'em up with the late
Norman 'Jockey' Howard
Norman 'Jockey' Howard was one of the early Johnston City players, playing in the first two all-around events in 1962-63. He was born Norman Todd Howard on January 3, 1936 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He died June 13, 2012. This interview was conducted in June, 2006.
© 2013 Steve Booth, OnePocket.org
1P: How are you doing, Jockey?
NH: All right. How are you?
1P: I am doing great, and happy Father’s Day to you.
NH: Thank you; same to you.
1P: That’s kind of nice that your son was able to come by and visit on Father’s Day, because you don’t see him that much, right?
NH: I haven’t seen him in about ten years; I am glad he’s in town. Where do you live at Steve?
1P: I’m up north of Boston.
NH: I was in Boston. I remember a poolroom it was just underneath a barber shop, down the steps. What’s the name; it was a little poolroom?
1P: It sounds like the Olympia, or the Tombs, I think they called it. They had some good players there. When you were there do you know if you played ‘Shorty’ or ‘Ingie’?
NH: Oh yeah. I knew ‘Shorty’ real well. Larry Johnson, ‘Boston Shorty’.
1P: Did you spend much time up here in Boston?
NH: Oh about ten days. That was all.
1P: Do you still remember who you played?
NH: I played ‘Boston Joey’. I almost had a problem there. ‘Cuban Joe’ started giving me a real rough time. See I beat ‘Boston Joey’ and ‘Cuban Joe’ was there and he started some trouble with me.
1P: So ‘Boston Joey’ and ‘Cuban Joe’ are two different people?
1P: Well, I am not familiar with ‘Boston Joey’.
NH: When I was in Boston it was 1964. He was a good player from Boston. He used to play with ‘Shorty’. ‘Shorty’ played good three cushion too. He came here to Detroit when they had the big tournament every year. I guess he’s passed away now.
1P: Yes he did. He sure was a great player. Were you up here by yourself or did you travel with another player?
NH: I was with somebody.
1P: Who were you traveling with at that time?
NH: A guy called Arnold Devereaux; they called him ‘Fox’. He wasn’t a pool player. He just had money.
1P: Well that’s good; that makes a good team!
NH: He was a real nice guy too.
1P: So did he back you a little bit then?
NH: Yeah, he did back me then. But I had money too. We were partners. We went through New England, Connecticut and Boston. I was also in Boston on the race track too, Suffolk Downs. That was a long time ago.
1P: So did you race harness or ride?
NH: No, I was a jockey, on top of them.
1P: Right. I believe Suffolk went to harness, that’s why I was wondering. So you rode for quite a while?
NH: Yeah. I was mostly galloping horses. I only rode about 40 races. I didn’t ride in Suffolk Downs; I was galloping horses there.
1P: So what does that mean; you’d give them a work out?
NH: Yeah, I’d gallop them in the morning, for their exercises.
1P: I understand; you didn’t usually race them, but you helped prepare them…
NH: Yes. But I raced them too.
1P: Okay. Well, pool has a lot of great characters, but you must have met some interesting people in horse racing too.
NH: Oh yes. I can’t remember all of them.
1P: So this friend of yours that you were traveling with, he was a gambler too?
NH: Yeah. He liked to play a little bit of pool himself. I was living in New York City then and then we went on the road together.
1P: Now what was his name again, ‘Fox’?
NH: Arnold Devereaux. They called him ‘Fox’. He was from Pittsburg. I was in Newark playing, and I didn’t know him. When the poolroom closed in Newark we went to New York City on 50th Street and played there. He knew me from when I was in Pittsburg but I didn’t know him. He came up to me and he said hi, and told me who he was and that he was from Pittsburg. He had seen me play in Pittsburg. It was 1964 when I met him, when I was 26.
1P: So you grew up in Pennsylvania?
NH: Yeah, but I left home when I was 17.
1P: And where was that in Pennsylvania?
NH: Uniontown, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburg.
1P: So you must have known Billy Mullins, because he was from that same area…
NH: I knew him real, real well. He is one of the guys that taught me how to play. He was from like Logan or Grafton, in Virginia or West Virginia. He showed me his house, where he grew up. But he wasn’t far from me about 70, 80 miles from my hometown.
