Powerglide – trash or treasure

Almost everything we own becomes trash.  Material possessions don’t always last.  Those things we don’t want are thrown out or donated.  It’s up to us to decide what’s trash or treasure.

 

When we die, everything we own suddenly belongs to the people nominated in our will.  It’s up to them to decide the trash from the treasure.

 

There is a store in the Geebung industrial estate call the Tip Shop.  It sells stuff people throw away or donate.  The warehouse is big.  It’s full of things people didn’t want but somebody else might needs.

 

Books, furniture, toys, exercise equipment, sporting goods, clothes, kitchen goods, office ware and electrical stuff.  It’s all second hand.  Or third hand.  A lot of it people don’t look twice at most of it.

 

I go there occasionally when I’m feeling idle, mostly for sport books but I have bought toys, a cricket bat for Angus and a few beer glasses.

 

About two years ago my brother Nick was wandering the Tip Shop with his kids and found a pool cue in a leather pouch.  A one-piece, the cue was branded Powerglide.  It cost him four dollars.

 

He sent me a picture of it.  It looked old, the colour faded but otherwise in excellent condition.   A few days later he brought it to my house.  It felt good to hold but it had no tip.

 

‘I looked up Powerglide on the internet and found a website but it doesn’t tell me anything about this cue,’ Nick said.

 

The leather pouch was badged Heiron and Smith Billiards.  The name Bill McKenzie had been written in marker pen on the pouch.

 

A metal badge attached to the base of the cue read Powerglide, Red Diamond, Imperial Billiard Table Co, PTY LTD Sydney.

 

I’ve never held a cue with a metal badge on the base.  It had been looked after, obviously kept in the pouch when it wasn’t being used.

 

Nick asked me to re-tip it with the tip clamp he found about five years ago in a second hand store near Strathpine.  I had the equipment but had never done it.

 

There is a billiards shop in the next suburb.  The employee looked like a hipster.  Thick black beard, white short-sleeved shirt tucked in to black jeans.  He was on the phone when I walked in and ignored me for a few minutes before ending the call.  I showed him the Powerglide.  He looked at it like it was an interruption.

 

‘Know anything about this?’ I asked.

 

‘It’s a pool cue without a tip.’  Hipster sarcasm, delivered deadpan with irritation.

 

My eyes delivered plenty of irritation.  ‘What about its history?  I want to know when it was made.  I can’t find this cue on the internet.’

 

‘No idea.’  He shrugged.  ‘They still make cues.’  He took me to a rack and showed me the Powerglide cues in stock.  Prices started at $180.

 

‘What’s this one worth?

 

He shrugged and looked at Nick’s cue without interest. ‘In that condition you’d probably get $150 for it.’

 

‘How much to put a tip on?’

 

He shook his head.  ‘Do it yourself,’ he said.  ‘I don’t do that.’  He must’ve noticed my expression.  ‘It’ll cost 12 bucks if I do it so do it yourself.’

 

I wandered the showroom while he took a dozen tips from a tiny drawer.

 

‘What glue do I use?’

 

‘Araldite or superglue.’  He put the tips in a zip-lock bag.  ‘Put glue on the tip and cue then stand it on its head.’

 

I didn’t mention the tip clamp.  Driving home, I thought about disinterest, wondering if it was an act, wondering if I’d ever been served by someone who could care less.

 

I re-tipped the Powerglide cue and my AC/DC cue in anticipation of the weekend, when my mates were over.

 

We played pool for hours.

 

The Powerglide cue isn’t a twenty dollar pub cue that had been knocked around.  It was perfect.  My mates fawned over it.

 

Adam quickly dubbed the cue St Nick, after my brother.  Everyone wanted to use it.  It felt perfectly balanced.  We all played inspired pool.

 

A few days later I opened Powerglide’s website.  The company is based in England.  The website showed me dozens of cues but there was no historical information about Nick’s cue.

 

I told Nick to email the company.  He did, describing the cue, attaching photos and asking for information.

 

John Carney, Powerglide’s marketing manager, sent a response.

 

It’s great to see images of some of these old cues and I only wish I could give you more information about it.

 

My guess is that it dates back to the 1970s.  Powerglide was started by Rex Williams back in 1968 and with the inscription on the badge I am guessing that this was a special edition of the cue that was made for Imperial but I am guessing that it would’ve taken a few years to become established enough and to get enough of a reputation before they made specials for people.

 

The badging is typical of cues that were made by Powerglide around that time.  The iconic Connoisseur came with a red metal badge originally, I believe.

 

Sorry I can’t be of more help.

 

John Carney shouldn’t be sorry.  He was helpful.  The cue might’ve been 40 years old.  The badge wasn’t red, but it had the word red in the inscription.  And it was a special, designed by Rex Williams.

 

I had to know who Rex Williams was.  Turns out he was a professional snooker and billiards player who turned professional in 1951.

 

In 1964 and 1965, he lost the World Snooker Championship to John Pulman.  He found more success at billiards, winning the World Professional Billiards Championship seven times between 1968 and 1983.

 

As an administrator, Williams helped establish the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.  He was chairman twice, from 1968 to 1987 and 1997 to 1999.  He also commentated on snooker and billiards during the 1980s.

 

As John Carney wrote in his email, Williams sent a shipment of cues to the Imperial Billiard Table Company in Sydney.  The company doesn’t seem to exist anymore, though there is an American company of the same name.

 

Heiron and Smith provided the pouch.  They still have stores in Melbourne and Sydney, making pool tables and selling accessories.  Their specialty is restoring and selling antique pool tables.

