Dominoes were working folks entertainment
My Granddad, Papa Hop, loved dominoes, and since there was no TV and internet and radio was poor at best, folk seemed to make their own entertainment. Family gatherings were times when some plans were made and domino games spring up. But the working folk needed their breaks and sometimes games would begin at break times or lunch times.
Then, there were the Domino Parlors. These were businesses in a town that catered to the locals that looked for entertainment. Often, they were combined with pool halls and usually the younger set played pool and the old timers sat at the domino tables.
In both of these endeavors, a form of wagering would take place, because betting seemed to make the game more exciting. These establishments were okay for men to frequent, but you could be sure that if a certain lady saw you enter or come out of these, as they would call them, “Dens of iniquity,” you would immediately be branded as a degenerate sinner as sure as the sun would come up at the dawn!
Now if you happened to be looking for a “Domino Parlor,” It probably had this type of appearance. It would likely be an older, narrow buildings with weathered doors and front windows too dingy to see through. Inside you would find poor lighting, cigar smoke filling the air, and spittoons strategically placed. Maybe four pool tables up front and a half dozen domino tables toward the back, with a small counter for the proprietor. A domino table was square and seated four and was specifically built to accommodate the shuffling of the dominoes, there would be a thin piece of wood around the edges of the table that helped keep the dominoes from sliding off the table.
This was important because sometimes the “Shuffler” would be quite exuberant when he “Rattled them bones!” Another feature of the table was it served as a scoreboard; when points were made, they were marked on the table with chalk and then could be rubbed out to start a new game.
The remaining chalk dust made the dominos slide more easily. Though the domino parlor is an icon of rural America that provided a pastime for many and was an integral part of most rural communities, the advent of television brought this era to a standstill as it gave more entertainment opportunities.
Just a Friendly Game
They gathered of an afternoon,
An’ the peace would be shattered soon,
You see, Uncle T plotted his course,
An’ at this table he’d make a stand,
Tho Papa Hop held the upper hand,
But this time T had no remorse.
You see, they were old time domino foes,
When did it start? No one knows,
Set up a table an’ trouble would bud,
Oh, they got along an’ talked a lot,
But dominoes was their stopping spot,
‘Cuz when they played, it was for blood!
Quick of temper an’ spark,
Uncle T was an easy mark,
For Papa Hop’s constant harass,
Like when he’d make a quote,
Shore got Uncle T’s goat,
An’ like as not he would pass.
Then Papa Hop would say,
“Gimme twenty as we play,”
Much to Uncle T’s chagrin,
Then he’d take him back to school,
Just to teach him the rule,
Make Uncle T jut his chin.
“Six an’ fourteen should be a plenty,
Why I do believe I made twenty,
Now you gotta draw from the boneyard,
A beginner’s class I think might come,
If you think it’d help you some,
As you can see this game ain’t too hard!
Uncle T’s patience grew thin,
As he would blunder, again an’ again,
Listenin’ to Papa Hop spout,
Or he’d forget what was the spinner,
Played just like a beginner,
Then miscount dueces an’ sixes still out.
Now in self pity he would waller,
In the dim light of that domino parlor,
But he always come back it seems,
Tho Papa Hop give him one out of four,
Uncle T always came back for more,
With another angle for his schemes.
T says, “I just can’t figger you out,
So I takes a walkabout,
Try to clear my thinkin’ some,
An’ I think it’s all your dadburn talkin’,
When the score you be a chalkin’,
Kinder makes my brain go numb!”
Well sir, Papa Hop never missed a beat,
Told Uncle T, “Just take a seat,
Go ahead, rattle them bones,
Your down or is it mine,
That’s right, you downed the four/six in line,
Just one of your unknowns.”
That made Uncle T fightin’ mad,
Listenin’ to sayin’s Papa Hop had,
Then he’d roll a Prince Albert cigarette,
Papa shuffled while T smoked,
As he got more provoked,
Doin’ things he would later regret.
Papa Hop says “Now gimme ten.”
He scored every play, an’ then,
Uncle T give Papa Hop that look,
Papa scored said, “It’s my down.”
Uncle T had that worried frown,
Without a doubt, he was shook.
Now this game went on a spell,
Papa would score, Uncle T would yell,
I tell you folks, it was quite a show,
Uncle T was madder than sin,
Then Papa Hop up an’ says with a grin,
Well bless my soul, I domino!
© Ol’ Jim Cathey
God Bless oldtimers an their way of life and God Bless America!