Last weekend I went with Dad to the new Commercial Hardware store on East Fourth Sreet and wrote about it. I got a little wordy so I cut off the news at 1,100 words and promised to finish it later in the week. Well, here goes:
The topic was hardware stores as they exist this year, 1948. I wrote about Commercial Hardware and Reno Mercantile but there’s a few others that need attention also. So, again I hop on my bike and ride down the Ralston Street hill, going now straight through town down Virginia Street to Builders & Farmers Hardware, and no, Mrs. Angus, there’s no apostrophe in their name. I checked. HA!
That store is in the 1200 block of South Virginia Street, across the street from where Mr. Games opened his new “supermarket” [yeah, it’s an antique mall now]. It’s one of Reno’s best hardware stores on the main floor, but Dad’s friends Mr. Karrasch and Mr. Ackerman let a few of their friends put a model train layout in the basement of the store after WWII. The train layout got bigger and bigger until it now takes up the whole basement and there’s no room for stock. But the train layout is a real humdinger (Dad’s word) and a lot of men come in to see it on the weekends. Some even bring their own train locomotives and railcars. The “scale” of the trains is huge – bigger than our little Lionels and American Flyer trains we have at home. Some say it’s an “O” scale but it’s actually bigger – the track is O guage but the model trains are bigger than O. But if I’m going to write about Builders & Farmers Hardware I need to write about its basement and the trains. (In the same breath I have to mention our neighbor Dr. Stanley Palmer, who was the Dean of Engineering at the University of Nevada who had a huge train in his basement across University Terrace from the Whitaker Park tennis courts. Both basements smelled like electrical ozone when the trains were running!)
OK that’s one hardware store I wanted to write about, now I’ll pedal my way over to another store near the Food King Market and across Wells Avenue from the new post office on the corner of Ryland and Wells. It was Bogart Brothers Sunday Hardware at 215 South Wells. Originally, a small building and then later, they built a much larger building more to the west. Carl Bogart and his brother Larry ran the place. It was a great store because it had its own parking lot and a lot of men liked it for that reason. Carl was very friendly but Larry was a crab, so I tried to deal with Carl. Carl became the mayor of the City of Reno in the early 1970s. Larry, who cares? (I’ll probably have to scratch that out. I was going to remark about Tawnee Bogart, the drop-dead gorgeous rage of our first-grade class but I KNOW I’d have to scrub that inclusion.)
Bogart Bros., as their sign read, was typical of so many small hardware stores after the war. There wasn’t a great selection of stuff – stuff was pretty much one size, or one color, and if that’s what you needed, the part you bought there would almost always fit. A duplex outlet cover would always fit. But there was a trend forming, to bring out items with a choice of material, or color, or size. The day was coming when there might be two, or four kinds of duplex outlets, or light switches with a paddle or a mercury action, or a nut with SAE or Whitworth or metric sizes and hardware store owners had to carry them all to be competitive. I found this out when my friend got a bicycle made in England and our wrenches didn’t fit. It was hard on small merchants. But I’m only seven; what do I know?
Onward I rode this morning, to another popular hardware store. This was a long ride for I had to go all the way to Sparks and way out 8th Street, which I hear the City of Sparks is going to rename “Pyramid Way,” because that’s where it goes and everybody calls it that anyway. This hardware store only opened a few years ago during WWII. A guy named Carl Shelly, who I would know until he passed away many years later, was a heck of a historian about Sparks and the railroad, and was one of the Washoe County Commissioners who was instrumental in gaining federal funding for Virginia Lake, back when there were only three commissioners. Carl opened his hardware store in an old balloon-roof hangar on the Green Brae airfield. This was a busy little airfield, when there were quite a few airfields in the area, like the one they called “Vista” down by Kleppe’s pond and the Hillside airstrip up by where someday they’d build a school and call it Clayton.
But it’s 1948; I’m only seven and don’t know anything about Clayton Middle School yet.
Carl Shelly carried almost everything it took to open a house and set up housekeeping, and was the go-to hardware store when Dad’s friend Mr. Probasco was building houses like crazy at the east end of Sparks. And Mat Gibbons, who changed her name from Matilda because no one would buy a house from a lady, was selling Probasco homes like hotcakes to returning veterans under the G.I. Bill.
