Phil’s Pool Room

By Terry Economy | Aug 27, 2011

If ever there was a Rockland icon, Phil's Pool Room at 340 Main Street for more than 40 years has to be one. Owned by a Albanian immigrant, Philip Sulides, who was my godfather, Phil's Pool Room was not just your ordinary pool hall that you could find in most communities; it was an institution of learning to many young men of Rockland.

If Phil's Pool Room could have given out degrees, it would have been in common sense. Not only did you learn and play pool there, Philip Sulides was like a teacher in a class room. He had his own laws of government in his pool room. At times he reminded me of Judge Roy Bean when he reprimanded some of his clientele of their behavior. And he dished out sentences of expulsion from his pool room if you became rowdy, swearing, alcohol on your breath and not taken care of his billiard tables and equipment.

You had to be 14  years old before you would be allow to play pool at Phil's. If you were in school, you could not play pool at Phil's until after school was out. If you skipped school, you have to have a good reason why you weren't in school. A lot of boys during the 1930s and 1940s did not go to school beyond the eighth grade; later, in the 1950s, it was at the end of your second year of high school. And they would spend a lot of their spare time at Phil's.

Phil would say to some of them: "Well if you're not in school, maybe I can teach you others things in life you can't learn in school. Like respect, honesty, humility, be good to your parents and friends, discipline and most of all, have common sense."

On a given school day, some of us would take the school lunch hour at Rockland High off and head to Phil's to have our own lunch, such as a devil dog, peanut or cheese crackers and a soft drink or chocolate milk. We would sit on the bench and watch the adults play pool and trying to learn some pool techniques of the players to help our own game.

During school days, you could play at Phil's until 9 p.m. When there was no school, you were allowed to play until closing time, which was around midnight. When he wasn't shinning shoes in the front of his store, Phil was always observing his four pool tables and players. If you were a regular, you could rack up your own balls. If not, Phil would come by at the end of a game and rack up the balls and collect the game's fee. The most popular games were eight ball, nine ball, kelly, and points.

The best pool players were those who played points, a more skillful game. The beginners' most favorite game was eight ball.

Phillip Sulides came to America in 1918, when he was 18, with his older brother. They first operated a shoe shine stand at the corner of Park and Main streets. Later on, he opened an indoor stand at the entrance of the Thorndike Hotel. In the early 1930s, he move to the other side of Main Street where he had a larger store for his shoe shining business and room for four pool tables. He also installed a hat cleaning, hat blocking section in the front window part of his parlor.

In the early 1920s, Phil went back to Albania for a visit and met his wife, Emma. He came back to Rockland with his new bride and had seven children, four daughters and three sons, and all of whom he put into and through college.

Phil had a a lot of sorrow in his life, losing his three sons at early ages. Son Paul was killed in an auto accident while attending Maine Maritime Academy; son John passed away at 41 with a heart attack; and son Peter, who was a popular Rockland attorney, died of a results of a gun short wound from a disgruntled client in 1986.

On a personal note: It was Phillip who gave me my name as Terrence. At a Batistes ceremony, he asked my father, Spiro, what was he going to name me. My father said "Sotir." Phil thought I should have an American name. From Sotir, he mentioned Terry; then, he said Terry is short name of Terrence. So when the Albanian Bishop of the Albanian Orthodox Church, who came to Rockland, asked 'What name is this child?" Phil yelled out "Terrence."

Phillip Sulides lived to be 98 years old. He died in 1998. Of all of the original eight Albanian families who immigrated to Rockland in the early 1900s, He became a leader and spokesperson for the Albanians of Rockland.

If someday there ever would become a " Rockland Hall of Fame." Phillip Sulides would certainly become a member.

Terry Economy was born in Rockland. He graduated from Rockland High School and has had a long career in broadcasting, and is a member of the Maine Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

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