View Full Version : Memories of Dorothy Wise

L.S. Dennis
08-27-2006, 08:11 AM
Memories, This is an article that I did for a now defunct newsletter some years ago. Iíll reprint it here for you, hope you enjoy it! L.S. Dennis

I don't recall what I saw the first time I peeked through the door of Sequoia Billiards, but I do remember hearing the clicking of the balls. I had no idea that my life would revolve around the place for the next three years.
The year was 1962, and my father owned a liquor store on Main Street in Redwood City, California. As a 12-year old boy, I often hung around the store, and it was only a matter of time before curiosity drew me across the street and into the poolroom operated by Dorothy and Jimmy Wise. I had the privilege of knowing them both and learned to play pool at Sequoia Billiards.


Dorothy was always kind to me. At some point even before I began playing regularly, I had a couple of pet rats, the kind you bought in a pet store. I wandered into Sequoia one afternoon with the rats on my shoulder. The room was empty-
no one was playing on any of the 16 Gold Crown 1 tables; no one sat in the theater-style seats that lined the perimeter of the playing area. Dorothy was behind the register, and instead of throwing me and my rats out the door; she opened a bag of sunflower seeds from the display on the counter and helped me feed them. Sunflower seeds, she assured me were very good for my ratís fur.
I got the pool bug very quickly. Dorothy and Jimmy charged $1.00/hour for playing time, and it wasn't long before I was coaxing my father out of a dollar here, fifty cents there. Dorothy did not teach me to play; Jimmy was the one for instruction. He'd come over and tell me to use a little inside English to make the object ball hug the rail. Dorothy, though, definitely taught me poolroom etiquette. More than once, in a motherly fashion, she scolded me or my friends for using foul language after a miss.


For a long time, I didn't even realize that Dorothy played. I knew her only as the nice lady who worked in the poolroom. Then one day, I saw her come from behind the counter to practice. She racked the balls, and then spun the rack as she lifted it, spiraling them smoothly onto the table. I watched in awe as Dorothy ran rack after rack. I'd never seen anyone run 35 or 40 balls. I couldn't wait to get out to a phone to call one my friends to say, "Guess what I just saw Dorothy do!"


My most memorable experience involving Dorothy occurred when she invited me to accompany her to a big tournament in
San Francisco Dorothy was scheduled to compete in a straight pool tournament at the old Palace Billiards on Market Street against the likes of 'Tugboat Whaley' and Joe Bachelor. (Palace was not far from Cochran's Billiards, owned by Welker Cochran, one of the greatest balk line and three cushion billiard player of all time. Palace was the more upscale, well-bred room; Cochran's was where the heavy action was to be found.) Dorothy asked me to ask my father if I could go with her. She must continued from last night
have known I would enjoy the experience, and, who knows, perhaps she wanted some company as well.

When we arrived at Palace Billiards, Dorothy let me carry her cue case up the back stairs leading into the area where the tournament room was. It was heady stuff for a young kid.

She lost that night to Tugboat Whaley but played with great class. It was really something to see a woman play competitively in a tournament at all.


Dorothy's cue was an old 21-oz Hoppe cue, which is what most people had in those days. It had an ivory ring around the butt, which was not uncommon, but it had a very unusual ferrule-- unusual because it was about 2 3/4" long. Jimmy's cue had a similar ferrule; he handled the cue repairs at Sequoia Billiards and I suspect he was behind the long ferrules, which must have been put on for looks. Jimmy sold Hoppe cues, and I bought my first one from him for $21. Along with a Brunswick case ($12.) similar to the one Paul Newman carried in The Hustler I'm happy to say that I still have that cue and case today!


