Keystone Square and Shoppers Square – Christmas 1970

LittleKarlFrom 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 XmaDowntownabout.” 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 XmasSantabooming 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 Xmassnowmanthe 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 XmasBallsfriends, 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…

XmasWreathWe’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 XmasRoomReno 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!

Xmas_I80

• • •

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 XmasMenorah1967 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 XmasSnowmid-‘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? 

 

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Flicks & Quickies – just some loose text to update the outdated column…


KFB bow tieI’m often too embarrassed to let a dated column stay alive, for example the preceding Thanksgiving dinner column. But, I’m also too lazy to write a new one, as I am this morning. Thus, I go into the laptop’s disc and find one that hasn’t run lately, like this piece that was  mostly updated from a 1997 column and hasn’t been seen since 2002 about some folks, the University’s missing ceremonial mace, a mother’s shamrocks from the Emerald Isle,  old theaters and some darn good trivia. Here it is, unedited, and copyrighted by the RGJ under the hed
Flicks & Quickies:

How in the world would I know that Walter Baring worked at McMahan’s Furniture as a salesman in the very early 1950s if one of someone didn’t call me?  [This following a “why did you leave Walter Baring’s name out?” of McMahan’s on Commercial Row during a downtown text “walk”].   Baring was a dandy, went to Washington in 1956 as our Representative in Congress, our only one in those days as Nevada had only one seat.  “No one likes Baring except for the voters,” was the accepted mantra in Nevada politics – he served us in a long series of two-year Congressional terms until 1972, when he had a cardiac problem only days before the primary election.  And true to form, Baring didn’t hush it up.  He got beat by a relative nobody in the primary by playing off his formidable incumbent’s health problem; the nobody in turn got beat by another nobody in the general election.  Baring could have covered it up, won both elections and remained Representative until today, (notwithstanding the fact that he died in 1976, but as we see in the CNN sound bytes of several dinosaurs every evening – presence of pulse, respiration and temperature are not necessarily requisites of congressional delegates.)  The one-time furniture salesman got a major street named after him in Sparks, and in retrospect, he was a hell of a Nevadan.

            A reader a recent column about downtown Reno took umbrage that I didn’t mention Fenwick’s (art supplies) on Sierra Street just south of the tracks – I pointed that store out in a column last summer but I don’t mind saying it again: Fenwick’s was a wonderful store, and Jerry Fenwick remains today a northern Nevada history buff and the keeper of an extensive bygone day-photograph collection, and who, like historian Neal Cobb, is happy to let the community enjoy the old photos and has arrived in the 21st Century ahead of most of us – computer-wise – and is hard at work digitizing old local photos.

Or, you might like this one – this firsthand from Clayton Phillips during our many “Tuesdays with Clayton” before he passed away: Two popular Reno couples, Virginia and Clayton Phillips, and Nevada and Sessions (Buck) Wheeler, were sitting around a campfire in northern Washoe County many years ago – four late Nevadans who knew our state like the backs of their weathered hands, and loved every acre of it.  They dreamed up an icon that night: a baton, embodying all the elements of our state.  Over time, they found a suitable piece of native mountain mahogany.  Onto it they bonded some Carson City-minted cartwheels, some gold, silver, copper and other ores that Nevada produces; they affixed sprigs of sage and pine and fauna indigenous to our state and a host of other souvenirs embodying Nevada, like chips from some old casinos.

            They presented the mace to the University of Nevada, where annually University Provost Alessandro Dandini, a legend in his own mind, raised it with great aplomb just as Professor Post cued the orchestra to begin Pomp and Circumstance and start the graduates in their processional.  Count Dandini then carried the mace on high as he led the graduating classes onto the Quad for Commencement, as did Rollie Melton in the years to follow.  At Clayton’s memorial service a few years ago, where the featured music was Home Means Nevada, natch, the question was asked several times: Where is the mace now…? 

Next time you’re stop-and-going along Kietzke or Longley Lane, remember that either the guy behind you or the one in front of you, or both, aren’t trying to go north nor south, but in reality to the east or west, but have to get around that great big long airport runway that a young Realtor named Karl Breckenridge (the Elder) wanted to tunnel under when the costs were still minimal.  Ol’ Dad about got a net thrown over him for irresponsible babble like that – how ridiculous!  A tunnel or trench?

            And the moral is that some ideas are wonderful, but become less so as the infrastructure grows and costs skyrocket.  End of trench commentary, no position taken.  [For now]

            On the Saturday nearest St. Paddy’s Day each year we usually run the story of a shamrock – this year we’ll abridge it a bit to give it a rest.  The shamrock in question arrived yearly from Ireland just before March 17th, to be placed on the grave of a young Irish U.S. Air Mail pilot who crashed in 1924, while trying to drop a Blanchfieldwreath at Air Mail mechanic Samuel Gerrit’s funeral service in the cemetery behind the present ATΩ fraternity house. The leaf was mailed until the war years from the Emerald Isle by the pilot’s mother. After a number of years the shamrock quit arriving, but the tradition was resurrected a score of years ago by northwest Reno resident Barbara Rabenstine, who will journey tomorrow [written March 16, 1998 ] to Mountain View Cemetery to place a shamrock on the grave of William Blanchfield [pictured left].  Barbara, a friend and fine lady, has the dubious distinction of being a resident – three years old at the time – in the home that Blanchfield’s DeHavilland mail plane crashed into.  By the luck of the Irish, Barbara, her sister Betty and her family were away from the home at the moment of the crash on that hot August afternoon.

            Next time you’re riding about up by Whitaker Park, check out that home at 901 Bell Street, the only residence in America built by the U.S. Government, appropriated following a debate that took place on the floor of Congress.  The solons concluded that since a federal airplane wrecked the home, the feds should rebuild it, and so they did.  If you’re in that neighborhood, we’ll point out another home with a story, at 752 West Street, a home designed by Death Valley Scotty’s architect and later the residence of a University of Nevada president.

[Yes, the U.S. Air Mail airport by the present Washoe Golf Course was named Blanchfield Field in his honor, to be officially shortened in years to follow to the more obvious Blanch Field.]

A recent column “killed” the YMCA too early, in the words of Neill (two-ells) West. The boiler blew and the 1911 Delongchamps building was razed by the ensuing fire three years after our 1950 walk, which I meant but wasn’t what the text conveyed.  Neill was an Alpha Tau Omega fraternity pledge in 1952 and was working in the building, where he probably met Les Conklin the Younger, while Les was lifting weights when the building exploded.  (No doubt buffing up for a career selling heavy fur coats a block to the west for 40 years.)  Les questioned the date too, and I thank them both.  (Too many notes – I was researching our walk downtown and the fatal Greyhound building fire at the same time, a fire that did in fact predate 1950 by two years.  And I’m too old for multitasking.)

We’ll throw this out to get the pot boiling a little: Realtor Paul Crooks supplied a 1958 photo of Crooks Bros. Tractor Co. on two-lane Glendale Road, which he reported to be the first building ever built by real estate magnate John Dermody (and I suspect was actually constructed by McKenzie Construction.)  It’s still visible as the core building of mighty Cashman Equipment, your local Cat dealer.

• • • 

And now, to the flicks:

To hear from three favorite correspondents in one week is a thrill, and this week Pauline Carpenter, Neill West [text preceding] and Nevada history heavy-hitter Richard C. Datin all checked in.

