The only rule we followed was never play anyone who brought their own cue stick. Otherwise, we had no problem taking money from students at Weber State College. All winnings went straight into the jukebox or the Space Invaders pinball machine. You know, the one with 4 flippers and extra wide lanes. Back when games were a quarter, 500k secured a position on the High Scores board and free games were easy to come by.
My next door neighbor was cool. He even had a cool name: Guy.
Guy had his own paper route. I filled in for him one week and he gave me five bucks and a Guinness Book of World Records paperback. I would have done it for the book. Who can forget the guy with the longest fingernails? I thumbed through the book until the pages fell out.
Guy was going to be an architect. So, of course, I wanted to be an architect although I had no idea what one did.
I don’t recall how we got started hustling students, but I remember Guy telling me it was easier than landing papers on porches from the sidewalk on his Schwinn Stingray. The key was to select the right hits, and jocks were an easy target. They couldn’t back down from an 8-ball challenge. And we certainly didn’t look like a couple of pool sharks. The tables were located near the bowling alley. The perfect hit was a jock who could bowl a 225 or better. Then we knew he had little time between studies and bowling for a little “stripes and solids”.
That was our brilliant line of reasoning.
We didn’t lose very often. I’m surprised we were able to find students willing to play us through the summer. I suspect many were embarrassed they got hustled by a couple of teenagers and decided it was best to keep it on the low.
No more than few dollar changed hands, but that was enough to keep the jukebox going. Any 6 songs for a buck. If we had a few quarters left over for pinball even better.
We couldn’t play pool without queuing up tunes on the jukebox. Bennie and the Jets was always part of the mix. Those first few piano bars Elton laid down were magical. We had no idea what the lyrics meant. It was the music that grabbed us. It was impossible to listen to and not imagine myself pounding the keys while the crowd clapped and whistled.
When the jukebox stopped, it was time to jump on our bikes and race each other home. As we crossed Harrison Boulevard it was all I could do to keep up with Guy. Occasionally I’d catch him along the curve bordering the hospital parking lot. Nearing the home stretch, we’d be neck and neck until I slammed on my breaks at the stop sign just yards from my house. Guy never stopped. He celebrated each win by doing a wheelie in front of my house.
He wasn’t just cool. He was lucky.