By Resident Barry Evans
Did you know that pool started as a lawn game sort of like croquet? I am not certain whether it had hoops or not, but I assume that getting down on the ground with the cue stick was not good – especially when you had to hit the ball through the grass. OK, I admit that they didn’t use cue sticks back then, but good old Louis XI of France was the first one to have a pool table made so that it could be played indoors. He accomplished this fine deed somewhere during his reign from 1461 to 1483. I don’t know what else Louis XI ever did, but it has certainly kept his name alive. After all, who recalls Louis X or Louis XII – except maybe some historians?
When Louis XI had the table built, no one thought to build a cue stick. So, what they did was shove the ball with a mace. Yep, a good old mace like you see in the movies except that they would hit a ball rather than each other. As you might imagine, using a mace to shove a ball on a table was not the greatest thing so they began using the handle. The handle had a name of its own which everyone then referred to as a queue. For many years women still had to use the mace as the men were afraid the woman would tear the cloth on the table with the queue. I am not certain why, but then I have never paid much attention to the queue of a mace. However, as you may imagine from the above, someone did develop a stick to hit the ball which they called a cue – which was deucedly clever of them. However, despite that, women still had to use the mace for many years.
Along with the cue, the table played a big part. In the beginning, there was naturally not any specific size. Of course, the more popular a sport is, then it is not long before some folks figure out that rules and specifications must be set. To make a long story short, what we know as a pool or billiard table was eventually created in the modern sense. When a table was first made, rails were put around the table so the balls would not fall off and cause constant delays in games. It was not long before pool players figured out that they could hit the rail and perhaps bounce the balls into the pockets. The rails were also known as banks and such shots became known as bank shots which seems appropriate to me. Rail shots just don’t cut it!
Originally the balls were made of stone which took a lot of work to make them round and the same size, but they also stung the hands. They were then made out of wood and clay which didn’t work too well as a hard hit often caused the players to get dirt in their eyes. Ivory was next, and it was used up until, believe it or not, around 1975. Then the elephant and walrus lobby stopped it, and balls are now made of polyester or phenolic resin which I am certain that you find exciting.
The reason I wrote the above leads up to what I am now doing. Since I can no longer play softball or pickleball due to peripheral neuropathy, I have taken up the game of pool.
By a stroke of luck, it was listed in the Village Weekly’s activity schedule. In any case, I went and found a group of extremely patient players of pool who do not point out my areas of inadequacy as a pool player. That could be because it would take too long. It is a fun game. The blonde in my house is happy as it gets me out from under her feet for a while.
If I ever get to the point where I can (sometimes) put more than one ball in the pocket, I will let you know.