Thursday 16 November 2017

The wall of text post

Years and years ago I used to hang out at a place called Sunset Billiards just off downtown Calgary. Sunset Billiards was a pool hall with a few coin operated games. The hours were nine to five, nine in the morning until five in the morning. I really do not know why they ever bothered to close for four hours.

No matter what time of the day of night there was always someone playing. The odd thing is that I can only remember one person working there that ran the place and he seemed to always be there. For some reason that I never found out he let my friend and I play and charged us very little or nothing at all. Being a reasonably poor college student I spent many hours, possibly hundreds, playing there. More than a few times I spent straight eight hours playing. No matter how much I played I could never any good at snooker. The bigger tables seemed to stymie me. I played enough eight ball to get somewhat good. My problem is that I did not have any natural talent. I got to the point where I could run the table a few times but I considered that luck more than skill.

I never neglected my classes or my studies. After school obligations were met my friend and would meet up and frequently play until the doors were closed. What does one do at five in the morning when you can no longer shoot pool? We would head over to Chinatown for fried rice and Chinese beer. It was cheap and it was good. After that you had no choice except to call it a night. Or in this case a very early morning.

There were some excellent players there. There were a few sketchy types. I never saw any fights. There were some Chinese players that really got caught up in playing three ball. That was a game I never understood.

There was also a coin operated tabletop hockey game. My friend and I would monopolize this when we were not playing pool. Every time we played the hockey game it would be a best of seven series and I spent a lot of quarters on it. It got to the point where we were so evenly matched most times it came down to a game seven. One time some guy pestered me and my friend for a game. He insisted he was the tabletop hockey champion of Canada. We laughed at that one. These days there likely is a Canadian champion, every other activity seems to have a champion of something. To get him to leave us alone we each played him and both of us beat him with a shutout. 

Sunset Billiards closed some years ago absorbed by downtown sprawl and those days are well in the past. For me it was a great place to hang out and it usually did not cost me a lot of money. Other than pool tables, some games, and cues they did not have a lot invested in the place. You could get pop or chips, no alcohol. It was a plain open space and nothing fancy. There are no cheap pool halls anymore. There should be. Anti-smoking laws killed a lot of them. For the ones that do exist owners think you have to offer food and craft beer with loud music in the background and it has to be an experience. I have not played in years and have no idea if there is a decent place to play.

There are few if any places to just hang out these days without it costing you an arm and a leg. A lot of the fun has been taken out of things and I kind of feel for people in their late teens and early twenties. I really cannot see how playing video games all weekend can be all that entertaining. Fun is where you find it. I do it these days with exploring and taking photos. I would love to find an interesting place to hang out one of these days. 


  1. I learned how to play pool in the gay bars of Winnipeg 30 years ago. Those spots I frequented are all gone now too. Plus there were a couple of neighbourhood pool halls like the one you describe where I played too. They're gone now as well. One of the counter guys at Thunderbird Pool Hall was a serious young community-minded kind of guy and he ran for mayor of Winnipeg one year (unsuccessfully of course but he was making a point). What the hell, I voted for him!

  2. I'd go in there from time to time, in the late 80s, to get a pinball fix. It was low on the list of places to play, but hey. Recall it having all the charm of, and even looking like a Cold War bunker, but the call of the silver ball was strong.