The oldest operating pool hall and barbershop in a small Alberta village is a unique historic tourist attraction.
Playing a game of snooker and getting a haircut may seem like two totally unrelated activities, but in small-town Alberta during the early 20th century, the pairing was actually a common one.
These once-familiar institutions have all but disappeared across the prairies, with a notable exception: the Vilna Pool Hall and Barbershop, located along Main Street in village of Vilna, 150 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, Alberta. Today, it functions as both a local institution and a unique tourist attraction, offering both haircuts and recreation in a historic setting year-round.
Historic Pool Hall Is the Oldest in Alberta
The oldest of its kind in the province, the Vilna Pool Hall and Barbershop was established in 1921 and it promptly burned down. The original owner, Steve Pawluk, quickly rebuilt, reducing the two-story building to a single story. He sold the pool hall in 1935 to John and Sandra Taschuk, a farming couple who moved into town. In the autumn of 1947, Johns son, Bill Taschuk, took over operations and continued to run the business right up until his retirement in 1997.
Inside the Vilna Pool Hall
Inside, the building has changed remarkably little over the years. It still has its four original pre-WWI pool tables, cue racks, benches, scoreboards and counter, all of which are still in use today. Outside, the boomtown facade has been meticulously reconstructed. More reconstruction is planned for the future, including the rebuilding of the four-room residence originally attached to the back of the pool hall, where Bill Taschuk lived with his wife, Lilly, and raised their family.
Old Time Values
One of the unusual characteristics of the Vilna Pool Hall and Barbershop is that women were not allowed inside for many years. Of course, in the earlier part of the century that was common, but according to Violet Preston, a lifelong Vilna-area resident who lived in the back of the pool hall during the winter of 1947 while attending Grade 9, women (along with boys under 15) were still officially barred right up until Taschuks retirement.
An Alberta Landmark and Tourist Attraction
Today, there are no restrictions on who can come and enjoy the historic pool hall. Junior high students, both male and female, can often be found playing a game or two during their lunch hour. Pop and chips are available for purchase; the pool hall has always been an alcohol-free establishment.
Visiting Vilnas Heritage Pool Hall and Barbershop
The Vilna Pool Hall and Barbershop is open Monday through Saturday during the summer and Tuesday through Saturday during the winter. Hours can be found on its official website. Pool costs $3 per half hour for members and $4 per half hour for non-members. And yes, haircuts are also available at affordable rates.
Getting to Vilna
Vilna is located approximately 2 hours northeast of Edmonton on Provincial Route 28.