Last summer when I was out in Manitoba, my friend brought out a crokinole board that got me salivating. It was a hefty piece of work, octagonal (the old style I grew up with), all wood, professionally lacquered. It played like a dream.
I asked where they got it. "Oh, that's my mom," said my friend's lovely wife. "She supports a local group of mentally challenged adults. They make these boards for fifty bucks."
My mouth went dry. I stood up on shaky legs, then gathered my strength and began a long and fruitless effort to track down these mentally challenged adults. The generous mother-in-law was out of town, so we scoured the phone book and the internet. Nothing. We drove the neighborhood. Nothing. We phoned and left messages with the mother-in-law. Nothing.
I returned to Ontario, defeated and depressed. This winter we scoured shops in Toronto for a good crokinole board. It's the perfect game for our family. It accomodates four players, relies on an easily learned skill, and has physically dramatic results. As for finding a good board in Southern Ontario, you might as well start looking for the Holy Grail.
We finally settled on a decent-looking board from a reputable store that sells "educational" toys. I gathered from the picture on the box that the board was made of wood, but probably pine and not a hardwood. The box was promisingly heavy, though, so I felt pretty good about the purchase. I asked to have it wrapped, then we carted it home and put it under the tree.
When I opened the box on Christmas, I was appalled. Other than the discs themselves, the only wood on the board was the pine caroms. Everything else was pressed paper that looked like it was ready to expand and warp on the first humid day of summer. There was a large smudge of glue across the face of the board, which I actually registered with relief (not sure what the store's return policy is, but they'll definitely have to take this back). The board looked like it wasn't too far removed from regulation size, and the posts were properly aligned, but in every other respect the board was a bust.
And the final sour note to it all is the price: $65 before tax. Which leads me to think either these fabled adults who built my friend's crokinole board are more mentally challenged than I first thought, or we're a little off on the price tag. I'm guessing the latter, because most wooden boards start at about $150. The beauty pictured below sells for $170, and is made by a fella with good Mennonite credentials (his first name's "Willard", for starters). I'm guessing his outfit is somewhere near Kitchener-Waterloo, and that's who I'll be contacting as soon as I return my current "board" and get my money back.