Forget your cabanas, conservatories and pergolas: for a while, the real status symbol in the Australian home was a games room. Better still, if there was a bar of sorts attached. In what seemed like a never-ending quest to bring the pub home, countless potential sharks looked across the empty savannah of their domestic spaces and thought: pool table. The only thing greener than its luxurious emerald baize would be the envy of those who gazed upon it. No more placing a coin on the table to reserve the next game like you would at the local, no more feeding your hard-earned dollars into it and no more competing with the chimes of the pokies when you lined up that crucial shot. This was your table, your rules. Sink the white while potting the black? You still win. Both feet off the ground to play a shot? Totally fair. Tom Cruise in The Color Of Money impression every time? Knock yourself out.
Then, there was the home ground advantage where, over the years, the table acquired its own slopes and angles just waiting to be exploited by anyone who knew the floorboards under a particular pocket dipped in a certain direction. And any ball in the vicinity would follow suit.
The pool table – which alternated between intense popularity and a suitably flat storage surface – was also an intergenerational proving ground. Many of us can recall that little nod of respect we got from a parent or sibling the first time we beat them on the felt. It’s the Australian equivalent of beating your dad in a game of one-on-one basketball on a snowy night when you’re about to get married the next day. Oh wait, that’s a scene from Father Of The Bride.
Because pool tables were – and are – not cheap, they were often saved for and cherished. But aside from that, they were constructed to be heirlooms in an increasingly throwaway society. With the passing years, the varnish may have dulled and the playing surface bleached by a dozen summers, but the pool table instantly brought back memories of competitions, fierce and friendly. Try getting that from a credenza.
The only thing greener than its luxurious emerald baize would be the envy of those who gazed upon it
If you had neither the space nor budget, there was always an alternative to the pool table for the games room – the dartboard. Another leisure activity associated with the pub. And when you think about it, what could go wrong by allowing unsupervised kids to hurl steel-tipped mini arrows across a room as hard as possible? They should have come with their own insurance, but we couldn’t get enough of darts. Especially, since the focus invariably turned out to be more about speed than precision. Which meant that the area behind the dartboard itself was usually punctured by more holes than a Dan Brown plot line.
Enter the protective panel of corkboard (“you’re seven – you don’t need a moodboard”), offcut timber or leftover masonite that depending on your skill level, covered a significant section of the wall where the dartboard was hung. And yet, no matter what measures were taken, it somehow never absorbed all the pin prick blows. It was almost as though you were intentionally trying to miss so that you’d get a rise out of your parents and hear the; “This is why we can’t have nice things” speech just one more time.
But here’s the nub: in this age where every member of the household can’t wait to dive into their tablet/phone/console to play games with strangers around the world, pool tables and dartboards gave you a reason to interact with those around you. They created memories – both good and not-so-great – but real nonetheless. In a way that Candy Crush Saga, Halo or Words With Friends never will.
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