Cochran's and Palace Billiards

Jeff sparks

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Apr 2, 2015
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Houston, Texas
I spent a little time here in about 66 after the Navy. In fact I met Cole Dickson at the Golden Q in Hayward playing P pool with him and tooth. Cole wasn’t old enough to drive, but we’d pile in a couple cars and head to the city about midnight. Cochran’s was a real pool hall- From Market St, up those wide stairs, thru the doors Remember the Palace across the street. Remember a great match Cole had with Shorty. Great memories- Went back about 90 ? and much different.

I practically lived in Cochran’s in 66. Also after the Navy.. We must have crossed paths and breathed the same air back then... :)

I don’t remember Cole being there in 66 though, but there were plenty of other very good players who frequented Cochran’s... The payball game on “Big Bertha”, the 6 x 12 snooker table, was always on whenever there were 3 or 4 good players in town...
 

bstroud

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I practically lived in Cochran’s in 66. Also after the Navy.. We must have crossed paths and breathed the same air back then... :)

I don’t remember Cole being there in 66 though, but there were plenty of other very good players who frequented Cochran’s... The payball game on “Big Bertha”, the 6 x 12 snooker table, was always on whenever there were 3 or 4 good players in town...

Never saw Cole there either. Played him over in Fremont at the bowling alley.
When I was there played Ronnie Barber, Jessie James, Jockey, Legs and others.

Bucktooth, Jockey, Big Bob, Rusty were also there. Seems like Beatle came in once but he played at the bowling near Hait Ashbury.

Great room.

Bill S.
 

BUD GREEN

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Ronnie Barber is still playing a little in the North Bay. Great guy.

My friend actually owns the original Cochrans sign. I will see if he has a picture of it I can put up.

Annigoni and the others following him never had a chance with that location. Transvestite hookers and heroin addicts all over the place...another buddy played there a couple times (wasn't it called the Q club or something for a while?) and his car got broken into 2x and he never went back.
 

sappo

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Do any of you remember a player that went by the name of RC, his name was Ralph. K
 

SF Kid

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Filipino Gene
WOW for some reason I decided to research things written about Cochran's Pool hall in San Francisco. Ran across a few threads here and thought I'd join in on the trip down memory lane!

I used to run with Gene back in '67/'68. I first hooked up with Gene I believe it was a Town & Country Billiards on Van Ness. One way or the other I ended up staking him in a small game there and we became friends and roamed SF for a couple of years.

We went to Cochran's most of the time but spent a fair amount of time at Palace Billiards too. That photo that was posted is for sure Gene. He must have been in his early 30's then...

So many memories some of which are a little foggy after all these years. I used to tag along with Gene and hold his money, collect money in ring games etc. I wasn't much of a player but Gene was. He was a very good player and maybe a better hustler. I remember him playing Rusty Jones one night on a crazy game he cooked up. Gene would play one handed and Rusty gave him the 8 ball. It was fascinating to watch and in the end Gene robbed him pretty well although Rusty had no quit in him. Gene also played a lot behind his back and the better players tried to get to Gene that way. Most times Gene came out on top. He knew those tables at Cochran's like the back of his hand with the old clay balls and just how they would react off the cushions. Gene was a great "safe" player and left a lot of guy scratching their heads.

I remember Ronnie Barber and Ears (I Always called him by his real name "Al" I believe it was). Nice guy. Very quite and stoic and played decent One Pocket.

As for Ronnie Barber I remember the first time I met him although I didn't know who he was at the time ... it was at Town & Country in SF and I was just hitting some balls by myself. I wasn't very good. Ronnie came down the three steps to the table I was on and asked if I'd like to play some $3 nine ball. I said "sure"... didn't take me long to understand I shouldn't be playing this guy. He sort of robbed me quickly and I quit because I knew it wasn't going to end well. He then asked if I'd keep playing if he gave me the 8 and I said "no thanks". Later I found out who Ronnie was.