            Richard is a gentleman.  A historian and prolific writer, and a nationally regarded authority on Nevada’s railroads, he’s more entitled than most to derail meWigwamCafe for an error, but only pleasantly nudges me that “…the Reno Theater you mentioned last week as being next to the Wigwam cafe, was actually just south of the Overland Hotel on the east side of Center Street.” He’s right, of course; an old photo at the Nevada Historical Society shows the “Nevada” theater, not the “Reno”, next to the Wigwam Café, from 1942 to 1948, when it became the “Crest”.  Mea culpa. 

            About 22 of you all claimed to have the neat clock, the one that we all remember over the fire exit of the Crest with the white hands and blue-neon rim, hanging in your dens.  Several people recalled never, ever sitting under the massive chandelier in the Majestic Theater.  (That chandelier’s featured in  1920s brochure about the Delongchamp’s rejuvenation of the Majestic.)  Several readers mentioned the wide seats – about a seat-and-a-half/three buns) – on the ends of alternating rows in the Tower theater, so that no seat was directly behind another.  Those who would neck in public places, the Pagans, generally grabbed those wide seats first.

             I mentioned that the Granada had no loges in 1950, prompting Pauline Carpenter to scold me for forgetting that the Granada had loges and balcony seating until a 1953 fire trashed the inside of the theater, when it was refurbished with no upper deck.  And I never argue with any lady who was a head Granada usherette during her senior year at Sparks High School (maiden name Pauline Keema).  Nothing escapes you readers…

And then I wrote: Sarah Bernhardt would be hopping mad: The tiny 3,800 square-foot office building in Sparks that Joe Mayer and I eke a living out of has four handicapped parking spaces, with two or three usually in use.  The new art museum on Liberty at Hill Street?  Four handicapped parking spaces.  Go figure…

And that’s the way it was, Spring of 1998. “God bless America” didn’t appear at the end of my columns until the Saturday following 9/11.

A Thanksgiving dinner in 1948

Freedom

Oh boyoboyoboy – we’re having our first Thanksgiving dinner in Reno since we moved here after the war at our house at 740 Ralston Street. And the best news is that the little red-haired girl is coming, with her parents and grandparents. And her baby brother Mike who like my sister Marilynn is still in a bassinet, unless they get loose somehow. A little birdie tells me that someday Mike will be a dentist and Meri will teach school in Napa for 32 years. But I don’t know that now. Rug-rats, Dad calls them.

SlimDad’s been working hard on the house. He’s got his friend Mr. Maffi helping him to 740Ralstonconvert the coal furnace over to oil. They put an oil tank on a stand that feeds the oil to the furnace by gravity, and while it hasn’t been too cold yet it really helps to get the heat up in a hurry. Dad found a tag on the old furnace that says “1905” so it’s pretty old. But we knew that anyway because the carriage house behind the house had a couple old gigs and axles and wheels in it.

All the neighbors are getting rid of the leaves that are falling off the trees everywhere. Last year, our first in Reno, Dad burned them in the curbside but this year they’re still green and won’t burn too well. Anyway, Mary S. Doten School is closed for Thanksgiving Day and the day after, so I’m going to write about it for my teacher Mrs. Angus to get extra credit against my deportment demerits so I won’t have to stay after school. For a while.

The Thanksgiving dinner is turning in to quite an affair, and a lot of work. Mom is peeling potatoes like crazy and will start soon on the sweet potatoes. The little red-haired girl’s mom is working on the stuffing for the turkey and her grandmother is baking some pies – apple and pumpkin. I got to help clean out a couple pumpkins for that pie. Mr. Thomas, who owns a little ranch south of town on a lane called “Huffaker” brought the turkey over. He’d already cut its head off so it’s in a burlap sack.

The little red-head’s dad made a temporary icebox out of his old Navy footlocker and went to Union Ice Company on the Lincoln Highway just west of Vine Street and got ten pounds of dry ice to keep everything in the footlocker, like the turkey and his mother-in-law’s pies, cold. Dad also went to his friend Mr. Chism’s dairy and got a carton of ice cream – he’s going to start marketing it year-round and would have already but no one has a way to keep it cold.

That seems to be the largest problem in putting together this dinner – all the people in Reno have little tiny boxes in their refrigerators for freezing stuff. If they even have a refrigerator at all – there are a lot of homes that just have iceboxes. So the grocery stores don’t carry much frozen food and there aren’t too many grocery stores anyway. Dad’s  friends the Sewell brothers – Harvey and Abner [whoops – might be Herb. But what does a six-ear old know? (All three were founders of Nevada Bank of Commerce)] – are building a big store – biggest in Reno – on Fifth Street between Fifth Street and the Lincoln Washoe MarketHighway. And a father-and-son, John and Bob Games already have a store downtown [pictured left] but are building a big market on the spot on South Virginia Street where the Shrine Circus used to be held [the antique store in the 1200 block!].  They will go a long way to improving shopping for big dinners like this one. The Gastanaga family already has Eagle Drug and is thinking of offering groceries as Eagle Thrifty. And we have the Twentieth Century Market out South Virginia at the south edge of town by the drive-in. Now all we need are more people with bigger refrigerators, which the American industrial factories can now work on since the war effort is over.

Within about four blocks of 740 Ralston Street, and most other homes in Reno, are maybe four grocery stores – Ralston Market at the bottom of the hill, the Quality Market at Seventh and Washington, the Hilltop Market on 11th Street and the University Market on 10th [Pub ‘n Sub!]. Oh, and the Cottage Grocery on Fifth Street also has a butcher shop which most grocery stores don’t, and the Santa Claus Market on Vine and Sixth is open on Christmas Day.

That’s how it got its name………

Anyhow, there’s no shortage of markets, but all are limited in their selection.

Mom says that a lot of groceries could be frozen for a dinner like this. Like the pies they’re making for dinner, the ice cream from Chism’s dairy, even the turkey. She says that someday turkeys will be for sale frozen, and people will have refrigerators big enough to store them. And Dad says he won’t have to go to Union Ice or Brickie Hansen’s market anymore to get ice cubes for the cocktails. Even the whipped cream will come in a can with some kind of pressure, like hair spray and room deodorant will also. Dad says she’s nuts – why would anybody put whipping cream in a can for topping? I just stay out of it. She is a little batty…

Dad’s friend Mr. Conrad is in the grocery business so he’s helping with some of the dinner. His wife Jean will be my third-grade teacher next year. They have a cute little daughter named Carolyn; she’s a couple years older than I but I’ll bet she’ll still be my friend 70 years from now. Getting dinner rolls is kind of tough this time of year; Rauhut’s Bakery carries them but we’re getting ours from Nikki Pistone, Inezwho lives close by on Sierra Street and cooks and people go and pick up what they order – rolls, sometimes other stuff and ravioli – she’s known by all as the best ravioli cook in town next to some lady in a house Halfway between Reno and Sparks. She’s good too.

