Story by Sandi Hamilton
Honk’s – No Girls Allowed!
When a recent post about Five and Ten Cent stores was shared on Facebook, Soduskans quickly began reminiscing about the Ben Franklin Store on West Main Street, but that post led to the topic of another West Main Street establishment…Honk’s… the local billiard hall that many of us remembered when we were growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. Wes Doyle knew a lot about the history of the business. ” Frank Atkinson owned the billiard hall aka “Honk’s”. I believe Frank died in 1976. My guess… he owned it from around 1930 to mid- sixties or so… the name of the hall may have been Atkinson’s. It was also home to a Western Union Station, where locals sent messages and money. In the late 50’s my father (Bill Doyle) worked for Frank nights and on Saturdays running the billiard hall. When customers came in to send Western Union messages, Frank would don on a Western Union Cap and enter the barred window of the Western Union Station. Frank wore gold rimmed glasses and was a quiet man with an interesting personality. One section of the business included an ice cream bar where customers would sit on stools and order soda, floats, ice cream in a dish, or banana splits. There were trays behind the counter that had all the fixings to make ice cream dishes. I can remember men coming from the local bars to get a Bromo-Seltzer. The Bromo-Seltzer was in powder form, mixed with water from a tall tap. Con Loveless, the village constable, would stop in and chat with Frank and his customers. I can recall pool tournaments with teams of two competing from other towns coming in to Frank’s. They played different forms of pool and billiards. They keep score on wooden discs strung on wire above the tables. My father loved playing pool, and I remember in one match he ran 168 balls! The Telephone number for the Cigar & Billiard Parlor in 1937-38 was 124-J (8 Main St Sodus). Frank lived at 12 Grove Street. His home number was 120-R.
Dale Raes reminisced about his time spent in the establishment. “When I was a kid – a law existed that said you had to be 18 (or accompanied by an adult) to enter any pool hall in NYS. But that changed to 16 just about the time I turned 16. So that was cool.
Just about every parent hated it and didn’t want their kid going in there.
I remember when the smoke stain on the windows was so heavy you couldn’t even look inside. And they had a lot of hunting supplies inside – including guns and ammo.
And that god-awful deer scent. (A lotta guys got a ‘dose’ of that stuff!)
And this great root beer….and old pinball machines. (They had an old shuffleboard when I first started going in.) And of course, three great pool tables – and one not so great, and one billiard table.
I first remember Floyd (I think it was Floyd) Philo owning it. Then eventually I think Bobby ‘O’ (Ogradowski) owned it for a while. But not for too long before a younger local guy took ownership ( can’t remember his name) (And that’s when and how “Uncle Jim” started running the place.)
But during all my years in there it was Rich Viniski’s domain for most of us.
Rich was really good at pool – but that wasn’t why it was ‘Rich’s’ place.
I saw Rich win a lotta games. I saw him loose plenty as well.
FYI – He won a lot more than he lost.
I saw genuine hustlers pass thru and I remember one legitimate ‘Amateur’ came in one day. He was special – very talented. Anyhow…from most everyone’s point of view it was pretty much Rich’s sand box. I know it was for me.
Fred Lebbert commented that “… it was Rich’s domain for sure. Mick (Rich’s brother) was real good too. When Tony Dumbleton got out of the Air Force, he rented a room from my Dad (Harold Lebbert). He could give Rich a run for his money. Rich made a lot of money playing 9 ball, Tony was best at straight/billiards pool. Tom Nephew’s dad was really good. There were some old timers that would come in and were really good, I think they practiced a lot in the Masonic Hall above Zecher and Capacci’s Law Office. I played straight pool better than anything.”