My First Lesson with Tugboat

L.S. Dennis

Active member
The year was around 1962, and Sunday nights would usually find me at Jimmy and Dorothy Wises’ Sequoia Billiards in Redwood City. My father owned a liquor store right across the street from the pool room so suffice as to say I spent a lot of time at that room waiting for my father to close the store and take me home. I must have been around 12 years old at the time.

One one particular Sunday night, Maurice “Tugboat” Whaley ( he hated the name Maurice) came down with his wife to pay a visit to Jimmy and Dorothy, this was a usual occurrence of Sunday nights. On one of these evenings I was playing on one of the old Gold Crown 1‘s when Tugboat suspender clad with his white lock of hair (he had to have been in his late 60’s at the time) came over to me and asked if I’d like to play with him a bit. We started playing and he abruptly asked me in a grandfatherly way, ‘what are you doing’? This caught me off guard because I was used to just blasting away at shots so asked him what he meant. He asked me that if I wanted to learn how to play the game correctly or if I just wanted to continue to blast. And so my first lesson with Tug began.

Keep in mind that in those days it was easier to break into Fort Knox than to crowbar any secrets of playing pool from the good players of the day. Tugboat was the exception especially with us younger players he went out of his way to teach us how to play better.

That lesson was a giant wake up call on how straight pool should be played. He taught me about how to break up clusters, how to limit cue ball movement, how to thinly cut an object ball using center cue, all the tried and true straight pool doctrine that can be found in any number of tutorials and lesson books today. Tug had a lot of patience with us kids in those days.

The last time I saw Tugboat was at Cochrans where he was taking a nap on one of the back tables. He later went on to referee the Johnston City Jamboree.
 
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Bob Jewett

AZB Osmium Member
Staff member
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I've heard that Tugboat had a notebook full of info that he taught from. I wonder where it went. When I was just starting, he was the only pool teacher in the area -- other than brief, informal pointers -- and I wish I had had the foresight to learn from him.
 

L.S. Dennis

Active member
I've heard that Tugboat had a notebook full of info that he taught from. I wonder where it went. When I was just starting, he was the only pool teacher in the area -- other than brief, informal pointers -- and I wish I had had the foresight to learn from him.
Bob, that notebook thing is interesting. I too wish I would have payed better attention to what he was saying at the time. Both he and Jimmy Wise (especially Jimmy) taught me a lot in those early years.
 

ShootingArts

Smorg is giving St Peter the 7!
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Silver Member
Great story, and sounds like a great man! Those that wanted to pass on what they knew and try to grow the game of pool in general were few and far between. My old mentor started giving me one or two pointers a trip to his pool hall after seeing I was devoted to the game.

It was funny that he helped me for free but absolutely refused to give lessons. He felt like people were trying to buy his years of experience cheaply. I can still hear his growl, "I'll give them all the lessons they want for ten a game, nine ball!" Early seventies that would have been pretty pricey lessons! He was able to fulfill a dream and opened a youth pool hall in the last years of his life. This was in addition to the hall he rented from Lambert and only open hours he considered reasonable for boys in school. I was still underage when Jessie bought the tables and rented Shoppers Pool Hall. I was no doubt pointed out as a valuable customer since I was spending over forty hours a week in the pool hall as well as going to school and working part time. Fortunately I could go a few weeks on a couple hours of sleep then sleep twelve or fourteen hours and start the cycle over again.

Here's to Tugboat, Jessie, all those that shared pool secrets with youths long before it was in style!

Hu
 

jay helfert

Shoot Pool, not people
Gold Member
Silver Member
Great story, and sounds like a great man! Those that wanted to pass on what they knew and try to grow the game of pool in general were few and far between. My old mentor started giving me one or two pointers a trip to his pool hall after seeing I was devoted to the game.

It was funny that he helped me for free but absolutely refused to give lessons. He felt like people were trying to buy his years of experience cheaply. I can still hear his growl, "I'll give them all the lessons they want for ten a game, nine ball!" Early seventies that would have been pretty pricey lessons! He was able to fulfill a dream and opened a youth pool hall in the last years of his life. This was in addition to the hall he rented from Lambert and only open hours he considered reasonable for boys in school. I was still underage when Jessie bought the tables and rented Shoppers Pool Hall. I was no doubt pointed out as a valuable customer since I was spending over forty hours a week in the pool hall as well as going to school and working part time. Fortunately I could go a few weeks on a couple hours of sleep then sleep twelve or fourteen hours and start the cycle over again.

Here's to Tugboat, Jessie, all those that shared pool secrets with youths long before it was in style!

Hu
We had a similar guy in Dayton back in the 1960's. His name was Jake Spitler and the story was that he had been a very good player years earlier. He must have been in his 60's then. If he liked you and saw potential he was willing to help you. Jake took a liking to me and showed me how to play position on the cue ball, where I had just been firing balls in the pocket before. One thing I clearly remember is that he insisted I spend time on the snooker table and the billiard table every day. He said it would "round out" my game. He was right!

Two other early mentors of mine were Joe Burns, who owned Forest Park Billiards, the site of the big Dayton tournaments in the 70's and 80's, and Lou Todoroff. Both of them worked with me learning to play Bank Pool. Joe was the best banker around and Lou wasn't far behind. Lou was instrumental in helping me develop what he called "the feel" for the game, where you no longer had to calculate angles and measure distances. I learned that how you hit the ball, at what speed and with what english, changes everything. Somehow I caught on and became a threat playing Banks with just about anyone. I liked to say that was my road game, even though the chances of getting a Bank Pool game have always been few and far between.
 

