My cousin, Mike, has his Dad’s 6 leg, 1-1/2″ slate, early 1900, straight line Brunswick billiard table in his “man cave”. During the latter part of the 1960’s, Mike’s father dug a basement and built on an addition to their small ranch house. My uncle told us he was building a place for Grandpa S to play billiards. I am sure Aunt Betty was more interested in the larger living room and the dining room she gained. However, we all believed Uncle Ed.
We were raised on family legends regarding Grandpa S’ ability to outplay and win in all things billiards and pool. I know he loved athletics and competition. He played football in high school before he dropped out to help support his family less than a year after his father was killed.
Grandpa S started his own business working as a plumber during the depression. Times were hard and everyone did what they had to do to get by. When there was a need for food, Grandpa played billiards for money. My mother and her siblings believe Grandma S would have choked on the food if she had known where the money came from.
Family lore holds that sometime during the 1930’s Grandpa S and Uncle John met and played with world class pool and billiards players during Brunswick US Exhibition tours. According to legend, Grandpa S played and beat Erich Hagenlacher, German Balkline 18.2 billiards champion. Legend, also, holds, Willie Mosconi, a world champion pocket billiards player, would not play three-cushion billiards with Grandpa because Mosconi could not beat him and Grandpa would not play pocket billiards with Mosconi because Mosconi would have beaten him. A side legend is that Uncle John and Willie Mosconi played snooker instead. These are our legends and we are sticking to them.
Grandpa S had impressive agility and athletic ability. He would bend at his waist and lean down and touch his nose to the floor in the triangle he made by putting his thumbs and first fingers together. He could jump over a broomstick while holding both ends. Grandpa was a hunter. Every year there were western Kansas treks to hunt quail and pheasant. Grandpa’s hunting dogs were not pets.
Grandpa S bowled and won a lot of trophies. Sometimes they would take me along on bowling league night. Grandpa would buy me a coke and bag of chips when Grandma was not looking. The plumbing company sponsored a women’s softball team for years. And yes, I went along to many of those games, too. Grandpa would disappear and then show up with a drink and hot dog or popcorn for him and me. Grandma would quietly shake her head.
Grandpa S loved to travel. He took his family to Colorado during the depression and saved his gas rations for his summer Colorado trips during the war. Grandpa loved to drive. He drove to Colorado, all over the southwest and California, up the Pacific coast to visit his sister in Oregon. He traveled in the south and up to New England to see Aunt Mary’s family and through Canada and back to Kansas again. He had an 8-millimeter movie camera. We have movies of holidays, family gatherings and Grandma and Grandpa Trips.
My oldest daughter was born about the time Grandpa retired. We had rented the little house next door to them. When they were not traveling she would spend an hour or so at their house most days. Grandpa would sit in his rocker lounger and she would lean up against the chair. He would smile while she showed him what treasure she had found or share with him whatever she was playing with. His engagement with her was a reminder of how much he cared for his children and grandchildren. As children we lived close by and were always in and out of their house. Whenever we left he would tell us to “be careful.”
Today is the 105th anniversary of the birth of the remarkable man who was our grandfather. I hope my life is being lived as large as he lived his ………………..
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