1P: So he was one of the first guys that really brought you along as a player?
NH: Yeah, him and Earl; a guy called Earl Schriver from Washington, D.C.
1P: So you knew Earl Schriver, too?
NH: I knew him real well. He lived in my hometown when I had my broken leg.
1P: Ouch. So, could you tell me a little about Earl? He’s a guy I would love to hear more about.
NH: He stayed around my hometown for about three months. But by then I had seen him in D.C. and in about six or seven pool tournaments. He was a nice guy.
1P: He really got around to everywhere, didn’t he?
NH: Oh yeah.
1P: I heard he started playing One Pocket real young.
NH: Yeah. Did you ever meet him?
1P: No, I never met Earl; he was before my time.
NH: He was a good all around player.
1P: Yeah, and a heck of a hustler too; he had all the moves, from what I hear.
NH: Oh, he was real smart. You have heard about him before then?
1P: Yes. I talked to 'Weenie Beenie' and also Eddie Taylor and both of them talked about him quite a bit.
NH: Is Eddie still alive?
1P: No, I hate to tell you this, but he just died a few months ago.
NH: Oh geez. He had to be close to 90.
1P: Yes he was 85 at least but seemed like a happy guy right up until just about the end.
NH: Billy passed away too, Billy Mullins?
1P: I don’t know much about him. I haven’t heard of him for a long time so I don’t know.
NH: They called him the 'West Virginia Kid' in the pool circuit.
1P: He was mainly a 9-Ball player wasn’t he?
NH: He played 9-Ball and Straight Pool; I never seen him play One Pocket.
1P: But you would have seen Earl play lots of One Pocket.
NH: Oh yeah. Johnston City. He was a top player, Earl was.
1P: So when you grew up out there in Pennsylvania, were those guys the top players that you met while you were coming up as a player?
NH: Yeah. Billy Mullins came to my town. See a lot of pool players used to come here because they could get played. There were four or five people in Uniontown that played about the same. It took a good player to beat them. Al Miller came. Johnny Vevis, Jimmy Smith, quite a few of those guys use to come to Uniontown.
1P: And that was when you were just a teenager?
NH: Yeah. When the other players started coming, I might have been 20 years old, or 21, that’s when I met Earl [Schriver]. You had to be fortified if you wanted to do well in pool tournaments. They used to call him the 'Fagin'. You know why?
1P: I guess because he liked taking young talent under his wing.
NH: Yeah. He and Billy [Mullins] used to teach kids how to play. Earl would keep you up all night showing you stuff.
1P: How to play and how to hustle, right?
NH: Yeah. He was sharp.
1P: I guess Earl died back about 1977.
NH: Yeah. He’s been gone quite a while.
1P: So do you remember any of the things that Earl taught you?
NH: It’s hard to explain over the phone. He taught me a lot; so did Billy. See, they liked doing it; they liked teaching somebody.
1P: You hear a lot about how the older players in those days didn’t want to give up their secrets, but those guys were different?
NH: Yeah. It’s a hard game. You never learn everything.
1P: Yes it is. Why do you suppose they were teaching? Partly because they thought maybe they could make a buck on you?
NH: No, they just liked to do that.
1P: So it wasn’t just because they wanted to bring you around and get part of your action?
NH: They started helping me; they knew I loved the game.
Johnston City group photo from 1962
The 'Jockey' is at the far right end of the front row
1P: That’s great. So what was your main game at that time?
NH: 9-Ball, that’s what I played the best. I played One Pocket and Straight Pool too. I used to play 'Weenie Beenie' at Straight Pool. He played me 100 to my 70. But 9-Ball was my main category.
1P: When you played 'Beenie', was that when he had his poolroom?
NH: Yeah. He had Guys and Dolls in Arlington. He was the first one to have that poolroom.
I guess he is in Myrtle Beach now or something? Is he still alive too?
1P: Boy, I hate to tell you, but he just died within the last few months.
NH: 'Weenie Beenie' died too?
NH: What about Jack Breit, 'Jersey Red'?
1P: Yeah. He died a couple of years ago.
NH: I thought he had.
1P: At least you’re hanging in there real good!
NH: Yeah. How did you get that group picture [early group photo from Johnston City]?
