Croquet three ways

Most of us played it during our early years. From the collection, three colorful examples from the 1920’s -1950’s.

Lawn, floor and table croquet sets

Official rules? Nope. Proper attire? Whatever.

Drive an opponent’s ball (called “roqueting”) four houses down into the Carlson’s backyard? Hell yeah.

The mid-mod (40’s-60’s) parental concept of turning unsupervised kids loose with long mallets, wooden balls, sharp stakes and wire wickets was not only completely irresponsible, but a total gas, too.

Brother John teeing off ca. 1960, Iowa vacation

While formal rules stipulated the highest number of points as the object, the basic game was to be the first player to get back to the “home” stake. Secondary goals were to slightly adjust your ball’s position towards a wicket when the other players weren’t looking, loudly claim “do-overs” that didn’t exist and inflict as much verbal punishment as possible all around.

We played “poison” which gave the first-round leader the option of eliminating any player by striking their ball. Bedlam and band-aids.

The game has roots in 1300’s France. It migrated to the UK where it was established as a serious sport in 1868 at Wimbledon; not long thereafter, croquet- “the queen of games-“ was reduced to backyards once again by the spectacular rise of tennis which claimed Wimbledon's manicured lawns forever.

Probably a good thing!

We might have had open range in our apartment complex in Park Forest, Illinois and home in Deerfield for a regulation croquet layout which measures 50’ x 100’. But we were little people then, and just poked the wickets in here and there as we saw fit.

At Wimbledon, it’s strawberries and cream. In backyards, it’s still pretty much burgers and beer.

In 1937 H. G. Wells’ The Croquet Player was published which uses croquet as a metaphor for the way in which man confronts the very problem of his own existence.

Note to H.G.: it’s just a game, man..

References and attributions in this post: Good Better Best An enjoyable- and definitive- rules guide for nine-wicket backyard croquet.

All photos are copyright 2013 Kevin McGuire excepting those in public domain or meeting Wikipedia Commons guidelines. Collection photos: Kevin McGuire

Early croquet game taken from "The sports and past times of the people of England by Joseph Strutt, 1834 edition published in London.

“John teeing off in Cumming, Iowa” by my dad Roger McGuire ca. 1960