I grew up in Mason City, Iowa, which was the hometown of Meredith Willson, of Music Man fame. His inspiration for the featured song “Trouble in River City” was the Pleazeall Pool Hall, sometimes called Ramsey’s, after the family who owned it. My father was a pretty good pool player and he brought me in when I was fifteen to meet the Ramseys. I never actually asked him what his goal was, but I soon was skirting the city ordinance that disallowed entry until age sixteen (whether it was because of the beer, the girlie magazines, or the marginally socially-acceptable clientele, I never figured out).
And I learned to shoot pretty good pool…and billiards.
Even today I joke about lessons one can learn from shooting pool: colors, patterns, number sequence, geometry, physics, psychology, tolerance, attention to detail, and how to hold your liquor.
I exposed both Tim and Sean to pool at an early age and the summer lodge we visit as a family has a pool table in the basement. My grandchildren do not seem as interested: too many electronic distractions in their lives. When I was growing up I knew the legends: Willie Hoppe, Minnesota Fats (both fictional and real), Willie Mosconi, and Paul Newman, hero of The Hustler. Today, although you can see pool played on television, it is nine-ball, rather than the classic 14-1 straight ball, and you never see classic billiards or “snooker”, both considered the dividing line between amateurs and serious pool players by the crowd from Mason City.
Sean and Tim gave me a custom pool stick about twenty years ago, which I still keep in my car, carry to lunch at Big Shots, and pack in my golf case when we go to the Lodge. It is too delicate to use while breaking, but serves me well in the heat of the game. I hold my own with both my sons, or at least they let me believe I do, and there are more mutual “Good shots!” than “Oopses”. And we congenially break for food.
|Willie Mosconi and "Cowboy Jimmy " Moore|
Of course there are negatives to considering shooting pool as a sport. Tables are indoors for starters. And the exercise quotient is limited to stretching over the table for a long shot. In California we don’t have to worry about smoke, primary or secondary, unless the kitchen catches fire. And the fact that at least half the tables last weekend had children under 16 playing at them has improved the language and discouraged the drinking. The fact that there were so many young people there gives me hope that my grandchildren may find a greater interest as they mature, perhaps remembering it as something their dad and granddad enjoyed.
Part of their Heritage (check out my book "Harnessing a Heritage" at www.deefitzgerald.com} .
I don’t know about you, but I have had a rash of hang-up calls lately. Next post I’m going to try to find out why.