Carl Shelly was a good man. He and his friend Tom Swart, who also grew up in Sparks, were instrumental in getting the Nevada Historical Society going again after the war, and in forming the Sparks Heritage Museum. Someone ought to write about them someday. (! OK)
I’m going to fast forward (that’s a funny expression; what the hell is a “fast forward” in 1948? Why did I even write that? And why did I write “hell”? Mom will be really mad when she sees that) to 1963, which is far beyond what the six-year-old-kid ever wrote about, because I want to include a couple really nice men in this compendium (pretty big word for a seven-year-old, huh?) of hardware stores.
Their names are Gene Parvin and Bill Spiersch. They opened a hardware store in Keystone Square when the whole town was seemingly moving toward Reno’s northwest. They held sway there for many years and were wonderful merchants and friends, and even did some residential landscape design and installation. They opened a branch location briefly in the Village Shopping Center by Reno High School, but scaled it back. Their store was P&S Hardware, a dandy. Gene died in an auto wreck in the Sonoma Wine Country; Bill is still very much with us and still a wonderful friend to many.
And that said, yrs. Truly will revert to age seven and pedal on back up the hill to 740 Ralston Street. My neighbor friends Don Hartman or Hank Philcox are waiting to see where we’ll ride next; c’mon back in a week or two – the days grow longer and we can all take off on another adventure!
write the six-year-old-kid at email@example.com
ADDED AFTER PUBLICATION:
Don Hartman writes:
“Hi Karl……Wanted to get your memory going:…………
1) Do you remember when 9th and 10th, crossing Ralston, were dirt roads? How about Nevada St. from U. Terrace up to 11th…..dirt. The alley between Ralston and Bell St., dirt. Of course, even in 2019, the alley between Nevada and Ralston still dirt. Do you recall when 9th (dirt) went all the way across Nevada St. through the cemetery behind the ATΩ house , and connecting with the paved Street. east….no dead end.?
And Karl responded, Yes; Don, your recollection is much clearer than mine but all the assertions look to be on target then and now… and one home on Nevada Street was owned by the architect of Death Valley Scotty’s resort in Death Valley. And Reno streets are spelled out through Tenth Street, and use Cardinal numbers above that.
2) OK….how about this: Do you recall at road construction sites in the 1940s – early ’50s, had round, black, steel pots about the size and shape of a small volleyball with a flattened bottom so to stay upright in the street? The pots were filled with oil or kerosene and the top of the pot lit so a flame would warn motorists to be careful of the road work area at night? We had great fun, once, kicking a pot over on Nevada Street at a road construction site and watching the flaming oil flow onto the dirt street!!
And Karl responded, read my post about the Donner Ridge fire above Truckee in 1960. whan the smoke from the fire was so intense and the power was out that airplanes couldn’t land, and a couple hundred of those pots were lined up on either side of the approach to the north-to-south runway one-six, to provide landing pilots a ground reference/
In all your RGJ writings, I never saw you mention the above. Of course, I have not read all your wonderful 73,684 RGJ articles of memories of good old Reno’s long gone days, either..
And it’s only 72, 199 columns thus far! said Karl
Your Ralston Buddy, Don Hartman”
O boyoboyoboy – I get to go this morning with our neighbor Mr. Sala and Dad to Dad’s old classmate Mr. Horgan’s new hardware store on East Fourth Street – it’s 1948 and the store’s only a year old. We’re going because Dad and Mr. Sala like to barbecue meat and they need one of those new-fangled gadgets for the backyard where they can start a fire in it then put food on the grate over the fire. And have a couple cold Tahoe beers while they’re at it…
So into the back seat of the ’41 Chevy I go and they pile in the front seats. Mr. Horgan’s store is east of town a few blocks; his father started the first one in 1904 and named it for the street it was on – Commercial Row. There were two hardware stores on Commercial Row – the other was Reno Mercantile a block east of Commercial Hardware in an old building with a creaky floor that was built as a Masonic hall. Dad said that it should have been torn town a long time ago – thought it might be the oldest building in Reno and I think he was serious!
But this morning we’re off on East Fourth – what a great new building it is – it has new lights that the Nevada State Journal wrote an article about – they’re called “fluorescent” lights – long skinny tubes that glow and light up the room – no bulbs hanging down. More stores should get them. The new Commercial Hardware is huge and has all kinds of stuff – it’s hard to imagine that a hardware store could be much bigger.