1P: I’ve got an old copy of the 1969 program from Johnston City.
NH: I wasn’t there then; I only went in ’62 and ’63 and I never went back.
1P: Yeah, the program was ’69, but the picture was older. Who did you go with?
NH: I was with a guy called Bernard Rogoff, he was from Pittsburg.
1P: Oh yeah, ‘Bunny’.
NH: Yeah. ‘Bunny’. Oh man, we was really close. I used to go on the road with him all the time.
1P: So you and he had some good times on the road?
NH: Yeah. ‘Pots and Pans’, ‘Bunny’ Rogoff. Last time I saw him was in Toledo about seven or eight years ago. They were having pool tournaments there.
1P: Oh yeah. He still is alive; I just saw him in January. [‘Bunny’ Rogoff is since deceased]
NH: Where did you see him at?
1P: Down in Louisville, Kentucky, at the big tournament they have there, the Derby City Classic.
NH: Oh. You go to quite a few of the tournaments?
1P: I go to just a few, but that’s the best one. That’s the biggest one; there’s all kinds of players there.
NH: Yeah, and that’s where 'Cornbread' used to go?
1P: Yes. So you were on the road with 'Bunny'? Now when you were on the road with 'Bunny', how did you guys operate?
NH: He knew who I was going to play. He had a book that had the players names for me to play first. And then go up the ladder. See, I already knew that I could beat them. Some of them, I had a hard time with sometimes, you know? Me and Joey Spaeth were on the road together, too. He was a top player.
1P: Yeah. He was a very strong player.
NH: Yeah. He, he passed away quite a while ago. And I heard his son died too. His son became a good player.
1P: Very good. A champion bank pool player, in fact we put his son Gary in the Bank Pool Hall of Fame this year.
NH: I heard that was his best game, but I never seen him play when he could really play. When I met him he was only like 15 or 16.
1P: Yeah. I understand he came around with his father when he was a young kid?
NH: Yeah, they went to Johnston City. Afterwards I went with Joey to Cincinnati. That’s Joey’s hometown and we was on the road together. But I stayed in Cincinnati about two weeks with Joey. I miss him, too. Boy, he was a nice guy.
1P: So you got to meet a lot of the great, great players of that day?
NH: Yeah, the ones in my time.
1P: So, who would you rank as the top players?
NH: Well, Eddie Taylor and Earl Schriver; there was a bunch of them. Daddy Warbucks -- his name was Hubert Cokes. Don Tozier and Chris McGeehan (sp) -- a lot of the guys that were in that picture.
1P: So you pretty much recognized everybody in that picture then?
NH: Yeah. If I could see it good, I would know everybody.
1P: I’ll make as big a copy as I can and mail it to you.
NH: Okay. Then I can see everybody.
1P: I think I’ve got all but about maybe two or three figured out who they are, but there are one or two that I don’t know who they are.
NH: I would know, but that was a long time ago. I would know if I remember.
1P: So you were on the road with Earl? How old were you when you were on the road with Earl?
NH: I wasn’t on the road with Earl, but I was with him in Washington D.C. and in my home town. He used to keep me out to 4:00, 5:00, 6:00 in the morning showing me stuff. Remember the Fagin guy in that movie, Oliver Twist?
1P: Yes I do.
NH: That’s what they called Earl because he liked to teach people how to play. I liked him.
1P: So you left home when you were about 17?
NH: Yeah. I started on the race track in Wheeling, West Virginia.
1P: So let’s see, Wheeling, there were some great players from down that way too; did you know Bud Hypes?
NH: Oh I knew Bud and Chuck Morgan and Billy Mullins. They are all from up in West Virginia.
1P: Chuck Morgan is the one handed player?
NH: No, that’s ‘Nubby’ Morgan.
1P: Okay, different player. And did you ever play Bud Hypes?
NH: He was too good for me back then. But I knew Bud. He and Chuck Morgan were from the same home town, I am pretty sure.
1P: How about Brier Spivey? You must remember him?
NH: Yeah. I knew Brier. I was in his home town, Huntington, West Virginia. Brier Spivey, he has got to be gone; he was old when I met him.
1P: Yes. He died in about 1980. He had a lot of proposition games I guess. Do you remember any of them?
