Let’s go thwimmin’

“Knock, knock…”

“Who’s  there?”

“Panther…” 

“Panther who?”

“Panther no panth, leth go thwimmin!”

FearlessNoTextJune 18, 2018: Here, a moment of six-year-old kid honesty: I started to write a column about swimmin’, and turned to an old column of mine for some research and dates and stuff. The more I read, the more I decided, to hell with all that work; I did it once, why not just run it again with a few tweaks. So, that’s what you’re reading here…! I wrote,

When you’re up to your, er, waist in alligators, it’s sometimes hard to remember that the objective was to drain the swamp. Such was the dilemma a fortnight ago when my focus was on two new downtown bridges we read of last week right here – the Sierra Street and Lake Street bridges. But as I pored over the microfiche in the mossy stone-lined torch-lit chamber reserved for me five floors below the Nevada Historical Society on North Virginia Street, a dozen other tempting topics beckoned, and this week those hen-scratched notes become a column. The towns’ old swimming holes loomed large.

We alluded to the original Idlewild Pool last week, and here I wrote of the concrete-a_poollined pool in the present pool’s location that was dedicated in 1937. The city parks department in the years prior to 1937 maintained the west pond of Idlewild Park created ten years earlier, with rudimentary creature comforts like changing rooms and a snack bar. (The present 50-yard pool, with an adjoining kiddie pool, replaced the 1937 concrete pool in the early 1970s.)

a_reno hotI found a great article about Reno Hot Springs, penned by now-RGJ editor Peggy Santoro a decade ago. “Reno Hot” as we called it was a bit of a challenge for kids on our Schwinns, being a mile or so up the Mt. Rose highway. But, on the days that we could score a ride from one of our parents, it was a favorite, with a big warm pool, a good snack bar and a vista all the way out to Pleasant Valley to the south. On the topic of that pool I’ll mention the minuscule rock housea_herz still standing all by its lonesome across the Mt. Rose highway south of Summit Mall: That’s occasionally cited as a last vestige of Reno Hot Springs. The straight story is that it’s a leftover from the Herz Hot Springs – a resort that went away in the 1930s, a hoot-and-a-holler east of Reno Hot. 

Peggy’s yarn evoked many pleasant memories, from dog-paddling with Marcie Herz as twirps later to the high-dive boards with Rusty Crook, which mercifully went LawtonToweraway in what most agree were the mid-1970s (the boards, not Rusty). Three meters off the water, they were, almost ten feet for us Yankees. Lawton’s pool, several miles to the west on the Truckee, had boards before my lifetime and replaced them with a tower, not only one- and three-meter platforms, but a 10-meter, reminiscent of Butch Cassidy’s famous line, “Can’t swim? Don’t worry; the fall will kill you!” Lawton’s was probably the most pleasant pool in Reno, when combined with its hot tubs to the east; rooms; and excellent dinner for grownups, poolside on warm summer evenings; and the Mighty Southern Pacific’s choo-choo trains plying the tracks next to it – which we kids enjoyed but in reality probably doomed both Lawton’s and its present forlorn cedar River Inn replacement. 

The Mark Twain Motel came along, across South Virginia from Park Lane, with a great pool available to the public with the added amenity of a cover, ergo a year-a_human corkround pool. (Photo credit above: Nevada State Journal, August 5, 1955) The other year-rounder was another favorite, the Moana plunge on Moana Lane east of the ballpark (it’s frustrating to cite a landmark as a location for a bygone building, only to realize that the landmark’s gone also!) Moana plunge or Moana Springs was on the present soccer fields west of Baker Lane, site of the bygone ballpark. There. The Berrum family brought us a lotta laughs for a hundred years out there. If you liked diving off the three-meter boards around town, then you’d have loved the infamous rope at Moana, where one could take the rope to the ceiling and jump while emitting one’s best Saturday-morning Tower Theater Edgar Rice Burroughs “Tarzan” yell and bailing off, hopefully to land in the pool and not in the snack bar, the locker room or on your best friend in the pool. How did we ever reach adulthood, one wonders…? 

