ANNIVERSARY Countdown (Count-Up?)

Today is Friday, March 7th, 2014. We were married 986 days ago, on June 25th, 2011.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Death and Life of a Great American Sport

Those of you who've been with this blog since its inception a little over two years ago may remember that it began with a countdown.  A new one has just begun; perhaps not so auspicious as a wedding date, but March 18th, 2013 will be a red-letter day nonetheless.

Let us begin from first causes.  On August 23rd, 1961, three years after I was born (and in my hometown), a sporting tradition was begun.

Please note "George E. Schaefer, Muskegon Heights, Mich." among the patent holders
The Brunswick Corporation launched a massive building campaign, supplying bowling centers across America with the most up-to-date "Populuxe" furnishings and accessories, a sort of family futurama of high style for the masses.  And along with the settees and ball returns and lockers, they designed a new space-age pool table for the billiard rooms that bowling centers were incorporating into their recreational mix.

Doesn't it feel like there should be a big swimming pool just off to the left here?
In keeping with the corporate theme of the Crown logo, they called the table the Gold Crown.

The colors of the 1961 Brunswick lineup were Coral, Gold, Green (more nearly a sort of teal), Blue, Classic White, and "the pleasure-packed attractiveness of Tangerine."  The table above is in Classic White, which is actually not white at all, but closer to a bone or ivory color.

There is no standard dimension for an "official" pool table, except that it must be exactly twice as long as it is wide.  Snooker tables are 6' by 12', which feels the size of a golf course when you encounter one for the first time.  Lots of home tables are 8' by 4', or even 7' by 3'-6".  But the 1960s inclusion of the Gold Crown in hundreds of pool rooms throughout the country standardized the "tournament-sized" table at 9' by 4'-6", which it has been ever since.

Sacco's Bowl Haven in Somerville MA bought eight 1961 Gold Crown pool tables, the very first year the table was made, in Brunswick Tangerine. (And what goes around comes around... Pantone named color 17-1463 "Tangerine Tango" the 2012 Color of the Year.)

I discovered Sacco's when I moved to Medford in 2006.  In fact, I moved to Medford in large part because I could get to Sacco's in ten minutes.  And it became a significant home for me for four years, with Mike and Mike and Frank and Dan and Steve and Carlos and Roger and Matty and Dave and I all doing something to get us out of the house for a few hours.  We weren't great players, but we were all drawn to the game; the game then let us discover one another.

Late in 2009, Sacco's sold the building to Flatbread Pizza Company, and sold the eight Gold Crowns to good customers for $500 apiece.  (FYI, a new Gold Crown model V, with Chinese slate and lots of plywood instead of the original Vermont/New York slate and solid mahogany frame, runs over $10,000.  So they were doing their friends a favor.)  I bought Table 7, and it's been in pieces in my basement in Medford for almost three years.

I cast about for a new place to play, and finally came across World Class Billiards up in Peabody.  It was 45 minutes away instead of ten, and a much less homey place.  Your talent and intentions were sized up the instant you came in the door, every newcomer immediately classified as a pigeon or a hawk.  But they had well-maintained Gold Crowns, and I got to know some of the locals after a few months.  It was an acceptable home in the absence of home.

Three years later, in January 2013, World Class has also closed, and thirteen more orphaned Gold Crowns are consigned to await their new homes.  There is no place left in Greater Boston for me to play.  When I was at Sacco's, I was playing ten hours a week; now, I have not taken a single shot since early December 2012.

But on Monday, March 18th, that will change.  Our friend Matt has worked diligently and carefully to assemble a new poolroom above our garage.  The insulation and drywall are installed, the electrical system and heating units are in place, the windows are in and the hickory flooring is going down right now, the paint will be chosen this weekend.  And on 3/18/13, my Gold Crown will be delivered and installed, all 1260 pounds of it lugged up the stairs and re-assembled.  It will be covered in pristine Iwan Simonis 860 cloth, and fresh Artemis K-66 rubber cushions installed; a virgin set of Aramith Pro Cup balls awaits inauguration.

Pool is nearly dead in America, at least as a commercial enterprise.  But Table 7 is soon to be reborn, in only 19 days, its Tangerine trim revived to contemporary freshness.  I will do my best to honor the tens of thousands of games that it has hosted over fifty years, and to make it into a cherished destination for many friends in its new home.

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