1P: So you came through his poolroom?
NH: Yeah. I was with Clem then, Eugene Metz. I wonder if he is still alive. He has got to be about 73, 74, 75?
1P: Or older. So you traveled with Clem also?
NH: Yeah. You know what he did? He dropped me off in Lawton, Oklahoma and told me what to do. There was a guy in there, I forget his name. He used to like to play the Army guys. See they had an Army base in Lawton. So Clem told me to go in there and play and lose to this guy for the first two days. He would only play for like $1.00 a game, but when you got him stuck he kept raising the bet. I ended up beating him out of 1,200. Clem had a lot of money. Clem was in Vegas. He dropped me off in Lawton, Oklahoma and he went on to Vegas and he told me what to do. And I went, and I beat the guy for about 1,200. I was staying at the Lawton Hotel; it wasn’t even completely built yet. I put the money in the safe. I’ll try and think of that guy’s name. I know he is gone. He was about 60 years old when I played him.
1P: That’s interesting, that you traveled with Clem for a while. I understand he was one of the best One Pocket players ever.
NH: Oh yes he was. I had seen him playing Eddie Taylor in Johnston City, and they was playing One Pocket and Taylor put Clem in a trap. Of course, Clem took a scratch. So Eddie took one and now Clem took another scratch, and another one. Back then they didn’t play no three fouls. Eddie got so mad he knocked all the balls off the table and quit because he just kept taking scratches. Even if he took 100 scratches, it gives him a better chance to win. If he takes 100 scratches, I’ve got 100 scratches, you know what I mean? That Clem, he was something else.
1P: So he was a real smart player, Clem?
NH: Oh yeah. He played everything.
1P: Yeah. I guess he played a real conservative style of One Pocket, too. I hear he was one of the best safety players ever.
NH: Yeah, he was, especially then. The only one who probably could beat him was Eddie Taylor.
1P: Yeah. And that was quite a contrast in style because Eddie liked to bank and run out!
NH: Oh boy, did he. I’ve seen him make some Banks, I just couldn’t believe it! Oh my goodness, you couldn’t believe some of the Banks he made.
The 'Jockey' with Willie Mosconi
1P: Do any of them come into your mind?
NH: Well you know it’s hard to explain. He just did things that were unbelievable.
1P: Yeah, I guess Eddie had quite the stroke too?
NH: Oh, it was powerful. You know what I seen him do playing Straight Pool? He had his break ball left. He made the ball and he went into the stack. It was so powerful that the cue ball hit the stack but it kind of bounced back a little bit and then it went forward again and went through the whole stack and scratched in the corner pocket.
1P: Wow, so the English pushed it through.
NH: Yeah. Oh man, what a stroke! Real powerful. I seen him do this playing 9-Ball, too. He had a shot in the side pocket and the next ball was lying on the bottom rail. He cut that ball in the side and he hit these other two to three balls that were in the way, and the cue ball came back again, and then took off forward right to the bottom rail where the other ball was lying for position. Do you understand what I mean?
1P: I think I get the picture.
NH: He hit the cluster of balls, two to three balls, then the cue ball came back towards him and then was trying to go forward again for a position. That’s how powerful a stroke he had.
1P: Wow, so the cue ball would actually bounce backwards and then go forward again?
NH: I know it was hard to believe. You had to see it.
1P: That’s really something.
NH: Yes. I was on TV with Fats once.
1P: Oh yeah? On his show in Chicago?
NH: No. I think it was either Macon, Georgia or Columbus, Georgia. I can’t remember which one. We was on the news for a little bit. Did you ever hear of Roy Gandy? He made the Gandy pool tables in Macon, I believe, or somewhere in Georgia.
1P: I don’t know much about that tournament. Was that the time they gave Fats or some of the other players a key to the city?
NH: Yeah. Roy Gandy had a steak house there, with excellent food. He took us all there, about 20 of us and he picked up the tab. He owned the place. He was a real nice guy too. I was only there one year I think.
1P: It might have only been a one year event anyway. But they had One Pocket there also right?
NH: Yeah. They had 9-Ball and One Pocket, I think it was.
1P: Fats played in it, so it must have had either One Pocket or Banks or he wouldn’t have played in it.
