--photo courtesy Mary Alice Chambers

Life at Lee Lackey’s Pool Hall


200 Whittington Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71901, Malice@aol.com

Mary Alice is the daughter of Newbern Chambers, who was born in McRae in 1920. She has been working on her father’s biography for five years and printed a copy for relatives at Christmas 2000. The following is an excerpt from that material. The author has a Master's degree in Music Education from the University of Central Arkansas and a Bachelor's from Ouachita Baptist University. She works and lives at the Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences in Hot Springs, and is a member of the White County Historical Society.

During the recent tornado that ravaged Beebe and McRae, Lackey’s Pool Hall, a McRae landmark, came through seemingly unscathed--only to be razed soon after. The pool hall faced Highway 67 and was a hangout for McRae boys during the Great Depression. The building served two purposes, it was the McRae bus station waiting room and a pool hall. Lackey’s was just north of John LaFerney’s Highway Garage.

Newbern Chambers and his older brother, Charles “Bubby” Chambers, liked to hang out at the pool hall. They lived north of the place, separated only by a vacant lot.

“All the kids were crazy about Lee Lackey; he had a lot of principle,” Newbern recalls. Lee liked kids. Newbern remembered Lee Lackey and Joe Crutcher loading local youngsters in their pickups and driving to Little Rock for the Travelers’ baseball games.

“All the boys in the community, even the Boy Scouts, hung out at Lee Lackey’s. He sold beer and had pool tables in the back. In front, Lee operated the town’s bus station. Parents trusted their kids with Lee Lackey because he didn’t curse and wouldn’t allow anyone to bother the kids.

“One time, a couple of ladies were in there to catch the bus. Two fellas were in, strangers, to have a beer. One said a few curse words. Mr. Lackey said, ‘We don’t tolerate that in here, boys, we’ve got ladies in the front.’ They smarted off at him, so Lee walked out from behind the counter. Lee, who weighed a formidable 300 pounds, got them by the collars of their shirts, and banged their heads together. Lee then picked them up, pushed the door open and shoved them out into the street. ‘Get out of here and I don’t care if you never come back to this town.’ “Occasionally, we’d see a local minister sitting on a bench out front visiting with Lee. He always wore a big frock coat. Rumor had it Lee stocked him with bootleg whiskey. Before his conversion, the minister had been a big drinker.” However, “everybody had tremendous respect for this minister. He had no enemies that I know of and he always had a smile and a good story to tell.”

Sometimes Newbern and Bubby would hear “cursing and carrying on” from Lackey’s around midnight. Mrs. Chambers sometimes joined her sons at the window of their bedroom, which overlooked the side of the pool hall. One night, some drunk from Little Rock was causing trouble at Lackey’s and, according to Newbern, “Lee Lackey beat the hell out of him. Lee dragged him out and washed him off at the well in Aunt Puss’s (Varner) yard. Lackey sobered the man up and sent him on his way. “You ‘Ma-tapper’ was the name Lee Lackey called those types.” Newbern never heard Lee Lackey curse, ever.

Newbern recalled another incident in which Lackey was not involved. Newbern “saw some nineteen to twenty-year-old drunks at Lackey’s.” The drunks were swearing loudly in the place so Uncle Ben, an old man who was the city marshall, was asked to take care of it. “Uncle Ben went in and said, ‘Boys, please calm down and stop cussing.’ One of them backhanded Old Ben.”

“’Who are you, you SOB?’ the boy yelled. Someone hollored to go get Bill Hombs, the Deputy Sheriff. They found Hombs and told him that ‘Two toughs slapped Uncle Ben down.’ Hombs took off ‘in high gear.’

“’What’s the deal here?’ he said. They cursed him, too. Hombs took out a blackjack and hit them between the eyes and took them to jail.”

Bubby recalls one Sunday afternoon when he went along to see the McRae town baseball team play Carlisle at Carlisle. Most of McRae was there, including Lee Lackey. When the team got to Carlisle, Carlisle started a fight. Two local men went onto the field to grab a McRae player. Lee Lackey grabbed the two by the hair as they went by and banged their heads together, knocking them both to the ground. Another, an old man, kept running at Lee and Lee threw him down, too, making three men on the ground. There was an Arkansas Power and Light truck parked by the field. Lee placed himself between it and another vehicle declaring, “I’m going to clip the head off the next one that sticks his head over the truck’s hood.” Bubby believes he would have. Thus ended the fight.

“Old Jenks Blevins” was mayor of McRae. Jenks came by the pool hall to collect a fee for a city license Lee was late paying, but Lee was at the post office collecting his mail. Jenks took the pool cues out of the hall for collateral and was crossing the tracks to city hall when Lee caught up with him. Lee followed him pleading, “Now come on, Jenks,” until Jenks took the cues back.

Newbern recalls that Lee Lackey had a tough life. In addition to his mother, his brother, sister-in-law, and their three children lived with him. Lee supported them all through working for the WPA in addition to owning the pool hall. One of Lee’s nieces, Wiline Lackey, married Newbern and Bubby’s cousin, Hugh Green.

“Lee Lackey mentioned to Mama years later about the fights and the fact she’d never complained. Her simple reply was, ‘There wasn’t much I could do about it.’” When Lee Lackey died, he was buried at a small cemetery at Johnson Chapel, near Des Arc.