Lot of the guys at Cochran's in those days used to like to gamble -- on anything -- I remember we used to go to this little restaurant on Eddy street (I think) and we'd all sit in the back with a radio listening to the Giants baseball game and the guys would be making prop bets all though the game. Yeah -- they loved to gamble. Also remember renting a hotel room and Gene would play poker all night and I'd sit and watch.

Fun times.

Would love to hear more stories from you guys who were around in those days.
 
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NH Steve

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Apr 25, 2004
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11,268
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New Hampshire
WOW for some reason I decided to research things written about Cochran's Pool hall in San Francisco. Ran across a few threads here and thought I'd join in on the trip down memory lane!

I used to run with Gene back in '67/'68. I first hooked up with Gene I believe it was a Town & Country Billiards on Van Ness. One way or the other I ended up staking him in a small game there and we became friends and roamed SF for a couple of years.

We went to Cochran's most of the time but spent a fair amount of time at Palace Billiards too. That photo that was posted is for sure Gene. He must have been in his early 30's then...

So may memories some of which are a little foggy after all these years. I used to tag along with Gene and hold his money, collect money in ring games etc. I wasn't much of a player but Gene was. He was a very good player and maybe a better hustler. I remember him playing Rusty Jones one night on a crazy game he cooked up. Gene would play one handed and Rusty gave him the 8 ball. It was fascinating to watch and in the end Gene robbed him pretty well although Rusty had no quite in him. Gene also played a lot behind his back and the better players tried to get to Gene that way. Most times Gene came out on top. He knew those tables at Cochran's like the back of his hand with the old clay balls and just how they would react off the cushions. Gene was a great "safe" player and left a lot of guy scratching their heads.

I remember Ronnie Barber and Ears (I Always called him by his really name "Al" I believe it was). Nice guy. Very quite and stoic and played decent One Pocket.

As for Ronnie Barber I remember the first time I met him although I didn't know who he was at the time ... it was at Town & Country in SF and I was just hitting some balls by myself. I wasn't very good. Ronnie came down the three steps to the table I was on and asked if I'd like to play some $3 nine ball. I said "sure"... didn't take me long to understand I shouldn't be playing this guy. He sort of robbed me quickly and I quit because I knew it wasn't going to end well. He then asked if I'd keep playing if he gave me the 8 and I said "no thanks". Later I found out who Ronnie was.

Lot of the guys at Cochran's in those days used to like to gamble -- on anything -- I remember we used to go to this little restaurant on Eddy street (I think) and we'd all sit in the back with a radio listening to the Giants baseball game and the guys would be making prop bets all though the game. Yeah -- they loved to gamble. Also remember renting a hotel room and Gene would play poker all night and I'd sit and watch.

Fun times.

Would love to hear more stories from you guys who were around in those days.
Great read Kid!
 

beatle

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for some reason maybe it rains more there but from about frisco up to seattle the people really were into gambling and didnt have much of an idea how to go about it. all you had to do to make good money was quit quick when you could see you had the worst of whatever you were betting at. and press the bets with the best of it as they rarely quit until broke.
the top players were the top players and few kept money as they always ended up in a game they couldnt win at and went for the stack.
famous was dick. he played as good as anyone in the world in games where you moved alot. but when he got action he seemed to always go off for all he had.
 

mr3cushion

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Sep 17, 2008
Messages
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Cocoa Beach, FL
So, anymore nostalgic stories about the old days at Cochran's and the Palace?

Very interesting stuff so if any of you old times have vignettes to share about the colorful players or the pool rooms themselves post 'em up.