NH: I liked Fats a lot. He was a real, real colorful guy. He would make you laugh. He was a funny guy. So, Weenie Beenie passed away too?
1P: Yeah. I was looking at that picture from Johnston City and I think there are only about three or four players that are still alive in that picture.
NH: That’s what I thought. A lot of them guys were in their 40’s and 50’s when I was there in ‘62, ‘63.
1P: So you ended up just going those two years?
NH: Yeah, I never went back.
1P: Did you play in the tournament?
NH: Oh yeah.
1P: Just the 9-Ball?
NH: I played in all three: 9-Ball, One Pocket and Straight Pool. I think I was the youngest in it. Me or Danny Di Liberto; we had to be the two youngest ones there. Danny became a real good player too.
1P: He sure did.
NH: I think he’s in Vegas now.
1P: He’s in Florida now, and he’s definitely still alive. So I want to ask you a little more about a couple of the One Pocket guys that you haven’t mentioned yet; one would be ‘Rags’ Fitzpatrick.
NH: There was two ‘Rags’, there was a white one and a black one. The white ‘Rags’, he was from the D.C. area. I met him.
1P: That would be ‘Rags’ Fitzpatrick; did you see him play?
NH: No, I never got to see him play. I met him in a card joint. There were a couple of pool tables but he was playing cards. He was really a top One Pocket player too. I know he died; he died young too.
1P: Yes he did. He died way back before Johnston City, in about 1960.
NH: That’s right when I met him. I was in Arlington, Virginia in this little poolroom and he was playing cards. Earl and him, they grew up together; they were from the same poolroom in downtown D.C., on Pennsylvania Avenue. I remember that you could look outside and almost see the White House. I played Weenie Beenie I don’t know how many times.
1P: So you spent a lot of time around Billy Mullins and Earl Schriver. Who else did you spend time with?
NH: Eddie Kelly. He was a left handed player -- a fantastic player. He’s in Vegas I believe.
1P: And there is a guy that is still alive also.
NH: Oh, good.
1P: He still works in one of the casinos, as a dealer I think.
NH: Who else is there? There is some other pool player out there too -- Johnny Ervolino -- he’s in Vegas.
1P: Unfortunately he died about a year or so ago.
NH: He died too? Gee whiz. He was in New York when I was there. We used to go to the dice game together.
1P: So you were from Pennsylvania; but NY was where you went next?
NH: No, I was in Wheeling, West Virginia, then I came to Columbus, Ohio, then from Columbus I came to Detroit.
1P: So did you spend a good deal of time in those places?
NH: No, just about a week; I was with somebody from my home town.
1P: But when you got to New York, you stuck around?
NH: Yeah; I stayed a couple of years. They closed those poolrooms. Ames was the first one that closed, then 7-11. 50th Street was still going when I was there, but I heard they closed both those poolrooms now.
1P: Yeah. So you spent a little time in those two poolrooms?
NH: Yeah, the 7-11 and 50th Street. Ames was already closed, but I was in Ames when it was open. That was in 1954. I was on the race track, at Belmont Park, just learning, but I used to go to the poolroom all the time. I used to catch the bus and then the subway.
1P: Is, is that when you first met 'Jersey Red'?
NH: Yeah. I was only 18. He was in the poolroom. I had seen him in his home town poolroom too in Jersey, Jersey City. Boy he loved to play. Boy did he practice. I liked him.
1P: He worked at it huh?
NH: Oh yes.
1P: Did he try to pick the brain of the older players to learn from too?
NH: He and I were about the same age. Maybe three or four years older would be all. I was 18 when I was in New York City the first time and Ames was open then.
1P: So do you remember some of the players you bumped into in New York, back then?
NH: Well, there was 'New York Blackie', 'Jersey Red', and 'Boston Shorty' was there. He was hanging in New York when I was there.
1P: Did you ever see Andrew St. Jean? He was a great one handed player.
NH: I didn’t know him. Where was he from?
1P: He was from the Boston area, but he spent time down around New York in the 50s. But it might have been a little before you got there. I think he died in the late 50s. Did you see some of those other great one handed players?
