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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Domino, pool parlors were pre-TV entertainment

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
I apologize at the start if I step on a few toes. I've been asked to write about old-time pool halls and domino parlors which in the Trew family was strictly off-limits.

If you frequented such establishments you were considered lazy and a wastrel o' time. (My grandma's exact words.)

These legitimate businesses go way back in history especially in areas where men worked in shifts around the clock.

Mines, manufacturing plants and night work was usually done by single men who eventually had a little spare time and nowhere else to go.

Saloons provided domino tables along with card tables knowing many patrons did not gamble or drink to excess. The tables provided entertainment until payday when the accommodation usually paid off with the sale of a few drinks or other types of income.

Pool tables offered patrons a change of entertainment activities and since there was a shortage of women, pool and dominoes became a passion or many of the single working class. Any game can be played with or without stakes. Betting merely makes the game more exciting.

Remember now, until after World War II there were no TVs, few movies and in dry areas where liquor was illegal, entertainment was scarce. This was the heyday of the pool halls and domino parlors. There was not much for a single, grown man to do in most small towns.

It was perfectly OK for a man to enter a domino parlor and play a few hands and have himself a soft drink or cup of coffee. But you better not let a certain lady, belonging to a certain church see you coming out the door or within the hour you would be condemned to hell and damnation as sure as sunrise the next morning.

Our town of McLean, along with most other small towns, had their share of domino parlors down through the years. They were usually long narrow buildings, with poor lighting and lots of spittoons.

You played on square tables with little boards around the edges to keep the dominoes from falling off the table. Score was kept with chalk by writing on the table top. Chalk dust kept the dominoes sliding smoothly.

Seems like it cost a dime to play a game with the owner walking around wearing a nail apron around his waist holding change. Most parlors sold coffee or soft drinks and a few cooked hamburgers on short order.

In 1950, Marie Fashions came to McLean hiring 100-plus women to work. Over the next twenty years, many of the steady workers' husbands went into semi-retirement because their wives were drawing good paychecks. They became known as "go-getters" as they carried their spouses to work each morning, spent the day in the domino parlor and had to "to-get-'er" at five o'clock.

No doubt TV rang the death knell for the old-time domino parlor and pool hall. However at one time they were an integral part of most rural communities.
Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
- May 1, 2005 column
 
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