Scene in Ohio: Celebrating Lakeside Chautauqua's 150th Anniversary
Blast into the past with a sneak peek at the 150-year history of one of Lake Erie's most beloved waterfront destinations.
Lakeside Chautauqua, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this summer, is well-known for its leisure activities. Even today, the resort on the banks of Lake Erie in Northwest Ohio features shuffleboard, tennis, basketball, miniature golf and — the latest craze — pickleball.
In the early 1900s, it also had four roque courts.
Roque, at one point grandiosely called “the sport of the century,” was a combination of billiards and croquet (which inspired its name).
But unlike croquet, which was played on grass, roque was played on hard 30-by-60-foot courts, with a lip that encouraged bank shots. Roque balls were rubber, not wooden like croquet balls of the time, and the mallets were shorter.
In 1899, rules were standardized, as was its new name. Roque soon found a home at many Chautauqua resorts, which encouraged physical activity as well as intellectual, artistic and spiritual growth, providing both mental stimulation and physical activity.
Roque even made an appearance in the Olympics, in the 1904 Games in St. Louis, but found its greatest popularity between the world wars, when courts were built seemingly everywhere (in some instances, as public works projects during the Great Depression). Harpo Marx even had a rooftop court.
The Lakeside courts — touted by the Sandusky Register in 1941 as some of the nation’s finest — were always busy, hosting recreational tournaments as well as regional tournaments sanctioned by the American Roque League, which oversaw competitive roque throughout the country.
Ultimately, the sport fell out of favor, and by 1957, the Spokesman-Review in Washington state declared, “We have not even heard of roque, let alone play it.”
The game made a brief but important cameo in Stephen King’s novel “The Shining” (The Overlook Hotel has the best roque courts in America, and a roque mallet was Jack’s weapon of choice in the book).
It’s still played in some areas, but it’s mostly a forgotten game.