NH: Yeah. Chris McGeehan could play good and ‘Little Miami’, and Ronnie Allen too. And ‘Nubby’ Morgan played one handed.
1P: Did you ever see ‘Aguzate’?
NH: Yeah; him and his friend Chico used to come to the 7-11 all the time. Chico, from Puerto Rico. He could play one handed, too. They are probably both dead now.
1P: I don’t know about ‘Aguzate’; ‘Miami’ is still alive.
NH: He’s here in Detroit.
1P: So you see him now and then?
NH: Yeah. I see him now and then. I don’t go to poolrooms no more, but he goes to a poolroom called the Hall of Fame on Mountain Road.
1P: Yeah. So when you were in horse racing, I know a lot of the pool players like to gamble on horses, so did they hit you up for tips and that sort of thing?
NH: Well, see no. I had never seen any of them when I was on the track. I mean, like in Detroit, I went back walking horses is all I did. I liked them. Yeah, some people would ask me.
1P: They wanted to know a little inside information?
NH: I knew when they were trying to win with their horses; the boss would tell me. Sometimes they don’t try. He would let me know if he was going to let him run. Sometimes they don’t let them run; you know what I mean? That gave me a little opening.
1P: Because you kind of knew if the horse was really going to run.
NH: Yeah. I knew if they were really going to run; even nowadays they do that.
1P: You mean, because when they run real hard, they could break a leg, like that horse in the Preakness?
NH: Wasn’t that something?
1P: So is that why they hold them back a little now and then?
NH: No. They hold them back so they can get the odds on the horse.
1P: Ah, to improve the odds.
1P: Well I would think that the pool players would definitely be interested in hearing that kind of information, wouldn’t they?
Norman 'Jockey' Howard
Publicity photo from Jonston City
1P: Yeah. Can you tell me little bit more about Clem?
NH: Oh. I liked him; he was a good guy. He was a pretty good guy, but one time I wrecked his car.
1P: How did that happen?
NH: Well, I made a left hand turn and I was in the wrong lane, you know what I mean? And I run into a car; it hit me. I wasn’t looking.
1P: Was he in the car with you?
NH: No, his nephew was, or his brother-in-law, I can’t remember; he drove me up to Pennsylvania and then drove the car back. But I paid Clem the deductable.
1P: You paid the deductable?
NH: Yeah. He had two cars, he had a new Oldsmobile, I think it was a ’63, and the other one was like a ‘58 or ‘59 Buick; that’s the one I wrecked. But I paid him the money. But he came to Detroit too; he came into the all night poolroom on Linwood and Cortland. A colored guy owned it.
1P: Did you see Clem play some great games now and then?
NH: The only time I really seen him really play was in Johnston City. But I heard he could play everything, Snooker too.
1P: Yeah, I guess Clem is about the same age as 'Squirrel'.
NH: Yeah. I liked him too.
1P: So you remember 'Squirrel' too?
NH: I was in his home town, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
1P: He is still alive and he still lives in Tuscaloosa, the same town that he grew up in.
NH: I’d like to see him again too.
1P: Yeah. Well if you come down there to Louisville in January, you probably can.
NH: He’ll be there?
1P: Yeah. He was here last year and I think he’ll be there again. He is playing pool a little bit again. He says he’ll play anybody his age.
NH: His age! Yeah. He always had a lot of cash too; I think he was booking or something.
1P: I know he likes to gamble, and he had a restaurant at one point.
NH: So he is playing pool again?
NH: He’s got to be older than me. He’s got to be 75?
1P: Yeah. I think he’s even older, 78, something like that. So, he was one of the players you enjoyed watching?
NH: Yeah, but Fats was the funniest. He was so funny and colorful. We were in St. Louis together for over two months; from Johnston City we went to St. Louis. Clem was there, and we must have stayed in St. Louis a couple of months. Then Clem took me to Oklahoma to see that guy.
1P: So, Norman, you got to spend some time with some of the great characters in pool.
NH: Yeah, I liked Fats. I liked Clem. I liked Joey Spaeth, too. I liked them all.
1P: It’s been great talking to you Norman.
NH: Same here Steve.
Johnston City photos courtesy JoAnn McNeal, 'Jockey' photos courtesy Charles Howard; all rights reserved.
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