Well, in 1958 my parents bought Mecca Billiards, an old pool hall in down town Fresno. It featured 15 Brunswick (Anniversary) pool, billiard, and snooker tables. In 1945 Brunswick turned 100 years old! The Anniversary is their 100-year model. It was manufactured from 1945 to 1960. My father felt it was their best commercial table ever. The Old Mecca, as the patrons referred to it, offered to the player hamburgers, fries, soda, coffee and, of course, beer, cigarettes, cigars; not to mention pool players that were not new to the game! The smoke was so thick you could hardly see to the back of the pool hall. As a pool hall owner it was to your advantage to learn how to maintain your own tables. A man named Joe Small had a pool table service business that covered the central San Joaquin Valley from the 1930's to the early 1960's. He took a liking to Richard (my dad) and decided to teach him the trade. "Old man Small," as Richard referred to him, was an expert billiard table mechanic. Back then Brunswick was king and their pool tables were the most common in the field. In those days cloth was put on by tack and hammer method. Pocket work was always common, hand sewing leather and the buckets braded to the top leathers. Cushion replacement was an art in itself requiring skill and knowledge, as well as, table leveling. Most work done back then was by hand tools. Power staple guns and cordless drills? Not in those days!
My parents eventually bought Mr. Small's business and became the valleys largest billiard table service, Mecca Billiard Supplies. Thus becoming the authorized dealer for Brunswick Pool Table Manufacturing. In 1961 they moved the old Mecca Pool Hall to Belmont Avenue in Fresno. In 1964 they opened a second pool hall in Ashlan Park in Fresno called the Golden Crown featuring Brunswick Gold Crown series pool tables. The gold crown table succeeded the Anniversary model coming out in 1960, still in production today as the Gold Crown III. The Golden Crown was a family recreation center, unlike the Old Mecca, which was for the crowds over 18. Mom ran the Crown and took care of the books. Dad ran the Mecca and the ever-growing service end of the business.
In 1967 they moved the Golden Crown Pool Hall down to Belmont Avenue. Both pool halls were about four blocks apart. My parents set up shop in the Crown and ran Mecca Billiard Supplies Sales and Service out of that location. In 1968 the lease ran out on the Mecca location and the old pool hall closed for good. 1946 to 1968 what a run! The patrons from the Old Mecca made the Golden Crown their new room to play in. The only difference being, no alcohol was served. Mecca Billiards Supplies, the service part of the business was going strong. We had two crews working the valley and the central coast, along with a sales representative who called on our accounts. We added Murray & Sons, Delmo, Fisher, Delta Tables, as well as, Brunswick to our ever growing home pool table line.
In the summer of 1969 it was time that the kids get involved with the family business so Belmont Avenue became our second home. So Debbie, Jerry, and Rick went to work in their teens at the Golden Crown and Mecca Billiard Supplies. We learned how to work the counter at the Crown checking out balls to the players, taking food orders, cooking the burgers, answering the phone, along with keeping the room clean and tables brushed. Jerry and Rick would go out on the road with the mechanics recovering, moving, and setting up pool tables. (Not to mention tipping lots of cue sticks!) Jerry and Rick learned the trade working on very old Brunswick Pool Tables, brand new ones, and every thing in between!
In 1973 due to lack of business it was decided to close down the Golden Crown Pool Hall and get out of the pool hall business for good. That year also found Jerry and Rick out of high school and full-time employment with Mecca Billiards Supplies. The building was turned into a showroom and took on a new theme adding board games, ping pong, foosball, darts and, of course, home and commercial billiard tables and related equipment. "Mecca billiards for the games people play" became the new marketing slogan. Health fitness being an emerging fad, the Mecca began selling gym equipment as well.
In 1974 the gas crunch hit inflation was on the rise and money got tight! Home pool tables, being a luxury item, started to slow down in sales. The service end of the business is what kept Mecca alive in those days. The Olhausen pool table line became the mainstay in 1975 for the home table market. Olhausen was a new company at that time and offered a great home pool table at an affordable price.
In 1977 Jerry moved to San Luis Obispo, California taking a job with Cal Poly State University. Rick stayed with Mecca Billiards Supplies and kept the family business going. In 1981 Jerry started up S.L.O. Billiards Supplies working out of his home. Jerry and his wife Cheryle built the business to the point where a storefront was in need. In January of 1991 S.L.O. Billiards opened at 1987 Santa Barbara ST. in San Luis Obispo. The store featured Olhausen home pool tables and a complete line of billiard equipment and pool table servicing.
After 28 years in business on the central coast S.L.O. Billiards is alive and well. Mecca Billiards is still alive and well in Fresno at 732 Fulton, and has been in the family for the last 51 years, what a game of pool! My Parents are alive and well too.
Thank you for reading about our experience in the Billiard Industry