Some businesses seem to go together naturally, like gas stations and car washes or Wendy’s and Tim Hortons. But in small North American towns during the early 20th century, the popular pairing was less obvious: pool halls and barbershops.
The village of Vilna, an hour and a half northeast of Edmonton, in Kalyna County, has held tightly to that tradition: the Historic Vilna Pool Hall and Barbershop, on the village’s well-preserved main street, is the province’s oldest such combo, operating continuously since 1921. For most of those years, the hall - now a provincial historic resource - was run by Bill Taschuk, who stepped in for his father in 1947. Bill retired in the late ‘90s. That’s when the Friends of the Vilna Pool Hall Society took over, updating the heating and electrical
systems and restoring the facade. In 1997, the society also brought the biggest change in the hall’s history: allowing women, and boys under 15, inside for the first time ever.
Violet Preston, a Taschuk cousin and local farm girl who stayed in the residence behind the pool hall while attending Grade 9 in 1947, often heard things get rowdy through the walls. But today, the hall’s atmosphere is decidedly more serene than in its heyday as a mens’ club. Visitors are welcome year-round for a trim or a game of snooker or billiards on one of four original tables—or just to hear the volunteers’ stories of days gone by.