WWI and Goldsboro’s War on Pool Rooms

Places of Idling

In May 1918 the Goldsboro Board of Aldermen voted to temporarily revoke the licenses of all pool rooms within city limits for the duration of World War I.

Representatives from many of the largest churches, and the Jewish temple Oheb Shalom, signed the petition and presented it to the alderman on May 6. They stated that their request was a “war measure” and that the

energy, time and money spent by our men and youth in the pool rooms is practically a waste, and should be diverted into productive channels.

The petitioners claimed that such action was not meant to “injure any man’s legalized business”, although how they could rationalize this as anything other than financial injury is suspect.

Local attorney J. Langhorne Barham represented the interests of the local pool room operators but his best efforts were not successful. The board agreed to the ban in a 5-3 vote at a special session on May 13.

The Road to Prohibition

The war provided a convenient opportunity for the some in the community to further the temperance movement that had slowly grown in strength during the 19th century. By the early 20th century the most prominent group in this movement was the Anti-Saloon League, backed strongly by Protestant ministers across the country. Alcohol, and all its associated vices, including “seedy” pool rooms were targets.

The culmination of the temperance movement came in 1919 with the ratification of the 18th Amendment. The ban on alcohol would continue until 1933 when the 21st Amendment ended Prohibition.

The Greater Good

While it hardly rises to the level of Abraham Lincoln suspending the Writ of Habeus Corpus during the Civil War, the suspension of pool room licenses during WWI was just one in a long line of restrictions advertised as “for the greater good” in times of national crisis.



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