The little red-headed girl’s dad is getting the wine – he’s a basko, whatever that is, but he has a lot of friends in Little Italy, walking distance from our houses! His friend Mr. Nieri [Aldo] has saved a couple nice bottles of red wine for us. Actually, they’re jugs – everybody who gets wine from Little Italy has to bring their own jugs and they get refilled from the wine the Italian people crush themselves. Dad says the druggist Mr. Ramos is going to start selling wine in real bottles with labels on them, in red, white and blush, which are the three types of wine now being bottled. Mom grew up in Petaluma, a hoot-and-a-holler from a little town called Napa which is the Portuguese capital of America. The Portuguese know wine and how to bottle it and age it and make barrels for it, but the Irish mothers wouldn’t let their daughters date the Portuguese boys. If I heard that once, I heard it a thousand times.

We’re having some guests – Dad is going to walk to St. Mary’s Hospital down the street and bring a couple of the Dominican sisters up the hill to join us for dinner. Mom knows one of them from Petaluma, which is close to San Rafael, which is the head-shed of the Dominican Order, that started St. Mary’s Hospital. Actually they started St. Mary’s School for Girls which was converted to a hospital in 1918 when Reno needed a hospital more than it needed a girls’ school. I’ll have to hear that story all night one more time. But it will be nice to see them. Last year, when we like many Reno people had ham for Thanksgiving because Dad couldn’t find a turkey, my mother’s Aunt Lola, an Irish Catholic nun loose in the Maryknoll Order came on the train from that order’s HQ in Dubuque, Iowa and she and Dad had too much of Mr. Nieri’s red wine, but we won’t  write about that dinner.

Anyhoo, it’s going to be a fine night indeed on Ralston Street. Dad’s getting out a bunch of his records to put on the changer and I asked him to include Peter and the Wolf. The takeaway for the whole article is of the way things are today in 1948, as compared to the way they might be 70 years later, in terms of putting a dinner together without what I guess will be called a big refrigerator with a huge freezer section, big markets with every grocery item known to man prepackaged or frozen or available somehow, and also some of the cooking tools available – microwave ovens, and range/ovens with such great capacity and alternate cooking temperatures. Think about that as you enjoy your dinner this week!

(Of course, this is only 1948 as I write this, so I know nothing about it….)

Happy Thanksgiving to all…

-o-0-o-

A note about the graphic: In 1941, FDR addressed congress with a goal to revolve around the so-called Four Freedoms —”Freedom of Speech,” ‘Freedom of Worship,” “Freedom from Want,” and “Freedom From Fear.”

Illustrator Norman Rockwell embodied those freedoms in a series of four covers for the Saturday Evening Post; the “Freedom from Want” was published five years ago just prior to Thanksgiving 1943 and immediately became the iconic representation of the holiday.

It is my understanding that Rockwell and the Post released the copyright on the four covers. The original covers are currently on display in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan

Photo of Inez Stempeck holding award, courtesy Guy Clifton

 

 

 

 

Walking the Golden Gate Bridge, 1937

GGBaGGB2The backstory:  In 1987 – I, as a Reno member of a San Francisco writing group and in an effort to get the membership off their butts and give up their Dick-and-Jane level of prose, challenged them to write a piece about what would happen should the Golden Gate Bridge fall into the Bay. As part of the challenge I wrote the first chapter, trying to inveigle some of them to get aboard and write a second, third, final chapter, each independent of the preceding author’s work. I threw down the gauntlet, but none came forth with any subsequent chapters. I said to hell with it and forgot about it until I was recently invited to write a SF-based piece on the Ol’ Reno Guy thing. I dragged the following out – it was typewritten, so I just recast it on my laptop exactly as I wrote it originally. Anybody want to add a chapter? Go for it; I’ll gladly make some space available here!

-o-0-o-

It was created on a tide-swept body of water a hundred feet more than a mile across, with currents ravaged by the influx of fresh water from nine major California rivers.

Eleven-hundred feet south of the San Francisco Presidio Joseph Strauss, generallyGGBJosStrauss credited as the designer of the project, began work on an Art Deco tower which, in the ensuing two years would rise 746 feet above the high-water line of the Bay. The tower would be built of steel boxes, three-and-a-half feet square, welded together in multiples and form the massive base, to then taper off as the tower rose above the water. It was topped with a flat plate, upon which would rest ten round steel pipes and a saddle to support a cable. The pipes and saddle were to roll freely during construction.

On the dry land of the Marin shore 4,200 feet to the north, another like tower was built, a duplicate of the one rising out of the water. When completed, skeptics swore that the two towers, viewed from a distance, had a noticeable lean away from each other toward their respective shores. In fact, each tower was 12’-6” off plumb; the cagey engineer knew that the massive load each tower would bear would tug the tops of the structures together to form straight lines. What the critics missed in the years to come was that the towers remain slightly off-plumb inward, to compensate for the curvature of the earth and thus appear parallel from a distance.

GGBcableOne morning a slim galvanized wire, about the diameter of a pencil lead, was stretched across the water, lifted to the top of the north tower, then allowed to sag across the span and rise back up to the top of the south tower. The wire, by then over 7,000 feet long, was connected to a steel eye in a 60,000-ton concrete block on the Marin shore. The spinning machine then pulled a like wire back along the same route, and it was connected to another anchor block adjoining Fort Point in San Francisco’s Presidio. When the spinning machine had made 432 trips across the bay, it had completed a 2-7/8-inch cable. It would make 60 more like cables on each side of the towers. With the completion of each cable, the saddle resting on the pipes atop each tower wouldGGBcableCloseup be moved hydraulically slightly toward the center of the span, so that when all 61 cables were complete, the resulting two 37” main cables for the bridge would be exactly centered on the top of both of the towers. Both of the sets of 61 cables were spread from the main cables and anchored at the Fort Point and Marin (Lime Point) anchorages. 

The two main cables, originally hexagonal, were compressed to round with hydraulic presses and wrapped with light wire. The pipes at the top of each tower, placed to enable moving the saddles, were grouted into place permanently.

Lighter galvanized cables, woven on shore in a plant on the Marin side, were suspended down from the main cables every 72 feet in groups of two, holding a steel structure which would soon support a roadbed six car-lanes wide and a sidewalk on either side. Consideration was give to the fact that most of the weight would be borne on one side of the bridge during the morning commute and transferred across the span in the evening as automobiles returned to Marin County.           

GGBlampsThe pavers followed, and the electricians placed the revolutionary sodium-vapor lights in the bridge’s Art Deco theme [pictured left]. While this work proceeded, the untold story remained the construction of roads leading through the Presidio and Waldo Grade, where a tunnel had to be bored. The access roads accounted for a major part of the expenditure for the bridge, but lacked the flair and excitement of high-steel work over a body of water!

The two slim towers, out of plumb three years before but now bearing the weight of 96,000 tons of steel plus 24,000 cubic yards of asphalt paving, pulled together to appear truly vertical. The massive concrete anchors for the main cables at either end of the span yielded, according to the best surveying techniques available in 1936 – and later confirmed by more modern techniques – not a fraction of an inch [the north anchorage is evident just to the north/right of the Lime Point landing in the photo below]. 

GGBnorth_anchor

 

On May 27, 1937 the bridge opened to foot traffic, followed a day later by the first cars to cross the span. The pedestrians, on this wind-calm day absent of any vehicles, could scarcely sense that the roadway beneath their feet, at the midpoint of the span, could rise or fall 15 feet, or swing toward the blue Pacific or Alcatraz Island a distance of 27 feet.

