The photo above depicts the famous St. Elmo pool hall in Norfolk, Virginia. Located at 113 E. City Hall Avenue, the room was a favorite of hustlers and road men, including the world famous Wimpy Lassiter. You can read all about his adventures there during World War II in the book Hustler Days, available online.
Photographer Harry C. Mann (1866-1926) captured this image around 1914, and for my money it’s a fantastic one. You can practically hear the sound of the upstairs break shots. The image is available under common licensing from the Library of Virginia.
Plenty of folks have sent in their recollections of this pool hall over the years. I’ve reproduced one such here, provided to us by former sailor John Pizzuto.
John Pizzuto writes:
“Most of the players had a nickname, mine was Sailorboy. I kept Sam Bass in beer money Saturday afternoons, getting straight pool “lessons” from him. Carolina kept my cue behind the bar when we were out to sea. I played golf and straight pool with Old Red. He was pretty old and towards the end of my time there, he didn’t come in very often. At the time he seemed like he was in his 70s. Some of the other regulars were Cab Driver, Onion Head Red and a pretty good player named Cash McCall. He ran a bartending school.
One Saturday afternoon, I was practicing alone. One of the regulars egged me into asking “that old man in the chair” to play some nine ball. I walked over and asked, but he politely declined. I awkwardly offered him a spot. He shook his head. As I walked back to my table, the regulars all started laughing, asking me if I knew who that was. By then, I figured it must be Wimpy. I had heard he came in from time to time, but I had never seen him. I walked back over to where he was sitting and offered my hand in apology. He shook it with his left.”