@demonrho @Jeff sparks @Henry @mr3cushion @jrhendy @gulfportdoc @jay helfert
In was in the SF area in 70. The photo of the 3C table at the Palace was 1 in the corner of the room in the back.
PalaceBilliards1987-b.jpg
I liked playing off, 'Center stage.' One of the first players I played there was a fair 3C player, Ray Tajima, I talked him into spotting me. We played $50 a game and some guy bet $50 on the side. I won 2 games with a spot and 2 games for a $100 even, $400 later they quit. I almost forgot, there was a much older Asian man sitting and watching when I played Ray. I came to find out when I got back to Chicago and spoke to Bud Harris, he mentioned it was probably, Jimmy Lee he was a student of Welker Cochran's, and Ray was a student of Jimmy as was Bud.

At the same time Jimmy Marino was hanging around the 'Tenderloin' hustling, Bars & PR's. I was hitting balls around on that same table about 11 am, just so happens, Danny McGoorty heard I beat Ray and sweated me from afar. Jimmy came in bellowing if I wanted to play some 9 ball, I declined. But, I replied I'll try you some of this. After 10 minutes of arguing, we agreed on a game, I gave Jimmy 4 on 25 for $100 and I had side bets of $150. Now as soon as we were about to start, Danny McGoorty came and sat down in one of those orange movie seats and sweated the action. Long story, I think short., the spot got to 8 on 25 and I won $1,600 all together! All the time I was playing, Danny just sat there with this, Cheshire cat look on his face. He never said a word except, when we were done, "Where you from kid?"

The eclipse to this story is, about 4 or 5 days later, I was back up at the Palace, just sitting around. Jimmy comes back in Mad as Hell! "You F**ked me, You robbed me!" "Play some 9 ball, you got the 6." "I' don't play 9 ball, we can play more billiards." He goes on to say, "I heard who you beat in the Mission district." "I'm sure you won't give the spot I want, 12 & the break." "I calmly replied, "You're right." He kept chasing me around the joint to get me to play, we didn't. His amped up entrance in to the room and at me was that he heard I had beaten the Best 3C player in the M district, Homero Valdespino in his own room. I won pretty good, I was there with, Joe Salazar.

A little side note; during the 60's and 70's the, 'Union League' halls in colleges still had a nice pool room with 3C tables. I would get info on what colleges had 3C Champs & Intercollegiate Champs and who they were and that schools big rivals. I would go to University of MI in Ann Arbor, wearing an Ohio State sweatshirt and vice versa. BTW, always carrying Willie Hoppe's book, "Billiards as it should be played" under my arm! Props are Big in any Hustle or Con.
 
Last edited:

gulfportdoc

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Jun 25, 2004
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Gulfport, Mississippi
That picture really brings back the atmosphere of many poolrooms around the 1970 era: the overhead lighting, the haze in the air from ciggy smoke. Puts me in mind of many other rooms, like The Jointed Cue, and even Amsterdam Billiards in NYC.

I was there only once in 1971. The band was on tour, and we had just played at Winterland. After the gig, I just wanted to be someplace quiet. So I went up to the Palace to practice 3C. Very relaxing. Later I spent a lot of time at Cochrans/Hollywood Billiards, But the Palace was unique unto itself.
 

SF Kid

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Mar 17, 2022
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@gulfportdoc --- no doubt The Palace was a very cool place. Sort of elegant in it's own right. For me though I picture it more being set in the late 1890's in Lake Tahoe when Hoss Cartwright would enter the hall and bellow out "anybody wanna play some"? ... 🎱

Cochran's on the other hand is my all time favorite. It was/is legendary and in many ways "magical". Truly an Icon of American pool halls.

The cloud cover of smoke, the dinginess of the joint speaks to what many people would have in their mind's eye when somebody talked of an old time pool hall.

The old used up lights hanging over the table where players put up their case money before beginning a game were all part of the ambience and the mystique of the place. Just loved it there although as I mentioned before I also spent countless hours at The Palace and enjoyed my time there as well.

And I always remember players at Cochran's after playing half the night shouting out to the house man ... "cup of tea, shot 'a lemon" and the cup would be delivered to the table.

