Cochran's and Palace Billiards

MJL

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Jul 18, 2021
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I was raised in San Francisco and played a lot a Palace Billiards. I purchased my cues from Earl Whitehead, Whitehead and Zimmerman's as I recall was on Howard Street. Earl sponsored me to join the Elks club (BPOE#3) when I was 21 so I could play in the 3 cushion tournaments there.
It was a great time.
 

NH Steve

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I was raised in San Francisco and played a lot a Palace Billiards. I purchased my cues from Earl Whitehead, Whitehead and Zimmerman's as I recall was on Howard Street. Earl sponsored me to join the Elks club (BPOE#3) when I was 21 so I could play in the 3 cushion tournaments there.
It was a great time.
Great to hear from someone who was there! Tell us more!!
 

lfigueroa

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I was raised in San Francisco and played a lot a Palace Billiards. I purchased my cues from Earl Whitehead, Whitehead and Zimmerman's as I recall was on Howard Street. Earl sponsored me to join the Elks club (BPOE#3) when I was 21 so I could play in the 3 cushion tournaments there.
It was a great time.

Real long shot but here goes: I also grew up in SF and when I was in college, circa the early 70’s, I’d hit The Palace around midnight — and often, a guy named Mike would come up to me and ask to play some straight pool. Was that you?

We’d play like 75 points for $25 and I don’t think I ever won, though I do remember one time running off a 40-something and I could clearly see the look of concern on Mike’s face.

Other than that, I too recall the room as if yesterday: the long walk up the stairs from Market Street; the torn up theatre-style seats along the rail; the mirrors along the wall and the fluorescent lights above; the diner-style counter; and the two huge paintings on the wall, one of a bare chested guy about to pounce on a prone damsel and I believe the other was of a pride of lions.

Of course there were the players and regular characters like Filipino Gene, Searcy, Ronnie Barber, and Ears. It truly was a magical bit of American pool culture.

Lou Figueroa
 
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SF Kid

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Whitehead and Zimmerman was indeed on Howard street. Had a custom cue made for a friend.
 

MJL

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Hi Lou
We definitely know the same people!!! , I used to play against Ronnie all the time, same as Filipino gene as well as Richie Marquez and others. Also, used to see them down at Gino and Carlo's down in North Beach.

Earl Whitehead was a great guy, it was always about the game and the equipment. I got some great cues from him, including some Hoppe cues which I still have. I never sold any of my cues, and have them all, even have an old Harvey Martin cue.

At the Palace, as an undergrad, when I was practicing for the ACUI tournaments (American College Union International tournament for the National Collegiate tournament), I would get pool balls and play on the 12foot snooker tables and just do drills and straight shots. Remember how big those tables were?

It might of been me, not sure, I always played 75 point games. I love straight pool. I quit playing when I finished my PhD in Organic Chemistry and got a real job. Now that my children are in college, I am going to start playing again and get into some of these tournaments. I just pulled some of my cues out of storage and they are still straight. I haven't played with any of my cues since 1988. I live in CT now and Paul Drexler is refurbishing some of my cues and making shafts for them. He is a master.
 

mr3cushion

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Sep 17, 2008
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Cocoa Beach, FL
I was raised in San Francisco and played a lot a Palace Billiards. I purchased my cues from Earl Whitehead, Whitehead and Zimmerman's as I recall was on Howard Street. Earl sponsored me to join the Elks club (BPOE#3) when I was 21 so I could play in the 3 cushion tournaments there.
It was a great time.
Mike, I see you mentioned you got into some 3C at the Elks. Just wondering if you remember a few 3C players from the Palace back in the late 60's early 70's. Ray Tajima, Homero Valdespino, Bill Hynes, I played them up at the Palace.
 
