520-1 AVE - Joe's Pool Hall, The Sandbox and The Sand & Castle
Updated: Dec 6, 2022
The history of Joe’s Pool Hall actually begins west on Highway 13, when Joe and Mildred Hoyle owned a farm just a short distance away from Ma-Me-O Beach. While walking the grounds of Dorchester’s Golf Course you would be adventuring across what was once the Hoyle homestead and farm. That location is where the majority of their children were born and raised until selling to Mr. Benz, and moving to Ma-Me-O. In 1951, Joe and Mildred Hoyle bought the property on the beach road in Ma-Me-O Beach from Paul Reglin. On May 17th of that year the Hoyle’s moved to their new property. The whole area included a house, the pool hall, a single car garage containing a light generator, four cabins, an ice cream stand (only a couple of stools left to know it was ever there), a shed and two outhouses. The main area of the property was originally a livery stable and blacksmith shop which is where Joe’s Pool Hall would come to reside. However, the stable and blacksmith shop were long gone before the Hoyle’s purchased.
The Hoyle family moved into the house, a two-bedroom place with one large room for the kitchen and living area. The pool hall, operated by Paul Reglin, was already an older building and the original construction was built as a seasonal venture.The floors were crooked and the windows might as well have been wide open with how the wind blew in. The place needed some work which Joe saw to fixing. There were five children of the Hoyle clan at this point. Their oldest son Larry, had the only other separate space to sleep in, which was the porch, for that first summer. Work quickly began to accommodate their family and the great plans of Joe and Mildred.
In the fall season of 1951, the Hoyle’s got to work! The house was raised and a cement block basement was installed to include three new bedrooms. Over the years, many more renovations were done. The pool hall floor had a new thick plywood floor laid atop the old flooring. A block chimney for coal heating was also installed in 1951, under the old house the same year as a water well was put in and electricity came to the area. Some of the older children carried buckets of water from Thorpe’s garage until the well was drilled. In 1957, a living room was added onto the house portion along with a bathroom with running water. Much of the work was completed with the help of Bill Knull. Joe’s brother Harold Hoyle helped with the installation of the basement under the original house and the basement for the house on 1st Avenue.
There were six rooms above the pool hall that were cleaned up, refurbished and rented in Summer. The view up there was spectacular. One room at the back remained for storage. The ice cream stand was removed and another cabin was built. When the stools and platform from the ice cream stand were removed, the Hoyle kids found a goldmine of coins which were collected for summer treats.
Mildred maintained the cabin and pool hall rentals plus the household including canning hundreds of quarts of preserves each year. Joe wore many hats around the community. While running the pool hall, Joe also worked for the Provincial Parks Department as Warden of Ma-Me-O Provincial Park for many years. Joe offered a decent haircut for a fair price while he ran the place with the whole family's help. Customers would sit down in Joe’s barber chair to pay their 75 cents for a cut and clean-up. One could also purchase metal ice boxes to put in cabins for cool storage from Joe. He was also a talented auctioneer and would put on quite the show for bidders. The pool hall itself had five pool tables installed for players to enjoy 101, black eight ball or snooker games. It was a penny per minute with a ten cent minimum to use the tables. Joe had a strict no alcohol, no drugs and no swearing policy. Looking back, one would think the Hoyles were constantly busy, but they always found time to visit with neighbours, host parties and go for picnics.
The Hoyle kids - Shirley, Larry, Betty, Jean, Marilyn and Wayne were all raised at the pool hall except Wayne who was there about half of his childhood years. Another child, Gerald, was born at Ma-Me-O in October of 1955, and sadly passed away at age three. He greatly enjoyed the pool hall and would careen around the corners of pool tables on his four-wheeled horse toy, as fast as he could go. The year Gerald was born there was a blizzard that caused a 12-foot snow drift all the way from the lake to the highway! The snow plow managed to get into everyone’s place who lived there full time but the snow drift stayed until it melted in the spring. Winter was always an interesting time filled with chilly walks with the sled to pump water from Thorpe’s garage and skating on the lake. Marilyn remembered one year the ice froze to absolutely dead level. You could skate over the whole lake. It was 12-14 inches thick and clear enough to chase fish along the ice. A favourite activity was jumping off boat houses into big snow drifts. One time there was a search party for all the kids as one mother had become panicked with the snowstorm blowing across the lake. The kids were tunnelling and building a cave for hours on end in the drifts. They had no idea the search party was formed and actually met them on the road while walking back home.
