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Adventures with the Pool Gang
This is continuation of my article about growing up in Wilkes-Barre. Because of an error on the web page I had change the name of the first article is to “Growing up in the 1960’s, Hanging with the Pool Gang”.” It sets the stage for this article so you may want to take a look at it.
Living in Wilkes-Barre
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania was a great place to grow up in the 1950’s and 1960’s’ especially for kids in low income areas. Kids were free in Wilkes-Barre. We could roam all over the city without fear of being attacked; no adult would dare harm a child. By the age of nine my friends and I would wander miles away from home. We would go anywhere from downtown to up into the mountains.
Conversely, only the wisest of the wise guys would disrespect an adult to their face. To insult an adult was considered a major offense. All teachers had a paddle in their room. I received my share of swats and it did me no harm what so ever. If a kid ran home and cried to their father that they were paddled by a teacher, their father would likely swat them again for embarrassing him. This balance of discipline and respect made that time in Wilkes-Barre great for kids.
The Top Dogs
All neighborhoods have their top dogs among the kids hanging out. Ours were Mike and Matt; no one messed with these two guys. Matt seemed to be born a boxer. He was tall and slim with lightning fast hands and incredible agility. There was a boxing event that was held every year. Matt had a good friend named Joe. Joe would go to camp for two weeks in the summer. Each time he would go he would learn some new boxing tips. When he returned he would challenge Matt and they would duke it out. There was no malice in the battle. It was just a challenge of skill but they didn’t pull their punches. Matt’s natural skill always won the day and Matt’s younger bother finally told me his secret last Saturday, but I won’t share that here.
Mike was a big guy. By the age of sixteen he was about six foot three. He was also quite strong and an all together imposing figure. I only saw Mike get mad once. Some guy started knocking around Mike’s younger bother in the movie theater. Mike grabbed that guy that threw him into the theater’s side exit doors. The guy hit the doors so hard that they popped open and he went flying into the street.
These two guys could easily rule the pool but that wasn’t their style. They never picked on or pushed around the other kids. They were two of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet. Mike took a lot of ribbing from guys a half a foot shorter than him. He could have easily pounded them into the ground but the thought never occurred to him. When it came to street corner civility these guys were my role models.
Sneaking in the Movies
When you don’t have a lot of money you have to be creative. The Hart Movie Theater was one of the last neighborhood movie theaters left in the city. It was just a few blocks from our hangout at the Parrish Pool. It also served as winter quarters for the Pool Gang. If there was a movie we wanted to see, we would wander down to the theater. Sometimes one guy would actually buy a ticket, but other times he would wait until the ticket taker was distracted and slip in. Once inside our point man would slide over to the side exit door and push it open. Sometimes as many as five or six of us would sneak in and disperse into the theater. I saw several good movies that way. There was another way in around the back but I never really saw that used. Yeah technically it was the same a stealing the movie tickets but it really didn’t hurt anyone. The theater was never more than half full so we weren’t stealing seats from paying customers.
It looks like I’m making a series out of this. Each memory leads to another and I need to get them out. Stay tuned.