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MJL

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Hi Mr3
Pleasure to chat you
I didn't play much 3C at Palace. I was playing a lot of 3C at the Elks, the monthly dues were $15.00. It was easy and to be honest, a little more "safer" during that time. Tournaments were held at the Elks frequently, even saw Raymond Cuelemans 2 times and got to play him (a fast game in a race to 25, and yes I lost). I could play for as long as I wanted and when I wanted due to my school schedule. I still watch a little 3C on youtube.
The name Bill Hynes is familiar, but it has been so long ago, I forgot all the 3C players I played or knew. Bob Byrne used to come down every once in a while and I played him when I could. I believed he lived in Santa Rosa.
I can't find any pool rooms in the mid to eastern part of CT that have a 3C table.
 

NH Steve

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Hi Lou
We definitely know the same people!!! , I used to play against Ronnie all the time, same as Filipino gene as well as Richie Marquez and others. Also, used to see them down at Gino and Carlo's down in North Beach.

Earl Whitehead was a great guy, it was always about the game and the equipment. I got some great cues from him, including some Hoppe cues which I still have. I never sold any of my cues, and have them all, even have an old Harvey Martin cue.

At the Palace, as an undergrad, when I was practicing for the ACUI tournaments (American College Union International tournament for the National Collegiate tournament), I would get pool balls and play on the 12foot snooker tables and just do drills and straight shots. Remember how big those tables were?

It might of been me, not sure, I always played 75 point games. I love straight pool. I quit playing when I finished my PhD in Organic Chemistry and got a real job. Now that my children are in college, I am going to start playing again and get into some of these tournaments. I just pulled some of my cues out of storage and they are still straight. I haven't played with any of my cues since 1988. I live in CT now and Paul Drexler is refurbishing some of my cues and making shafts for them. He is a master.
Ok, the way I read this, there are some years missing lol. I was also in college in the early 70's so I would think similar aged as you -- and my son was born late but is still 34 now -- but way past college. Seems to me both you and I could have easily had grandkids in college by now, so you have me confused. But no matter -- it is great to have you back playing, and you should definitely mark your calendar for Bogie's Senior One Pocket tournament scheduled for Sept 29-Oct 2 this year. You have to be at least 65 years old before the end of the year, and this really fun and competitive tournament featuring a lot of good natured and good shooting seniors! Last year there was a retired table mechanic from CA that kind of came out of the woodwork, having just started playing again himself, and yet he finished well into the money. (Photo of him below, but sorry I have forgotten his name)


 

NH Steve

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New Hampshire
Hi Mr3
Pleasure to chat you
I didn't play much 3C at Palace. I was playing a lot of 3C at the Elks, the monthly dues were $15.00. It was easy and to be honest, a little more "safer" during that time. Tournaments were held at the Elks frequently, even saw Raymond Cuelemans 2 times and got to play him (a fast game in a race to 25, and yes I lost). I could play for as long as I wanted and when I wanted due to my school schedule. I still watch a little 3C on youtube.
The name Bill Hynes is familiar, but it has been so long ago, I forgot all the 3C players I played or knew. Bob Byrne used to come down every once in a while and I played him when I could. I believed he lived in Santa Rosa.
I can't find any pool rooms in the mid to eastern part of CT that have a 3C table.
The 3 cushion locator website says these two rooms in southwestern CT, but I don't know if it is accurate:

Fast Eddies Billiard Cafe

US 1 Billiards & Bar

Also former US 3 cushion champion Mazin Shooni has a really nice room with 4 tables up in Malden MA, just north of Boston. Worth the drive when you can because it is a great place to play with both good players and very well maintained equipment.
 
