Tustin men gathered over coffee, horseshoes

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

Tustin Billiard Hall

Wives may have objected to smoking, but the pool hall encouraged it with a supply of cigars, cigarettes, chewing tobacco and other smoking materials.  Photo courtesy of the Tustin Area Historical Society

Tustin was a close-knit community with much camaraderie in its early years. The intersection of Main and D (El Camino) was the heart of town. Those living in town and those from the outlying citrus ranches congregated here creating many traditions.

Each day at midmorning a bell would sound loud and clear. Wielded by the druggist or a Tustin Drug Store employee, the clanging instrument announced to all within hearing that coffee was ready. Businessmen as well as any ranchers in town for shopping or banking would crowd into the store, hustling to get a stool at the counter and claim their mug of coffee.

The news of the day, both local and national, as well as the latest stories and jokes passed up and down the counter along with the sugar and cream. These exchanges would reach the entire community by nightfall.

Ranchers might miss coffee, but they never failed to stop at the Tustin Hardware before returning home. This store (now Mrs. B’s) next to the First National Bank was a refuge for Tustin men during its 87 years of existence and more than half a dozen owners. Men, usually from outside town, could be found relaxing and enjoying the companionship of their friends in a circle of battered chairs and benches pulled up to a pot-bellied wood stove in the back of the store. In addition to learning the latest news, they could count on finding in stock any tool or product they needed.

The clientele had changed to homeowners, apartment managers, repairmen and the like and the wood stove had been removed by the time the store closed in 1997, but men still knew they could find whatever they needed, including friendship and conversation.

The third place the men considered their own in Tustin was down the street at the corner of C and Main. The Horseshoe Club met here for nearly 50 years. Originally the site of Marlow’s Blacksmith Shop, the tree-shaded lot was a haven for businessmen and ranchers who liked a game of horseshoes.

Children walking home from Tustin Grammar School often lingered to watch as a player assumed his pitching pose and propelled a horseshoe toward the target, a metal stake, with a loud clang signaling a ringer. Smoking and shooting the breeze occupied other men lounging on the shady benches.

When Larry Fricker need more space for his fertilizer and agricultural supply business, the club moved to a shady location on Main east of D. The property, part of an orange grove owned by the Prescott family, was used until 1962 when Saddleback Chapel was built.

Tustin Billiard Parlor, later known as Tustin Pool Room, was a haven for men for many years, although as The Swinging Door it now has women among its patrons. Located originally on Main Street east of D, it moved to its present location in the mid-1920s with George Smith as owner. A peanut machine that roasted peanuts to perfection was added at that time with peanuts selling for 5 cents a bag. Charley Cleary bought the establishment is 1940 and operated it in conjunction with his Sportsman Headquarters and taxidermy shop. Hayden Williams took over in 1965 and added the lunch counter, which is still popular today.


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