-o-0-o-

Fifty years passed, and on a bright day in late May of 1987, the noise of cars clicking across the steel expansion joins in the roadway abated, and a pedestrian crowd returned to relive the opening of the span. It was a day of celebration; a day when GGBaVinsonthe bridge reached its 50th birthday. The red-oxide paint on the structure, chosen as much for its rust-resistant properties as its Golden link to the Bay’s early heritage, appeared a little brighter than the day prior. The water below was bluer; the sun picked up the silver in the Goodyear blimp Columbia, slowly orbiting overhead, and the mufti of the ship’s company assembled on the flight deck of the carrier Enterprise, laying on the hook bayward of the Gate. The skies were clear, and the revelers could see the Farallones twelve miles to the west and the verdant hills of Mt. Diablo to the east. Indeed, not a day to be without extra film for the camera.

A two-inch valve opened in the air pipe supplying the foghorn at midspan, just as it had opened every twenty seconds during foggy days for the last 50 years. The rushGGBaTyphon of air powered the typhon to a throaty toot that could be heard to Alameda, temporarily drowning out San Francisco’s own Huey Lewis & the News, performing on a barge 220 feet below the bridge. The horn signaled that the bridge, for the first time in 50 years, was open exclusively to foot traffic. GGBaCrowdScene

People, eventually 800,000 of them, give or take a couple thousand, came in all shapes and sizes; in jogging shorts and late-1930s costumes. They came alone and in groups, some as snakes and serpentines, the old and the young, and those in-between, to walk the Gate. The crowd amazed even those who had years before become accustomed to the sea of humanity convening annually a few miles away during the Bay-to-Breakers footrace.

A Golden Gate District shuttle bus stopped at the Sausalito Vista Point, and deposited another 40 celebrants. Among that group was a family with Bay Area roots. Indeed one of the group – the matriarch from nearby Petaluma – had walked the bridge when it opened in 1937. Some came from near – Napa – others came over the Sierra from Reno, and one journeyed from faraway Tucson. They had come, as so many others did, to walk the bridge as a family. Some might have the opportunity to do it again 50 years hence at the bridge’s centennial. For others it was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. They walked down the slight grade, directed by the matriarch: the large, the small, the old, young, middle-aged; the good, the bad and the ugly.

-o-0-o-

Five-hundred-ten feet above the group, far from the noise of the crowd, unseen by any living thing save for possibly a seagull resting on a cable clamp, and only a few hundred feet south of the Marin tower, a suspension cable, 2-7/8 inches in diameter plus the thickness of the galvanizing and some 25 coats of red-oxide paint; a cable, scheduled to be replaced in a dozen years pair-by-pair; a cable which, with its miles of neighbors had supported the span under which passed the soldiers and sailors who waged then returned from three world-wide military conflicts.

A cable which had tacitly overseen Marin County grow from a bedroom community GGBconstructionto a major force in the Bay Area economy, twisted, unwitnessed. A few bright strands of wire appeared through the dull coating of paint. The family below, intent on the music of Huey Lewis and the messages being scrolled across the flank of the blimp Columbia, didn’t feel any movement under their feet, nor did they see the few falling flakes of red oxide paint, dislodged by the cable’s splaying. They couldn’t see, five-hundred feet above in the bright morning sun that a side of the cable, which had hung in shadow for five decades, had twisted slightly and was now illuminated by that sunlight.

The massive weight borne so diligently by that cable had been slightly cast onto the strands of the adjacent cable systems, and the Petaluma family far below had no way of feeling that the neighboring cables’ load had been invisibly increased, and that their strands too, had rotated, ever so slightly.

The geometry of the German engineer reliant upon every component doing its job was literally beginning to unravel. As the matriarch led her brood under the Marin tower toward the throng now approaching them from the Presidio, they missed the real drama, slowly but inexorably taking place five-hundred feet above them, that would reshape not only their lives, but the fate and future of the entire Bay Area…

 

 

Don’t tell Mom….

LittleKarlThe following is a tale of the Grandpa without a Clue. To elaborate, at a family gathering in San Mateo recently assembled some folks, dear friends all. On Saturday a cortège was leaving my younger son’s home – sons and daughters-in-law, grandkids, grandfathers, grandmothers – a lot of grand people in a flotilla of cars. The trip was to be short – through a quiet neighborhood to a youth ballpark where two granddaughters would play in separate games. The Final Boarding Process began. My grandson Andy spoke up: “I’ll ride with Grandpa Karl.”

I sensed a bonding moment. He examined my nearly-two-decade-old Miata ragtop rice Miatarocket, fire-engine red and looking as if it were going Mach One, when in reality 65 MPH was about all it wanted to go. But it looked hot. Andy, now 15, offered to drive. “I can get us there.” Having lived 62 more, I sensed the peril of his request. “You have a learner’s permit yet?” I asked. “Working on getting it online. No,” he responded, strongly reminiscent of his father in 1982, absent the “online” afterthought.

“How bad could this be?” I pondered and flipped him the keys. “Don’t tell your Mom,” Mom was now aboard a car enroute to the ballpark. I entered the passenger side, he the driver side. I noted that he didn’t pull the seat forward, owing to his frame well on the way to his father’s 6’-4” range. He cranked up the tiny engine. He slipped it iAndyBnto gear and made a smooth start up the avenue. “YouKFB bow tie been driving your dad’s stick-shift much?” I asked. “Yup,” he answered. “Don’t tell my Mom.” We were off to the races. But not the game – he passed the turnoff to the ballpark. I just sat and watched, my mind going back to having his dad drive me around in my pickup in 1981. We didn’t tell Mom about that either.

I sensed my error in giving him the keys when we turned onto the El Camino. A right turn put us on to Highway 92, and a short block later a big swoop put the rice 747rocket onto the Bayshore. He slipped into fourth gear, then high. Approaching the SFO airport a Boeing 747 that had probably just ridden United’s Friendly Skies from Hong Kong for the past 13 hours was paralleling our route, low and slow in the clear blue sky with full flaps and all the gear hanging. “Take a good look; that’s the Queen of the Skies and we won’t see them in another year.” The death knell hasBeemer sounded for the Seven-Fours and soon they’d all be parked in Mojave, replaced by the Triple Sevens and the big Airbuses. Quite a sight. North we went on  US101, and in a quick glance in my outside mirror I saw a BMW 1600 in our wake, with an older gent in a jaunty driving cap, surely a grandpa, and an underage kid at the wheel. Curious…

T_BirdThe  light towers of AT&T Park came into view on the right. The Giants were in New York, but Jon Miller was on the radio, Pence was on second and Crawford was at the plate. Out Third Street to Van Ness and then Geary, turning south onto 19th Avenue. Looking around, the same Beemer was on our tail, but now with a ’57 T-Bird MG TDdriven by a kid with an old guy like me next to him, and in the inside lane a classic MG TD, with a youngster driving a geezer. Four old ragtops…curious.Muni

Past Coit Tower and the Golden Gate’s orange towers we went, a Goodyear blimp overhead, out 19th Avenue, Stonestown and the Parkmerced Apartments to our right, an SF Muni “M” streetcar on our left. A slight jog at Junipero Serra put us on Highway 280. “Wanna hit the Crab Shack?” Andy asked. I told him no, we’d better get to the ballgame to watch his cousins. Our speed was still OK. Crawford singled with an RBI as Pence scored in New York. And I looked over my shoulder – yikes. The trailing Beemer, T-Bird and the MG had been joined by an early ragtop ‘Vette – a beauty with another youth driving an old guy with a yarmulke then a red Fiat 124 with a young dude namedFiat Luca driving what looked to be my buddy Joe Fazio from Marin. We took up the whole three  southbound lanes of Highway 280. Still doing only 65, as student drivers with no permits should.

