Evolution of My Pool Room

Background

The purpose of this web site is to instill interest in restoring your antique billiard items, particularly billiard cues and to encourage you to create an "earlier time" billiard room from the many things our ancestors worked so hard to create. If you are reading this I know you have a passion for billiards and I truly hope you hold onto the passion for our past for it is true the golden age of billiards (of if you prefer pool) is behind us. Please read the section on the History of Billiards to appreciate how the game has evolved from a game for the elite both men and women to a game for the masses (primarily men) and now to a game played in the U.S. primarily on tables in the family home, college campuses and local bars. I must confess mine is as much a passion for holding onto my past as it is a passion for the game. I am, as it is often referred to, at a point in my life called "the later years". My generation tends to look back and hold on to past memories more than they look forward.  Frankly, up until the last ten years, I never had an all-consuming interest in the game nor did I spend my youth hanging out in "pool halls" as was the slang reference to billiard establishments of years gone by. I grew up in a small Iowa farming community in the 1940's and 50's where my father worked hard on the farm and as well worked the night shift at a factory to feed a family including six children . Unable to buy the many new things that our generation was inundated with after the war, my father's philosophy was, "Why buy something new when you can buy something old and make it new using your hands and a little hard work." I have been restoring old things for much of my life.

When we were young there was little money and thus my father would as a rule cut all the boy's hair on a high stool in the kitchen. Cutting our hair wasn't that hard as the "flat top" cut was the style of the day. Happily, my father had to have his hair cut and so frequently I went with my father to the only barber shop in Brighton, Iowa, a town of 700 people. "Kenny's Barber Shop" was more than just a two chair barber shop. In the back was the pool room consisting of three tables. Kenny Farrier, now in his 80's remembers the 1950's very well. The pool room charged 10 cents per game rather than paying for time played on a table. He had a person working the back room to collect the money and rack the balls. He says it was amazing to see people waiting to get in at 7:00 in the morning with the place still busy when they closed at midnight. The most popular game at the time was pee pool where you would shake a number from the bottle for your ball. The game would last until someone made their ball or the 15 ball. Kenny said with pee pool the game could be over quite quickly and then there was another 10 cents to be collected from each of the players. On a good week, Kenny's pool room would bring in $150. It was quite a good sum for those days. If there is anyone out there with a picture of Kenny's pool room in Brighton, Iowa I would be most interested to add a picture to this web page.

My interest in billiards grew even stronger when my father remodeled our farm house to include space for a pool table. It was not a fancy table but it was a place children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren gathered to play pool at Christmas time.

I would not consider myself a collector of billiard items. I have come to know many good and interesting people who collect just for the enjoyment of accumulating both common and rare items. Unfortunately, many collectors have no real way to display what they collect.   I have often wondered what fun is it to have a gun collection or walking stick collection, when most of the collection is locked away with the items rarely seeing the light of day. For sure, it is the excitement of the hunt and the bragging rights that come to the collector who scores a rare find. But the exhilaration of the find only lasts a short time and then it is back to the hunt. Because the item is often not on display even the collector forgets that it exists. I understand the collector's mind set and I fight being bitten by that bug myself nearly every day. To keep myself grounded, I tell myself that I am not a collector.   I am a decorator of my own billiard room. If there is no place for it without undo clutter, then I will no longer buy it. For me the enjoyment comes from the restoration of something old and underappreciated. My billiard room is nearly complete but there still remains the hunt for billiard cues that can give me the joy of restoring. The good news is, while I may not add to the number of cues I have on display, there is nothing to keep me from upgrading cues in my existing cue racks. Feel free to contact me if you have a cue you find unusual or special you are willing to part with or that you wish to have restored.

My search for a pool table and the drive to decorate my pool room began in 2000 when, at the recommendation of the Brunswick Corporation, I contacted Joe Newell in Clay Center Kansas. I was told by Brunswick that Joe and his father before him restored antique billiard tables. I have come to appreciate that Joe has a great knowledge of and an amazing talent for the restoration of an antique billiard table. Joe likely has no equal when it comes to research and knowledge of the history of the Brunswick billiard table and the history of the Company. After months of searching on Joe's part, in June of 2001, I finally purchased what I think is the perfect table for my home in the mountains of Payson, Arizona. No, mine is not a Brunswick billiard table but one made by an obscure and likely unknown firm by the name of Kansas City Billiard Table Mfg. Co.

There is a high probability, that you do not know that Payson Arizona is home to the oldest annual continuous rodeo in the United States. I grew up with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and the Sons of the Pioneers blaring on our barn radio. Today, I truly live in cowboy country and have great respect for the hard working settlers of the west who came here in the 1800's from other countries. These hardy souls were driven by the need for land to provide a living for their family in a new world. As well, I can trace my ancestor to our Native American brothers. I appreciate the fact Native Americans had lived on and respected this land for hundreds of years before the settlers came. I often wonder why Kansas City Billiard Table Mfg. Co. chose the three marquetry scenes that were inlayed in to my table. Who was the target market? Was this table a one-of-a-kind or special order? I do know why I chose this table. Displayed on this table, I see two historical cultures that were living off of the same land, each with a proud heritage that we should always remember.

