Tuesday, October 5, 2010  
   Volume 80 - Issue 40 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“We’re delighted, and commend both negotiating teams for bridging the gap.”
- Nic Milligan  
- on the end of the Coal   
Mountain strike   


Looking Back - John KinnearThe game was referred to as 3-11-33 and was a favourite Friday night pastime of some Coleman coal miners many years ago.  No, it wasn't a card game or a coin game.  It was a type of bowling and a game that I as a young pinsetter (50 years ago) learned to dread.  It was played using three ten pins but used a five pin size bowling ball.  The three ten pins were arranged in a straight line sequence with the first pin at the top of the triangle and the other two spaced behind it with the last pin at the back edge of the lane.
The object of the game was to pick off the pins one at a time, generally starting with the front pin which was worth three points and ending with the back pin worth 33 points.  Only one pin at a time could be knocked down which required a bit of skill and considerable spin on that five pin ball.  When only the last or "33" pin was left was when I, the pinsetter, got nervous.  Usually the miners bowling had had a few at the "Grand Union" hotel and were feeling their oats.  So it was a great release and thrill for those hard working miners with right arms the size of my leg to hurl that five pin ball down the lane with all their might.  That is where the dread part came in.  If the ball hit that last pin dead square while travelling at 200 miles per hour the pin would be driven up behind the lane where I, the terrified pin setter, sat on an elevated bench.  I'm convinced the real sport of 3-11-33 was to see if they could knock out the pin setter or at the very least make him howl in pain.  I swear sometimes that ball never touched the lane on its way down.
There were other milder form of bowling that the coal miners indulged in back then at old Albert and Carl Sapeta’s pool hall.  Games like five pin, ten pin or duck pins were common.   Duck pins were invented back in 1894 and were a set of 10 miniature- sized five pins.  They were set up in a triangle like five pins and a bit trickier to knock down. “Twice as much work for the pin setter”.
 In Quebec they still play duck pins but the pins have a rubber bumper around the middle of them which gives a lot more action (movement) to the pins when hit. In Germany they play a game called nine pins with each of the pins having a rope attached to the top of them for resetting. The ball they use is usually plastic or made of wood.
Nine pins were banned back in 1834 in the United States because it was discovered that too many people were slacking off and not showing up for working, preferring to go nine pin bowling instead!! 
Probably the most unusual pins I can remember seeing are candle pins which were about fifteen inches high and tapered at both ends.
A good pin setter could set two lanes at once for which old Albert paid us the handsome sum of 2 cents per person per lane.  Not a lot of money for the tremendous amount of work involved but when you’re young it seems like your energy is endless. 
The upside of being a pin setter was that eventually you got a few cents together and the opportunity to crawl back through the hole in the wall  that separated the lanes from the pool hall where four  beautiful twelve foot Brunswick pool tables sat waiting.  For us "snooker hounds" playing on those dead level tables with very narrow, unforgiving pockets was what it was all about.  At a table charge of two cents a minute you didn’t goof off while playing.  We honed our skills on those lovely, dimly lit green tables, learning how to "put bottom on it", "bank it to the side" or "play shape", which meant to calculate your "leave" after a shot carefully.
A huge old C.P.R. clock ticking off your precious earned money minute by minute was inspiration for us to make every shot count and after a few years of pin setting and shooting pool  I became good enough to play at the old "line up a sucker" routine.  That was where you challenged some "out-of-towner" or "city slicker" to a game or two, lost the first and maybe even the second game deliberately at low stakes and then clipped him for a five spot in a "supposedly" close game.  It was never easy to deliberately loose and even tougher to just barely win so as to not arouse suspicion.  The routine took more skill than a regular game and the rewards were substantial enough to allow me to relegate my pin setting duties to some new naive youngster.  But just like the top gunfighter, you knew that someday those gung ho pin setters would get good enough to come looking for a "hot dog shooter" like me and take my money.
I'm kinda glad to see that pool has regained its popularity and that bowling alleys now have automated setters.  No one should ever have to face a coal miner with a five pin ball in his hand playing 3-11-33 on a Friday night. No wonder I have no knees left!
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John Kinnear Archives

   Volume 80 - Issue 40 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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