12 Questions with Elias Hanlon of Ponsonby Pool Hall

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Elias Hanlon was born right here in Ponsonby. This is where he went to school, and after graduating from St Pauls he still managed to keep things local, by landing his first job at the ASB on Jervois Road.

Then in 1975 his entrepreneurial streak began to shine when he opened of one of Auckland’s first pizza parlours. The ‘80s saw him bring freshly squeezed orange juice to the city, but the call of the hood proved too strong, and he headed back up College Hill in 1989 to open the Ponsonby Pool Hall we know and love today. With a history like that, who better to ask about the area?

Q: How long have you had your business around these parts?

A: I became involved in 1989 when the business was located in its original site at the top of College Hill. In 1992 the development of the Hydra building and adjacent sites meant we needed to find a new home and the Gods smiled and lead us to 106 Ponsonby Road where the land lord was looking for a tenant to take over the area that had been a less than successful shopping arcade. On a Saturday in August 1992 we closed the doors for the last time after what had been according to ‘local folk lore’ nearly 80 years of being part of the Three Lamps social scene-think the Gluepot, the Suffolk (Cavalier) Java Jive, Alhambra and the late Phil Mathias’ tattoo parlour. The Sunday saw a cavalcade of trucks, utes, cars and shank’s pony as an eclectic group of “good souls” ferried the tables – 6 2 ton snooker tables, furniture, accessories and assorted bric-a-brac up to what has been our home for the last 25 years.

Q: How would you describe your business?

A: The simple answer would be a licensed sports/entertainment centre but that would do an injustice to a business that has existed continuously for over a 100 years in the same suburb. A community/city meeting place has been the cornerstone of it’s existence and the passage of time has cemented its place into the fabric of Ponsonby’s history.

Q: What made you want to keep your business in this part of the city versus somewhere else in Auckland?

A: After the last two answers all I can say is “Ponsonby is home”

Q: So based on that, what would you say to someone thinking about moving here?

A: Seriously matter of fact – many have seen Ponsonby Road as ‘the yellow brick road’ only for it to become the ‘boulevard of broken dreams’. The road can be a harsh mistress so do your homework/research well and expect the unexpected.

Q: How would you sum up the vibe of the area and its residents?

A: Ponsonby Rd and it’s environs has been the back drop to my life and as such has provided me with my introduction to the wider social world. From Saturday matinees at the Britannia picture theatre to dinner at Ivan’s restaurant (steak, eggs chips and 6 fried oysters please Mary) and then onto the legendary Gluepot in all its many moods. The road has always been vibrant and continues to fulfill its destiny.

Q: What are your favourite things to do around here depending on the time of day?

A: Anytime between 12pm and 1am is a favourite time for a game of pool/snooker. Ponsonby Road has so much on offer you are literally spoiled for choice. For me sitting on the seats in Three Lamps having a miso soup and being surrounded by the beautiful Post Office, ASB Jervois Road and Leys Institute buildings with the view of the city down College Hill is magic. Afternoons/early evenings/late nights in the courtyard at Prego is always a high light for me.

Q: Name something, or things, that you think are unique to this part of town.

A: Such an array of quality enticements coupled with the areas old world charm.

Q: Most of us know the area’s famous for wining, dining and shopping, but what are your insider’s tips on places to eat, or things to buy?

A: The choice is yours.

Q: Not that it will be after you answer this, but what do think is the area’s best kept secret?

A: You cannot afford to be a secret on Ponsonby Road.

Q: What would you like to see happen, or change around here?

A: That every one works together-business owners, land lords, council, residents and police to ensure that the people who come to experience Ponsonby do not leave disappointed. That we strive to be a welcoming, safe and quality destination.

Q: What do you imagine this part of the world will be like 50 years from now?

A: As someone who has lived/witnessed the pass 50 years all I can envisage is the scene from Start Trek where Dr McCoy says to James Kirk -its life Jim but not as we know it. I would so like to bear witness.

Q: Finally, could you please sum up the area in ten words or less?

A: The promise of tomorrow with the memories of yesterday.