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My friend Grady..........


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I know I posted this somewhere once before, and I apologize if many of you remember it. My oldest son is here for Christmas and we were talking about "the early" years. You know, those years before we knew much about life. I told him this story.....


As I grow older it's a never-ending source of amazement to me how I can remember events in my life. Meeting Grady Mathews is one of those remembrances. I know that 99.9% of you have no idea who Grady Mathews was nor why he should be special to anyone, especially me. Let me try to explain.

When I was seven years old my best friend's father bought a pool table. An old slate-top 5x10 Brunswick. He converted one of his chicken coops to hold it and "the pool room" was born. I played pool on that table 4-5 days a week for the next eight years.

Back in those days "the game" was straight pool. He who sinks 125 balls first wins. The smaller 4 1/2 x 9 tables and the popularity of 9-ball was 20 years away. Willie Mosconi was my hero in those years. To heck with The Lone Ranger and those wimpy cartoon guys.

By the time I was 15 there was nobody in town willing to put a five on the rail to try me. But there was always the soldiers. The town I lived in was adjacent to the largest Army basic-training base in the country. And the first of every month "the boys" would come to town. Ready to find the local bars, the local girls, and the local pool hall. And for the first three days of every month I was always at the local pool hall.


Back then, the minimum wage was US$1.00/hr. Work a 160 hour month and, before taxes, you would earn US$160. Appealing? Not to me. On the first three days of the month I could easily "earn" US$400-500 from our soldier friends. And there were no taxes. And still over three weeks of the month to go. But let's get back to Grady Mathews.


When I was 18 years old a met a guy who was to become my mentor. His name was Charlie. I knew how to shoot pool. I knew all the shots. Charlie knew that. But he also knew that I didn't know how to hustle. So he set out to teach me.


About an hour's drive north from where I lived there was a world-class Brunswick dealer. Let me call it GCB. And at that dealer was a friend of Charlie's - a guy named Fred. We'd drive up on the weekend nights (when the dealership was closed) to play on the world-class tables in the showroom.

One night a friend of Fred's showed up. Some kid named Grady. He and I were about the same age (I think I was about a month older) and we hit it off right away. Over the next couple of years I shared many tables with Grady. No money was involved. We just played for bragging rights. 

Grady was one of the greatest sticks of all time. I'll never forget him or what he taught me. Sometime in 1962-63 he moved on up the road to Cochran's, 1028 Market St., San Francisco. The mecca of pool in those days. And pool hustling. Ronnie Allen, One Eyed Hank, San Jose Dick, Ears, Legs, Sleepy Bob, and Okie Sam are just a few of the "regulars" I remember.


The love of my life (and now my wife) lived in San Francisco in those days. I'd drive up on Friday evening, spend a few hours at Cochcran's shootng the WNA with Grady, meet her the next day and night, and drive back home on Sunday. What a life.

Sadly, Grady has passed on now. It's been almost 60 years since I last saw him. But the memories linger on.


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Don't know why but when the pool hall arrived in Britain my parent's thought they were dens of iniquity.  I only went into our local one a couple of times.  There was no need.  I was a member of the YMCA and in our building we had a huge room equipped with upwards of a dozen tables.


Strange thing happened.  I was the year's club table tennis champion and qualified to play in the all England finals in another area of London.  I travelled there and promptly got beaten but one of the organisers asked me to play snooker (Pool to you fellers) against a fellow who's opponent hadn't shown up.  It was a sheer fluke but beat him and won a medal!  I wasn't the most popular fellow in the place! 

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