Best of Grizzard - Tennessee Pool

  • Friday, December 1, 2023
  • Jerry Summers

Although there is no record that the late American humorist Lewis Grizzard (1947-1994) ever visited the endangered species of the Mountain City Club (MCC) (1889-202_) in Chattanooga whose fate will probably (?) be decided by the membership at a possibly contentious meeting scheduled for November 29, 2023, he did print an alleged visit and experience in a Tennessee establishment with a space reserved for the sport of pool in the Volunteer State. (It is reported that he did perform at the historic Tivoli Theater.)

Historically there are distinct differences between the two locales but this article will only address LG’s and a colleagues visit to the upper parts of our state in East Tennessee:

“My friend Stephens and I were returning from a camping trip somewhere in the hills of Tennessee when we developed an urgent thirst. He pulled into the first place with beer signs he spotted- a cement-block building with a lot of pickup trucks parked outside.

"Let's go in here," Stephens said.

The first thing I noticed inside was a pool table. Pool can be a dangerous game when played in a church basement. When played in a place like this, customers should be issued hockey helmets.

The crowd gave us the ol' they-ain't-from-around- here look as we moved quietly toward a table. I noticed a sign over the bar which said, "It is a felony to carry a weapon where alcoholic beverages are served." You didn't put a sign like that on your wall, I reasoned, unless there had been a previous incident, or incidents, to warrant it. I usually can pick out a troublemaker, and there's one

in every bar in America. In this instance, he was standing at the counter. He had long sideburns and his cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve of his shirt, a sure sign of a belligerent personality.

The tough guy picked up his beer and walked toward us. I drew a bead on the front door.

"Either of you shoot pool?" he asked.

"No," said Stephens.

"No, sir," I said.

The tough guy just grunted. "Guess I'll have to shoot by myself," he said.

Pool can be a very macho game. A man attacks a pool table, especially on the break when he makes every effort to shatter the balls.

The tough guy knew every eye was on him. He chalked his stick confidently, aimed the blue tip toward the rack of balls, closed one eye and came forward through the cue ball with an enormous grunt. But there was no ear- splitting sound of balls colliding. The tough guy had whiffed the cue ball.

The room fell silent. Nobody dared move a muscle. The tough guy, fighting to keep his cool, lined up the cue ball again as quickly as possible and this time scattered the balls around the table.

Stephens and I finished our beer, paid our tab and drove away.

"How far we been?" I asked him a little later.

"About ten miles," he said.

"Think we're safe?" I asked.

"Nothing out here but the bears and possums," he answered.

Then, and only then, did we allow ourselves the marvelous relief of howling laughter.”

See 1985 best seller, “Shoot Low, Boys- They’re Riding Shetland Ponies” (1985- Ballantine Books- NYC)

(Any comparison between the pool player in LG’s article and any member of the dwindling billiards membership at the MCC is purely coincidental!)

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You can reach Jerry Summers at

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