By Diane Krizek | Editor
Pool and billiards has been a Raytown tradition for nearly 70 years. Doug Brink of Raytown Recreation Pool and Billiards aims to continue that tradition. His family has run this pool hall since his father, Don, acquired it in 1970 and devoted the rest of his life to the game after a 20-year career at Bendix. To generate a little excitement, they’re hosting a Nine-Ball Pool Tournament with a $20 buy-in. First prize is $120, second prize $75, third prize $40 and fourth place wins $25 which is $5 more than the buy-in. No professionals will be allowed for this tournament that will be held on either a Saturday or Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. There’s still time to get in on the action.
If you’ve never played pool at Raytown’s pool hall, it’s time to get acquainted with the last of its kind in the Kansas City area. It’s iconic neon sign at 10012 E. 63rd Street marks the entrance to the stairs that lead down to the basement of a building that used to be a general store built by Herman Rieder back in the day. It’s the only building on the block with a basement. Norman Hussey bought the store and converted the basement into a pool hall in the Fifties. The concrete floors were always bare so Don added carpet for the comfort of his customers. He found an old warehouse in the West Bottoms of Kansas City where he bought ten 30-foot rolls of carpet at $10 each that came out of the former Alameda Plaza now the Intercontinental Hotel at Wornall and Ward Parkway. The oriental carpets are threadbare but they add character to the place.
You’ll find nine pool tables surrounded by walls covered with photos and memorabilia, including fairly recent articles written by Donald Bradley of the KC Star about this historic pool hall and its 102 year-old Big Bertha. Next the Bertha, a five by ten foot pool table, sits the impressive Belgium-made heated Verhoeven billiards table. The Brinks would love to see more pool players take to billiards, a sport popular in Mexico and Europe, but faded from the American scene about fifty years ago when gents in suits and tuxedos played the game.
Dennis Reinecker comes in from Shawnee just to play billiards. “It’s a game you can’t learn to play in a day like pool,” he says. There is no rack of balls or pockets in the table for what Doug calls a game of “geometry and motion.” The cue ball must bounce off the cushion at least three times before hitting its target.
Raytown Recreation has a diverse following of customers from all walks of life. Robert Copeland, who has been playing there for 50 years says, “It’s too late to quit.” Donna Ries of Brookside, Julie Venable of Lee’s Summit and Donna Adams of Raytown meet twice a week to play pool.
“We used to meet at Premier Bowl where they have only two tables so we decided to try this pool hall and we’ve been here ever since,” explained Ries. In 1973, Ries placed second in the U.S. Open Straight Pool Championship with a final score of 75–72 in 42 innings against the 14 year-old prodigy, Jean Balukas, who beat five-time champion, Dorothy Wise, the year prior. Click for Sports Illustrated article, August 28, 1972
The younger generations have always gravitated to this pool hall where you can play pool all night. Yes, it stays open as long as you want to play. But while bars typically offer pool as an entertainment while they continue to serve you drinks, the strongest drink you’ll find in this pool hall is black coffee.
Doug says, “People thank me for keeping their kids out of trouble. We have one autistic teenager whose mother gives him $20 to play pool every week because it’s therapeutic for him.” The going rate is $7.00 an hour for doubles and singles is $4.00.