Actually there was one more spot we were advised to avoid: the magazine racks in the back of Liberty Hat works, which was on the Broad Street level of the Masonic Building. We did not spend much time there; it was too open to all whom came in to do other business, such as hat cleaning and shoeshines. This was a trap we did not test very often.
The pinball machines also presented a slight problem because they were visible from the sidewalk running down East Fourth Avenue in front of the bowling alley. I stopped going there after Sid Willingham happened by one day on the sidewalk and mentioned to my father where he had seen his boy. I was in a heap of trouble and couldn’t sit for a while.
We really liked hanging out in the pool halls anyway, so that is where we misspent most of our youthfulness. Hill City was a challenge for me and a lot of the guys because Dick Hackett’s Sportsman Store was upstairs on the Broad Street level of the Forrest Hotel. It was kind of a hangout for the adult men who worked downtown, which meant my and other kids’ fathers. We still spent time there when a big name was in from mostly Chattanooga, which seemed to have a large group of pool hustlers calling it home. The big money matches were most always played at Hill City for some reason. It was larger and had more tables than Pastime.
Pastime being in the Cotton Block, and somewhat hidden down an alley that ran from Broad Street to the back parking lot of the Greystone Hotel, became our usual hangout downtown. The Bumble Bee cafe took up half the alley: it was very small and seemed to always to have the same customers inside with others ordering from an outside window.
Another reason we played pool at Pastime was because we had to hitchhike home from school, which started from the sixth grade at Darlington on Cave Spring Road. I guess you had to be 12 or so before you could start hitchhiking because I rode the county school bus when I went to Alto Park Elementary and a regular city bus (paid a fare) when in attendance at Central Primary downtown.
The first leg of the trip home, for me ending five miles down Horseleg Creek Road, was to get to Broad and East Second Avenue and Enloe’s Drug Store where we would leave our books stacked up a hundred deep in the front window in front of the magazine stand.
I must say here: Thank you, Mr. Enloe, for coming back on many occasions after books were left and needed for homework or test preparation. Enloe was very nice to all us boys and we respected him very much.
I do not know the last names but Buck kind of ran Pastime Pool Hall in the early 1960s and the rack boy, who was really a man, was George. I can still hear boys calling “Rack um up, George” whereby he would collect your dime for nine-ball or 15 cents for eight-ball and a quarter for snooker. Being young we played a lot of nine-ball for a dime.
I think we spent more time in the pool hall than we did at school most days. That experience turned out some excellent pool players, unfortunately not me, some using the talent to pay for college and other youthful endeavors.
There was one other pool hall some of us frequented, mostly boys in the West Rome area. The Picnic was located on Shorter Avenue across from the West End Shopping Center near Kirton Street. We would ride our bicycles or walk from Shorter’s hill, where we camped out on weekends or anytime during the summer, to hang out and play pool at the Picnic.
The man who ran the Picnic was a very interesting person, his appearance different than any man we had ever seen. Carl Knowles was a champion boxer in his day and had the scars to prove it. Fact being it was almost impossible to knock him out, you had a fight on your hands when in the ring with Knowles. The feature I most vividly remember was that he had a very severe cauliflower ear. I had never seen one before or, for that matter, seen one since.
My first introduction to Knowles had been a few years before he worked at the pool hall and he was at City Hall. My mother was taking me to the children’s library, across the parking lot from City Hall and downstairs in The Carnegie Building, which housed the main library.
When we were walking to the door there was a commotion going on in the parking lot and Knowles was matched against three city policemen. It looked like a fair fight to me.
At the Picnic, Knowles took good care of us boys and kept us out of trouble. I think our parents really appreciated knowing Carl was looking out for our well-being. Thank you, Carl Knowles; you made our youth that much richer.
I don’t think the pool application on an iPad is going to enrich the lives of the young today, or that the hitchhiker game is going to teach independence like we had. I’m afraid of what today’s youth has been missing. I hope I’m wrong, but they don’t even teach kids today how to get under their desks in case of a nuclear attack. With Lockheed in nearby Cobb County being considered a major target, it was then figured we would have 25 minutes to do whatever it was we were going to do before the radiation got to Rome.
One thing for sure, growing up in the 1960s was never dull!