But passing Half Moon Bay, the blue Pacific to the west, I noted a black-and-white helicopter overhead, and joining the parade of ragtops in trail was a black Crown Vic, “San Mateo” on the white door over a gold CrownVicstar. We were busted. A CHP cruiser joined the Crown Vic, all with annoying red and blue lights. Then another. And into that mix, an old Mustang and a ’68 Camaro melded, with, you guessed it, underage drivers hauling grinning old guys. Turning off 280 in unison, a dozen old ragtops merged onto Highway 92 toward San Mateo, with half the police in the Peninsula following and by now three helicopters overhead. Highway spikes and flares crossed Highway 92 ahead. “What’ll I do?” said Andy over the deafening sirens.

“Punch it,” I responded.

Onlookers were mesmerized to see an aging red Miata, followed by XK120the MG, the BMW, the 124, a T-Bird, a Jag XK120 [left] that had recently joined the convoy, with another half-dozen old roadsters rise up from the pavement, gently lifting through the low hills of west San Mateo, not unlike Elliot and his friends on their bicycles with E.T. in the basket in the Extraterrestial movie. Thin smiles crossed the countenances of the Grandpas without a Clue, and I think I even detected a ETslight grin on the mug of a rather senior CHP trooper alongside the formation as it made its mass ascent. In the manner of airmen everywhere, we tossed a thumbs-up to the other Grandpas and their underage chauffeurs, barrel-rolled the red Miata back to earth to a full-stop landing on the ballpark parking lot, and Andy flipped me the car keys with a grin.

“Don’t tell Mom,” I reminded him.

And this essentially fictitious tale is dedicated by all Grandpas without a Clue to Grandmas with an Attitude everywhere, and to Moms, on Mother’s Day [when this piece was published originally. And yes, the “Grandmas with an Attitude” was in tribute to Gazoo columnist Anne Pershing, who passed away four days prior to the  piece’s appearance in the paper, and editor Brett McGinness let it stand as written].

Thanks for reading and believing, and God bless America.   

 

 

 

A third verse of Home Means Nevada

Nye

Our state song has a northern Nevada bias, which is not difficult to understand when it’s considered that most activity in the state took place in the state’s northern region, and the composer/lyricist of the song was from the north.

This did not set well in later postwar years with Las Vegas, hearing the song performed with its obvious northern Nevada references. Somewhere along the line someone wrote a third verse, with an obvious southern Nevada bias. Which is a good thing.

I learned of the third verse about a decade ago, and sent the lyrics to a counterpart of mine, a drive-by columnist in Las Vegas. He ran a story of the song and published the lyrics in his column. And it was offered to Las Vegas radio stations – the plea was, “who wrote this?” No one ever came forward.

It’s well-written. As our state approaches its 151st birthday on Saturday, I publish here the third verse, again, in the hopes that the lyricist who added the verse to Bertha Raffetto’s state song, may come forward or be revealed. In the meantime, I hope all northern Nevadans will refresh their memory of the original verses. Here’s the entire song:

Way out in the land of the setting sun, where the wind blows wild and free,
There’s a lovely spot, just the only one, that means home sweet home to me.
If you follow the old Kit Carson trail, until desert meets the hills,
Oh you certainly, will agree with me, it’s the place of a thousand thrills.

(to Chorus)

Whenever the sun at the close of day, colors all the western sky,
Oh my heart returns to the desert grey and the mountains tow’ring high.
Where the moon beams play in shadowed glen with the spotted fawn and doe,
All the live long night until morning light, is the loveliest place I know.

(to Chorus)

 AND HERE, IS THE MYSTERIOUS THIRD VERSE:

You may follow the modern freeway roads or the old Alejo trail.

at the Joshua tree where the sagebrush ends, to where men with a dream prevail;

From the mining sites to the neon lights turning desert night to day,

Where the Bighorn sheep graze the mountain steep, is the place where I long to stay.

 

(to Chorus)

Home means Nevada, home means the hills,
Home means the sage and the pine.
Out by the Truckee’s silvery rills, out where the sun always shines,
Here is the land which I love the best, fairer than all I can see.
Deep in the heart of the golden west, Home Means Nevada to me.

Words and Music of the first and second verses

and the chorus by Bertha Raffetto, 1932

The photo is of Nevada’s  first governor James W. Nye, seen here boarding the V&T in front of the Great Basin Brewery in Sparks, Nevada, on October 30, 1864 following his speech to the assembled students, parents and teachers of Elizabeth Lenz Elementary School in Reno on the day that Nevada was admitted to the Union, (sort of…)

Home Means Nevada © State of Nevada (donated by Bertha Raffetto); WordPress column © K F Breckenridge/Jas. W. Nye

 

Pedalin’ over Donner Summit – 1950 … some reader comments added at the end, Monday morning  

BodegaLast weekend I took off on my Schwinn over Highway 40, to visit my kids and grandkids in San Mateo, a bit south of Mills Field airport near San Francisco. And the fact that the six-year-old kid is pedaling to meet his son, daughter-in-law and their two pre-teen daughters – his granddaughters – tells the reader just how screwed up the chronology of this little story is going to have to get to make any sense at all!

So – that said – I packed up some peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and Oreos to keep body and soul together, and took off westward along Highway 40 to get there. Pedaling down the road, it dawned on me that this would be a good adventure to write about, so I started taking some notes in my little spiral notebook as I stopped to take each breather. And I soon realized that there’s a whole lot to write about, whether a six-year-old kid is actually driving a Honda (they make cars in Japan? MacArthur just signed a truce with the Japanese aboard the battleship Missouri a few years ago. Now they’re building cars?) Or keeping notes in a spiral notebook or with a digital dictating machine (built near the Honda plant!) [a vague reference to my actually driving a Honda on the trip; the point pretty-well lost.]

Thus along I go, taking lots of notes of stuff that needs to be written up and some BrownieCamerapictures with my Brownie Hawkeye camera. And the sheer volume of notes is growing. I make a decision: I’m going to target one or two things I see along the way in 1950 and write about them, and if anyone from Reno and Sparks cares about another trip to San Francisco, I’ll go back another time and get some more of the notes I made.

The guy at the A-frame bug station down along the Truckee River asked me if I had any fruit or stuff, I told him just a couple PB&J sandwiches. Once I wrote a whole column about the San Francisco Men’s Fishing Club down the hill on the Truckee that’s been there since 1903, and even talked to their lady in SF where the club has run from for so many years. The UP Railroad built the club to build up traffic from SF to the Truckee area. But at the last minute I was asked not to publish the column, so I didn’t. But someday I might.

