The Carrom Company announced Nov. 15 that this holiday season will be the last for two of its products: the Carrom board and the Nok Hockey table.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the company called it a “final curtain call” for the beloved games.
The Carrom board dates back to the 1880s, while Nok Hockey has been made since World War II, the post stated.
Carrom CFO Tammy Castillo declined to comment to the Daily News, aside from reading the following statement from the company: “The Carrom Company is discontinuing the production of its line of family-oriented games.”
Mason County’s resident Carrom expert, Ben Nelson of Scottville, had plenty to say about the cancellation of the games’ production.
Nelson collects Carrom boards and various other games made by the company. He owns about 200 boards, and he’s been growing his collection since the early ’70s.
“I’m working on 50 years of collecting the damn things,” Nelson told the Daily News on Tuesday, adding that his oldest boards are about 125 years old.
Nelson said it was tough to learn the coveted Carroms would no longer be in production.
“I’m totally saddened by it, because it’s a great game that’s been around for so long,” Nelson said. “It’s a sad day, I think, but change is always inevitable.”
Nelson got hooked on Carrom products in part due to the variety of looks and styles the company made, along with the idea that, no matter how many years he spends collecting or how big his collection grows, he’ll probably never see them all.
“I just like all the different styles,” Nelson said. “I think they’re a beautiful thing and it’s a great game to play. “They made hundreds of different styles of board over the years. … I doubt I’ll ever find one of every kind they made.”
Nelson hazarded a guess as to why the company was stopping production on the game boards, guessing that it has to do sales and changing interests.
“They’re probably just going in a different direction and weren’t selling enough,” he said. “They’ve been around for 135 years, more or less, always made in Ludington. … But times change and it’s been quite a run for them.”
He thinks the boards will continue to be in demand, not only through the holiday season, but moving forward. There are others like Nelson, who keep an eye out for Carrom products and work to build collections. And, in addition to the various games, the Carrom boards also make great decorations.
“I think they’ll always be popular because people buy them and put them on their walls,” Nelson said. ”People my age — I’m 70 — when we grew up, everyone played Carroms. It was just one of those things — virtually everybody had a Carrom board.”
Nelson remembers finding the boards in antique shops and second-hand stores. He also remembers the dawn of eBay, which “changed things” and upped prices among collectors.
“Suddenly you’ve got … potentially thousands of people looking at your product. Instead of $5 it’s $50 or $100,” he said, adding that the price shift didn’t slow down his collecting.
He also recalls a surge in the popularity of the boards a while back.
“The Carrom boards had an uptick a few years ago, because of (people) wanting to have more togetherness rather than everyone sitting in the corner on a cell phone,” he said.
More than just a fan of the games, Nelson has also assisted the Carrom Company itself, acting as something of a go-to historian for the company, which sometimes sends customers his way when they have questions the company can’t answer.
“Over the years I guess I’ve kind of become a Carrom expert, just because I’ve been doing it for so long,” he said.
Nelson said the company has never, to his knowledge, stopped production on the game boards, though the process has changed a few times.
“During the war they went from using plywood to cardboard because they had to use the plywood for the war effort, and in the Depression they reduced the size of the rims to save on materials,” he said.
Nelson is proudly passing on his passion for the products — and lessons about their history — to future generations.
“My kids, they all play the Carroms,” he said. “Our 10-year-old grandson loves playing the Bowl-a-mania game, which was made by Carrom. In the (coming) years, I’ll teach him how to play Carroms because it (involves) a lot of hand-eye coordination, and he might not be ready yet.”
As for his collection, he hopes to someday donate it to a museum, like Historic White Pine Village.
“It’s all part of Mason County history,” he said. “I’ve lived here all my life, so it’s just one of those things.”
He’s holding out hope that the games aren’t gone for good.
“Hopefully it’s cyclical, and in a few years maybe they’ll come back and start making them again,” he said, “but in the meantime, I made sure I bought a couple more.”
According to Carrom, the products will be available at most major online retailers during this last holiday season, but supplies are limited. The company is at 218 E. Dowland St., in Ludington.