a_deerParkThe Railroaders had Deer Park, one of the last public structures completed after the beginning of WWII, and still immaculately maintained by the City of Sparks. I’ll be reminded of others – the YMCAs, downtown until 1953 then on Foster Drive after 1955. Baker’s, mentioned in the Nevada White Hats yarn a month ago. The prohibited and banned swimming holes, like Highland Park reservoir, Virginia Lake, Charlie Mapes’ home on Mt. Rose Street, the ditches (you ain’t lived ’til you take an inner tube down the Orr Ditch under Ralston Street a half-block from my boyhood home!) The city fathers (no mothers then) voted in 1947 to create a pond by the Orr Ditch at Whitaker Park – “No, guys; we’re trying to keep kids out of the ditches…” That idea sunk, no pun intended.

A few leftover hen-scratches: How many knew that in August of 1923 a bath house and “beach” was built on the river at Belle Isle? (Old-timers know that Belle Isle is the island between the two bridges on Arlington Avenue.) Or that in the mid-1920s Reno’s earliest incandescent, outdoor electrical lights were first introduced in Idlewild Park? Or that the city had bought 300 bathing suits to rent to patrons of the new Idlewild Pool? The August 14, 1937 Reno Evening Gazette was silent as to whether bathing suits were optional; we tend to think that they were obligatory. And now comes the pièce de résistance of the whole column, if such there be: Reno mayor John Cooper and Sen. Pat McCarran were dedicating the new 1937 Idlewild Municipal Pool in long-winded and flowery oratory, when a 12-year-old bathing beauty of unchronicled name decided to hell with all that, dove in, and became the first lady to swim in the new pool. The children who followed would pay a nickel to swim, their parents a quarter. Thanks for reading, and God bless America!

© RGJ 2014

 Lets give some attribution for photographs: Old Idlewild pool, RGJ file; Reno Hot Springs sign, Marilyn Newton/RGJ; Herz Hot Springs rock house, Tim Dunn/RGJ; Lawton’s dive tower, Nevada Historical Society; news photo 7-Up stunt, Nevada State Journal; Deer Park, Sparks Heritage Museum

 

 

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Of Heaney and Herb

LittleKarlA fortnight ago I surprised Hank Philcox and a few others right here with my revelation that I’d written a Herb Caen column. Which was ‘way before disc, and I can’t now locate in print. But I will. [Caen pictured below right, atop the Fairmont Hotel]

My better inclusion in Caen’s column came in 1966, when a bad guy entered GeorgeHerbCaenFairmont Heaney’s pawn shop downtown and stole 18 uncut gems. The perp was cornered soon after by the fuzz, and taken to a room in the newish Reno police station and held until, well, until the gems reëntered daylight, ‘nuf said there. The crime was duly reported in the Nevada State Journal. And probably the Reno Evening Gazette.

 I – then living in Reno – wrote Caen at the SF Chron, 500 Mission Street, adding a dimension to the yarn. Remember at this juncture in time, one didn’t phone Caen ‘lessen they were named Wilkes Bashford or Willie Brown; there was no such thing as a fax in 1966, and the mere whisper of emailing a document would get one incarcerated for mental observation. Hence the Nevada State Journal clip of the yarn traveled to Mission Street via snail mail, together with my assessment of the caper.

 Nor was there digital access to the Chron following its publication, so the waiting game began. Filching a Chron each day after a few days had passed, to see if Caen had nibbled at the bait, a week went by. Then, pay dirt.

 “Our man in Reno Nevada reports that…” and so on, Caen’s usual making something out of basically nothing, and concluding with my comment.

 At this juncture I’ll clarify that I shared the same given name with my father – Karl – a  practice that should be made illegal in modern, computer times. He gets killed in 1971, Union Federal Savings calls my home loan. My mother, Mrs. Karl, passes years later, and my Visa card goes bye-bye. Can’t be too careful. But Hank Philcox, among others, know that my parents’ credo in life was, “What will people think?” What will people think of Karl Breckenridge, a bastion of Reno business, sending some smartass comment into Herb Caen. He was embarrassed; I was severely chastised. (But I loved it!)

 I asked society undertaker Ted Williams of Walton’s while dining at Brickie’s in preparation for my mother’s funeral service if I could place on my parents’ gravemarker at Mountain View, the simple words, “what will people think  now?” Ted declined. Oh well, no matter.

