The pool players at the Sallisaw Nutrition Center and Senior Citizens
Center don't take the game too seriously, they said, but rarely miss a shot.
Olen Thomas sinks a shot during his turn at the table.
Pool players beware. You do not want to tangle with the players at the Sallisaw Nutrition and Senior Citizens Center.
The eight-ball play begins at 10 a.m. and continues to lunch, served at 11:30 a.m., then commences again and may last as long as 3 in the afternoon. That’s when, it may be presumed, everyone goes home and takes a nap.
They certainly don’t nap when playing pool and rarely does one of the gentlemen players sit down because a ball didn’t go in the pocket.
Every Monday through Friday between 12 and 14 gentlemen can be found at the center playing pool.
Player Dallas Allen explained, “We got a new pool table two or three months ago. Doug Vaden donated the pool table. He still plays and he’s a good shot.” The old table was uneven and worn out, the players recalled. The new table has injected some competition into the play.
Olen Thomas, when asked who was the best player, replied, “Every one of them. They tell them down at the pool hall ‘Don’t go over there. Them old men can shoot.’”
To enjoy the activities and lunches at the nutrition and senior citizens center attendees are required to be at least 60 years of age. Women can play pool too but most don’t seem interested.
Allen quipped, “The ladies just sit around and talk and lollygag.”
He recalled, “Once in a while the women play with us. A while back two women came in and played. Then they left and we haven’t ever seen them since.”
Sam McCawley explained, “It’s just a friendly competition between the guys. They’re a lot of fun. They’ve got a good sense of humor. It’s better than sitting at home watching TV.”
But player Dail Mott said there is a lot more to the game than it appears at first.
“It takes a lot of skill,” he said. “A person who never shot pool can’t walk in and make a shot. If they did it would be a miracle. We have a lot of fun shooting pool. None of us takes it serious.”
They don’t take it serious. They don’t bet or win awards. But every one of them has their own pool cue, the games last just minutes, and the balls fall in pockets with every shot.
Thomas leaned over the table to take his last shot in one game for a photo, and, when the ball dropped in the pocket, he said, “You tell ‘em he made that shot!”
Others, while waiting their turn at the table, reminisced and talked about getting older.
Alvin Pridgon recalled the year 1960, when, he said, Oklahoma became a wet state, and he had just returned home from the Navy. He recalled he and a friend went out to drink.
“It was in 1960, in April. It was the first night Oklahoma became a wet state. E.W. Floyd was the sheriff. He told us he was going to put us in jail, but he said, ‘I’m only gonna keep you one night.’ The next morning he fed us a big breakfast and let us go home. Old E.W. was a good sheriff.”
Wild Bill Talbot and his wife, Chris, come to talk, enjoy the activities, and have lunch. He complained about his medical problems. Talbot retired four years ago from his job maintaining the high school baseball field.
He quipped, “They call it the Golden Years. I call it the Rusty Years.”
Talbot misses his job at the school because he misses the kids. “I liked the kids,” he said.
But there is lots to do at the center. Leah Owens, site manager, said many play games like dominoes and cards, play games on the two computers, the women work puzzles, and do crafts twice a month. Movie night is held once a month, with popcorn and snow cones, and popcorn is served every Wednesday. Wii games are also available, along with a book and a clothing exchange. The seniors may also take a trip about once a year. They have visited the Tulsa Zoo and Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Ark.
Allen said, “And there’s lot and lots and lots of gossip.”
“Good, clean gossip,” Owens was quick to add with a laugh.
Allen pointed to a sign on the wall behind the pool table, “It says insults and bad language are not allowed.”
“That’s right,” Owens confirmed.
The Sallisaw Nutrition Center feeds 50 to 60 a day at the site, and carries out 115 meals to those at home. The center cooks the meals for most of the nutrition sites in the county, which amounts to almost 500 meals a day.
Anyone age 60 and up may make use of the centers’ meals and activities. They should call at least 24 hours ahead of lunch, however, if they plan to eat. The phone number is 918-775-6855.
Funding for the SAC Nutrition Program is provided through Title III of the Older Americans Act, DHS, EODD/AAA and local sources, operating under the governing board of the Sequoyah County Board of Commissioners.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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