A Growing Obsession with Billiards

Posted on 15. Jul, 2010 by in PoolSynergy

PoolSynergy – July edition – “What’s your story?”

This month’s theme, What’s your story? will be hosted by Michael Reddick, Angle of Reflection and you can view the summary and links to all this month’s articles at:


My pool playing experience began in my maternal grandfather’s basement in Glenwood, Minnesota. High on a hill, overlooking Lake Minnewaska, my grandparents had a split level home with a rec room just beneath the ground level with a big 8’ Brunswick from the 30’s or 40’s. Scarred with cigarette burns from its previous home in a bar, it resembled the anniversary model by Brunswick. It had tattered white plastic wrapping on the two oval legs, but did have the white racing stripes around the skirt.  One side of the table was bleached from the southern sun pouring in through the picture window. Classic red pockets were held in place by weak tacks and crumpled newspapers from the 60’s.

Brunswick circa 19??

From a bar to Grandpa's Rec Room.

I’m not sure of the first time I played pool, but this was definitely the table and the time was probably when I was about seven years old in the 70’s.  Before that my younger brother and I started horsing around on the table by whipping balls down the length of the table at each other trying to cause a mid-table collision. This occasionally got out of hand and turned into a game of chicken.  We learned to watch our fingers or they might get squished against the cushion or worse yet a game ending smash between balls while reaching for or releasing the next projectile.

This kamikaze game didn’t last long—grandpa hated when balls hit the press-on tile floor or when a grandson was leaking tears. When he coaxed me into holding a short stick and pushing balls around with the cue, I was hooked. Even watching my older cousin Brad, who had his own blue two-piece cue, was interesting.  When grandpa deemed me old enough to join a game of 8-ball or cut-throat, I dove right in.

Grandpa modeling a stylish gift

Grandpa taught proper chalking and gave me the line to the pocket from the object ball to help me sink balls.  Sink. This was a word he used constantly and not a word I hear commonly around the pool rooms. The other Grandpa terms used were “Kitchen” for behind the head string and “Granny” for the mechanical bridge. Not Grandma upstairs in the kitchen. She was “Mother”. Granddad’s aiming aid was standing behind the pocket and hovering his cue stick over the pocket with just the tip barely on the other side of the object ball. “Just hit the six below my tip,” he’d say. The instructions were simple and true, but not easy to execute.

Grandpa had some old school house rules.

1. Break the balls with the break cue ball and then swap it for the playing cue ball.  No penalty, but don’t improve your position. If the replacement was very delicate, one more shot was required before the ball exchange.

2. In 8-Ball, scratch and you spot one. Make one and scratch, spot two.

3. Always play scratches from the kitchen.

4. I don’t recall the drive a ball to the rail penalties, but other fouls were shoot from the kitchen.

5. He had to bank the 8-ball to win. This was his spot to give me a chance for the first couple of years.

Grandpa was never a great player, but he really enjoyed having a game with the boys and visiting about guy stuff in the basement.  It was about being social first and about competition second. As I was pleased to sit and watch the men play before I was old enough to join in, Grandpa was happy to sit and watch the younger fellows play when he got older and wasn’t quite up to playing. His classic table is still in the family and holds great memories. Four generations have played on and talked over games on the old Brunswick.

End of part 1.  In the next part of this story, I go to college. One with four regulation 9 foot tables!  Please stay tuned.

Note:  I’m searching for some old photographs to add to this article. I am hoping to dig up a couple of shots soon. Also, I am considering posting comments by my Mother and two Aunts.  These are all three of my grandpa’s children.

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4 Responses to “A Growing Obsession with Billiards”

  1. […] Mike Fieldhammer, founder of BilliardCoach.com, tells about spending every holiday and summer learning from his grandfather.  He subsequently honed his skills during college, practicing all night on one of four regulation sized tables at 25 cents an hour.  You can read Mike’s story here. […]

  2. John Biddle

    15. Jul, 2010

    Great story; I’m partial to grandpas. I’ve been a little disappointed that my grand-kids have very limited interest in pool, but I do get to play with the oldest one on occasion.

    The relationships you build with someone while doing something together that you both enjoy just seem to have an extra strength to them.


    19. Jul, 2010

    nice story…

  4. Andrew Fieldhammer

    26. Jul, 2010

    I’m going home directly after work today to get a shot of the pool table for you to include in the article. Beautiful article by the way!

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