The Hall of Justice

I know what you’re saying.  “Hall of Justice?  In Bojon Town?  Did I miss something”?  Well, it’s not exactly what you’d expect.   There were no judges or courtrooms in the Hall of Justice.  No cells or lawyers either, although you may have seen a police officer there from time to time.

Some of you know the name, though.  It went by many.  B and B Recreation, The Locker Room, and more universally, at least by Bojon Town standards, The Pool Hall.  Not just a pool hall.  THE POOL HALL.  Located in the 1100 block of Mahren, it’s a place where many a young Bojon boy learned the important lessons in life.

I have been told, and my dad can correct me if I don’t get this right, but The Pool Hall was originally opened by my Grandpa, Charles Barnett, and my great Uncle Cheech Brunjak.   They called it B and B Recreation, and if I’m not totally mistaken, which I’m not, they were bookies.  The walls were covered in chalkboards with baseball, football, and basketball scores.  Now, this was the early 1960’s, before cable TV and the internet.  There were no 24 hour sports channels.  Scores came over on a…….drum roll please…….ticker tape machine.  For those of you under 55 or so, a ticker tape machine is basically a dot matrix printer connected to a telegraph line that prints one line on a long string of paper, in this case, summaries and scores of sporting events.  I remember Cheech holding the paper and reading from it as it printed, and then walking to the wall to fill in the scores on the blackboard.  Not quite your cell phone update for your fantasy football team, but at the time, it was as good as it got.

I’ve been told that my grandpa and great uncle ran the place for a while, and decided that there wasn’t enough money coming in to support both of them, so they decided that one of them would step down and the other would leave the business.  Now, typically you’d see the partners come up with a value of the business and one would buy out the other one.  Not Charlie and Cheech.  These guys were bookies.  Gamblers.  They flipped a coin.  Winner stayed.  Loser walked with nothing.  Cheech won.  Charlie walked.  How’s that for gambling.

Cheech always was unbelievably cool to me.  He was married to my great Aunt Mary.  Now there’s the rub.  I know I will probably get some real flak from this, but to me, this lady missed her calling early in life when she could have been cast in the Disney Film with all of the little dalmatians.  She would have given life to the role of Cruella DeVille.  She was made for the part.  Now Cruella is in the pool hall every day.  Let me just say this.  Having a nasty woman like this in a pool hall is kind of like putting a little statue of a dog turd on top of a wedding cake.  Some things just don’t belong in some places.  This was one.

When Cheech and Mary were running the place, I was sort of allowed in, since I was Little Mikey and everyone in the Pool Hall knew me.  I remember being too short to play the pinball machines, and the older guys putting down a wooden pop crate for me to stand on.  I learned to rack 9 ball on the two awesome Brunswick pool tables.  I would sit for hours and watch guys like Johnny Zobeck and Squanto and Uncle Dan shoot Rotation and 6 ball.  The older guys would buy me pop and candy and give me money.  They also taught me many of my more colorful language skills which I still find myself using if I’m not careful.  By they way, anyone here ever get their mouths washed out with Life Buoy soap?  Nothing like that pumice on your tongue and teeth to guarantee a clean mouth.

Eventually, Cheech and Mary decided to give up the business and it ended up in the hands of a gambler named Jerry Bennett.  Jerry was a kind of mysterious guy to all of us kids.  One minute he’s be really nice to us, and the next he could just go off.  Now that I think about it, I think he was one of those soft on the inside guys that really liked kids, but he didn’t want people to know it.  Jerry put in an extra pinball machine and a jukebox.  The juke box is at the heart of one of my favorite Jerry Bennett stories