 

That is the history of the cue.

 

The history of Bill McKenzie, beyond the cue, is a mystery.  I think he’s dead because a man who still plays wouldn’t give up a cue like that.  I’d like to think Bill was good on the table, that he lived in Melbourne or Sydney before moving to Queensland.

 

I hope he had a table at home and rarely lost.  Maybe he taught his kids to play and let his mates use the cue.

 

The Powerglide is aged treasure.  Someone thought it was trash.  It ended up in the Tip Shop at Geebung in its sheath, with a four dollar price tag.

 

It ended up with its former life restored…

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…

Comments

  1. I remember Rex Williams from the original Pot Black BBC tv series of the 1960’s. “Whispering” Ted Lowe on the mic. Our own Eddie Charlton up against John Spencer (looked like an accountant) and Ray Reardon (Eddie Munster side wings and eye brows). Rex Williams always got described as the billiards champion, as if it was some ancient game divorced from snooker.
    From memory Rex looked like his namesake Kenneth – with a bit of that “ooh you are awful” dapper demeanour.
    “Whispering” would say “he’s on the blue or the green”, because on our TV’s (BBC had colour) it was always the light grey and the mid grey.
    Thanks for the memories Matt.

  2. Peter Fuller says

    Fascinating story, Matt. Congratulations on your research and persistence. It isn’t my game, and my experience/knowledge is limited to – and much more sketchy than Peter B’s – watching Pot Black. Peter, I certainly do remember how poorly the snooker balls translated from colour to b & w.

  3. Jim Johnson says

    Some Billiard History that is not “Garage Sale”
    The “Duke of Edinburgh” table remains Alcock’s finest product until the creation of “the Exhibition Table” for the 1878 Paris and 1879 Sydney Exhibition. At the Paris Exhibition a correspondent noted “I had the satisfaction of admiring the tasteful way you got up the billiard table which you exhibited…..I am persuaded that if the jury know what they were about, it is the best one of the exhibition. The next one to it in beauty and perfection by Mr J.C. Bruggen of St. Petersburg…. the third next best is Exhibited By Mr C. Toutlett of Brussels., or a similar Exhibition Prize Table was exhibited in Sydney in 1879. Alcock & Co always aimed, first, to at least equal the best billiard tables in the world, and secondly to find his materials within the colony…. Alcock excelled for the Melbourne Exhibition of 1880, producing the billiard table, marking cabinet and accompanying cue stand, which was described in the Argus Exhibition supplement as “in the west nave of the front building Messrs Alcock & Co exhibit a number of very superior tables. The ordinary sized and very elegant specimens stand at the transept. One of these is in beautifully grained Gippsland blackwood. It is most richly carved and the pocket mountings are of silver. On the feet patent adjusting toes are fitted. The other table here is in tulipwood which gives it a particularly handsome appearance.
    It is not so elaborately carved as the first mentioned, but in other respects is very similar. The tulipwood table mentioned was undoubtedly an example of his “Exhibition Prize Table” similar to that exhibited in Paris in 1878 and Sydney in 1879, whereas the blackwood table with it’s “richly carved” mouldings is in fact a masterpiece. With its electric marking system, silver plated pocket mounts and superb carved decoration it is very much “The Exhibition Suite”. I doubt if anything finer in Australian cabinet work was made in the 19th century.
    “The Exhibition Suite”. was exhibited and sold for $60000 at “The Australian Antique & Fine Art Dealers Fair Sydney 1996” which was conducted by James A Johnson & Associates. (Stab Punt Jim Johnson) The above information is from the Fair Booklet compiled and publishes by James A Johnson & Associates. “The Australian Antique & Fine Art Dealers Fair Sydney 1996 Booklet is on Ebay for $20 plus $3 postage. James A Johnson & Associates conducted the Great Antique Fairs in Sydney (2 a year) for 20 years.
    Stab Punt Jim Johnson

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Well done Matt, thanks.

    Pot Black – pretty sure that the ABC showed this 8pm Friday nights in its prime.
    You’d struggle to find it on Fox Sports at 3am these days.

    Others I remember were Cliff Thorburn (who looked like a floorwalker from Are You Being Served; he eventually gained the nickname “The Grinder” – ooh er) & Doug Mountjoy – sounds like a Carry On movie.

    Pot Black and The Big Match were compulsory ABC viewing in the 70s

  5. Earl O'Neill says

    Another beauty, Matt, good onya!
    I love second hand shops but I’ve never found anything as speclal as a Powerglide cue. Powerflide was, incidentally, the name of a GM two-speed auto transmission. Terrible in passenger cars, it’s found favour with drag racers.

  6. Thanks gents,
    I did see a bit of Pot Black when I was a kid but it disappeared from TV.
    Snooker/Billiards is good to watch but I can’t sit still for too long.
    Earl, my mate had a green HT Holden – I’m sure it was a two speed automatic ‘powerglide’ transmission.
    Jim Johnson, my parents have a pool table manufactured in England in 1878.
    I have no idea what model it is.
    I’ll have a closer look.
    Cheers to all.

  7. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Brought back heaps of great memories Matt.
    My late uncle Louie used to take me to a place called ‘Lindrums’ in Melbourne and taught me how to play Snooker. Unlike most pool joints today, the only sound you could hear was the balls clicking. No music, no white noise, plenty of smoke. Uncle Louie was a left-hander who would pot the most unlikely long shots. For this reason, I used to enjoy watching Perrie Mans, also a lefty, who won Pot Black in 1977.

Leave a Comment

*