I breeze through Truckee and rest at the train station and enjoy one of my 30068 Truckeesandwiches. A couple trains go by in both directions, and it’s obvious that the diesel electric engines are taking over – a few trains pass with steam cab-forward 30074 CabForwardlocomotives, but they’re really dinosaurs – the last one went through Reno on a revenue run a year ago, but they’re still the loco of choice, helping the diesels with the heavier trains. My goal is to get through Truckee along Highway 40, then ride my bike up Donner Pass, over the Rainbow Bridge on the highway, get a picture of that refrigerated trailer that went over the guardrail  and stayed at the bottom of that canyon for so many years! Dad always pointed it out when we drove down to Petaluma to see Grandma Frankie. But what I want to get to by daylight is the Southern Pacific roundhouse at Norden. I’ll make it OK.

The hill from Donner Lake up to Soda Springs is a grind, but I pedal it anyway, then ride along the road that goes to Norden. There’s a lot going on in that neck of the woods, but most people don’t ever see it because they stay on the main road. There’s talk that someday there may be a “freeway” alongside Donner Pass and Highway 40, that will cross the summit at a lower altitude. But I probably won’t live long enough to see that!

30078 Norden snowshed

I make it to the roundhouse, and there’s a cab-forward parked in it, being turned around to follow a train back to Truckee, acting as a brake. The “Mallets,” which they’re not but everybody calls them Mallet anyway, are still in frequent use on Donner Pass, but I was lucky to get to see one being turned on the turntable. I got a picture of it.

The second thing I want to write about hasn’t happened yet, nor will it for another two years, when the SP’s “City of San Francisco” passenger streamliner got snowbound four miles west of here in 1952. I’ve written about it before here, but 60020 Goldthere’s one story I keep trying to get told, the story of Jay Gold, a thirty-something employee of Pacific Gas & Electric, that had headquarters in Drum, a little to the west. Gold was the operator of PG&E’s Tucker Sno-Cats© when there were darn few of the machines in the Sierra. Jay heard about the stuck train, and spent the next four days taking his Sno-Cat back and forth, up and down the mountain assisting the rescuers and medical people tending to the people on the train. He worked about 18 hours each day, three of those days in blinding blizzards.

 The people finally got off the train and to Nyack, long story (I put a link to that saga at the end of this piece). No passengers were60098 rainbowlodge injured. Two SP engineers in a rotary snowplow were scalded to death when the plow overturned.

 And Jay Gold died, a month after the rescue was over. Cardiac arrest. He knew, as did very few others, that he had a heart condition, prior to the rescue.

 He worked himself to death, literally. His widow was entreated to a trust fund by the State of California, the Southern Pacific Railroad, and PG&E. But – to my knowledge, there exists no lasting tribute, plaque or remembrance of the man. And I’ve looked, and written of him in the past. To no avail.

It’s been over 60 years, but I’d still like to see Jay’s name somewhere around the scene of the stranded streamliner, or Truckee. Maybe on the train station which has become a popular tourist stop.

 Funny, all this coming from a six-year-old writer……..

 OK, I’m pedaling down Highway 40 again now, to the last stop on this visit with you and for my second PB&J and the Oreos. We’re going to the place Jay worked, to the power plant and reservoir that many grownups get a big kick out of calling “dumb DrumPowerPlantforeplay,” whatever that means that gets everybody yukking it up. The place was there a year or two before the UP railroad went by it, and the owners put up their own railroad to the UP trackage to help build it. It’s actually known as “Drum Forebay,” and is now a major operation of PG&E, and as a matter of fact is the point at which PG&E sells and buys power to NV Energy and other utilities. The forebay – reservoir – was named for Frank Drum, an early California power executive who was instrumental in pulling a number of entities together into mighty PG&E.

 And Jay Gold worked his Sno-Cat out of Drum [pictured above]

 And with that, I’m going to sign off. I’ve a lot more notes and one of these days I’ll write again of my Ralston Street-to-San Mateo adventure!

 I’m dedicating this column to my 1949 next-door-neighbor who rides with me on many of these adventures, Henry Philcox. Hank is a half-a-year older and a school HankPhilcoxgrade higher than I, and now lives on the southeast coast. I saw him when he was in Reno for the Reno High School Class of 1958 60-year Reunion last month, from which he left for his home not knowing whether Hurricane Florence had spared it.

 She had.

 Hank will be back riding along with us soon…!

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The six-year old-kid took the liberty of adding Joan Anglin’s comment below – it’s too good not to get out to the world:

“I remember driving from San Francisco to Reno in a snowstorm. We were just creeping along, and everybody was behaving themselves, except for the people in front of us who kept flashing their high beams at the Truck in front of them. Nowhere to pull over, so we just kept on going. Finally there was a passing lane, and the truck pulled over slightly and then curved back and blocked the lane.

“The driver got out, walked to the back of the truck with a baseball bat and without a word broke both headlights of the car behind him. He got back into his truck pulled over and let everybody pass. The car without lights pulled over behind the truck and that is the end of the tale as far as I know. I wasn’t on a bike either, but in the 1947 Packard that was Jack Reimers pride and joy”

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Ol’ RHS buddy Dee Garrett just checked in; here’s what he had to say:
“Way back in the late 40’s myself & neighbor Mat Conlin ventured out on a bike ride to Verdi.

“I am sure we had our peanut & jelly sandwich as well as a package of hostess cupcakes for a snack.

“With our one-speed bikes either from Oden Cycle Shop or Western Auto Supply we ventured west thinking that the trip would be a breeze. It kind of was until we got to that long upgrade road near Verdi that crosses the river and our legs & one speed bikes were pooped out. Oh yes, we were maybe 12 & 13 years old.

“Not having cell phones and knowing smoke signals will not be seen in Reno we got a message somehow to Mat’s mom to came and rescued us & she did.

“Lesson learned from this, wait until the better & lightweight bikes are built and that we have grown up & had better sense .

“So that is my take on a bike ride to Verdi.

“Keep up the great stories no matter how old you are.”

Dee Garrett

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The location of the stranded “City of San Francisco” here 

Norden turntable photo © Southern Pacific Railroad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An open letter to readers and friends:

cropped-kf_headshot.jpgI posted a comment on Facebook earlier in the week that was somewhat cryptic by design – I didn’t really want the comment to ripen into a retelling of an old and sad story. I posted it in a moment of pique at the propensity of some to keep bringing up unpleasant moments for all to read. Those impacted by such will take their grief to their graves; the rest of us, essentially unable to do much to assuage their feelings, look past the articles. Then, I realized that I was guilty of doing the same thing, bringing up a sad story that’s been in the books for 60 years. The post served no purpose. I write of happy things. If I don’t, which I occasionally don’t, I make no bones about it and it’s usually crystal-clear who’s in my crosshairs. But this post was unnecessarily acrimonious, so I pulled it.

I’ve lived in this burg, so far, three-fourths of a century; was blessed with a steel-trap memory and the ability to ferret facts from a variety of sources. In 35 years of writing about our town I have received, three or four times a year, “tips” from well-meaning quasi-sources to the effect of, “Hey, there’s a great story for you about a shoot-‘em-up in a motel ‘way out west (which may be offered by the tipster as east, north or south) of town, back in the 1960s (which may be ‘70s or ‘50s) and the guy took a couple sheriff’s deputies with him (which he didn’t).” Or, ” You ought to write about the gang fight (which it wasn’t) in Paradise Park (where it wasn’t either) and a judge’s son was killed (a lad was hurt, yes, but no relation to a judge).” The case in point, the topic of that comment on Facebook that I made and subsequntly pulled, was of another tip I’m offered semi-annually: “Why haven’t you ever written a column about the mother (sometimes the maid or the babysitter) who shot her three (four, seven, or more) children in the fancy house on Larue (occasionally Manor or Marsh or Sharon or Nixon or St. Lawrence) and the husband came home and found them (which he didn’t).”

