A Look Back in Time: Morton Pool Hall Sees Night of Dread, ‘Excitement’ in 1932


A headline for an article in the April 9, 1932 edition of The Chronicle read: “Morton Boasting of Good Place to Find Excitement.”

Yet the headline didn’t specify what kind of excitement could be found at Al Burleson’s establishment, or if the events that went on there one night in April were actually something the town would want to boast about.

“If a person craves excitement, Al Burleson’s pool hall here is the place to find it,” reported The Chronicle in a tongue-in-cheek declaration.

The first incident of excitement happened when resident Keenas Priest created a mass exodus from the pool hall, as he incited a violent scene.

Priest reportedly “drove 20 patrons of the business into the street when he is alleged to have … drawn a knife and threatened to carve anybody who got in his path.”

As this was happening, one pool hall patron became a fire victim through a bit of clumsy mishap back inside.

“Then, Lynn Burleson, son of the proprietor, sat on a pool table to make a difficult shot and as he slid to the floor, matches in a hip pocket were ignited,” reported The Chronicle. “In turn, that set fire to a celluloid comb in the same pocket; the comb burned the pants; the pant set fire to the drawers, and the drawers raised a full-blown blister before young Burleson’s swift footwork carried him to a place where he could yank off the blazing combination.”

Back in the street, Priest was reported to the authorities before he could harm anyone with his knife, and he was set to appear in a court hearing the following Tuesday on a charge of threatening with a deadly weapon.

April 9, 1932

• A Hawks Prairie farmer, A.F. Hallberg, declared he would revolutionize the work of chicken farming by developing hens that would lay eggs twice a day through selective breeding. Hallberg discovered one of his hens laid two eggs on April 8, 1932, and while they were soft and malformed, he felt confident that he would be able to cultivate strong eggs from the hen in no time. He then planned to breed and sell only the chicks from the hen in question until every farmer in Lewis County and beyond had hens that laid eggs twice daily.

• Six “powerful racing crews of California and Washington” arrived at Lake Washington in Seattle, drawing national interest. The event marked the 29th annual Pacific Coast Regatta. “Opening the intercollegiate rowing schedule for 1932, the glamorous western classic created worldwide attention with the greatest crews of several nations slated, furnish(ing) a grand climax in the Olympic Games at Long Beach, (California), next August,” reported The Chronicle.

• Centralian Eva Johnson was re-elected president of the Lewis district of the Christian Endeavor on April 8, 1932. Other officers elected included Lulu Cole, Vera Kent and Roscoe Gleason.

• Mary Dyson, a pioneer member of Centralia, died following a long illness. Dyson was moved from a Tacoma hospital for hospice care at the Anacortes home of her sister Verna Tait. Dyson was a member of the “Eastern Star and Christian church,” in Centralia.

• Justice Nort Wynn heard a damages lawsuit, where E.O. Burton, of Winlock, asked for $99.99 to replace a horse, which Burton alleged was killed by Jacob Tormala’s motor vehicle on Feb. 14, 1932. Burton also claimed his daughter “narrowly escaped being badly hurt” by Tormala’s car as she led the horse down the roadway, reported The Chronicle. The case was taken under advisement.

• Roy Denning, 24, of 1229 B Street, was killed in an accident on April 8, 1932, after he was “wrapped around the drum of a donkey engine,” reported The Chronicle.

• A modern furnished house was listed for rent at $10 a month.

April 9, 1942

• Newborn incubators made their first appearance in Lewis County hospitals to help premature babies survive the trials of not coming to full term. The acquisition of the devices was made through a two-year project by the Centralia Mothercraft Club.

• Three Tacoma youth were caught after going on a crime spree in the region, following a string of burglaries at Porter’s Super-Service station in Centralia. They were arrested in Tacoma, where at least three of the burglaries took place. They were ultimately apprehended after they tried to exchange $30 in nickels they stole from a pinball machine for promissory notes.

• Dr. James Monroe, then 88, died the previous Monday at a local hospital. Monroe was one of the first physicians in Chehalis and was the Masonic grand-commander of the Washington Knights Templar in 1925.

• Anton E. Knizek, then 31, of Doty, was killed the previous Tuesday by a falling limb at a Shafer Bros. logging camp near Bunker.

• War bond purchases in Centralia raised about $175,000 since the start of World War II.

• Centralia High School golfers beat Chehalis, though the best score went to a Chehalis student, identified only as “Fuller,” who put up 42.

• Psychic readings were advertised in The Chronicle’s classified section. One was for readings, which would have been performed at the corner of “Ash and Plum,” while another listed the services of a “Renowned Psychic Astrologer and Numerologist and Adviser” at Hotel Washington.

April 9, 1952

• Washington, D.C.’s Public Health Services awarded Lewis County General $114,800 in matching funds for a new wing of the hospital. The Lewis County Board of Commissioners approved the initiative, though it was set to cause a $50,000 deficit in the county budget.

• Social clubs in Centralia and Chehalis were set to offer a couple of Easter egg hunts for Twin Cities youth. The event was set to include 3,000 eggs. One event was scheduled to occur on Cascade field, the other at Borst Park.

• Gov. Arthur Langlie was scheduled to speak at a special Easter service at the Chehalis Presbyterian Church. Guest attendees included members of the Chehalis Kiwanis club.

• The civil defense organization of the Centralia City Commission was in the talks with Lewis County to strike a defense pact for the betterment of the region’s security, should the area be the target of a future war. Mayor George Scherer and mayor-elect Claude Warren supported the measure.

• Centralia High school was the site of a string of pranks that involved pulling fire alarms. One boy said he “accidentally” tripped an alarm, but an offender for a second prank did not come forward, reported The Chronicle.

• Chehalis School District finally received a purchase offer for the earthquake-damaged high school building. The offer came in at $20,000. The previous asking price of $25,000 received no offers at all.

• A building dedication ceremony was to be conducted by Max Berger, the state supervisor of elementary education, for the opening of a new school in Randle. The old facility had been destroyed in a 1950 fire.

• Two movies were scheduled to play at the Fox Theatre on April 9, 1952. “Battle of Apache Pass,” was set to play at 7:22 p.m. and 10:48 p.m., while “Stage Event” was set to play at 8:48 p.m.


“A Look Back in Time” will appear in every Saturday edition of The Chronicle.