Skip to main content

Pinball, Pool Halls, and Flashing Red Lights

Black and white photograph. Street view. Main Street looking east. The small semicircular metal building third from the left is Stroud’s chip van.

Stroud’s chip van. Circa 1960s.


Alongside the grocery store, dry goods shops, restaurants and the theatre, there were several other small businesses which made Main Street a thriving district. Corey Sharpe remembers, “There was always something about Main Street. It was just a really cool spot, really different. It was fun to grow up there and especially hang out down there as a teenager. It is like the John Prine song, ‘Pinballs and pool halls and flashing red lights.’ It’s as if he wrote it for Main Street.”

There were multiple chip vans and pool hall businesses on Main Street over the years, and John Connors describes people walking back and forth between competing chip vans:

“You had to decide which ones had the best chips. There was a fellow called Abe Land, he had a little chip van there and he had these crinkle chips. He had a cutter or something that used to make crinkle chips and we used to love to get a plate of chips every now and then.”

Audio clip with transcript: Yvonne Courtney describes the chip van.

While folks walking down Main Street were deciding upon the best chips, some teenagers were racking pool balls – or just trying to gain access to the pool hall. Imelda Elson of Windsor recalls how women were not allowed inside:

“No girls allowed. But we used to knock on the door, we would open the door and we used to try to get in, but we weren’t allowed. We used to be after the guys and they used to be all in there. The pool hall was some fun though. Oh, it was so clean. A man by the name of Mr. Brennen ran it. I can see the pool tables now and them all shooting. No sir, we weren’t allowed in there.”

But the pool hall was a popular spot for men and boys. Roy Oldford remembers:

“Coming down Main Street in my time there was a massive pool hall. The pool hall was a typical pool hall that you see in the Bowery or somewhere in New York City, downtown in Manhattan somewhere. It was rough, there were lots of fights, there were a couple of billiard tables and about eight or nine pool tables, eight ball we call them today. As kids we weren’t really allowed in there, but we snuck in because the game was so interesting.”