According to Eddie Stone of West Bromwich, the Old Billiard Hall in the town is one of its most important buildings and he said, “It was great to see it celebrate its 100th birthday.” Eddie, born and bred in West Bromwich, remembers the Billiard Hall of old very well.
“I first wandered inside at the age of 14, back in the ’50s, but lied about my age. You had to be 16, but I managed to keep this secret, under wraps, that was until my dad found out. He marched me down the hall one day and complained to the management for letting me in under age. But they insisted I was no trouble and told my dad if it was all right with him I could carry on playing snooker.
“That was brilliant for me at that age, keeping me off the streets and giving me somewhere to go where I could hone my skills on the green baize.
“Mind you, I had to start at the back of the hall, where the playing surface on some of the tables was more like a cabbage patch. But over the months I progressed up the hall and was finally allowed to play a game or two on the top tables, of which there was six. In comparison to the cabbage patch, it was like playing at Wembley.” Eddie had come all the way across the Black Country, from his home town to Bugle House, clutching a list of names associated with the Billiard Hall he hoped Bugle readers might remember.
“Billy Ricketts, Frank Phillpot, Alan Phillpot, Frank Millward, Albert Becket, Len Loftus, Les Adams, and often younger players used to sit and watch. Miss William was then is charge of the hall, but when she passed away Len Loftus took over and a new breed of players took the lead rolls; Alan Ledbury, Mick Birch, Malcolm Osborne, Des Evans, young Albert Lawley, Tony Phillpot, Mick Binfield, Terry Cope, yours truly, and Ray Bibb.
“We played for money sometimes, also ‘Blackpool’, ‘Scrubb’, ‘Golf’, ‘Continental’, and the majority of times you played for the table, meaning the loser paid the bill.
“When Len sadly passed away his wife assumed responsibility for the Billiard Hall, helped by their daughter Pearl. Of course there were a lot more contemporaries of mine who played snooker at the time, but unfortunately I just can’t remember them all.
“I remember when Graham Miles, the former circuit professional most famous for winning Pot Black on the BBC two seasons on the trot, came along, because over a period of time he used to give us all a game. Then there was Alan Ledbury from the Willie Holt Burnley Ltd.
Billiard Works who won a gold medal once for scoring more than 100 in a break.
“There is one thing that has been puzzling me all these years that readers might be able to help me with. A sign in Wetherspoons states there were 24 tables in the hall, but I know for a fact in my time there was only ever 23.”