The new store’s location was picked in line with the old Commercial Hardware and Reno Merc stores – close to the train tracks. Commercial Row was named that because of Reno’s early dependence on the commerce of the Comstock, and the V&T came to Reno daily from the mines in Virginia City. And the agriculture of Carson Valley relied on railroads. That’s why so many stores that relied on mining and livestock were on Commercial Row, like Cannan’s Drug, with all the veterinarian drugs for animals. And mining supplies, like carbide for the miners’ lamps. Neat stuff – get it wet and it makes acetylene gas for the miners’ head lamps. Or flush it down a toilet if you want to move the porcelain commode across the restroom of a service station. But I’m only six years old, so don’t know about that. Yet.
Commercial Hardware’s new location also benefited from the railroad; in its case the Western Pacific Railway, that connects with the Mighty SP down by Louis’ Basque Corner. The WP served the Sierra Valley, and every morning it brings milk, livestock and produce in to Reno and points beyon, and has a lot of industry along its right-of-way. It now keeps its locomotives in an area between Evans Avenue and the University of Nevada, where my crystal ball says will someday be the Fleischmann Agriculture Building. And its locomotive repair shop will someday be a coffee house on Record Street. But I don’t know that yet; it’s only 1948 now.
The railroads’ influence…
One of our teachers, Mr. Leimback, told us about how Reno was built around the railroads, keeping the industrial and food-oriented businesses like Commercial Hardware and Nevada Livestock close to the railroad tracks. He was a neat guy. Like most of our post-WWII male teachers, he had earned the right to teach in the big schools, like Reno and Sparks, by teaching in some cow-county (that’s Dad’s word, not mine!) school. The State Education Board had that rule, so most of our men teachers knew our state pretty well – the mining and the ranching.
In years to come we’d meet David Finch, who was the no-nonsense principal of Reno High School and put that school on the national map after taking over its reins after it opened on Booth Street in 1951. Mr. Finch, who wouldn’t let us sing “There is nothing like a dame” in our senior assembly in 1959, came to town from Stanford University, (where he was on the Indians’ boxing squad) through the little silver mining town of Rochester, a hoot-and-a-holler east of Reno by Lovelock. Looking back we’re glad he wound up in Reno. Even although we had to change our song to “…a girl.” (Which we did for the final rehearsal, but in the actual performance our underclassmen and parents heard it just as Hammerstein wrote it: “…like a dame.” We sailors paid for that stunt… Mr. Finch, in retrospect, was probably one of the best education administrators to ever hit Reno.
We got our “barbecue” gadget that morning, which wasn’t easy in 1948 – it would be five more years before they really became available. I read once that some guy working for the “Weber Steel Company” that made round steel buoys, cut one in half, took it home and put a grate on it and the Weber buoy company thereafter became Weber Grills. Don’t know if that’s true, but I learned early the words of Mark Twain, not to let the truth interfere with a good story. And that’s a good story!
So, we’ve toured Commercial Hardware and Reno Merc with its squeaky floors and bats and birds zinging around the store, and walls that creaked whenever a million-pound SP cab-forward steam locomotive passed across Commercial Row. Then. And it didn’t get any better.
And as usual, I’ve used up ‘way too many words, 1,019 on my page-counter on my yellow lined tablet that I’m writing this on after Dad and Mr. Sala and I returned to our homes on Ralston Street across from Whitaker Park. And I’ve no pictures that aren’t protected by that picky-picky “copyright” thing that I’ve been warned about. So – I’ve several other early hardware stores in Reno, and of course Carl Shelly’s on Green Brae Avenue in the Rail City, Greenbrae two words then, had opened during WWII and I want to have some space to say something nice about Carl Shelly, whose influence on Sparks’ history, with his friend Tom Swart’s, would endure for 40 more years. So to keep this from getting too long, I’m going to wrap it up and get back to the other hardware stores in a separate column in three or four days. Now, the Great Gildersleeve is on KWRN radio so that’s where I’m going. Meet you right back here midweek.
And I’ll point out a milestone that we’ve all reached together: The Six-Year-Old Kid has been pedaling his Schwinn around the village, splitting participles and using run-on sentences since his first column, a no-brainer was written out of boredom during the Super Bowl game of 2017. Two years later, he’s still six years old; he’s grown up once in a while so he can ride his bike with his buddy Henry Philcox, but usually returns to 740 Ralston Street. He thanks you for riding with him…!
firstname.lastname@example.org – lemme know if I have permission to post your comments!
