Pool and baseball ruled at Jack’s Recreation Parlor
“Rack ‘em, Jack ‘em!” That’s how pocket billiard (pool) shooters would inform Jack that their game was over and it was time to settle accounts.
Jack was the proprietor and lone laborer at Jack’s Recreation Parlor located near the southwest edge of Slater’s very compact business district back in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Jack Gord was the man. He did everything from cleaning floors, brushing tabletops, scrubbing toilets, polishing spittoons and washing windows to selling gum, candy bars, pop, cigars and cigarettes. He was also responsible for the leveling of the pinball machine … a very important job.
Jack’s was one of few sources of entertainment for preteen boys and high school lads in the heat of summer due to the lack of a movie theater or swimming pool.
Actually, Jack’s was a year-round playground and gathering spot. Nowhere else in town could baseball and boxing be discussed with more enthusiasm and delight. Of course, other activities of youthful interest were also hashed out including … well, maybe this is not the time nor place for such discussions.
Jack’s exotic atmosphere not only attracted the youth of town, but also the not-so-youthful fun lovers. Few were the times that didn’t find a wide array of ages and passions in attendance.
I can still see Jack – all 125 pounds of him. Late middle-aged, slight build, balding hair and darting eyes. He was as nervous as a cat in a dog pound but could rattle-off the major league standings without missing a beat.
Baseball was the name of the game most of the time at Jack’s. Major league teams held everyone’s interest, but the Slater Hawks and Nite Hawks weren’t far down on the list. Heated discussions often occured but peaceful departures were usually the case.
Although cigarettes and cigars were sold from behind the counter near the entrance to the parlor, no under-aged smoking was allowed. This was one of Jack’s absolute rules. The drinking of alcohol was also forbidden but the rush to the restroom after the purchase of a 7-Up or Coke by some adults left the strict enforcement of that mandate in question.
Due to the wide variances in age and interests of the clientele trouble sometimes erupted. Jack was far from an authoritarian but he had a way of settling things fast and to his advantage – obey the rules or be ostracized, it was that simple.
If one was on the “outs” with Jack he was a man without a country. There was no remedy for the banishment except to wait for his forgiveness. It didn’t come quickly.
Eventually, Jack would give in. No formal announcement was made. Jack would simply ask where so-and-so was. That would mean that so-and-so (the banned individual) was once again permitted entry.
Wouldn’t it be nice if life worked that way today?
(Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He lives near Cambridge.)