I will cover the Kansas City Billiard Table Mfg. Co. (which existed between 1903 and 1916?) in a later section of this web site. My table is not close in class to a Brunswick Arcade or the many other great tables Brunswick made. My table is not the most elaborate, elegant or outstanding in terms of workmanship. It is however of interest to me because of the three distinct, marquetry, western scenes inlayed into the sides of the table. These same marquetry scenes along with others can be found in Brunswick catalogs from the same early 1900's time period. I wonder if these marquetry scenes were made by Brunswick or if they were made by another company and sold by other makers of tables in addition to Brunswick. These marquetry scenes are not found in any of the K. C. Billiard catalogs that I own. None of my K. C. Billiard catalogs show these marquetry scenes inserted into a table cabinet. I have been asked if I thought they were in the table when it came from the factory. The answer is yes, as I have seen one other example of similar marquetry scenes in the cabinet of an unrestored K. C. Billiard table. If you have such a table I would be interested in a picture. With your permission I would like to post it on this web site in the K. C. Billiard Table Mfg. Co. section.

 

The Rebirth of my K.C. Billiard Table

When I purchased my billiard table from Joe Newell, I knew it would be months before it could be worked into Joe's busy schedule. That was fine, as I knew I would not be moving to Arizona for a couple of years. Here are pictures of the table before and during restoration.

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Rebirth of KC Table

 

 Table Installation in Indiana

As time went by, it became clear that a business in the Midwest would keep me from moving as planned. I was anxious to get the table and so after a couple of years, my wife graciously agreed to clear all furniture out of our living room in Indiana and turn it into a billiard room. I advised Joe Newell and in May of 2005 Joe delivered my restored table to our home in Indiana.  Below are pictures of Joe day long process of setting up, leveling and covering the table.

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My Indiana Billiard Room

I did not want an antique table and modern billiard accessories so from the time I purchased the table until it was delivered I had begun search for, purchase and restore a few antique items like a K.C. Billiard cue rack, ball rack and spectator chairs. My wife and I went so far as to design and then created an appropriate Billiard table light that would carry the theme of the marquetry scenes in the table. But with not a lot of space in my wife's former living room the focal point certainly remained the K. C. Billiard Table. I show you these early pictures below in the hope that you will appreciate the evolution of that billiard room to the one that you see in Arizona. There are untold hours seeking out, researching and restoring the many items you will see in the later pictures.

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Indiana Billiard Room

 

My Arizona Billiard Room

 

As you peruse the overview pictures of my billiard room, keep in mind that 90% of the items you see were at one time in need of much repair and or restoration. It is with this same attention to detail that I would approach the challenge of restoring you antique billiard cues to their original condition.

Before you ask; as you look at the pictures that follow, you will see quite a number of items that are the same as those shown in Mark and Connie Stellinga book, "Pool & Billiard Collectibles". A number of items now in my billiard room came from Mark and Connie's collection. To name but a few items: there is a marquetry elk on page 143of Marks book which I did reframe using rails off of a 3.5' by 7" table; A corner cue closet on page 258; A Time and Price Register on page 187; And a K. C. Billiard ball rack pictured with the Akam cue rack on page 162 of Marks book. All of us who collect or decorate have to be most appreciative of the many years of searching for, restoring and finally making available to others the many things you see in Mark and Connie's book.

Of course when it comes to decorating a billiard room one must include a bar. Check out the 1860's stand up, highly carved, walnut bar from northern Michigan and don't miss the reverse painted Billiard Saloon back bar mirror with the 15 billiard balls and cue balls around the border.

No old west bar would be complete without faro cards, a faro layout board, case keeper, dealer's box and card press. Not to be left out, one also has to include in a billiard room's décor such gaming items as old roulette wheels, a slot machine, and a rare patented Hunzinger poker table from the 1800's. This unique table as pictured is a poker table. The felt top will lift up to reveal a storage compartment for gaming items such as card and board games. The table's center will also flip over to be a solid oak bar room table with outer ring. Not shown are antique ivory billiard balls, ball baskets, billiard pictures and signs as well as antique cribbage boards.

I have done stained glass creations for the last 35 years. You will see examples of my stained glass projects throughout the room. I had the carpet around the table woven in India with no seams at the corners. You will see sewn-at-the-corner runners around many pictures of tables from the late 1800's.

The billiard room continues to evolve but at a much slower pace since there is little room to decorate. Since these pictures were taken, two trade stimulators were added, a Decatur Fairest Wheel from 1897 and Mansfield roulette wheel made in 1893. I am always looking for gaming items. If you have items that fit the old west period of the late 1800's that you are willing to part with let me know as there is a chance they may fit the period decor.

Enjoy checking out my billiard room. Please see the sections of this web site covering the topics: billiard cue "preserve vs. restore; antique Brunswick decals; decal recreations; and cue restoration services. Give me the opportunity to restore you antique cues be they family heirlooms or desirable cues that you wish to display in your personal antique billiard room.

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