrible place)

My mom finally came to the door of my room and said "Richard, come out here. Your dad wants to talk to you." Oh boy! Here it comes again. More of the "By Hell" stuff. So with a very heavy heart I went into the living room. There was my dad, sitting in his favorite chair with his lips drawn tight and that stern look on his face. What now, I thought. What is he going to jump me about now?

"Son, I want you to listen and listen good," he said. "I'm going to let you go to the Eight Ball." I couldn't believe my ears! I was jumping for joy! I was so happy! "Now By Hell, wait a damn minute," he said. "I'm going to go with you and sign your permission card but here are the ground rules." First of all, no gambling  and you can only go in there on Saturdays and after school. You have to pass in school and be home on time. I didn't even hear or care about the rules. I was back in and that's all that mattered. So here we went, down town to the Eight Ball. I was so thrilled I didn't know how to act. When I got there Jerry said "Let's play a game of pool," and that we did. That we did!

It came fast to me, faster than anything ever had in my entire life. First it was rotation (61 or slop) whichever you wanted to call it. Then came 9 Ball, 8 ball and double check. 9 ball and check were gambling games but we played them for loser pays unless one of us played with "Mark" who never had any money and always wanted someone to "buy us a game."

Dog and Don wouldn't let beginners play on the front two tables much but Jerry and I both improved so fast that soon the front two tables were ours to master.

Bank pool was a fun game but to expensive for us starting out as it was $1.20 per hour per player. The guys would could play bank were only charged 15 cents a game and sometimes we would play four handed partner bank with Dog and Don (1 & 9 buddies) so we would only have to pay 15 cents. Don and Dog always won in the early days. 61 and 8 ball were 10 cents or 3 for a quarter. 9 ball and check were a nickel for two players. It was so much fun it didn't matter about the prices.

And thus, at the beginning of my 13th year of life I had embarked upon an endeavor that would be a part of me forever. Over the 40 plus years I have played pool (except for the 15 or so when I stopped playing) I have seen a lot of changes in the game, most of them for the good.

I enjoy the game today, much more than I ever thought I would at this stage of my life.

From the backdoor of the old Eight Ball Poolroom on my 13th birthday in 1958 and from this time on I will continue to "Love" this game of pool. I have been truly fortunate to have my bride of almost 30 years and also my "love affair" with the game of pool. "Brown eyes," the green felt with the six pockets is the only mistress I will ever have

 

2002 Big Dipper Sports