 Caen’s words and my comment were picked up in the Reno Gazoo back when it still had a local presence and a personality, and eventually received nationwide exposure when it was picked up by the UP, now UPI, wire service. Karl the Elder was definitely in the national bright beam, and boy was he pissed!

 Hank Philcox knew Flo and Karl the Elder, and can appreciate this story.

 Anyway, that was my shining moment in Herb Caen’s column,  not in the stand-alone columns that I and a few others wrote when he was hospitalized, c. 1983.

 Oh by the way, the comment was: “Reno records the world’s first 18-jewel movement.”

 No big deal…

 

 

 

June 8, 2018 • Let’s go to a movie!


VirginiaStreetNorthThis episode of my journalistic endeavor starts kind of biographically, if that’s a word. It started by me walking into walls and trenches and stuff ‘cuz I couldn’t see them, and not being able to see the board in Mrs. Conrad’s third-grade class at Mary S. Doten. She told my parents that I couldn’t see. They sent me to Doctor Magee, the elder, in the bank building across First Street from that new hotel by the river that just opened. He said that I couldn’t see too. Or also, whatever is correct.

LottaJPEGSo I got glasses – big ugly ones, for I was blinder than a bat and needed real “Coke-bottles” and they were. But I couldn’t keep them on my head and they fell off and I lost them and had all sorts of problems. Doug Bishop called me “four-eyes” and I punched him and got sent to Miss Cannan the principal.

About that time two companies, American Optical and Bausch & Lomb were in a joint-venture to make something called “contact lenses” were looking around the nation for kids like me – young, active, and blind as bats. Mr. Hamilton, the optician that made my Coke bottles sent them my name. They got hold of my parents. “We’ll give young Mr. Magoo a set of lenses, at no cost to you,” they said. My folks said OK. No one asked me.

I was taken to Dr. Magee, not Magoo, in the bank building and went through a bunch of gyrations to make contacts for me. About a week later, I went to Hamilton Opticians next to the Crest Theater and the lenses were put into my noggin.

I could see like an eagle, and they didn’t really hurt, even although they covered upContact-lenses-old-new almost the entire white part of the eye [old and modern pictured at the right] I couldn’t get them in or out too well, but I could see. Like I’d never seen before. And nobody called me four-eyes. I was Reno’s first successful contact lens wearer, and would wear them the rest of my life. And at one point, become one of the last people to still wear hard lenses, albeit a lot smaller than the first ones, in existence. I think they made them special for me in later years.

But, the reason for all this jabber tonight is, that I’m functioning, or not functioning, on one lens, the close-up lens (in later years one lens was for driving and distance, the other for reading and writing. I trained my brain to look through the appropriate lens.)

But as I type this I can’t see diddeley, nor will I ‘til I get a replacement next week. Therefore, (I started to type ergo but I’m only a little guy and don’t know that word yet) this column will be pretty short and have few pictures. Sorry ‘bout that.

Having used half a column with my personal BS we’ll now all go to a movie. It’s Saturday morning in Reno, Nevada; Big John and Sparky were on No School Today on KOH radio earlier, and we’re off on the bike to the Tower Theater!

The Tower is an old theater on the northeast corner of Ryland and South Virginia Street, at the near right in the photo above. It  shares a building with a bowling alley, and it’s not too hard to hear through the walls – a dashing young Reno columnist once wrote of the moon overhead, the trailing wake of the ocean liner, the tradewinds echoing soft violins as he looked deep into her yearning eyes in the Tower Theater, just as the toasted keglers on the other side of the wall in the Reno Bowl picked up a turkey third strike in the last frame and all hell cut loose. So much for romance. But this was 10 ayem, it was Saturday morning, and every kid in town, almost all under 15, was at the movie.

We all – 500 of us from all five Reno elementary schools, plus Billinghurst, Northside and a few from Reno High – remembered what happened last week. Our admission was the tear-tab from the center of the paper cap in a glass bottle of Old Home Milk, plus 14 cents. I’ll get argument about that, but I checked it out. A cap and 14¢, no lie. The theater had no loge, just a big, sloped floor, with pretty comfortable seats that would stay around Reno in various venues for 75 years, but that’s another story. Most remember that the end-seat in every other row was one-and-a-half seats wide, or wide enough for cuddling with an older gal with a medium-sized fanny. They were in great demand (the wide theater seats, not the narrow fannies.)

