People ask me how I can remember all the things I write about that happened in my childhood, and I have to admit, I get a lot of help from old friends. A good example of that help came whenever I talked to a good friend of mine, Dick Prisendorf about old times. Dick would often come up with a memory, that I had not thought of myself for many years. This memory about the old Playmore pool hall, that was such a large part of both our childhood memories is another one which I must give him credit.
The old pool hall was in the 200 block of West Main Street during the ’40s and ’50s, and was the stereotypical smoke filled room, with an equally stereotypical owner named Jim Galloway. The pool hall and Jim could have been plunked down into any movie set, that wished to display an authentic, seedy pool emporium of that era, and would fit perfectly. The cast of characters that frequented the place to play pool or rummy were vintage movie stuff too, including my friends and I with our home made shoe shine boxes trying to make just enough money for one more game of snooker, or eight ball.
Jim was not nearly as unprincipled as many parents thought at the time, and he required a note from a parent before he would allow us younger kids to come there. As I recall my sister wrote mine when mom refused, and the other boys got theirs in other underhanded ways. I can’t remember what I used to bribe sis back then, but it was probably a month of dish washing, or other household chores. Mom eventually found out about the counterfeit note, and it took a lot of begging to keep her from calling Jim to revoke my pool privileges. It probably took a lot more dishes too.
The ’40s and ’50s were still in the era of the traveling Pool Shark, and the Playmore Pool Hall saw its share of them.
It was said, that Jim Galloway was very good when he was young, and could usually take care of the pool hustlers that showed up to find a game, but by the time I knew him the skill of the cue stick had abandoned him. There was, however, a young pool player back then, who though only a few years older than Dick and I, was already a man when it came to playing pool. His name was Paul Johnson, and he could do things on a pool table the rest of us could only dream of doing. Few in Sedalia were foolhardy enough to challenge Paul, so most of the time he could be seen running the balls off the table by himself.
There was a loose partnership that formed between Jim Galloway and Paul, one with the money, one with the skill, so when a pool shark came to town in hopes of taking advantage of the small town hicks of Sedalia, Jim would call Paul, who more often than not, sent them away with less money than they came to town with.
I had not thought of Paul Johnson for years, until Dick mentioned his name that day, but then it had been a lot of years since I held a cue stick too. I don’t think I could ever stand at a pool table with a cue stick in my hand, without remembering Paul, Jim, and that smoke filled pool hall, because it was so much a part of my childhood.
Note: Both Dick and Paul of this memory have passed away, but those of us who knew them will never forget them or all the great memories they left us.
Jack Miller is a longtime Sedalia resident whose column will run in the Weekend edition of the Democrat.