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Outdoors with Larry Dablemont: The Big Piney Pool Hall rules

I hope to have my Big Piney Museum and Ozark Interpretive Center finished and open by this fall. One of the contents is a pool table that was made in the early 1920s, dubbed an A.E. Schmidt Victory Table. It was sent to the main street pool hall in Houston, Missouri, about 1922. My dad and grandfather bought the pool hall in 1957 when I was 10.  From then until 1964, I worked there after school and at various times during the summer. 


Sometime in the 1970s, I guess, the three snooker tables and two pool tables were sold. I found one of each of them in a small town Ozark restaurant about 20 years ago and I bought them both. They are set up in my home now, waiting for the completion of the museum. It is nearing completion now, and we have a big fireplace on one wall. Out in front of that fireplace we will have that 1920 antique pool table. There I will create a 1920s through 1950s pool hall environment with tables for checkers, cards and dominoes, a coffee pot, old time soda pop machine and peanut machine. There will be no charge for the games or coffee, just a can nearby for donations.

            In Dad and Grandpa McNew’s pool hall, there were lots of signs telling players not to sit on pool tables, not to set drinks on them, no gambling, no masse shots, etc. The only thing different from the pool hall of my boyhood will be the lack of spittoons. No tobacco of any kind will be allowed in my nature center-museum.

             I have some memorabilia from that old pool hall where all the men in Houston seemed to gather a few times a week; a big picture of ducks that was there in 1958 will be on my museum wall and an old deer head and the handles of the front door of that pool hall from the fifties. If I can find a straggly looking fish mount that looks 60 years old, I might stick it up over the ‘farr-place.’

            But there were signs there back then, like “no gamblin’” “no cussin’’ and “no alcohol.” I will have to make new ones. How do these sound? First of all, we’ll post house rules about three kinds of normal pool games that can be played. Nine-ball not allowed.


1. No argurin’ about politics or religion!

2. No gamblin’ without written permission!

3. No fish stories when owner is here! (His family is trying to stop him from lyin.’)

4. Coffee is free, except for first and last cup, which are 25 cents each! Please clean up any spilt coffee as no one else will do it! 

5. In winter, card players and pool players are expected to keep ‘farr-place’ filled with wood.

6. Restroom in back corner, but if you just need to pee, go out into woods thru back door!

7. Don’t sit on table and don’t sit nothin’ else on table

8. Do not flirt with or grab ladies up front (up front in museum that is), unless you know in advance they don’t mind!

9. For each pool game you play, loser puts a quarter in donation box, or more if you want the good Lord to smile upon you!

10. Treat everyone here like your brother, unless you have had trouble getting along with your brother!

11. Remember that this is a day the Lord has made.  Rejoice and be glad about it and don’t mess it up by cussin’ ‘til you get outside!

12. Keep table covered when not in use, put cue sticks in rack, and put the balls in pockets (pool table pockets, not YOUR pockets)!

Last but most important:

13. If you do not want your wife to know you are here, should she call, notify us in advance. When I was working as a kid in the pool hall we owned, Vernon Cantrell’s wife would call and want to know if he was there.  Why she called, I don’t know, because Vernon always was in there at such times, and he had told me to tell her he wasn’t. What she called me at such times wasn’t near as bad as what she called Vernon.

            When I get the place finished, come by and play a game of pool or checkers and help us keep the farr goin.’

P.S. The Big Piney River Nature Center and Museum will be free to all who stop by. I could sure use some donations from rich people to pay some of the cost of it. You can see what we have done so far on the east side of Highway 63 a mile south of Houston, Mo. Help would be appreciated.

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