When he was 15, Amsterdam native Mark Copp was “a heckuva pool player” at Frank’s Pool Hall, above the Sears store next to the bus station on Amsterdam’s East Main Street.
Copp said, “The smoke was so thick that you could hardly see the table next to you. You could buy cigarettes for two cents each (three for a nickel) from a shot glass kept under the counter!”
Copp still has his membership card in what the proprietor called the Main Social Club.
“Frank issued the cards,” Copp said, “because there were so many troublemakers who showed up that he wanted to make it a ‘club,’ to exclude non-members.”
Frank was Frank Wyszomirski.
The pool hall attracted young men from the nearby Catholic school, St. Mary’s Institute, during their lunch hour. Michael Cuddy recalled the day the principal at St. Mary’s, Mother Grace, raided Frank’s.
As Mother Grace came up the front stairs, boys ran down the back stairs or crowded into the men’s room. It was rumored that Mother Grace sometimes stationed herself with binoculars at Lurie’s Department Store across the street to observe the comings and goings at Frank’s.
The late John Szkaradek said of Frank’s: “There were ten tables, each numbered one to ten. The first three tables were kind of for amateurs with a lot of slam bang going on. The second set of tables was better cared for. The third set of tables was very well cared for, right in front of the counter where Frank could keep a sharp eye on the play and the players. These tables were mostly used for straight pool and tournament play. Table 10 was an extra long table located at the back of the hall along with the only billiard table in the city.
“Billiards was something special whether you played straight billiards or three cushion billiards. There you learned about English on the ball and the use of the diamonds on the table. There was a tournament held [at Frank’s] with a guest appearance of a pro named Joe Canton from Massachusetts who played the city champ, Elmer Holubetz.”
A famous billiard player named Frank Taberski was born in 1889 in Amsterdam and grew up in Schenectady, although one online source stated he began shooting pool in Amsterdam. Taberski turned professional in 1915 and became world champion a year later, according to an online publication of the Schenectady County Historical Society.
He was nicknamed “The Sloth” and “The Inexorable Snail” because he took so long between shots. He forfeited his title in 1919 after officials set a time limit on billiard shots. He won four more titles in the late 1920s.
Taberski later owned a bowling alley and pool hall at State Street and Broadway in downtown Schenectady.
Another downtown Amsterdam memory contributed by a reader was “everyone stomping their feet when the title song played” during a performance of the 1956 movie “Rock Around the Clock” at the Tryon Theatre. The song as performed by Bill Haley and the Comets had previously been used under the opening credits of the 1955 movie “Blackboard Jungle.”
Amsterdam native Richard Sidlauscus wrote, “One of the first large stores that sold a combination of items was located just west of the intersection of Main and Liberty streets on the north side and it was called National. I got my very first two wheel bike there, a Rollfast 26” red with silver fenders, probably in 1952 or 1953. I also recall the trolley tracks which ran down the middle of the street, and were always a challenge to drivers on rainy days.”
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact him at 346-6657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.