ShootingArts

Smorg is giving St Peter the 7!
Gold Member
Silver Member
We had a similar guy in Dayton back in the 1960's. His name was Jake Spitler and the story was that he had been a very good player years earlier. He must have been in his 60's then. If he liked you and saw potential he was willing to help you. Jake took a liking to me and showed me how to play position on the cue ball, where I had just been firing balls in the pocket before. One thing I clearly remember is that he insisted I spend time on the snooker table and the billiard table every day. He said it would "round out" my game. He was right!

Two other early mentors of mine were Joe Burns, who owned Forest Park Billiards, the site of the big Dayton tournaments in the 70's and 80's, and Lou Todoroff. Both of them worked with me learning to play Bank Pool. Joe was the best banker around and Lou wasn't far behind. Lou was instrumental in helping me develop what he called "the feel" for the game, where you no longer had to calculate angles and measure distances. I learned that how you hit the ball, at what speed and with what english, changes everything. Somehow I caught on and became a threat playing Banks with just about anyone. I liked to say that was my road game, even though the chances of getting a Bank Pool game have always been few and far between.


Talking about banks, I am not a great banker but whether I am playing like crap or pretty good my banks game stays about the same. I pick a spot I want to hit the rail then adjust everything else to that. One day I was missing every duck on the damned table and had a fairly small cut to make a ball in the corner or hit the ball straight on into the cushion and make the ball in the same pocket once around the table. It was no surprise when my one lap around the table shot split the pocket. I "saw" it before I called it. Same thing playing one pocket, sometimes the banks are open!

Hu
 

lfigueroa

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
The year was around 1962, and Sunday nights would usually find me at Jimmy and Dorothy Wises’ Sequoia Billiards in Redwood City. My father owned a liquor store right across the street from the pool room so suffice as to say I spent a lot of time at that room waiting for my father to close the store and take me home. I must have been around 12 years old at the time.

One one particular Sunday night, Maurice “Tugboat” Whaley ( he hated the name Maurice) came down with his wife to pay a visit to Jimmy and Dorothy, this was a usual occurrence of Sunday nights. On one of these evenings I was playing on one of the old Gold Crown 1‘s when Tugboat suspender clad with his white lock of hair (he had to have been in his late 60’s at the time) came over to me and asked if I’d like to play with him a bit. We started playing and he abruptly asked me in a grandfatherly way, ‘what are you doing’? This caught me off guard because I was used to just blasting away at shots so asked him what he meant. He asked me that if I wanted to learn how to play the game correctly or if I just wanted to continue to blast. And so my first lesson with Tug began.

Keep in mind that in those days it was easier to break into Fort Knox than to crowbar any secrets of playing pool from the good players of the day. Tugboat was the exception especially with us younger players he went out of his way to teach us how to play better.

That lesson was a giant wake up call on how straight pool should be played. He taught me about how to break up clusters, how to limit cue ball movement, how to thinly cut an object ball using center cue, all the tried and true straight pool doctrine that can be found in any number of tutorials and lesson books today. Tug had a lot of patience with us kids in those days.

The last time I saw Tugboat was at Cochrans where he was taking a nap on one of the back tables. He later went on to referee the Johnston City Jamboree.

I'd occassionally see Tugboat and Dorthy Wise play at Town & Country Billiards in Daly City.

Here's a page on Tugboat from John Grissim's "Billiards."

Lou Figueroa
 

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L.S. Dennis

Active member
I'd occassionally see Tugboat and Dorthy Wise play at Town & Country Billiards in Daly City.

Here' a page on Tugboat from John Grissim's "Billiards."

Lou Figuer
I'd occassionally see Tugboat and Dorthy Wise play at Town & Country Billiards in Daly City.

Here' a page on Tugboat from John Grissim's "Billiards."

Lou Figueroa
Thanks Lou for post that picture of Tugboat it been a while since I’ve seen a picture of him. There was a similar picture of this one in either Billiards Digest, or Pool and BillIzard magazine in the mid to 90’s I didn’t know the Tug and Dorothy played at Town and Billiiards in Daly City (the old Bank of America building)
Speaking of Town and Country, that place has defied all laws of business gravity by remaining open while practically all other rooms here in the Bay Area have long gone out of business. It doesn’t hurt that Efren pops in there from time to time when he’s in the area….

Thanks again for the pic
 
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sonny burnett

Registered
I think every real pool room had a tribal elder that would dispense wisdom to the youngsters. "What are you doing". I sure do remember that phrase! I was strutting around after drawing whitey back to the rail and was ready to be praised....wrong.

Sent from my SM-G970U using Tapatalk
 

jay helfert

Shoot Pool, not people
Gold Member
Silver Member
Talking about banks, I am not a great banker but whether I am playing like crap or pretty good my banks game stays about the same. I pick a spot I want to hit the rail then adjust everything else to that. One day I was missing every duck on the damned table and had a fairly small cut to make a ball in the corner or hit the ball straight on into the cushion and make the ball in the same pocket once around the table. It was no surprise when my one lap around the table shot split the pocket. I "saw" it before I called it. Same thing playing one pocket, sometimes the banks are open!

Hu
One thing I always say about playing Banks is: "There are no hangers in Bank Pool!"
 
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