I did not have the privilege or pleasure to meet and know Kenny Gallacher, but I do live in his community and have met some of his friends through the pool tournament that bear's his name. It has been said by many that you can get to know a man by his family, friends and community. In todays fast paced world it was great to join this group friends and acquaintances and see the value in both old and new relationships.
It did not take long to discover this was not just a story anchored by Kenny Gallacher or a Pool Tournament in his memory. It begged to show the story of one persons legacy and how far Kenny's mark has reached out to touch the future of others through those he quietly embraced or touched along his way while alive. It was this touch, stability and passion that enlisted the dedication and comraderie of others to hold and carry forward the annual event in his name and help young people in the trades along the way.
I am told the Hampton was a spot where Kenny would sometimes arrive early and hold a table for the regulars. This went on until his death and a final wish by the group to have a game on him - an annual tournament of local players. The Kenny Gallacher Annual Pool Tournament was originally founded at the Hampton in Delta B.C. seventeen years ago. The regulars, being sporting men and women willing to avoid conflict, settled on the first week end before Super Bowl as "Break Time" for the Annual Pool Tournament.
The Hampton eventually closed it’s tables ten years ago and the tournament moved to Baselines Pub in South Surrey, B.C. It has grown and flourished in this location here to become one of the largest pool benefit tournaments in the area with about 70 men and women competing over two days.
The tournament came to my attention early Sunday morning through my grape-vine of professional acquaintances known as the Starbucks Crew. The buzz, "this was no ordinary tournament", was an understatement. Now if everyone will agree, this is as far as I can go on discreet information, but I am informed that professional players (schills) are not allowed at this yearly tournament.. Hmmmm? If it's fun, then I had to investigate.
On entering Baselines Pub, I was immediately immersed in a low conversational buzz not typical of the usual pub atmosphere. It was a din that seemed to hold a respectful level of thought and anticipation, something like a chess game or casino without the bells and clamor, but broken with slight cracking sounds. I then "eyed" the pool tables upstairs encircled by tentatively seated women and men, eyes transfixed on the green velvet table turf and it's rolling content. Yes, this might be serious stuff! There seemed to be more than a game here behind these poker faced on-lookers. They were having fun.
I needed Bacon-N-Eggs and hash browns in defense of all doctor's orders, and time to listen and learn about a possible bigger picture than a game of pool. It was time to grab a table and settle in - this was not going to be a momentary photo shoot or simple 500 word story. It was time to talk to Andy Gallacher, the guy carrying the "pig" tighter than a wide receiver headed for first down. Kenny's son and CEO of Restruction Building Services.
Andy’s friendly demeanor quickly brought me up to speed on the annual tournament history, his father and of the dedicated individuals involved in carrying the game forward. Steve Ussyk’s commanding presence in organizing, scheduling and tracking the many participants as they arrived, played, coming and going to return to play later was a challenging feat in itself. Steve seemed to know all by name and kept the schedule flowing smoothly in spite of having to run sometimes from pool tables to parking lot looking for lost souls whose turn had come on the draw. This was one of the best organized pool tournaments bar none and I have seen a few.
Then there was Ernie Dahl as the indomitable Judge, ball racker and master of the coin toss. Now I am not sure what the official title would be on this one but Ernie obviously has played this role before, ruling effectively over all questions. He definately exhibited command qualities here and being one of the original players adds a lot of weight to difficult calls.
It took only a nod and wave of the hand for one, two, and then the shout went out for more original players. It was soon a laughing squad seated for a "groupie shot" that acknowledged the call of years of camaraderie and community played out over a game of pool.
As Steve and Andy carried “Pig” around, held closer than a receiver doing a punt return, it's belly's content was continually stuffed or "poked" with money as players or observers passed. Now any pig who attends a pool game with a belly full of cash must have a loftier purpose in mind especially when not on a leash. Couple this to the many trade’s tools and item's displayed on tables and walls added to the benefit auction and the fact that this was no "pig in a poke".
Kenny Gallacher's story and picture is quietly but affectionately displayed here along with letters of appreciation from recipients, colleges and trade schools for bursaries and grants awarded to students over the years. These are awarded in person by Andy Gallacher (in his fathers memory) to those who exemplify excellence in the trades or need assistance during their course of training. It is a fitting testament to how one trades person who enjoyed his passion for life and his friends, nurtured the creative community of social, into a moving benefit for change that women and men can see, touch and understand.
Greg Rollo of Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers joined me at the table and provided an amazing worldly viewpoint of BC industry and local culture. From this point on it was a succession of individuals stopping by and demonstrating there is no shortage of colorful stories amongst the friends and individuals who live and play in this community. I met former yacht club commodores, contractors, students, stable hands, to Fire Chiefs and was ever-reminded that it is all really about pool. If you need to know, "just ask an auctioneer" as he painted a picture of a community of vibrant succesfull people in life as well as business.
Midway between my eggs and toast, a lady breathlessly came running in, grabbed a stool and joined us. She was quite concerned about her table time and her need to get back to maternity. Yes, I was not really paying attention, but that is exactly what I heard. Now I have known women able to take time out for a lot of things while in maternity but this one did catch me... really it did. To my mind she maybe could have put the tournament on hold for this year.
I will not use her real name here, so will call just her Bea. It turned out that she was a nurse at Peace Arch Hospital maternity ward. It was her break and she had timed her game to fall within this period. It was a relief to me to know the pool tables would not be required for any emergency. I also learned a lesson around pool players that I am sure to be reminded of again sometime in the future.
This was a room for communication, a network of friends and neighbors that has survived and thrived before and since cell phones were invented. The room was full of relationships from fathers, sons, businesses and a community that meet in part over a game of pool. I had to wonder how many birthdays, anniversaries, and job’s have materialized as a result of this community network over the course of time.
It was great to see women and men of all ages strongly represented in this once traditional, cigar smoking back room game. Even more evident was the youthful participation and networking of individuals and players as they examined draws and joked of daily business and issues. All of course in accordance with Los Vegas Rules of Game.
The final winners winners of the Kenny Gallacher Annual Pool Tournament went to Phil Barton for first prize and runner-up was taken by Lorraine Fee. Naturally in a tournament such as this, the real winners are apprentices, school and college programs with trade training and naturally the community at large.
The stories of Kenny's big frame roaming the pool table perimeter were easily traded - like one, "I can see him still. His big frame roaming the pool table perimeter, cue held in hand rapier-like, looking for that perfect shot. It's almost "Gleason-esque," said Greg.
So in his own Scotish style, Kenny’s “ Honeymooners" and others play on today at his annual pool tournament. Soitsfun!