(Boy, Mom’s really going to be mad about that line…oh well…stet)

Our Saturday morning movie always started with two or three funnies – ones that wouldn’t be shown to children in another 60 years – coyotes getting blown up with Acme dynamite, rabbits run over by cars, pigs, (named Porky, at that!) being slapped around by their dates, cats beating up mice, an old guy in an Elmer Fudd hat with a shotgun, blind guys like me getting the raspberry from Waldo – bullying, abuse, violence – we were marred for life. We just didn’t know it yet!

Then we’d get the newsreel, and surprisingly it was pretty-well done – not too much detail, easy to follow, palatable even for a ten-year old – what was the latest on that asshat senator McCarthy and Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss? And the Rosenberg spy trial? Perry Como was singing Don’t let the stars get in your eyes, Patti Page – How much is that doggie in the window? and Dean Martin That’s Amore! Mickey Mantle and Pee Wee Reese lead the leagues in batting (check me on that; it’s been a while!) Thus we got our news…

Now, a serial. They don’t film them anymore. As we left last week, she was tied to the railroad tracks, the pianist was playing some ominous chords, the locomotive, maybe an old V&T loco once from Virginia City, was bearing down on her full bore with the bad guy holding a six-shooter to the hapless engineer’s skull (ahh, those guns and bullying again) while the good guy is throwing a switch to take the loco out of harm’s way and save the damsel. Would he throw the switch in time? We’ll know in a moment…

And, finally, the main course – a full-length movie, usually a pretty good flick, fairly new, sized for kids – no deep stuff nor heavy breathing. Nor naughty words. Almost. A fun time.

We left – our thespian needs satiated for another seven days – always with the carrot to bring us back next Saturday like a locomotive, having avoided the maiden tied to the tracks, but now left in mid-event while making wide-open-throttle toward the bridge that’s out over the 400-foot ravine to the raging river, the 3,000 nuns and orphans on the train unaware of their possibly pending fate.

Daylight was bright in midday on Ryland Street, but our bike, left unlocked blocking the street, was still there.

And we all had something to talk about for the week ahead…! Save a milk carton lid, Mom; I’ll need it next Saturday…

 

SOME GOOD COMMENTS FROM OLD FRIENDS IN THE ‘HOOD FOLLOW BELOW:

Report from old northwest Reno

Siig1

Siig2Anna Siig is a popular and gorgeous lass and was a young neighbor of mine in the late 1940s, when we lived up in the northwest. I was elated to receive in the mail from Anna a drawing of our old neighborhood that you might enjoy perusing. North is to the viewer’s right; the top of the drawing is the west end of Reno, Peavine Road (Row?) became Keystone, Grace Clough’s ranchhouse is south toward Reno Press Brick, (that’s “Cluff,” by the way, as in Cluff Road over off West Plumb.)

Note Rosasco’s chicken farm in the lower right, northeast corner of Anna’s map – that ranchhouse is still there today, now an optometrist’s office as you start up the Peavine/Keystone hill on the west side of the street. One of my playmates was the Rosasco’s granddaughter, whom some of you might remember later as vocalist Jan Savage. I lived just north of that ranch, possibly the most-northwest house in town; Hank Philcox was across Peavine. Anna and brother Hans lived where the Siig house is shown. Note the “Indian” cemetery further up what would later become University Terrace/W. Seventh Street. Enjoy!

Thanks, Anna…

The Six-year-old-kid is packing and moving – won’t post here again ’til mid-June……………. here are the Doctors of Sheep Dip who made it happen:

Snoshu[at left] Rollan Melton and Snoshu Thompson doing an old soft shu

I promised Dr. Lynnae Hornbarger [right] thatHornbarger I’d post the roster of eminent Doctors of Sheep Dip, and here they are…a few more were added in the past couple years; their names are posted following this list:

Doctors of 001

2017

Jessell Miller
Julie Ann Raum
Jeannine Reddicks 
Fred Scruggs
Amber Shivers
Rick Wilson
 
2018
Judianne Scruggs

May 13, 2018 – a pocketful of notes……..

cropped-kf_headshot.jpgLike that hed? A Pocketful of Notes – Dad buys a paper from San Francisco that comes to Mr. Savitt’s store every Sunday, and there’s a guy writing in there that I really like, even though I’m only six years old. His name is Herbert Caen; he’s from Sacramento and has been writing his column “It’s news to me!” in that paper, the SF Chronicle, since 1938. The “Note” thing is one of his sayings. Dad says he’ll be around for quite a while.