A comment about David Finch: “Hi Karl, I was so glad to see mention of David Finch. Senior year, I was in his Human Relations class. We had to write an essay every week. It was the best class I took until graduate school in Anthropology 15 years later, and the skills he helped us develop were the best preparation I could have had.
One just can’t make prose like this up: “[redacted] on Pine Street, praised for slices and pies that unite Northeast-inspired fundamentals like scratch sauce and thin, eminently foldable crust with a West Coast openness to new ingredients and combinations.”
“…a West Coast openness to new ingredients and combinations…” the copy reads. About pizza, this is? “thin, eminently foldable crust…” Still about pizza, I s’pose. The bloviating continues, “…that unite Northeast-inspired fundamentals…”
This local writer was obviously intent on turning fun into hard work. Or, he fancied himself a food writer akin to Paolo Luchessi or Michael Bauer of San Francisco’s Chronicle or Sam Sifton of the New York Times but fate dealt a cruel blow and in Reno one writes about pizza parlors, endless restaurant openings in an area one can’t get to nor park near, and of food trucks on Friday nights.
But – I’m not a newcomer to the lordly advance of pizza from its plebian roots – last summer in Napa, or Sonoma, I know not which, but lean toward the latter because there was a modicum of parking. Sufficiently hungry to eat the ass out of a grizzly bear following my journey from Reno to Sonoma while threading my way through a couple of wrecks on Sonoma County Highway 12 involving otherwise extremely bright, trendy and interesting people who were over served as are many other motorists on 12 at afternoon wine tastings at the many vineyards along the way, my sister and I sat in a pizza parlor with a tablecloth as a well-coifed server asked if we wanted to hear the dinner specials. In a pizza parlor. With a cloth table cover.
“Dinner specials!?” I exclaimed to the joy of my sister and patrons proximate to our table. “I thought this was a goddam pizza parlor. How ’bout pepperoni and sausage for a dinner special? And a bottle of some beer that I’ve heard of before?”
I chuckled as I thought of my introduction to pizza, which was probably in the summer of 1959. I was pumping Flying A gas for Walker & Melarkey on the southwest corner of Liberty and South Virginia Streets. One of my buddies was a guy in town at the University of Nevada from Tonopah, his name was Peter Breen and he pumped gas for Buddy Traynor on the corner across Virginia Street. I’d help him clean his station between customers then he’d help me clean mine. I don’t think Buddy Traynor nor Myneer Walker or Jimmy Melarkey knew that, but that said, three finer men you’ll never meet. Then Pete and I would catch some dinner and watch our buddies cruise main. With the Wolfman on the AM radio, natch.
One night Pete said, “Gimme a buck and I’ll go get us some dinner.” I flipped him a cartwheel. He came back in a few minutes with this round thing, about the size of the steering wheel on Jon Key’s mother’s 1957 Chevy (robin’s egg blue). It was smeared with something that might have once been – or smelled like – tomato sauce, and had pieces of sausage and little chips of something in the sauce.
“What the hell is this?” I asked Pete. “It’s called pizza. Try it; you’ll like it.” And I tried it. And liked it. By the way, Key pumped gas also, but on Fourth Street.
So we had pizza more often. What had happened was, was that an Italian cook named Ralph Festina, who worked at the restaurant at the Colombo Hotel on the northeast corner of East Second and Lake Streets, in the shadow of the Mizpah Hotel to the east and the Toscano Hotel to the north, took unused food home – leftovers – which his bosses were glad to be rid of.
Someday I’ll write about the Toscano’s Sunday night dinners with their huge bowls of great minestrone soup. But not tonight.
Mr. Festina, you see was not only a great cook but an enterprising sort, and in short order was successful in establishing “Festina’s Pizza,” best in the west, with the fixins he’d purloined from Columbo’s. A new tradition was born; young swains would no longer take their ga-ga-eyed dates to the Mapes coffee shop for hot chocolate and apple pie, but around the corner to Festina’s Pizza. All together: On KOH radio, all knew “Oh, boy, what a joy, Ralph Festina’s Pizza” – he even had his own radio jingle, recorded in a studio downtown with some singers from Dr. Post’s music class on the Hill of the University.
