Billiards is a Good Game

It wasn’t all fly fishing for Norman Maclean.

Norman Maclean gets a billiards lesson from Albert Abraham Michelson, America’s first Nobel Prize-winning scientist. Maclean used to watch Michelson play billiards in the University of Chicago’s Quadrangle Club in 1928,  Maclean’s first year on the faculty.

LINK (via: Lapham’s Quarterly)

Maclean occasionally said Billards is a Good Game was one of the best things he’d written.

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2 thoughts on “Billiards is a Good Game

  1. I reckon that there might be a connection between Billiards and Snooker and Angling ability.

    Many of the Welshmen of my Dad’s generation, men born immediately after the end of the First World War (the original Baby Boomers), were extremely keen and often very able billiards and snooker players, playing in the many small-town and village clubs (your Pool Halls) of the 1920s to 1950s. A large number of these men had another hobby – fly fishing. A fair few of them were exceptional trout and sea-trout and salmon fishers – I met some of them in their late middle years in the mid-1960s when, still not yet a teenager, I began to fish their very reasonably priced, Welsh fishing club waters whenever I was in rural Wales on family holidays. Could some of those men fish! And tie a killing fly out of “nothing” – with silk and wool from their wives’ sewing-boxes and feathers from old fancy ladies’ hats and hens and roosters from local farmyards. Very “handy” people, with both a billiards or snooker cue AND a very ordinary, cheapest of the catalogue cheap, cane fly rod. They made and did much with very very little. Maclean might just have been right.

  2. But not for the girls.

    A postcript about the other half of my family – the English girl that my Dad met when he was an RAF Bomber pilot in World War II, and duly married mid-War.

    More billiards and snooker now, so be prepared.

    My Ma was a English Midlands girls, born in Burton Upon Trent, the home then of the British and pretty well International (non-U.S.) beer-brewing industry.

    Her Dad worked as a manager of the town;s great brewries and also owned and ran one of its most popular and sucessful Public Houses, “Pubs”.

    And he was an Angler, a considerable one, who knew and fished with F.W.K. Wallis of centre(er)pin reel-casting fame and a man who ran his Pub as a social centre for those similarly fishily afflicted – Anglers’ social evenings and bragging get-togethers in the early 20th Century with a lot of singing and even personally written poem reciting, along with a lot of local Burton Ale.

    He was also a Billards and Snooker Man, keeping his own private Billiards Room and table in his Pub, together with “a lot of his huge cane fishing rods in the room adjoining”, according to my Ma, born towards the tailend of height of the all-male fishing and billiards obsession in 1923.

    Ma had 6 equally naughty, wilful, older sisters plus a same-age brother, who helped their parents run the Pub and had fun when Father was out fishing on the Trent or at the Burton Brewery and Mother was out visting or wasn’t looking.

    So it was that one afternoon the seven children broke into Father’s Billard Room and began to play, “pole-vaulting” and “swordfighting” with Dad’s cue and fishing rods until discovered by a returning-home all-powerful him.

    He thrashed the lot of them with the remains of his prized and much-loved fishing rods.

    When, nearly thrirty years later, one of those girls (my Ma) found herself with a very young son similarly fishily obsessed and afflicted, she said to her husband (my Dad), “It runs in family, Arthur. There’s no stoppin it…”

    Which, for me, all these years on, is at l;east comforting.

    A wonderful, though thankfully never completely destructive, magnificent obsession.

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