Betty recalled as a child that she thought she had gone to heaven when they moved to Ma-Me-O Beach. The lake was right there at her fingertips. All the Hoyle kids learned to play pool at an early age as they all helped rack balls in the pool hall. Most of the Ma-Me-O kids also learned as Joe would let them in to play during the afternoon. Shirley was especially talented and would often hustle the oil workers after they got off shift. You can bet there were a group of shocked people walking out the doors after thinking they could beat Shirley in a game!
There was always a lot of work to do but plenty of extra time as well. The kids were expected to help either at home or on the business side. There was also a lot of recurring chores such as washing all the windows, cleaning cabins and washing loads of sheets. One spring the whole family decided to paint the house, cabins, and pool hall. Betty painted all the signs with the names of their rental cabins on old Coca-Cola signs. The cabin names were Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. The cabins were locally known as the 'Horseshoe Motel' as they were situated in a semi-circle over two lots next to the Pool Hall.
Almost all the Hoyle kids loved the water and spent as much time there as possible. They all had chores to do but then could go to the beach or adventure around the lake. At 16, Betty had passed all swimming levels and took the Red Cross lifeguarding and instructors course in Edmonton, then lifeguarded and taught swimming at Ma-Me-O Beach. For three years, Betty taught all the lake-goers how to swim. The job was good money compared to others and she loved it. The Boosterettes sponsored the swimming lessons and Lifeguard program for many years. The program ran from July to the middle of August until the water got too cold, and summer residents were by then headed home to prepare for the start of school.
There was always a summer parade, a powwow, dances at the log cabin every Saturday night, and horse riding stables open in the summer. In the winter skidoo races, commercial ice fishing, and cutting ice blocks were the main activities for Ma-Me-O residents and businesses around Pigeon Lake.
As the kids grew older and oil was being drilled all around the area, more people decided to live at the beach. The Hoyle girls did a lot of babysitting. At 25 cents an hour, and often for lots of kids, they considered it pretty good money along with other summer jobs. The Hoyle kids would often be found selling popcorn at the movies put on in the Hall and working at Brodericks store or Ma Samborski’s restaurant. There was lots of work if you were willing to work. These jobs helped pay for education and gave them a good start after graduating highschool. While working, the family also chose to enlist in local volunteer groups and clubs while always offering a helping hand. Mildred belonged to the Home 7 & School, was a Boosterette, a 35-year member of the United Church Women group and 50-year member of the Women’s Institute. She was awarded runner-up as Canadian Mother of the Year in 1962!
It was not uncommon to wake up and find someone warming up in the Hoyle house after they fell into the lake. The Hoyle’s took care of anyone in need of a good thaw as this was well before an ambulance was readily available. Brownies club started up in the community when Marilyn was nine, in 1953. Mrs. Herb Schmidt and Mrs. Louis Rattray started the Brownies. If the kids were really good they were allowed to Watch Howdy Doody on the television after their Brownies meeting. At one point, Marilyn took up baton twirling lessons which were practiced in Makofka’s living room.
All the kids, who are now into their Senior years, have commented they had the best possible life growing up at the lake. To them it was ideal. Shirley, Jean and Marilyn were all married at the United Church at Ma-Me-O, and a few of their children were also baptized. The church always held a special place in their hearts well into their adult years.
Joe sold the pool hall in 1971, but he and Mildred decided to still live at Ma-Me-O Beach. They moved down the road to 109A-2 Avenue in 1970, and purchased an older house which was then delivered from near Edmonton to the vacant lot. Harold Hoyle helped by putting in a poured cement basement for the home to be set upon. They lived in the house until Mildred passed away in 1993.
In 1992, John Evans purchased the Pool Hall property from Joe, which started the era of the Sand & Castle.The Sand & Castle which was also known as the Sandbox came to be under John’s ownership for a short while. In 2017, Shawna and Bill Courvoisier bought the building. The business flourished as a hub for good eats and unique events such as themed dinner nights and musical performances. Many locals and visitors to the area became repeat patrons thanks to the atmosphere and great food.
The Sand & Castle closed down in 2019, with no plans to reopen. The property sold in 2020, to a local cabin owner who took one look at the age and state of the building and made the tough call to tear down the old structure.
The tangible image of the once famous Joe’s Pool Hall is no longer. However, the countless memories of the Hoyle family, and businesses that followed within the fours wall will always be in the minds of those who walked through the doors. The times spent with visitors, patrons, family and friends who supported this iconic spot along the beach road continue to live on as stories are told to the next generation.