With a standard-size pool table in his Bennington home basement, Steve Persigehl is known to enjoy a few games of nine-ball with friends on a Friday night. And though his stick skills might not wow guests (He admittedly is no pool shark), the antique table and the story behind it quite often impress.
Steve’s great grandfather, a Danish immigrant farmer who settled in Wayne County, Neb., purchased the 4×8-ft. Brunswick table second-hand in the 1920s as a gift to his teenage son, Bill. The table sat in the family’s farmhouse basement for years until Bill married and moved it to his first house just outside of Pilger, Neb., in the ‘30s. From there, the table meandered through the family, spending time at several relatives’ homes, including a time in the ‘80s in Steve’s own childhood home on an acreage in Stanton, Neb.
Upon buying his own first home in Omaha in ‘96, Steve began asking around to find the pool table’s whereabouts. He found it—“in pieces, covered in dust and cobwebs, leaning against the wall of a barn”—at his uncle’s place in Wayne County, where it had sat for a decade. The table’s heavy wood base and side rails were beat up, its black veneer stripped off in many spots. Its leather pockets were weathered beyond repair. The felt was filthy and holey, having served as a nesting ground for countless mice. But the three heavy slate slabs that formed the table bed were in decent shape, Steve says, and there appeared to be hope for a restoration.
Steve got to work reassembling and repainting the table base a flat black, stripping and re-staining the rails, and filling the chipped slate with rock-hard water putty. “Assembling the slabs—a couple hundred pounds each—and leveling the table were probably the hardest parts,” he says. He found “vintage-looking” pockets and new felt at Alkar Billiards, and re-felted the table himself. Some sweat, a few weekends, and about $350 later, he had himself a working table.
Today, Steve’s kids are the fifth generation to enjoy playing on the family heirloom. Though the table has many imperfections (including a missing Brunswick brass nameplate), this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, he says. “It has a dead spot in one of the cushions on the rail. And there’s a little bit of a table roll in one corner. But I know where they are…and it gives me a bit of an advantage,” he jokes.
The best thing about the table? “It belonged to my grandpa, one of my favorite people,” Steve says.