He started downtown, but soon was able to build his own, stand-alone parlor – Festina’s – then across Virginia from Eugene’s and the drive-in theater, north of the Zanzibar; now housing a title loan office south of Clary’s across from the Peppermill. If those walls could talk…
Pizza was king, with few other suitors chasing it – the Pizza Baron over on West Fourth Street just west of the Standard Station on the busiest corner in the state of Nevada. And a “parlor” in Sparks whose name escapes me, and it wasn’t Bojo’s (yet!) nor at the bowling alley. But, pizza was coming, across America.
Pizza is a fun article to write about because the more I research the more I learn that no matter what I write it’s probably supported in fact on some web source or library. It came from Italy, the Bronx, Iran, China, Minsk or Copenhagen (bet on Italy). And it was invented during the time Christ walked the earth (Joseph and Mary were really looking for pizza, not a place to pay their taxes and the Wise Men brought not frankincense and myrrh but pepperoni and sausage), or it was invented by ancient sailors, or travelers by oxcart, by the Gypsies or the missionaries or in the late 1800s in Italy and brought to America by returning soldiers after WWII (bet on that, but all the other times cited are supported by thin research).
Well, maybe not the Bethlehem thing, but who knows?
Pizza chains were springing up – the one putting our little burg on the map was on a new street extension (of West Fifth Street westward from Vine Street and the Santa Claus Market.) Its name was Shakey’s – formed in 1954 and coming to Reno in 1959 – truly an instant legend in Reno, the precursor of so many others. With some screwy marketing notions, but they worked. Now we have TV, and see some even screwier marketing techniques – insurance on your pizza should you pick it up then get in a wreck, they’ll buy you a whole new pizza. Or, should you hit a pothole, unlikely in Reno but certainly a threat in some cities, you can call their 800- number and they’ll come out and fix the pothole.
But – I have to admit that when Pete Breen brought that messy, smelly round dinner back to our service station that night, I knew not that in 60 years a slight young dude would offer to recite the specials at a “pizza parlor” nor that a scribe would rave on about “…a West Coast openness to new ingredients and combinations…” with a “thin, eminently foldable crust…”
- • •
Come back next week; we’ll put up some photos of the stranded SP streamliner from Jan. 15, 1952
Photo © SF Chronicle
Our editorial staff last evening, New Years Eve, played hooky from our bounden duty to readers of updating this site, and instead streamed a classic: “Smokey and the Bandit” – the Bandit, Snowman, Fred the Basset, the Frog, Beaufort P. Justus, still ranking up there with Butch and Sundance and with Igor and Frawnkensteen for the three greatest shit-kickin’, no-brainer, New Years Eve flicks ever made!
Thanks for coming back and viewing – as in the past 12 years, the site in 2019 will be no different – poorly-written and -edited notes about God-knows-what, arriving on your screen with little or no forethought nor schedule – this year with hopefully a bit more reader participation, wherein I’m downplaying the “comments” feature of the site in favor of including my email address below and inviting everything from a short squib about a past column to your submission of a complete new column, that I can post for all to see. Don’ worry about the gramer or speling – I’ll fix that for you. Photos are welcome and encouraged with releases and accreditation, and no downer stuff – this remains an upbeat, non-political place to visit and relax.
On that score, I encourage newer readers to utilize the WordPress “search” function in the box below. Type in a keyword and then click the box and scroll down. You may just find what you’re seeking. If not, email me and I’ll try to help. There are over 420 posts on the site and I don’t know myself what’s posted here! But if it’s somewhere we’ll find it, or maybe just write a new one for all to enjoy.
Now – it’s the kickoff day to a great year, the sun’s out – let’s make a dandy!
KarlBreckenridge490@gmail.com (a new address for column/website traffic; don’t panic, the old live.com address still works. Usually.)
This eve following Christmas I’m pleased to welcome old friend Debbie Hinman to the website, demonstrating one of her many skills, e.g. writing a column. Debbie is the editor of the Historical Reno Preservation Society’s Footprints newsletter, and one of the better researchers and writers in our valley – some can write, others can research but a person that can do both is rare indeed.
The column, rich in the history of Reno and Idlewild Park, belongs in Footprints but she elected to let me have it for the Ol’ Reno Guy. I asked her for her photograph but she declined, so I dug up an old one I had of her addressing a joint meeting of the Nevada Historical Society and the State of Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. While there are several other people in the photo, I’ll just say that it was a warm, sultry afternoon and Debbie came dressed for the occasion so I needn’t ID her in the shot.