I’ve got a pocketful of notes some of which came in the mail to me when people started finding out that I live at 200 Sunnyside Drive. (Don’t send me any mail there because I’m not there anymore. My dad was a real estate man so we moved around a lot, but I always found them.) These letters are asking me to write about something. So this morning I’ll pretend I’m a grown-up Herb Caen and write in his wandering style…I’d like to grow up and write just like him. I hope he keeps writing for a while. [OK – crystal ball-time: He wrote until he died in 1997! And I did write one column for him when he was in the hospital in 1988.}

….First is, I have to go back to Hubbard Field. I wrote about Hank Philcox’ and my Electrabike ride out there a while ago, and all the stuff we saw. But I forgot to include the altitude guage, which I remember. Just at the end of Airport Road north of the hangar was a bright spotlight, that pointed straight up. It was big, like about as big around as a card table in a box on the ground. Somewhere distant, I think at the University of Nevada on Evans Street, a weatherman could put a telescope on the light’s beam, where it hit the cloud level. From the angle of the telescope, he could then determine the height of the clouds, or ceiling, and phone the airport’s tower with the information. Thanks, writer, for the letter. Dad says not to include anybody’s name without their permission, or I could get in trouble. So, if you write me, tell me if it’s OK to use your name. This is a very disciplined column.

Gamewell_fire2…Another note: “You wrote about a ‘fire alarm box.’ What were they?” Thanks for the question. Even before the turn of the century in the late 1800s, the Gamewell Company made alarm boxes for street corners, so citizens could turn in fire alarms. The boxes, all over towns, were wired to a central place like a firehouse where there were big wet-cell batteries making power. If a person pulled the handle on the box, a spring-loaded wheel would start to turn, pulling brass or copper tape over a gadget that “read” it. The tape was punched, each tape different, so the fireman receiving the alarm could detect which box had been pulled and send the firemen to the fire.

The City of Reno had a Gamewell system which was intact until the 1970s when phones and alarm wiring became more prevalent (pretty big word for a six-year-old, huh!?) and the system was abandoned. The Gamewell board, a big brass beauty,Gamewell_fire was kept, in operating condition, by retired fire captain Jim Arlin, in the Reno Fire Department’s museum at the Reno main station until some genius figured out that the site would be better for a ballpark than a fire station. I don’t know that anyone’s seen the Gamewell board, nor much else from the museum, since. But now I’m editorializing. Some cities, notably San Francisco, still maintain the Gamewell systems, that city’s system taking up a whole wall on the Brannan Street headquarters. But, there I go again, using a crystal ball…! I don’t know about that in 1948 as I write this.

Postscript: Gamewell also made police-call boxes. They were blue.

OK – next saved note: “You wrote of the elevator operators in the First National Bank building and the Medical Dental Arts building knowing all the dirt on Reno’s citizens. What are “elevator operators?” What I wrote was that the two little ladies, elevatorcontrolfor they were indeed short in stature, knew who was boarding their elevators in the old FNB building at 1 East First Street, and the medico-dental building up the block on Virginia Street, and who was consulting an attorney or who was going to doctor and listened in the morning to the patient or the client, and later in the day to the doctors and the attorneys describing them as they rode the elevators. Two plus two equalled four to these ladies, they compared notes and knew what couples were splitting the sheets or which person was suffering from some private malady.

