The Amusement Parlor

Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man concerns a smooth-talking sharpster who comes to River City, Iowa, circa 1912, to con its citizens into buying uniforms and musical instruments for a boys band he proposes to organize, intending to take their money and then disappear without producing so much as a piccolo.  To stir up the need for such a band, he points to the newly-opened pool hall in town and whips the people into a frenzy over the pernicious influence this establishment will have on their children.  Oddly enough, if Wilson’s Harold Hill had come into Wilton in the summer of 1913, he might have used the same trick on our good Yankee ancestors.  

Bowling AlleyIf you were to go into the basement of Nelson’s Candy Store, in the dim light you’d be able to make out a most improbable sight -- two bowling alleys, tucked off into a corner.  They are all that remain of the “Amusement Parlor” which occupied one of three separate spaces in this building on Main Street.  Amusement Parlor

An advertisement of the era announced the parlor’s Grand Opening on May 30th 1913.  It had a pool hall and store on the street level, with a “big stock of fresh tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, pipes, etc.”; and in the basement, a Shooting Gallery and “the New Bowling Alley, with twin alleys”.  Louis Amini and his partner, Romeo Belli owned the business and ran it for several years.  Louis and Romeo also purchased the Everett House hotel in 1916 (which stood until the 1940’s on the corner of Main and Burns Hill Road) which they repaired and upgraded, even going so far (according to a contemporary newspaper account) as to import a chef for its restaurant from Boston.

There is no listing for the Amusement Parlor in a Wilton Business Directory of the mid 1920’s; it is possible that the place had closed its doors well before that.  From that point on, several businesses occupied the three storefronts in the building, including Mac’s, a tavern also known at one point as the Dew Drop Inn, Broderick’s Plumbing and Heating, and Dunn’s Hardware.  In 1952 Perry Joslin took over Dunn’s, bought out the other businesses, and expanded the hardware store into the whole building.  It continued as a hardware store under later owners Stan Fink and Geoff Enright, and in 2002 Doug Nelson moved his candy-making business there, also establishing the music performance venue Local’s Cafe.

We don’t know why the parlor only lasted for a few years. Perhaps, not unlike their fictional contemporaries in Iowa, the good citizens of Wilton were shocked and scandalized by the presence of a pool hall in their midst, realizing that the combination of tobacco, pool and bowling were the first steps on the Road to Degradation -- with a capital “D” and that rhymes with “P”, and that stands for. . . well, you know.

Many thanks to P. Jane Bergeron, Dick Putnam, Joan Tuttle, and the late Phyllis Tallarico for their help in assembling the information for this article.

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