Debbie writes now, the first of what I hope will be the first column of many in the future!
While historical research is for the most part very intriguing and well, just plain fun, there is always that chance that you will discover something you never wanted to know. This happened to me recently at the Nevada Historical Society library.
I was scrolling through microfilm, engrossed in a story about testing amphibious jeeps at Virginia Lake, when my eye caught a fuzzy photo of a couple of jocular-looking fellows armed with rifles hamming for the camera. And what was that in the background? I zoomed in to try and get a better look. There appeared to be two buffalo standing behind them, in some sort of enclosure. Then I noted a reference to Reno’s Idlewild Park. Now several years ago, I did a bit of research on Idlewild for a Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation project. I had heard there was a zoo at the park in the early days and fascinated, I began collecting articles on the various animals contained there.
As background, the zoo began in the very early days of Idlewild Park, circa 1924. The first residents were birds and the initial plan was to include only “non-meat eaters.” By December of that year, the bird population included four large bald eagles and a desert raven. But the donation of a wildcat kitten and a fox by a local trapper began to change the face of the zoo. By September of 1925, there were also elk, antelope, deer and—buffalo. In 1927 there were enough buffalo at the park that Mayor Roberts negotiated a trade with the Sacramento Zoo: one buffalo calf for two monkeys, two swans, three raccoons (raccoons, really? All they had to do was check the storm drains in the Old Southwest) and an assortment of other birds. At any rate, by early 1931, the zoo population had soared to 167 assorted creatures.
The denizens of the zoo were always fodder for appealing newspaper stories and the buffalo were no exception. A very heartfelt obituary for Chief Shaggy Buffalo was printed in 1925. “Chief Shaggy,” whose real name was Bos Bison, was apparently a children’s favorite. Park officials believed he was poisoned but had yet to identify the assassin. The obituary stated that Chief Shaggy, who left a widow and two sons, Nickel, 5, and Jitney, 6 months, would be sorely missed. Saddened, I continued following the buffalo throughout the years, finding a second obituary for “Old King,” who at fifteen and fifteen hundred pounds, passed on to the Great Beyond in 1936. I was more philosophical about this passing; King after all had a long, cushy life being fed and watered in attractive surroundings, adored by his local fans.
Reverting to the 1945 photo of the armed men and buffalo that caught my attention, I read the caption and was properly horrified. True, these men were not actually shooting at the buffalo (which in a penned area in a park would be a true fish-in-a-barrel situation), but the buffalo were slated to be slaughtered for — a barbecue hosted by the Lions Club, likely attended by the very same children who visited them regularly at the zoo! They didn’t go peacefully, however. Reported the Reno Evening Gazette: “Vigorously displaying his resentment at losing two of his herd, the 1800-pound bull at the park felled one of the ‘hunters,’ Paul Mathews, and the park employee escaped only by crawling to a water hole in the corral. Pitchforks, lassoes and considerable footwork on the part of the wranglers were required before two 800-pound heifer calves were finally loaded in a truck for their last ride to the Nevada Packing Company.” A suggestion was made to include the troublemaking herd leader in the barbecue but it was argued that his meat would be too tough.
True, the barbecue was for a good cause, to thank locals for buying war bonds and perhaps the buffalo herd needed to be thinned for space considerations, but barbecuing and feasting on zoo animals just outside their former sanctuary still sticks in my craw. I’m just glad Chief Shaggy and King didn’t live to see that day.
Thanks, Debbie – send reader comments or recollections to email@example.com , and include your permission to publish them!
Meeting photograph Jerry Felesina family photo
- Hansel and Gretel and Ted and Alice,
an opera in one unnatural act
- Fanfare for the Common Cold in Ab Minor*
- Birthday Ode to “Big Daddy” Bach
- The Abduction of Figaro, a simply grand opera
- 1712 Overture (often mistaken for a later work)
- Toot Suite for calliope, five hands
- Suite No. 2 for Cello, All by Its Lonesome
- Perviertimento for Bagpipes, Bicycle and Balloons
- Shepherd on the Rocks with a Twist
- Oedipus Tex, and Other Choral Calamities
- Music for an Awful Lot of Winds and Percussion
An element of the concert will be a brief discussion of two musical events, moderated by Reno’s own Van Vinikow, Supreme Being of the String Beings, [pictured left] whose string-based ensembles have been enjoyed by many local people for many years. Also on hand will be Wenxiu Wlodarzyk [at right], the director of music history at Manhattan’s prestigious Julliard School, discussing another element of contemporary music.