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12squared

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Mar 14, 2005
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Fort Collins, CO
Ok, the way I read this, there are some years missing lol. I was also in college in the early 70's so I would think similar aged as you -- and my son was born late but is still 34 now -- but way past college. Seems to me both you and I could have easily had grandkids in college by now, so you have me confused. But no matter -- it is great to have you back playing, and you should definitely mark your calendar for Bogie's Senior One Pocket tournament scheduled for Sept 29-Oct 2 this year. You have to be at least 65 years old before the end of the year, and this really fun and competitive tournament featuring a lot of good natured and good shooting seniors! Last year there was a retired table mechanic from CA that kind of came out of the woodwork, having just started playing again himself, and yet he finished well into the money. (Photo of him below, but sorry I have forgotten his name)


That is "Scarecrow". I knew him from northern California, but I can't remember his real name. It may come to me.
 

lfigueroa

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Jul 17, 2004
Messages
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Hi Lou
We definitely know the same people!!! , I used to play against Ronnie all the time, same as Filipino gene as well as Richie Marquez and others. Also, used to see them down at Gino and Carlo's down in North Beach.

Earl Whitehead was a great guy, it was always about the game and the equipment. I got some great cues from him, including some Hoppe cues which I still have. I never sold any of my cues, and have them all, even have an old Harvey Martin cue.

At the Palace, as an undergrad, when I was practicing for the ACUI tournaments (American College Union International tournament for the National Collegiate tournament), I would get pool balls and play on the 12foot snooker tables and just do drills and straight shots. Remember how big those tables were?

It might of been me, not sure, I always played 75 point games. I love straight pool. I quit playing when I finished my PhD in Organic Chemistry and got a real job. Now that my children are in college, I am going to start playing again and get into some of these tournaments. I just pulled some of my cues out of storage and they are still straight. I haven't played with any of my cues since 1988. I live in CT now and Paul Drexler is refurbishing some of my cues and making shafts for them. He is a master.

Hi Mike

Well then, it definitely wasn’t you I played. The guy I played was for sure not the organic chemistry kinda guy.

I also played in the ACUI events representing USF. One year we played the championship at UCLA and another at Davis. My regular room was The Palacade off Geneva and then later Town & Country on Mission in Daly City, where Steve Vowter and Rico Sanchez were two of the better players.

I often went to Whitehead and Zimmerman on Howard and I remember Earl well. One year he rewrappd a Meucci for me and that ended up being a pretty funny story.


Paul just recently converted a John Davis full-splice ebony blank for me.

Lou Figueroa
me in the
UCLA student union
 

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MJL

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Hi Lou,

LOL, there were a lot of "characters" at Palace. Wasn't exactly the kind of place you brought a date to and in the 70's/80s you had to have your wits about you when you went there, especially at night. But if you wanted to play serious pool that was one of the places to go.

I attended Cal and SFSU in the 70s and in the early 80's for BS and MS played twice representing SFSU at the Region 15 tournament at I believe SJSU `80 or 81 not sure. That was the year Miller Lite pulled out and didn't sponsor the national tournament so I didn't get to play in the National Tourney. Didn't play a lot down in Daly City but I knew Town and Country was a go place to go to.

Funny you mentioned John Davis blank, I recently purchased a Tim Prince John Davis cue in pristine condition, it is a good looking cue. I still haven't played with it as work and home stuff have been monopolizing my time and I just came back from SF for a family get together. SF is definitely not the same place today as it was when I grew up there. It is a shame.

I own a Brunswick Defiant 4 1/2 X 9 circa 1926, I've had it in storage for over 30 years. I just pulled it out and currently refurbishing it. The veneer is just flaking off the rail skirt but the rails and slate are in excellent condition with 4 bolt rails. I bought it when I lived in Durham NC when I worked for Glaxo. I don't have any pictures of it when it was originally set up but attached is a catalog picture. I am the second owner of the table. I will be posting pics as I progress with it. It needs a lot of work.
 

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BUD GREEN

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Robert Byrne lived in Petaluma for a long time, 10 miles south of Santa Rosa, then moved back to the midwest. He was a part owner in the original Buffalo Billiards that was in Cotati. Not a big share, but he helped get it started. I used to play three cushion with him sometimes.

I miss seeing Ronnie Barber at the local pool hall. Funny guy, solid player. Anyone have any good stories involving him?