I remember vividly walking up the wide steps from Market Street and although I wasn't well know (not much of a player) even after hangin' there a lot there was always a hustler who would ask me "play some $10 nine ball"? Usually those guys were either drunk or stoned. I'd always shrugged past them and told them "no get away from me". Later on I used to go up the back stairs from Golden Gate Avenue since that is where I usually tried to find a parking spot and it was easier than walking all the way around to the front entrance on Market. But all of it was part of the scene. I doubt it'll ever be recreated.
 

beatle

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Jun 21, 2009
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those days we had to go out for entertainment and a social life. now you can do it from home. so cherish the bygone days as they wont come back unless the world gets turned upside down.
 

jrhendy

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May 24, 2004
Messages
5,540
From
Placerville, CA
WOW for some reason I decided to research things written about Cochran's Pool hall in San Francisco. Ran across a few threads here and thought I'd join in on the trip down memory lane!

I used to run with Gene back in '67/'68. I first hooked up with Gene I believe it was a Town & Country Billiards on Van Ness. One way or the other I ended up staking him in a small game there and we became friends and roamed SF for a couple of years.

We went to Cochran's most of the time but spent a fair amount of time at Palace Billiards too. That photo that was posted is for sure Gene. He must have been in his early 30's then...

So many memories some of which are a little foggy after all these years. I used to tag along with Gene and hold his money, collect money in ring games etc. I wasn't much of a player but Gene was. He was a very good player and maybe a better hustler. I remember him playing Rusty Jones one night on a crazy game he cooked up. Gene would play one handed and Rusty gave him the 8 ball. It was fascinating to watch and in the end Gene robbed him pretty well although Rusty had no quit in him. Gene also played a lot behind his back and the better players tried to get to Gene that way. Most times Gene came out on top. He knew those tables at Cochran's like the back of his hand with the old clay balls and just how they would react off the cushions. Gene was a great "safe" player and left a lot of guy scratching their heads.

I remember Ronnie Barber and Ears (I Always called him by his real name "Al" I believe it was). Nice guy. Very quite and stoic and played decent One Pocket.

As for Ronnie Barber I remember the first time I met him although I didn't know who he was at the time ... it was at Town & Country in SF and I was just hitting some balls by myself. I wasn't very good. Ronnie came down the three steps to the table I was on and asked if I'd like to play some $3 nine ball. I said "sure"... didn't take me long to understand I shouldn't be playing this guy. He sort of robbed me quickly and I quit because I knew it wasn't going to end well. He then asked if I'd keep playing if he gave me the 8 and I said "no thanks". Later I found out who Ronnie was.

Lot of the guys at Cochran's in those days used to like to gamble -- on anything -- I remember we used to go to this little restaurant on Eddy street (I think) and we'd all sit in the back with a radio listening to the Giants baseball game and the guys would be making prop bets all though the game. Yeah -- they loved to gamble. Also remember renting a hotel room and Gene would play poker all night and I'd sit and watch.

Fun times.

Would love to hear more stories from you guys who were around in those days.
Ronnie Barber is still playing a little in the North Bay. Great guy.

My friend actually owns the original Cochrans sign. I will see if he has a picture of it I can put up.

Annigoni and the others following him never had a chance with that location. Transvestite hookers and heroin addicts all over the place...another buddy played there a couple times (wasn't it called the Q club or something for a while?) and his car got broken into 2x and he never went back.
I played there a few times when Doc Brienza and Annigoni owned it. One night Doc, Bill Cress and I decided to walk over and go eat at Original Joe’s in the Tenderloin. Doc said, wait a minute, let me go get my gun, and he was not kidding.

Once we got there and were ordering, a street person ran in, took our waiters steak dinner, and ran out. The waiter said it was the second time in a few days. Rough neighborhood.
 

SF Kid

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Mar 17, 2022
Messages
7
I forgot to mention one of my favorite things at Cochran’s. Those great “No Whistling” signs.

To this day whenever I hear somebody whistling I thinK back to the days hangin’ around at Cochran’s.

