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Death of the House Man (long post sorry)
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K2Kraze
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Death of the House Man (long post sorry) - 06-26-2020, 07:42 AM

Fond memories indeed, fellas - great bumped thread and lessons herein

The houseman where I grew up in small-town South Dakota was indeed the owner, Elmer, but he appointed that duty (and honor) to his challenged and elderly son, Jason. And what an incredible job Jason did for all that wandered in to The Cue on Main Street. Snooker was the primary game on 2 impeccable Gandy tables - and about 100 other games were regularly played on the flawless Gold Crowns that stood in line like soldiers.

If you weren’t “up to snuff” on your pool room etiquette, let alone manners for your elders, well, let me tell you that Jason would school you real quick. You knew you had learned his lessons when he gave you a rack of balls and a perfectly prepped cue and tip when you walked in - and if you hadn’t learned yet, he would stand there behind the counter with both hands on the counter and an evil eye with arched brows that told you “don’t even ask, fella”. The other eye was still watching the tables

Jason our houseman taught me many things while my Pop wasn’t with me shooting snooker, chief amongst them was to honor the game - and thus the men playing around you - above all else. Master those two things and THEN you can work to master the cueing. The “game” was merely the means to a higher skill set.

Thank you, Jason - you will never be forgotten, sir.

And to Elmer - you mastered the impossible: raise a challenged son to not only prosper but to spend his lifetime being respected and teach lessons that would serve us all in our lifetimes....

Ah, the memories of a fabulous childhood.

It was the houseman, indeed!
Housemen

~ K.

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06-26-2020, 07:43 AM

It seemed every Houseman had a beat up, tip less cue holding a door open. God help the mark that decided to try the Houseman when he used that "useless" cue. I am truly blessed to have witnessed that action through the decades.

GREAT POST!

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Rack Em, Barney !!
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Smile Rack Em, Barney !! - 06-26-2020, 08:43 AM

Great, great thread. As a fellow pool player who started at the age of 15

in 1963, I very well remember the housemen in the pool rooms.

Jenny, what a great place and time for pool on the east coast.

  
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06-26-2020, 09:35 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ForumGhost516 View Post
Death of the House Man

Perhaps it’s just me, perhaps it’s my generation that is starting the resurgence of pool in America. The internet telecasts, live streaming, information traveling at the speed of thought. With all of this new technology dawning on us every day we must also look back to our roots as pool players. Whether it’s playing in our family’s basement, going to the local pool hall with friends, or knowing someone who played professionally our past really is important maybe more important than we realize.
One of the things I most fondly remember when I first decided to take our game seriously was the kind and knowledgeable houseman. Always good for a couple of games or a piece of advice, a bastion of knowledge and respect, maybe not the strongest player in the joint but everyone knew his name and took him seriously.

As pool continues on more and more I am finding that these once highly regarded watchmen of the felt are slowly fading away as if time itself is replacing them with younger less experienced counter help. Believe me friends there is a very large difference between being a counter person and being a house man.

In my own local pool room the lack of a house man’s presence is quite noticeable. The current regime if you will is gruff and has grown bitter over the years. What once was a sprawling utopia of billiards is now simply just another pool hall. Tournaments used to bring in competitors from all over the country vying each for over ten thousand dollars and that was just the Calcutta money. Now tournaments bring in the same eight to ten regulars playing on the same tables every day for their ten dollars. Now there is nothing wrong with catering to these individuals because let’s face it they help pay the bills and any business is good business but what happened to the good old days?

Tables are no longer vacuumed the way they should be, rails not wiped, trash not removed, and the bathrooms well let’s just say the bathrooms are an acquired odor. Not one I would personally like to acquire but to each their own. Advice not given, games not played etc. etc. etc. the list goes on and on.

I hope dear reader that in your pool hall you at least have someone who takes pride in their work and does find it an honor to be the all important house man. Someone who makes you feel welcome and part of a club. I miss that feeling in our pool hall. I miss that feeling that what we were doing was somehow bigger than ourselves as kitchy as that sounds and Im sure it does.