When big name players went on the road to perform in exhibitions, they always faced off against a top local player. When they came to Sequoia Billiards in Redwood City they played Dorothy Wise, and I saw Dorothy play exhibition matches at Sequoia Billiards against Joe Procita, Jimmy Caras and Willie Mosconi. For my friends and I seeing players of that caliber was just short of seeing God. We'd see the announcement and wouldn't sleep at night waiting for these events to happen. We were there waiting when these players walked in the door of Sequoia Billiards.
The big name players always won these matches, and it was always a great show. I remember Caras had a high run going when he hit 125 to win. Then, for the benefit of the crowd, he kept shooting to see how far he could go. Willie Mosconi was all business Caras was very personable. He demonstrated some fundamentals before going into his trick shot routine, and spent some time urging kids to enjoy the sport. I remember Caras executing a length of the table draw shot. We kids thought we'd never see anything like that again.

Dorothy's husband Jimmy had one of the best strokes I've ever seen. After Dorothy played her match with Joe Procita, Joe stepped to the billiard table and asked the crowd if they had any particular 3-cushion shots they'd like him to attempt. No one had any, until Jimmy came out from behind the counter and set up a complicated shot. Joe looked it over and said, "That's very tough, I don't think it can be made, but I'll try." He tried four times and failed. Jimmy asked, "Do you mind if I try it myself?" Joe graciously said, "Sure." Jimmy made the shot on the first attempt. He had an amazing stroke.

I enjoyed Jimmy's dry sense of humor. Once, Jimmy put a ball directly in front of a pocket and said to me, "I'll give you $15 if you can make this ball." I immediately took him up on it and knocked the ball in. He pulled the ball from the pocket and examined it. "You didn't make this ball," he said. "This ball was made in Chicago in 1941." (They were and old set of clay balls)


As kids of that age will do, after several years I found new interests, and I drifted away from pool for a while. The last time I saw Dorothy was in 1967 or '68. I had taken up archery and was practicing at an indoor range in Mountain View California, at a rec center that also had pool tables. Dorothy was there doing a promotion of some sort and, of course, greeted me kindly. Dorothy and her opinion of me must have meant a lot to me, because I remember that I felt like a traitor standing there with a bow in my hand.

Dorothy Wise was wonderful to me during the years I spent playing and learning the game at Sequoia Billiards. I'm very grateful to her and to Jimmy. To this day, deep down, I feel bad that I wasn't holding a cue the last time I saw her.

(Born in Spokane, Washington in 1914, Dorothy Wise was a seminal figure in women's tournament pool. In her early years, there were few national tournaments for women. As the winner of many state and local competitions, she became the self-proclaimed world champion. Then, beginning in 1967 when the Billiard Congress of America staged its first national women's tournament, Dorothy won five consecutive U.S. Open titles. She was inducted into the BCA Hall of Fame in 1981, and died at the age of 80)

Note: I hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed recalling these wonderful memories

08-28-2006, 09:19 AM
Thanks for the story. Although I grew up in the Bay Area, I didn't see Dorothy until the 1969 US Open in Las Vegas, which she won. As I recall, she and Geraldine Titcomb were the only female competitors who had any power in their shots. How far women's pool has come.

I also saw her around 1970 when she ran the regional collegiate championships at Stanford. At that time Stanford had a dozen or so pool tables in a very nice room. They have no tables now.

L.S. Dennis
08-29-2006, 05:12 PM
Hi Bob,

Yeah I seem to remember that room on the Stanford campus. Wasn't it in a recreational building where there was also a bowling alley near by? I seem to remember some ping pong tables as well!

08-29-2006, 05:35 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote L.S. Dennis:</font><hr> Hi Bob,

Yeah I seem to remember that room on the Stanford campus. Wasn't it in a recreational building where there was also a bowling alley near by? I seem to remember some ping pong tables as well! <hr /></blockquote>
Yes, I think they had at least 8 lanes. The next time I was there, the pool room was down to 3 tables in really, really bad condition and the bowling alley had been turned into a computer center. A few years later, all of the tables and the computer center were gone and there was a fancy workout area. So much for student recreation.

Berkeley followed the same path. The Student Union had two pool tables the last time I looked, with red cloth. Go Bears.

08-30-2006, 08:48 AM
Bob that was a great story about Dorothy I saw her play in the 1967 US Open in Lansing Mich that also was the first tournament for 9 year old Jean Balukas.

On another note Stanford was born in Watervliet,NY, mine and Joe Canton's hometown.