@jrhendy right you are. Tough neighborhood. I believe even tougher now minus the 60’s personality.
 

Tobermory

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Mar 12, 2017
Messages
1,706
From
Berkeley, CA 94708
In was in the SF area in 70. The photo of the 3C table at the Palace was 1 in the corner of the room in the back.
View attachment 437828
I liked playing off, 'Center stage.' One of the first players I played there was a fair 3C player, Ray Tajima, I talked him into spotting me. We played $50 a game and some guy bet $50 on the side. I won 2 games with a spot and 2 games for a $100 even, $400 later they quit. I almost forgot, there was a much older Asian man sitting and watching when I played Ray. I came to find out when I got back to Chicago and spoke to Bud Harris, he mentioned it was probably, Jimmy Lee he was a student of Welker Cochran's, and Ray was a student of Jimmy as was Bud.

At the same time Jimmy Marino was hanging around the 'Tenderloin' hustling, Bars & PR's. I was hitting balls around on that same table about 11 am, just so happens, Danny McGoorty heard I beat Ray and sweated me from afar. Jimmy came in bellowing if I wanted to play some 9 ball, I declined. But, I replied I'll try you some of this. After 10 minutes of arguing, we agreed on a game, I gave Jimmy 4 on 25 for $100 and I had side bets of $150. Now as soon as we were about to start, Danny McGoorty came and sat down in one of those orange movie seats and sweated the action. Long story, I think short., the spot got to 8 on 25 and I won $1,600 all together! All the time I was playing, Danny just sat there with this, Cheshire cat look on his face. He never said a word except, when we were done, "Where you from kid?"

The eclipse to this story is, about 4 or 5 days later, I was back up at the Palace, just sitting around. Jimmy comes back in Mad as Hell! "You F**ked me, You robbed me!" "Play some 9 ball, you got the 6." "I' don't play 9 ball, we can play more billiards." He goes on to say, "I heard who you beat in the Mission district." "I'm sure you won't give the spot I want, 12 & the break." "I calmly replied, "You're right." He kept chasing me around the joint to get me to play, we didn't. His amped up entrance in to the room and at me was that he heard I had beaten the Best 3C player in the M district, Homero Valdespino in his own room. I won pretty good, I was there with, Joe Salazar.

A little side note; during the 60's and 70's the, 'Union League' halls in colleges still had a nice pool room with 3C tables. I would get info on what colleges had 3C Champs & Intercollegiate Champs and who they were and that schools big rivals. I would go to University of MI in Ann Arbor, wearing an Ohio State sweatshirt and vice versa. BTW, always carrying Willie Hoppe's book, "Billiards as it should be played" under my arm! Props are Big in any Hustle or Con.
The only guy I think I recognize in that picture is Jimmy Duval, Salt, in the red jacket. Anybody remember how he played in the 70's? When I knew him in the 90's, he was almost completely undercover and never showed anything.
 

Frank Almanza

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Aug 31, 2005
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Upland, California
Cole must have played at Cochrans somewhat at that time frame. I played him in San Leandro and after beating him there he invited to come to Cochran’s. I beat him there also but at that time he wasn’t seasoned yet. That was in 1968. There was a Joe Smiley that played there. I could spot him in nine ball all over town but couldn’t give him anything on that 10 footer at Cochran’s. What a difference one foot makes. I played a lot in that pay ball game there also.
 

SF Kid

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Joe Smiley... Things are foggy from that long ago. But there used to be a guy I remember at Cochran's named "Smiley'. Not sure if it's the same guy or not. He was pretty young. I saw him a lot at Cochran's but as I remember he was always getting a spot when he was playing. Not sure if it's the same guy. Do remember him playing on the 5 x 10 tables .. mostly 9 ball.

Once he took me and a couple of other guys over to his parents house in Marin County -- can't remember why. They must have had some money and maybe Smiley was just a spoiled rich kid I don't know. Anyway I can't seem to remember his first or really name. We just always called him Smiley.
 
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