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Pool hall offers food, fun - just like the old days

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By Brad Bowman

 Bond’s Hall in Pleasureville isn’t just a pool hall. It’s an institution.

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If, according to the Irish, a pub is a poor man’s university, then owners Owen and Sue Bond should be charging tuition. Bond’s Pool Hall doesn’t gather a poor clientele, but rather patrons exceedingly rich and generous with friendly jabs during conversation over a game of nine ball, or while eating some of its famous burgers at lunch.

The establishment has been a popular gathering place for farmers, friends, old-timers and kids before and after school for more than 70 years.

The building at 1148 Main Street in Pleasureville has been a pool hall at least since the late 1930s. It still has the wooden shelves on the walls where players would rack their balls for the game commonly called Boston. Wooden scoring beads hang above the tables, including two in the back that are at least 100 years old. License plates border the top off the wooden seating area facing the tables along with signs that have phrases like “Vulgar language is not allowed” or “No practicing or sitting on tables.” The atmosphere is more than just a priceless piece of Americana. The building hasn’t been adulterated by the modern trappings of sterile 21st century decoration and has a presence of history about it. If the walls could talk at Bond’s Hall, they would speak not of pool, but reveal a legacy of family and friends.

For more than 40 years, Spencer Bond owned the pool hall before his nephew Owen Bond bought it, partnering with his wife, Sue. Spencer’s picture still hangs behind the counter.

“For several years my dad, my brothers and I would help my uncle run it,” Bond said. “We would eat supper and run it Mondays, Tuesday and Thursdays. On Fridays it would stay open till 11 or midnight with a large crowd at night. Not many people get to work with their dad and uncle.”

Owen Bond couldn’t tell you why he decided to buy the pool hall eight years ago from his uncle. He wanted something to do between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. six days a week. Bond worked for 31 years at the Ford Motor Company. After retirement, he worked with his brother who had a plumbing and excavation business. But he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to own the hall when his uncle decided to sell it

“This pool hall saved my life,” Bond said. “When I was about 16, some friends and I were going to a football game. I decided to stay here and play pool with a friend of mine. My other friends left and died in an accident. I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for this place.”

Bond remembers a bustling town of Pleasureville that had a drug store, a hardware store, a variety shop, two grocery stores and a gas station. Kids played pool then regularly, unlike now.

But like any good establishment, the hall has a handful of life-long fans.

Julius “Poppaw” Willhoite has been playing pool there since the late 1930s.

“When I was 6 years old, they used to have the free show where they would hang a sheet on the bank building and show cowboy movies,” Willhoite said. “My daddy had a cattle truck and would pick people up along the way. There wasn’t any television in those days, and if you wanted to play a game of pool you could sit here for an hour waiting to play.”

Willhoite remembers when the hall was owned back then by a Lou Hockensmith. Hockensmith sold the Louisville-brewed Oertel’s 92 on draft then, and everyone played the pool game Boston and, later, nine ball. The hall isn’t a place of the past to him but serves as a landmark as part of his life.

“I have a pool cue here somewhere on these walls that I bought when I was 20,” Willhoite said. “I marked it with a JW and sold it to Cedar Chisholm. I bought it back from him, and it’s somewhere on these racks.”

Bond’s Hall isn’t outfitted with quarter slots, especially not their older tables; rather he has employed several rack men over the years to collect money for games and racks balls.

James Ell Gilbert used to be the rack man when Bond’s uncle ran it and he still helps now. Bond jokes that Gilbert sticks like a bad habit and he helps him run the place.

During lunch he and his wife make the famous burgers that the pool hall makes which has become  a favorite staple for locals. It is not uncommon for the couple to get an order phoned in for more than 50 cheeseburgers from a farmer feeding his farmhands, a large order to Eminence Speaker, or to the rock quarry in Lockport.

“We had a good teacher,” Bond said. “It was his way of doing things, and you either did it his way or no way.”

Spencer Bond’s picture hangs on the wall behind the counter, where patrons can chew the fat while they wait on lunch. They say it wouldn’t feel right without him there.

“He never used any frozen meat,” Sue Bond said. “We have people that come here and they haven’t been here in 15 or 20 years that remember our burgers and come here to get them.”

People who still have family in the area will visit and buy a sackful of burgers. The Bonds say there isn’t a special recipe but just simple good ingredients.

“We don’t do anything special to it. It’s ground chuck that we buy fresh everyday,” Bond said. “We use good cheese, a good bun and never serve frozen meat.”

The establishment has become a fixture of the community and the surrounding area. If they do not open on time, the couple will get calls from concerned patrons, as if they were family.

Although kids don’t play pool like they used to, the couple’s business booms during the fall on Pleasureville Day when the placed will be packed for hours. Bond hopes between the good burgers, community and camaraderie the pool hall will pack patrons in again like it used to.

“We have a lot of good customers and good people that come here,” Bond said. “It’s a hole in the wall, but it’s been a hole in the wall for many years.”
For more information about Bond’s Pool Hall call (502) 878-9941.
E-mail us about this article at news@hclocal.com.