A good buddy of mine has the original Cochrans sign in storage somewhere, I'll see if he has any pics.
 

lfigueroa

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Jul 17, 2004
Messages
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Hi Lou,

LOL, there were a lot of "characters" at Palace. Wasn't exactly the kind of place you brought a date to and in the 70's/80s you had to have your wits about you when you went there, especially at night. But if you wanted to play serious pool that was one of the places to go.

I attended Cal and SFSU in the 70s and in the early 80's for BS and MS played twice representing SFSU at the Region 15 tournament at I believe SJSU `80 or 81 not sure. That was the year Miller Lite pulled out and didn't sponsor the national tournament so I didn't get to play in the National Tourney. Didn't play a lot down in Daly City but I knew Town and Country was a go place to go to.

Funny you mentioned John Davis blank, I recently purchased a Tim Prince John Davis cue in pristine condition, it is a good looking cue. I still haven't played with it as work and home stuff have been monopolizing my time and I just came back from SF for a family get together. SF is definitely not the same place today as it was when I grew up there. It is a shame.

I own a Brunswick Defiant 4 1/2 X 9 circa 1926, I've had it in storage for over 30 years. I just pulled it out and currently refurbishing it. The veneer is just flaking off the rail skirt but the rails and slate are in excellent condition with 4 bolt rails. I bought it when I lived in Durham NC when I worked for Glaxo. I don't have any pictures of it when it was originally set up but attached is a catalog picture. I am the second owner of the table. I will be posting pics as I progress with it. It needs a lot of work.

Yes, I’ve been back to SF recently several times and it’s definetly changed.

it sounds like you played in the college events a bit later than I. In my era we played 14.1 but if I recall correctly that ended up being changed to 8ball or 9ball.

Lou Figueroa
 

lfigueroa

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Messages
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Robert Byrne lived in Petaluma for a long time, 10 miles south of Santa Rosa, then moved back to the midwest. He was a part owner in the original Buffalo Billiards that was in Cotati. Not a big share, but he helped get it started. I used to play three cushion with him sometimes.

I miss seeing Ronnie Barber at the local pool hall. Funny guy, solid player. Anyone have any good stories involving him?

A good buddy of mine has the original Cochrans sign in storage somewhere, I'll see if he has any pics.

I met Ronnie, I think, at the Bus Stop bar, which was at Union and Laguna.

It was a sports bar in the Union Street area that was well known for being populated with lawyers and stock brokers. They had, I believe, two 8’ coin tables in a back room. I’d heard about it as a place players would go to score hustling the swells. I went in and there were a number of guys, like Ronnie and Waterdog that I recognized, sipping beers standing against the wall waiting for their quarter to come up. The going rate was like $25 a game.

The only Ronnie Barber story I have is that one day he took my young self aside and told me, “If you ever get into it, send it all in. Balls, sticks, whatever and get out of there.” I thought it was nice he took the time.

Lou Figueroa
 

gulfportdoc

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Jun 25, 2004
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From
Gulfport, Mississippi
Robert Byrne lived in Petaluma for a long time, 10 miles south of Santa Rosa, then moved back to the midwest. He was a part owner in the original Buffalo Billiards that was in Cotati. Not a big share, but he helped get it started. I used to play three cushion with him sometimes.
...
I played at BB in Cotati several times. When Lee Simon owned it I used to travel down from the Eurkea area to play in their 9ball tournaments in the mid '90s. At the time he had a good 5 X 10 pool table which a couple of the pros would practice on to sharpen their games. All the good central Calif. players would attend those events, as well as the ones in Vacaville at Sticks Billiards (?): Chris MacDonald, Kim Davenport, George Michaels, Tall Paul, Morro Paez, Filipinio Gene, and half a dozen others whose names I can't recall. Can't remember if Henderson played those or not.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Robert Byrne, but from what I've read in his books & articles, he must have had a helluva sense of humor. Many of his stories had me laughing out loud.
 
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