"8-ball city": Odd water tower cues up Tipton's history

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TIPTON - An 8-ball water tower along Highway 50 memorializes a piece of history in Tipton, Missouri. 

The town used to be home to Fischer Manufacturing. Ewald Fischer, a Tipton native, started the business in 1949 in his basement. The company moved or expanded 17 times from there.

Fischer Manufacturing was at one time the largest maker of pool tables. The company sold more tables than Brunswick Billiards in 1964.

At its 75,000 square-foot facility in the mid-1960s, a table was built every 10 minutes, and finished tables traveled across the globe to clients in places including Japan, Australia, Italy and Thailand.

In 1968, the company built a tower to protect a new factory from fire, and painted it like an 8-ball. The tower stands at about 158 feet tall and can hold 110,000 gallons of water.

It became well-known among semi-truck drivers communicating through their radios, who said they were driving through “8-ball city.”

Fischer Manufacturing went through changes in ownership and the plant closed in 1977. Fasco Manufacturing bought the building four years later and painted over the tower to add its logo.

Long-time resident Becky Holloway said the town felt different after that because the tower was more than a landmark.

"It’s not that we lost identity but it just didn’t feel the same not seeing that over the horizon," she said. "It’s just who we are."

That Fasco plant closed in 1989, and the company gave the tower back to the city. Ten years later, the tower needed a fresh coat of paint, so the town’s residents fought to get back a unique part of their history back. In December 1999, they got their wish, and the tower has been an 8-ball again since.

Some publications have recognized the tower as the world’s largest 8-ball. For Tipton’s current residents, the tower also serves as a symbol of home. Holloway said she has felt this most with road trips she took as a child visiting her grandmother.

She said, “We knew after making those long trips from Indiana, from North Carolina, from Kentucky, we were home when we saw the 8-ball."