Self-service elevators didn’t arrive in Reno ’til the mid-1950s, and the buildings I mentioned plus the El Cortez and the Riverside and the Mapes hotels also had little ladies to open thefloorindicator inner doors and start the cars up or down. (They were good; they could turn that big wheel-switch just at the right time to stop the car level with the floor!) And they jabbered the whole trip, so little escaped them. The Holiday was maybe the earliest to have self-service cars in 1957 on a major scale. And I wrote one time many years after I write this in 1947 that Gray Reid Wright, in its new building on Fifth between Virginia and Sierra brought the first escalator to Reno.

But, this is 1947. What’s an escalator??? 

Space draws short, but one more reader said that I had to write about the X-ray flouroscopemachines for feet. OK – let’s do! But let’s call them by their name, which was flouroscope.  As kids, we always looked forward to going to some of the shoe stores around town, and I should include the Sparks Bootery in faraway Sparks, and standing on the flouroscope. With our new shoes, or just breaking loose from our parents in Sears Roebucks, Buster Brown Shoes (Big John and Sparky!), Monkey Wards or some other places I can’t remember, whatever they were.

The flouroscope was probably the greatest invention of the 20th century since sliced bread or night baseball. Wearing your old Keds if you’d ridden your bike combatbootsdowntown and just wanted to play with it, or, buying new shoes (combat boots were the norm after WWII in Reno’s cold winter climate, you could stand on the flouroscope and see your feet and bones, and the outline of the shoe faintly enclosing the foot. 

Why the machines went away is a mystery to me and most – probably something on the same order as lead-based paint and asbestos poisoning – some idiot probably learned that a flouroscope would make your feet sterile – but we had the paint, the asbestos and the flouroscopes at Mary S. Doten Elementary School and Buster Brown Shoes, and the world didn’t come to an end. 

CrossEyedTeacherWith that I bid you good day on a chilly weekend; when the sun again returns we’ll ride around somewhere else in Reno. Saddle up your Schwinn and ride along with me!! 

 

 

 

More S. F. 1906 Earthquake stuff

LottaJPEGWhen last we met, I described meeting a friend who gave us a predawn ride from the SF Marina to Market Street, for the 100-year anniversary of the Great San Francisco Earthquake – the morning was April 18, 2006. What I didn’t really develop was the participation and organization of the San Francisco Fire Department. The event was basically rooted in the fire services of San Francisco and more outlying communities.

Don Young, who I’ve profiled in a 2016 RGJ column, is a retired chief of the Sparksxsfd Fire Department – a man with his wife Maddy that you should know. Soon I’ll dig out the column I wrote about him, and figure out how to convert it from Gazoo-print to WordPress. Watch for that. But right now, Don writes, in response to the piece her of a couple of days ago: “The Sparks Fire Department changed the rules in 1964 to honor the State of Nevada Centennial and the firemen were authorized to sport facial hair and wear uniforms like you have on. [in the photo with Linda at Lotta’s Fountain on Market Street]. My wife and YoungLittleWalothers made the shirts out of heavy red flannel and we also wore jeans as a work uniform. Thanks, Don”

And we thank you Don, known by his license plate as “XSFD” – ex-Sparks Fire Department. You’ll read more of him soon, right here. His official department portrait seen above right was taken by SFD’s Jeff Spicer. Pretty cool.

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Also in the column of a couple days ago, I mentioned the 1908 photograph of Reno and Sparks, taken from an airship, better described as a kite, by the Lawrence Airship Company out of Chicago. I won’t waste space here; you can read more of it in the preceding post. But – I did allude to 17 prints of it being discovered downtown, and my ownership of one of the originals.

LawrenceAirshipPhoto

The backstory there is, that in 1957 there was a major explosion and fire in downtown Reno (I’ll put a link to it at the end of this post). In its aftermath, some workers in the A. Carlisle Company, on the west side of Sierra Street just north of Home Furniture on the First Street corner, were mopping up after the fire. They pulled a large ozalid-process machine for making blueprints and about as big as a big deep freeze, away from a wall and voila! They found behind the printer, 17 original prints of the photo, in pristine condition. My dad scored one of them; it’s hanging to this day in a relative’s law office. There were only 17 known until recent technology and the expiration of a copyright allowed them to be copied – and copied in better detail than the originals. So – there’s more than 17 around town now. Lawrence’s brochures and records indicate a price of $18 per copy, a pretty penny in 1908.

