Dakota Datebook

Pool Hall

Thursday, April 7, 2011


“Ya got trouble, right here in River City,” may have been the rallying cry of Professor Harold Hill in 1912 Iowa, referring to the presence of a pool table in that fictional community, but a moralistic group of people in a small North Dakota town didn’t need any trombone salesman to rally them to the cause. To be precise, it was not the pool table where the young men of Edgeley were frittering away their time that concerned the good people of the community, it was the room behind the pool room that drew their scorn. The Devil’s tools were not the fifteen numbered balls of the pool table but the free-flowing alcohol and the gambling going on behind the closed door of the backroom.

When the local law failed to clamp down on the operation, a small group of townspeople formed a citizen’s committee. They hired the local lawyer, who was candidate for States Attorney, and the pool hall was closed down in October of 1910 with a court order listing it as a common nuisance.

Charles Hull, the proprietor, also ran the opera house located above it. Since the pool hall made more money, he served notice on the town that it didn’t pay to heat the opera house without the pool hall, so that too would be closed. So, all winter long the Edgeley youth had plenty of time to get the screen door patched, the beef steak pounded and keep the cistern full for the Saturday night bath.

On this date in 1911, Charles Hull made an application to the court to open the pool hall again, but the judge sided with the Citizens’ Committee, stating it set a bad example. But that wasn’t quite the end of it. If you can’t beat City Hall, join them. Charles Hull won a spot on the City Commission later that year, and reopened the Opera House as a movie theater. The local lawyer lost his bid for State Attorney, and the men in the town, who had no backroom to go to, started a band that played every Sunday in the park. Who knows, perhaps they got their instruments from some slick-talking trombone salesman just passing through from Iowa.

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis


The LaMoure Chronicle April 14, 1911

The Edgeley Mail November 4, 1910

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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