Sports

Pocket perfect

"A pool table almost as old as the Civil War awaits players in Jim Matthews’ shop.“They quit making the 4-piece slate in 1875, so it’s at least as old as that,” said Matthews, a longtime Oak Harbor resident.The table has woven leather pockets, mint-condition felt, rosewood rails and four cast-iron molded lions supporting all the weight. Matthews isn’t sure of the exact age of the table because serial number records kept by J.M. Brunswick and Balke Co., the table’s manufacturer, burned in a fire long ago.Matthews bought the Monarch Cushion pool table, which he said has an estimated value of $125,000, in 1960 for $25 after the table was rescued from the International Order of Odd Fellows temple fire in 1950. Back in those days, Matthews said playing pool had a negative image.“It got a bad rap ’cause of where the tables are located — the environment,” he said. After a short stint in the Navy, Matthews co-owned Bill’s Barbershop across the street from a pool hall on Pioneer Way with Wise Roberts, from 1958 to 1966. The Past Time was a card room, deli and pool hall owned by Capt. Hill Barrington. “I spent way too much time playin’ at the old Past Time,” he said.Matthews’ dad didn’t like his son playing pool at all. “He didn’t want me playin’ pool because there was better things to do — work to be done,” Matthews said. “That was the tool of the devil, that cue stick.”The table sat in a local barn until Matthews bought it from the I.O.O.F in 1960. Although Matthews was an avid pool player then, he moved the unassembled table right into his own shop.“From barn to barn, I guess,” he said.At the time, the table was missing some hardware and a few small details, but with the proliferation of collectors came after-market products. Matthews bought a new emblem for the table and replaced the missing hardware when he finally put the table together about two weeks ago for the Hamming family reunion.“I spent over twice for the emblem what I paid for the table,” Matthews said.Matthews said the kids at the reunion loved the table.“I was surprised that with all these kids playin’ it came through without any real tears or scuffs,” Matthews said. “My balls are so old and fractured up I wasn’t sure if they’d be able to handle the treatment.”“Pool is something that crosses all age groups,” Matthews said. “From the little kids and the old-timers, they all had fun.”Matthews isn’t sure what he’s going to do with the table. He might keep the table, or he might sell it to help finance the construction of a new home. “God only knows what will happen between now and the final time you rack ‘em up,” he said."

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