Mr. Vinikow will speak of the creation of a musical key, cited above in the popular “Fanfare” and its origin in our own nearby Comstock Lode. The backstory is that Mssrs. Mackay, Fair, Flood and O’Brien were hosting a fête on the lower stopes of a mine in their lode for which they were lowering a Steinway concert grand piano, purchased only recently at Sherman Clay in San Francisco and brought up Geiger Grade by a team of Clydesdales, into the mine shaft. The cable supporting the piano broke and the piano landed on an unfortunate employee of the mine. Thus the key of Ab Minor came to be known, the key of A flat miner.
Mr. Wlodarzyk will reveal that a recent contest was adjudicated at Julliard, whose rules were that contestants, working in groups, were to write, record and publish the most annoying, repetitive song ever written; a tune which would make people wince in pain when its first few bars were heard, and moreover, a song that would emulate a song three- to five-hundred years old.
The names of the student contestants who triumphed were wisely withheld, but the winner, using the term loosely, was held out unanimously to be a groaner titled “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” about which one of its lyricists was heard to exclaim, “Let’s submit this bullshit and see if anyone will ever believe it!”
Regrettably, some took the song seriously and it has achieved a certain amount of notice.
This concert, of course, is also pure B.S. and should not be placed in your “things to do” folder…just funnin’ around
photo credit six singers Richard Termine for The New York Times. some text from The Music Man, other stuff from Peter Shickele
From a couple of ancient columns we post another offering of a bygone Christmas in our little hamlet:
Following a couple of “Walking” columns, I received an interesting email: “I’ve lived here for thirty years and I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I have a flash for this reader: There are people who’ve lived here twice as long who don’t know what I’m talking about either, and I occasionally include myself.
So to appease him (her?); we’ll only go back almost fifty years this morning to 1970 – there’s only 15 shopping days until Christmas, the Pinto’s warmed up in the driveway so we’ll drive to a couple of shopping areas. Park Lane Center, the granddaddy of local shopping has been open for four years now but we’ll start elsewhere and wind up there next week.
We like the Keystone area, as do so many people who moved into that booming area when Sproul Contractors started building homes in the first one-third of the 1960s. A mini-town sprang up with its own banks, cleaners, service stations, even its own disk jockey on KOLO radio – live from the El Cortez Hotel – Pete Carrothers, who romanced the so-called “Sproul” (northwest Reno) trade on the air, asserting that he woke up next to every woman in northwest Reno (leaving out the “if she had her radio tuned to 920 AM. Lucky them.) The hot spot became the Keystone Center, built by Al Caton, the owner of Keystone Fuel/Reno Press Brick, committing land formerly occupied by the brickyard’s quarry. It had a movie theater, and the hot spot we’ll hit this morning, Uncle Happy’s Toy Store, the best in the West. Sir Loin’s Steak House was a favorite, operated by a couple of young guys named Nat Caraseli and Bill Paganetti, who later opened a little coffee shop called the Peppermill in 1971. We might go back there for lunch, there or the Chocolate Pit, later to become the Coffee Grinder that fed a generation of local folks.
Across Keystone was the greatest drug store in Reno, the big Keystone Owl Rexall Drug, Jim Henderson and Frank Desmond, your genial pill-pushers. Jim has passed away; Frank is an occasional contributor to this column, both good friends to many. Many remember Jim doing TV commercials occasionally with two guys he met playing golf at Hidden Valley, whose names were Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. While it was occasionally difficult to ascertain what product they were selling on TV, if any, they were having fun, and we at home enjoyed their own localized Laugh-In. We’ll stop in there this morning on our shopping spree and pick up some gift wrap and stocking stuffers.
