EAGLEVILLE, Calif. — There are 200 well-worn books on the shelves in Bertie Worlow's Eagleville Pool Hall. That's the Eagleville library.
"My place has been the town library, pool hall, saloon and gathering place for people from miles around ever since 1931," said Worlow, 85, as she racked up the balls for the next game.
The residents of Eagleville, population 60, agree that Worlow's place is the social center for the town, which is in Modoc County's Lonely Surprise Valley in California's northeast corner.
Worlow's is a one-table pool hall and the table, like the building, is over 100 years old. It's also a six-stool saloon where Worlow and her husband, Jim, 76, serve beer and wine.
Also on the premises is a potbellied stove surrounded by comfortable turn-of-the-century chairs. Beer signs dating from the 1930s hang from the walls along with 1928 and 1932 calendars. The creaky wooden floor is oiled twice a year and the men's room is an ancient outhouse.
In addition to the paperback books on the shelves, there are 200 books in circulation, mostly among cowboys on surrounding ranches. There is no fee.
A game of pool costs 30 cents.
"This has never been a rich proposition," Bertie Worlow said, "but it kept me and my two husbands in groceries all these years."
She supported her first husband, who was disabled, until his death 22 years ago. She has been married to Jim Worlow for 20 years.
They live in the rooms behind the Eagleville Pool Hall, which is open seven days a week, Bertie Worlow said, "from the time we get up until the last of them leave late at night."
The ranchers and cowboys who frequent the place "are a decent crowd. If anybody gets out of hand I get after them with a cue stick," said the 5-foot, 87-pound proprietress. "I won't stand for any foolishness."
'A Good Looker'
Among those who stopped by for a game recently was David Grove, 92, who still rides his horse every day and runs 800 head of cattle on his 860 acres.
"I've known Bertie ever since she showed up in this country in 1922," he said. "She was a good looker in her youth and still looks pretty good today."
Another longtime customer, Marguerite Stevens, 81, recalled how in their younger days she and Bertie used to "herd the wild horses and gather the gentle ones to break and saddle."
And when 8-year-old Don Beeman, came in, hopped up on a bar stool and ordered "red wine," the woman behind the counter dutifully produced a glass of red liquid.
"Cranberry juice," confided her husband.
"Bertie has taught most everybody in Surprise Valley how to play pool," he said. "She still shows the kids how to hold the cue and hit the balls."
Then he placed his arm around his wife as she racked up the balls again under the "Do Not Sit On The Table" sign.