I miss that feeling that when we were shooting and we had action that there was nothing else in the world going on. Time could literally stop outside and our own private party was going on strong inside. Hootin and hollerin, woofin, and of course some gentle trash talking. “Ill give you the six ball anytime for anything” for example. Nothing too serious and nothing too expensive. Don’t get me wrong we had action big action with one event coming to mind. A foot race between two portly gentleman from one end of the block to the other for five thousand dollars. I remember laughing as these two rotund gentleman waddled up the block huffing and puffing as my new found family and I laughed for hours after. This whole event started because of the house man. Stirring the pot and finding something anything to do, to bet on, to play for.

It wasn’t always about money. It was for the pride of the room. Our room. Now unfortunately we solemnly await the final nail in our coffin, that fateful wind to blow the doors of our little piece of the billiard world closed as it has done so many others. Will the housemen of years past fade into memory like pool halls of yesterday or will they too in pool rise again. Will they take their rightful place as the historians, the wise ones, the voices of reason? Time will only tell and as the clock ticks on so do I in the hope that one day we will see the phenomena of the house men once again come into the light.

Charles M Eames
Great writing, very eloquent.
  
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06-26-2020, 09:49 AM

Great thread.
Back in the day, Snookers in Providence had a guy. ( Frankie C. ) Great memories of him. His personality remains unmatched.
At R. I. Billiards in N. Prov. All the old school guys were there. Every day was a History lesson. This was the place where youngsters could learn pool and respect. I miss those times.


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06-26-2020, 01:49 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by thenuke View Post
...1963, I very well remember the housemen in the pool rooms.
Small town poolrooms were usually multi-faceted businesses (soda fountain/tobacco/magazines/card room/etc.), and even if the owner was also a player, he needed a rack-boy to collect money and wait on customers when he was out-to-lunch or otherwise occupied, and to engage/provide competition for walk-ins.
Typically, he was the local shortstop/poolhall bum/hustler who worked there for minimum wage mostly so he could practice/play for free. “Instruction”, was usually watching what he did while he beat you (between trips to the counter/cash register). If the owner was old/feeble, the ‘houseman’ also sometimes doubled as ‘bouncer’, ejecting rowdy customers.
Most of my friends growing up wanted to be doctors/lawyers/mechanics/etc. MY career ambition then was ‘poolhall bum’ (still is). Too bad those days seem long-gone now.
  
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06-26-2020, 03:06 PM

During my tenure at Ole Miss Law School in the late 70's, I had the great fortune of stumbling into Purvis's Pool Hall in Oxford, Mississippi. Jim Purvis's father-in-law, Baxter, served as both rack boy and house man ($.25 for straight, eight, etc., $.15 for 9, $.10 for 6). Baxter took care of all of us -- the younger/less experienced one was, the more care one got. Us college boys were "tended to" in order to make sure we did not get out of line and lean too hard on the young ones. Baxter had to have been close to 80 and had lived in times of great change. Late at night, as things slowed, he would tell "olden day" tales about life in North Mississippi. It was amazing how quiet a noisy pool hall could become. Stories about county seat executions -- both hangings and electrocutions -- drove the fear of evil's ultimate mortal consequence into many an impressionable mind. Forty years later, I still think about what both of these fine men did for me and so many others. Thanks.

Every Saturday was Golf Day at Purvis's, with folks from three counties waiting to get in the game (many Saturday mornings there was a "Golf Line" outside at opening). The financial wranglings that attended the many bust outs were incredible in their complexity -- no one wanted to be out. Seldom did the game stop before closing.

During my three years in Oxford, I never saw a fight inside or outside of Purvis's. In fact, I really cannot recall any real disagreement or unhappiness -- a hickey miscount was about as bad as it got. I believe Purvis had adopted what I consider a primary unwritten rule of pool halls -- this is sanctuary and is not to be disturbed.


"It's all in the wrist, with a deck or a cue"
Epitaph of Frankie Machine

"Yet once you've come to be part of this particular patch, you'll never love another.
Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies.
But never a lovely so real."
Nelson Algren, Chicago: City on the Make

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Time's a wasting
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Time's a wasting - 06-26-2020, 04:38 PM

Longing for Yesteryear, are ye?

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06-27-2020, 01:28 PM

Not longing - reflecting. And paying tribute.

~ K.
  
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