In the 1970s, women began getting more seats at more tables. Instead of sitting, Nancy Stalbaum and her friends took over a different kind of table: the pool table.
“When I was a kid, my parents had a pool table in the basement,” Nancy said of her introduction to the sport. As a teenager, she was quite good. As an adult, she was even better.
In 1978, East Chicago was well known for its pool leagues. Men would play, and their wives and girlfriends would go with to cheer them on. Then, the women decided to get in on the action.
“There weren’t any pool halls, so we’d go to the bars we knew had pool tables and ask them to sponsor a team,” Stalbaum said of their fresh new league, “and then we’d play home games at our bar at away games at their bars.”
In a reversal, the men would accompany their wives and girlfriends, cheering them on and offering helpful tips. The bars were happy to accommodate these new leagues.
“It brings people into their bars!” Stalbaum said.
As billiards have fallen out of fashion, the women’s leagues don’t exist anymore. Stalbaum still plays her sport in co-ed leagues at Star Amusement in Gary during the week and in cash tournaments at the local Moose Lodge every Friday and Sunday.
Now that she mostly plays against men, Stalbaum reveals that “beating the guys is the most fun part.”
If you’re interested in taking up billiards, Stalbaum shares that the secret to being really good is really simple: practice.
Stalbaum, who retired as the Budget Director at Valpo University in 2015, uses her free time to practice four to five times per week.
Stalbaum, who grew up in Griffith, appreciates that there is now a huge pool hall there. She stays local and plays with other amateurs, but thinks it’s nice that there is a resurgence of respect for the sport, and that professional tournaments are just a short drive down Broad Street.
“I love the competition,” Stalbaum said of her lifelong passion for the sport, “but also being with friends.”