Traveling down Keystone Avenue, we can go over the fairly-new Keystone Bridge, through an intersection that pits motorists from Booth Street, Keystone and California Avenues together to the amazement of all when it opened. In the venerable Village Shopping Center by Reno High School were a number of old friends, like Safeway, Sprouse Reitz sundries, the Village Drug — a great complement to the Keystone Owl Rexall. The Mirabelli family had a record store there, later to move to Park Lane. A fabric shop that was there seemingly forever finally closed; the present shoe repair shop was probably an original tenant. P&S Hardware had a branch at the Village; Gene Parvin and Bill Spiersch making it easy for the burst of homeowner/fixit guys springing up in southwest Reno’s new homes. A Pioneer Citizens Bank branch. We can’t forget the Chinese Village restaurant, which had a number of names in years to follow, notably a Dick Graves chicken store, and would finally become the original Truckee River Bar & Grill. A lot of good grub has gone through that corner in forty-plus years.
The Village is a Reno fixture…
We’re still stumped with a few gifts so let’s keep moving; it’s approaching noon on a December 1970 Saturday so we’ll park at Shoppers Square on Plumb Lane (I wish that Security Bank on the corner had an ATM – I could use a little cash.) Like Park Lane across the street, Shoppers Square was open then between the stores; the roof came later. (What’s with shopping center owners covering their malls? We Nevadans are a hardy lot.)
Silver State Camera held forth in the Square, probably the largest camera store in Reno at the time. I got an Instamatic there; still have it. But nowhere to buy film for it anymore. Hobby Towne was head-to-head in competition with Park Lane’s hobby store, both good places to shop. There was a Spudnut shop, nothing like the original on West Fourth Street, not quite as crowded as Krispy Kreme would be 45 years later.
You can call it Savon, you can call it Osco, but you doesn’t has ta call it Skagg’s, the Square’s big anchor’s earliest incarnation [now CVS]. And my favorite store, two great merchants Hal Codding and Jerry Wetzel, who moved their ski-oriented sporting goods store Codding & Wetzel from Pine Street downtown (I wrote about it in conjunction with the Olympic A-Frame.) Both owners were fixtures in local skiing and the 1960 Squaw Olympics; Jerry would die a few years later in a skiing accident, while Hal brightened our town for many years to follow. I’d be derelict if I didn’t point out that Hal’s daughter Cindi married a good friend to many of my contemporaries and a Sigma Nu alum – Joe Murin – who recently was named by the RSCVA as Sterling the Butler, and if he can be half as dashing as his late [and ex-] father-in-law was, he’ll be a dynamite rep for our town. We’re betting he will be.
The hour draws late. Nod at Santa in the plaza, but don’t call him “George” and confuse the kid on his lap who thinks he’s really Santa. Maybe he is. ( [the late] George Randolph, the Square’s perennial elf and Hartford Insurance retiree) Let’s walk across Virginia to the Central Park lounge in the Continental Lodge for a hot-buttered-rum.
Cheers to 15 shopping days, 342 safe-days at Ralston Foods, and God Bless America!
• • •
DEC. 7 2018 FOUND THIS SQUIB IN MY TRAVELS AROUND MY LAPTOP; MIGHT AS WELL APPEND THIS TO THE POST (nothing goes to waste aroung here!):
This item hurts: The RG-J last week bore the news that Mirabelli’s Music City in Park Lane Center is closing.
The article noted that the store moved to Park Lane as an original tenant in 1967 from the Village Shopping Center, where it opened in 1956. The Village was Reno High turf, and we sent two of our finest, Gary Bullis, now a local attorney and RSCVA board member, and Gary Machabee, local office furniture mogul, to be DJs at Mirabelli’s live from the Village. They weren’t bad; Gary’s even keeping it as a fallback career. What the article didn’t say was that the store actually had tenuous roots even prior to that in Savier’s Appliances on West Second and West Streets, where it was the “Record Room.”
Good luck to Betty Mirabelli and to Buddy and Lori Lehman and their families, and our thanks for six decades of good tunes.
Epilogue: When Park Lane was opened by a bunch of local guys in the mid-‘60s, the detractors wagged “How could a doctor and a car dealer [among others] possibly run a shopping center?” Who knows, but they did, and it was a great, successful center. Now it sits dying, even while standing on the confluence of two well-traveled Reno streets, with acres of parking and easy access, thanks to some out-of-town experts who came to show us local yokels how it’s done. “Reno’s demographics changed,” they say.
Shows ya what “they” know … welcome to a couple thousand apartments … just what Reno needs. Merry Christmas to all and Happy Holidays to Dave G.
photo credits to damn near everybody; the RGJ, Pinterest, The Union for the great shot of I-80 at Truckee under snowfall, some are my own; others, who knows?