Saturday, August 18, 2007

Norfolk memories

Ken McCarthy writes:

"When I was in the navy (1961-1965) I was stationed in Norfolk ,VA and played pool every minute I had at St. Elmos pool hall (2nd floor, a few buildings up from the YMCA). As you know this is where Wimpy played when in town, and it is where I saw him ( I still have a perfect vision of that white head standing out in the dimness along the left wall watching the goings-on). I was just starting to play pool and my friend pointed him out to me as a great player, although at the time I really didn't realize HOW great a player.

" In 1963 or 64 I bought a Willie Hoppe special (Brunswick) cue through the owner (a kindly, short, bald-headed man). I then sanded off a section on the top of the butt, bought a Parker ink pen and asked Mr. Lassiter to sign it. He did, and I still have the cue and the pen. I have recently picked up the game again and I now know that he was actually at the top of his game when he signed my cue!"

Later, I asked Ken if he had any photos of the St. Elmos to post up here on the Untold Stories website.

This is his response:

"Mr. Dyer,
" I do not have any pictured of St. Elmo's even though at the time I was an amateur photographer and my ships official photographer. In 1963 there was no such thing as a family billiard parlor. This was an old time pool hall where you keep your mouth shut and pay up when you lose. I think you can imagine that taking pictures in an establishment like that may have made one "un-popular" with some of the notoriety. But now I sure wished I had.

No, I never run into Fats or Willie. I did meet Art Cranfield once simply because he was from Syracuse, my home town.

So I'm sorry to say that the only thing I can give you are my memories of St. Elmo's and a vivid picture of that white mane sitting along the side wall watching the players.

My good friend at the time, and the guy who started me in pool played Luther once for five bucks a lot of money for a sailor in 1963. Fred broke and nothing went. The one ball lay down by the corner pocket and
the nine up by the side. Luther stepped up, pocketed the one, came back up the table with the cue ball and knocked the nine in the side pocket. He turns to Fred and says "My gosh, what luck. Let's play another"

Fred declined.

If there is anything else please let me know. I would be delighted to see any pictures of that venerable palace of pool if you run across any in your research.


I'd like to see some old pictures of the St. Elmo's' too! If anybody has seen any and would like to share, send 'em in.


Brian the Bricklayer

I have lived in Virginia Beach my entire life and you have brought back some fond memories for me about St. Elmo's. I was fortunate enough to have gotten one of those cherry wood grained tables when SE closed and I went to the auction. Unfortunately that table went up in a fire a couple years ago. In Lassiters last few years I was lucky enough to have met and talked to him quite a bit. He was full of stories very colorful stories of his life. He told me about when he won the US Open in 64 and going AWOL from Navy by jumping off the ship he was assigned to.
He died like he lived. Playing pool in Elizebeth City practicing the game he loved. What a character

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was stationed in Norfolk from '63 to '66 and spent a lot of time in St. Elmo's. I was TDY to the Shore Patrol
(some called us Hard Hats) and we would work long hours then have two days off. I took a part time job as a clerk in the Imperial Jewelry Store right below the pool hall. The owner one day told me to put a loading sign on the car out front. When I questioned him as to why he told me it's Wimpy's car and explained who he was. After work I went upstairs and have many vivid memories of St. Elmo's. I talked to Luther and his road partner Don Willis many times. Saw a lot of people with funny nick names come in and "contribute" to their travel fund.