This was probably 1969.  The guy that put the records in the jukebox showed up and put a copy of the Beatles’ Hey Jude with Revolution on the flip side.  Now anyone familiar with the Beatles knows that the first 15 seconds of Revolution, with the scratchy guitar and the cool John Lennon scream, is like kryptonite to old people.  And I guess Jerry fit that ‘old’ category.  Songs were 25 cents a song, and 5 for a dollar.  One day, I went in with Whitey Cvar, and we put 2 dollars in the jukebox and played Revolution 10 times in a row.  Well, not quite 10.  After about 6 or 7 straight times, Jerry walked over with the key to the jukebox.  He doesn’t say a word to us.  He opens the jukebox, lifts the needle off of the record, and takes the record out of the jukebox.  Now, earlier, I told you I learned a lot of language skills in the Hall.  Here was one lesson.  If bad language bothers you, skip down a few lines.  I’m going to write the exact words that Jerry spoke.  I’ll never forget them.  He stood in front of us, snapped the record in half, handed it to me and said, and I quote exactly, “Now let’s see you play this, you little motherfucker”.  I saved it for a long time.  It was my first Beatles record.  Thanks Jerry!  Oh, and mom, please remember that you already washed my mouth out for saying that one, so I should get a pass.

I remember one other time very vividly.  Pinball was a religion for us.  A nickel a game.  Nickels weren’t easy to come by.  So, we’d spend much more time watching other people play then we spent playing ourselves.  One day, my Uncle Dan was in the Hall playing pinball.  He didn’t put a nickel in.  He put like 6 quarters in!!! At once!!!  He plays for a few minutes and wins a few more.  He has like 14 games on the machine and for a 9 year old kid, that was like a gold mine.  Well, as he’s playing, and a car horn honks outside on the street.  Uncle Dan looks out the door, and says ‘My date is here.  Go ahead and play these games.’  I’ve hit the lottery!!! I can’t even imagine what would make a person walk away from 14 games on a pinball machine.  I look out the door, and Uncle Dan is getting into a car with a gorgeous girl!!!! And she picked him up!  Any questions as to why I think my Uncle Dan is one of the coolest people on the planet?

I don’t know what happened to Jerry Bennett.  One day the Hall was closed.  It didn’t open again for quite a while.  I think it was probably closed for 4 or 5 years, and it was re-opened as a 3.2 bar.  For those youngsters who don’t know what a 3.2 bar was, when I was 18, you could drink beer that had a lower alcohol content, 3.2%.  In reality, it was the same beer that they served everywhere else, but we didn’t argue.  Beer was beer.

I don’t remember the order, due to beer, but there were two sets of owners that ran the place after it re-opened.  It was called The Locker Room, and I believe it was first run by Danny Hochevar.  Later, it was run by Paul and Tig Gradishar.  It wasn’t quite the same, as it mainly attracted people from 18-20.  The cool, older guys didn’t really come around much.  And by this time, I was 18, and I was beginning to be one of the older guys.

It’s been closed for so long now that I don’t think it will ever re-open.  That’s probably a good thing.  They way things are today, there isn’t room for a cool place like The Hall of Justice in the world.  And the world is a sadder, darker place because of it.  But it will live as long as I have a memory.  Thanks Cheech.  Thanks Jerry, Danny, Tiggy, Paul Grads.  Even you, Aunt Mary.  The place would have been different if you didn’t come around.  Most of all, thank you, Charles Markus Barnett.  I wish you would have won the flip.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Joe Ricci on September 24, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Joe Ricci here. Grew up in the 50’s and 60’s on Bohmen Avenue. My mom was Bojon…my dad was Italian. Everyone called him “Chink.” Googled Ceech’s Pool Hall and this came up. When I was 8-10 years old, dad used to take me there almost every night in the summer where he would follow the baseball games via the ticker (pre-ESPN). I’d have a couple of sodas, the old guys would buy me candy, usually my uncles would show up and it was a lot of fun. I was thinking about the pool hall the other day and I just googled it for the hell of it–bingo! What a great post and what a fun blog. My mom still lives on Bohmen. I have one aunt that’s still alive and she lives on School Street. I live in Colorado Springs, but my brother Randy still lives in Pueblo.. Keep up the good postings.

    Reply

    • Good to see you here Joe! I remember your dad very well. He was a huge football fan and he would come into my Grandpa’s gas station and talk about it all the time. And he was so wonderful to Frankie Hernandez. He’d go to the high school games and take Chico to all of the games with him. Wasn’t it someone in your family that used to announce the Air Force Academy games on the radio?

      Reply

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