The tipsters for these stories, and there are others but the three cited are the most-often suggested, are on the right track, but a mile off the facts. Sheriff deputies and Reno police reënacted the OK Corral and shot up a motel west of town, ventilating several of Wilbur May’s Modigliani paintings and fatally injuring one local man. Another was the mother of all fistfights waged by some scions of local swells, resulting in one youth being in a coma for many months and eventually passing away, too young.

I know what tale the tipsters are getting at, and have copies of the police reports and the newspaper accounts. But never wrote about them. Managing the news is not a recent trend; I think the Reno Evening Gazette and the Nevada State Journal cut a few parties a little slack, particularly in the fistfight reportage, given the involvement of some well-known local parents.

From Day One there have been for me, two litmus tests that an event must pass favorably to go into print with my byline: Does a retelling do any good?  Sometimes, sometimes not; many of our better yarns are based on actual occurrences, and assuming that if they hold the fabric of our local heritage together, they have some value. The travails of LaVere Redfield or George Wingfield make good reading so we’ll give them a “pass” on the first litmus test. I’m not sure the three occurrences cited first above would pass that test.

The second test is, does the retelling of the story hurt anyone? Here, the three events fail miserably. In the cases of the police action at the motel and the fistfight, there walk among us a number of people who have some sad or bitter memories of each, and don’t need to be reminded for all to read as being the family of those involved. The third case – the one I used in my comment last week regarding the deaths of the children – happened in a home and no purpose whatsoever would be served in facilitating the identification of the address. Neither the people who own the home now, 60+ years later, nor their neighbors, need this story coming out of the barn. It’s not a tragedy that’s unfamiliar to many longer-term local folks but shan’t be resurrected by this writer. I have some knowledge of each one, from police reports I secured and the local papers, which tangled up a couple of elements of the stories. And any student of Reno High at the time remembers the commotion taking place a few blocks from our school for the latter one.

And as bad luck would have it, my dad, a real estate man, sold the house several months after the event. Twenty years ago the topic hit the spotlight, when there was a hue-and-cry ongoing about whether State real estate licensees were obligated to advise potential purchasers of such events occurring in a listed home. I’ll let the reader ask his or her Realtor© about that.

So there you have it – an encapsulation of self-induced standards that I’ve wanted to convey many times in bygone days, after people “suggest” these three topics. Or in one case, flabbergasted me by asking me to speak at a service club about one of these three, as if tragedy is the fare of a luncheon meeting. And there are a few other urban legends arising less often, and some that I know of that are downright hilarious – but the hilarity is borne upon an occurrence that might offend a surviving relative, so they’re topics I’ll leave alone.

The sum and substance of all this is that friends come to this website for enjoyment, and that’s what it shall remain!

 

Old Reno laundries!

Thumbs upHark, hark; arriving in the Lonely Writer’s Garret from the faraway Pacific Northwest, too good not to post (Italics are mine)

Dear Mr. Breckenridge,

I just happened upon your Ol’ Reno Guy site the other evening while reminiscing about how much Reno had changed since I lived there in the 1970’s and visited for the Reno Rodeo last year.  A few “things” never changed but most of the real old Reno seems to be gone or going fast. 

My reason for writing you was about someone looking for a photo of theReno Steam
laundry on Wells Avenue.  While I don’t have a photo to share, I do have some information about the laundry business there in the 1960-1970 timeframe. In 1972 I moved to Reno from San Francisco to work for an old boss who had purchased the United Laundry on Linden Street just off South Virginia and behind Park Lane Mall (and CBS Plywood!). The United  plant was purchased from John Jaureguito (spelling?) (spelling is correct) of JJ Electric and the Herrera family who had a motel just south of town and across from the old “Hangman’s Tree Saloon.” The name was eventually changed to Brennan Lines and was sold to Mission Linen sometime in the 1990’s I believe.  Anyway, the Wells Avenue laundry was the “Deluxe Laundry & Cleaners” run by a woman who all I can recall was “Rosie” and the plant was referred to as “Rosie’s Deluxe.”  In addition there was the old “Reno Laundry & Cleaners” on Lake Street at Plaza.  I have attached the only photo I can find of that plant right now but I do have others someplace!  Brennan’s later assumed all the business of the old Reno plant in about 1972-73 which included accounts in Truckee and around Lake Tahoe that Reno Laundry had assumed from the former “Fontana Truckee Laundry & Ajax Linen” located on River Street in Truckee (the building is still there). The Reno Laundry building was torn down and replaced with a parking lot I think by Harrah’s. The other laundry that closed up around the early 1970’s was Barbash’s “Sunshine Laundry” on Mill Street.  That plant did most of the old Mapes Hotel linen and uniform work. Later in the mid-to-late 1970’s Pete Cladianos built a small laundry across East Fourth Street from his El Rancho Motel practically under the Wells Avenue overpass; this plant did work for both of the El Rancho Motels (north & south) and for the Sands Motel on West Fourth Street.

Well, I really enjoyed your site and will have to follow it in the future. Keep up the good work and know that it is providing “mental stimulation” for us old Renoites who have moved on.

Sincerely,
R. Bud Holland
Tacoma, Washington

I read and re-read Bud’s excellent information, and finally wrote him: “This stuff is great, and I’m grateful! But – it’s too good and you’ve put too much work into it to keep it to myself – may I post it for all to enjoy?” He responded:

Hi again, Karl,

First, thanks for your fast reply. Sure you can use the material in your column any way you want. I went back and re-read my letter and I sure made a ton of mistakes in spelling and syntax; (actually, I made very few edits!) but at least you got the point.

Working in a laundry in Reno was always a real “experience” and a three-day weekend was pure mayhem with 20+ hour days to do a quick turnaround for the myriad motels then providing the only rooms in town – (Bud Horsley’s “Ace Motel” on Sierra Street, Bud and Cebe Loomis’ “River House,” the aforementioned Cladianos properties, etc.,etc.)… all before the “room boom” of the mid-1970s.

Most of the motels ran on what we called a “3-Par ” linen system (one on the bed; one at the laundry and one on the shelf for AM housekeeping changes) so speed and timing were critical in keeping customer satisfaction. A few of the sketchier joints out along East Fourth Street tried to get by with a “2-Par” with top down to bottom and bottom to the laundry! This could be countered by the “suggestion” of reporting to the county health department, so the customer would change laundries until the next laundry got wise to what was going on.

Truckee LaundryI started through some of my old packed stuff and found the attached uniform patch from the “Fontana” Truckee plant but still looking for the whole building photo of the old Reno Steam Laundry building (a huge brick structure from I’m guessing the 1890’s or early 1900’s). (We’ll give Bud a hand at the NHS) In addition I have acquired several old photos of that time period that maybe you or your readers can help me find the exact location in Downtown Reno.

