WHEN I WAS a youngster, there was a business establishment on Main Street in Downtown Teague, my hometown, that was considered by some to be downright evil.
It’d make you want to sing, “We got trouble, friends, right here in Righteous City. Yessiree, trouble and that begins with T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Pool!” Apologies to those who created The Music Man from whence I purloined parts of the sentences in quotes.
Since I wasn’t allowed in the pool hall, I have only some hearsay and a kid-quick-sneak-peep in the front door one day. Mother lectured me about that den of iniquity and it being no place for nice young boys. She named a few names of those who hung out there and cited a little of their histories of irresponsibility, assuming that in a town of just over 3,000, we at least knew those on her list had tarnished reputations.
In Teague, though, it wasn’t really pool but instead a game beginning with “D” that was the big sin happening in my hometown’s pool-domino hall. So, we had “That begins with D and that rhymes with P and it stands for ‘Dominos’.”
Frankly, I did know a few who qualified as miscreants in Mother’s eyes and they were the ones who frequented the “Domino Hall” more often than most.
Of course, in the eyes of folks who believed as Mother did, gambling was one of the worst sins ever and they just knew that those old coots sitting at those domino tables were betting the dominoes in their hands would have the right combination of spots to win the game and thus the money laid on the match.
My knowledgeable youth experience with this “moral dilemma” stretched from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s. Still fresh on a lot of adults’ minds at the time was the Great Depression of the 1930s, a time in which almost no one had any money except perhaps just enough for subsistence. In addition to being in a depression, Texas had its first experience with legalized horse racing with pari-mutuel betting and a lot of people (mostly men, we’re told) bet the farm on the horses and lost at a time of economic stress.
WITH THAT experience fresh on their minds, and in a state that could be the buckle on the Bible Belt, it’s little wonder that a majority of Texas voters agreed to outlawing pari-mutuel wagering, which they did near the end of the Thirties.
At one point, this domino parlor (one of two locations during its existence) was considered a den of iniquity. Now, I’m sure there were some nice, upstanding men who frequented the parlor because they liked to play dominoes, more particularly 42. However, regular attendance was kept up by a few worthless souls who’d run away if you mentioned you might have a job for them.
Later, the final location for the parlor became the American Legion Hall and, thus, slowly acquired some legitimacy in the community although there were a few “puritan” souls who maintained the building was just evil and nothing really good could happen in it.
That stigma never quite went away. The Legion made the hall available, for a token rental, to all kinds of organizations but apparently, to some folks, the hall was “tainted” forever.
WHEN I was in high school, a dance teacher rented the hall one day a week for lessons, creating a resurrection for the supporters. And, when some of us decided we needed dance lessons to be able to participate fully in the junior-senior prom, a new furor arose and a couple of groups in town tried to convince the juniors and seniors not to participate in the prom and the lessons as well.
A fair number of teens took the lessons anyway. I was one of those, after consulting my pastor, who told me if you kept your mind “clean” during such activities, then it was not a sin. That was good enough for me.
Some of us learned to jitterbug in the Legion Hall, and the prom became one of the most memorable ever.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.