Thanks again and look forward to perusing your site more thoroughly.  Oh, as a side note the column on “The Continental Lodge” got me onto the site, as that was where we closed the deal on the United plant, with a small loan from the Security Bank across South Virginia Street by the Holiday Market.

Bud Holland

And we’ll bet that Art Johnson was at Security to help him with the loan! This is a work-in-progress and you can bet that in days to come we’ll help Bud with some of those pictures and some supplemental information about old laundries! Thanks again, Bud – reader comments are definitely open and welcome – Karl

 

The six-year-old kid tours HRPS’ Harvest of Homes…

HRPShomes copyWell, we’re back to business around the house and the youthful miscreants from the Sunnyside/Whitaker/Vine/Peavine/Keystone ‘hoods are hard at it at Mary S. Doten and Central Jr. High schools. The Novelly brothers, Orville, Raymond and Orfeo, are building houses right and left up West Seventh Street, and Wesley Weichmann and George Probasco are on fire also, building east of Peavine Row. In a few years I’ll have to call Peavine Row “Keystone” when they bring that old street north of the SP tracks through the old Reno Press Brick quarry. Reno is booming!

LittleKarlMom and some of her friends are all worked up about a home show that’s going on next weekend. Six owners of nice houses have agreed to open their homes up and let people buy tickets to see them. The addresses of the homes are on the picture they sent out which I’ll try to attach above this mimeographed sheet you’re reading. (I’m writing this in 1949 but have to admit that you’re liable to think I have vision into the future, because I’m throwing all chronology out or I’ll never get this done!)

A bunch of people called the Historic Reno Preservation Society do this every year, and con a half-dozen Reno homeowners to contribute their homes, as I wrote. I type “contribute” because the proceeds of HRPS’s Harvest of Homes tour goes to some eleemosynary purpose like funding grants to beautify our burg. Most of the homes on display have some history or providence [which my ol’ buddy Mike Robinson wrote to say that I probably meant to write “provenance,” and he’s right] attached to them; above there’s a house on a street called Mayberry which once was called “Shewmaker” and long before that was the “Verdi Road.” I’ve learned in my nine years on earth that many streets in Reno got their names from where they went – “Valley Road” went to Surprise Valley north of town, “California Avenue” went to California, the “Purdy Highway” – early Virginia Street –  went to Purdy north by Susanville and so on. The Verdi Road went to Verdi.

The house on Mayberry is evocative (pretty big word for a nine-year-old, huh?!) of the tour. It had some shady dealings and owners for many years until a few years ago. Tim Elam and his wife Joan own it now. It opened as a resort just after the turn of the last century and was hell and gone (Dad says that but I’m not supposed to!) west of Reno and was a training camp for the “Fight of the Century” Johnson-Jeffries boxing match even although the century was only 10 years old. After that some bad guys named Graham and McKay ran it as a gambling spot and night-club called The Willows in the Thirties. The CIA could learn from them both, of keeping pictures out of the history of a place – I’ve looked for years for pictures of The Willows, but nada. The Elams have done a lot of work on it and bought a couple cabins from an old downtown Reno motor court and installed them in the back yard.

It’s quite a house – “Enchanted Gardens,” it’s known as, and really worth seeing. I got Mom’s mailer about the tour and am off to see some of these places on my bike before all those grownups get there on Saturday.

The members of HRPS, Historic Reno, oh, you know, do quite a job with the history of each house on the tour – the years they were built, the builder,, the architect, the owners of the homes and a little vignette about the owner or the house, like the two on Wonder Street and their link to Tony Pecetti. He owns the El Patio Ballroom down by the fire station where all the grownups who live in Reno, not the tourists who drive here, go to dance on weekend nights. It adds a lot of color to each house to know a little bit about it. I’m too little to go to the El Patio but any place whose motto is “Swing and Sweat with Tony Pa-chett” has to be a joint I’ll go to when I grow up.

The Pecetti pair of homes are on Wonder Street near my friends’ house on the top of the hill which, looking in my crystal ball, would become Baileywick’s burger joint in the years to come, and even deeper in the ball I see the Silver Peak Brewery in that old house. I pedal over that way but get held up by a V&T train on the tracks on Holcomb Street. That train will only run for one more year…

Not too far away is another house open next weekend, at 619 Sinclair Street. That’s a neat Reno neighborhood now in 1949 as I write this. I wrote you one time about the four Reno elementary schools – the 1911 “Four Sisters” or as Walter Van Tilburg Clark wrote in that new book of his,  the “Spanish Quartette,” but there is one elementary school in Reno ten years older than those four, “Southside School,” on Liberty and Center Streets. This Southside neighborhood is the nicest in Reno now, and the open house on Sinclair was built a year or so before Southside School. Dad and Mom know Dr. Hilts, the veterinarian who lives there now. It’s a nice house, more of a mini-apartment as this tour kicks off.

Two of the homes on the tour this weekend are in southwest Reno – the one at 1118 Nixon Avenue arguably the most attractive, at least to this nine-year-old following a bike ride across town. It’s got some beautiful trees and is in a neighborhood that’s developing nicely. The HRPS group’s handout is a beauty to read, even for a nine-year-old, and is typical of the monumental amount of research put into the tours, with the original owners’ names, architects, contractors, and quirky stuff like the fact that this home was once, briefly, a high-end school teaching dancing, French and singing, a virtual boarding school. Also in the handout is the account of burglars raiding a refrigerator in a garage, and another telling of a blonde Norwegian “Viking of the Air” who apparently turned down more than most men got in 1932.

Truly, a Reno classic house. And unbeknownst to anyone in 1932, a house that will be a half-block from mine 80-some years later.

A strong element of the tours is the knowledge and the training of the HRPS volunteers, who walk visitors through each accessible area of the homes (some areas of some homes may not be open, owing to privacy concerns or inaccessibility in conformance with ADA and safety standards). Those docent volunteers participate in many hours of preparation and are afforded the benefit and knowledge assembled following an incredible amount of research by a lady who I don’t believe was born as I write this in 1949. Her name is Debbie Hinman. And those 130-or-so volunteers are organized by a three-year-old named Linda Patrucco Doerr, a task the equivalent of herding cats. Carol Coleman is the boss of the whole shebang. There are a lot of yet-unborn or youthful people and parts to this puzzle in 1949. I, at age nine, will be stationed on the patio of the final house to be included in this tour, at 1300 Humboldt Street.

It’s a vintage Hancock & Hancock home, (we all know of the second Hancock, Melville D. who built some of the finest homes in southwest Reno in the latter half of the 20th century.) This home was designed and built by the earlier Hancock, Mel’s dad Homer, in 1940. The program calls him “Charles,” his first name, for which the writer of the program would be shot. He liked “Homer,” with his two brothers Heber and Hiram.

And that’s the kind of little-known stuff you’ll pick up next Saturday. Did I mention that local antique cars – the age of each home – will be parked in the homes’ driveways? I meant to…

Mom will be roaming around somewhere; come see me at 1300 Humboldt. My blue Schwinn will be on the sidewalk.

Tickets for this all-day show are available at Sundance Books & Music, Moana Nursery, Marcy’s Gallery and Gifts, Labels Consignment Bowteek, St. Ives Florist and Rail City Garden Center.