-o-0-o-

OK, still writing of fire department stuff vis-à-vis San Francisco and the earthquake, let’s pay proper attention to the American LaFrance Company, who in 2006 had been supplying America, through its several incarnations, with fire trucks. CaptureSan Francisco was a prime customer and LaFrance took it upon themselves to make a statement of gratitude. They sold the City 16 new “triple” engines, but put a little extra into them before they were delivered starting in February of 2006. The engines were painted a “retro” color, darker red and almost a purplish-brown, to emulate the color engines the City used before WWII. But the piece-de-resistance was the gold-leaf treatment – I don’t know whether the engines are more striking by day with the sun dancing off the heavy gold-leaf that covered the engines and station numbers and SFFD ownership, or maybe they were more so at night, with other light sources lighting up the gold. Top that with heavy silver plating on the bumpers, trim and the big bells on the front bumpers with the LaFrance eagle atop them, and those are 16 pretty trucks. They remain in service, immaculately-maintained these 12 years later, and are still head-turners when cruising around the Streets of San Francisco.

Now, we’ll put the SFFD out of service for a while, but return to a tale of a local guy, a Sparks Railroader who ran the Sparks Fire Department. If you’d like to read the post that preceded and inspired this go here and it will open in another window, or if you’d like to know more about one of Reno’s major downtown fires in 1957, click here.

See ya in a week or two; I’m going to get the six-year-old kid off his butt and writing about old Reno!

 

 

Our annual paean to our friend Donna Booher….I’ve some more to add to this; come back late Saturday afternoon!

cropped-kf_headshot.jpgThis is not the six-year-old boy writing, for a much older man gave him four-bits and told him to go to the Tower Theater for a flick. I need his magic little computer to write a letter I couldn’t get to on time last week.

Our story begins about 4 ayem on April 18, 2006 in our motel on the corner of Buchanan and Lombard – the Marina in San Francisco. We had stayed there quite often in the past decade. But – on this clear and not-terribly cold Bay Area morning, we brushed aside the cobwebs of a few hours past, climbed silently into our garb, and slid out the door of room 301 – our perennial choice of rooms – to the nearby elevator. A few other turn-of-the-century clad folks were in the lobby and outside on the sidewalk. The streets, while still almost dark on this mid-April morning, were quite busy, and Muni buses were already filling the streets on a weekend schedule. (This was a Tuesday…)

We walked with a few more earthquake survivors the short block to Chestnut Street. The collector trolleys of the approaching bus marked it as a 30-Stockton, which would take us to Market.

Here, the fun begins, and we meet the lady that we would know only briefly – maybe 20 minutes during the trip to Market Street. She stopped, and waved. “Hop in,” she said, and so we did. We spoke, possibly for the first time for any of the three of us, that April 18th. “I’m Donna.” “Hi, I’m Linda. This is Karl. Thanks for the lift.” Little else was said until we reached Market Street. “I’ll go park. You guys have fun.” We said thanks, exited her car, and Donna was off in near rush-hour traffic. We would never see her again, but she became a huge part of that day in the years to come.

It was 4:30 in the morning. The streets were filled.

LottaJPEGAt that juncture, we were no longer Linda and Karl from Reno, Nevada. In her assumed role (everybody on Market Street at that hour had an assumed identity) as Linda Patrucowrowski, she was on her way to meet Ada Funston for coffee, Ada’s husband being Gen. Frederick Funston, commander of all the Army troops in the Bay Area. They were meeting on the patio of General Funston’s quarters at the Presidio.

By prior arrangement, the wealthy Linda Patrucowrowski and her suave-but-reserved SF fireman friend, like so many SF firemen a first- or second-generation Irishman of humble beginnings whose name was Callen O’Breckenridge, were meeting friends Janet and Paul O’Meaney, another son of Erin on that corner of Market and Fourth Streets. It was 4:40 a.m. In 38 minutes, (oh, OK; actually 38 minutes-minus-100 years) all that would change. Paul would capture a photo of Linda and Callan at Lotta’s Fountain – a landmark on Market Street endowed by Lotta Crabtree for the horses, people and dogs of San Francisco 40 years before.

Palace_Hotel_Fire_April_18,_1906At 5:18 a.m. San Francisco was changed, changed endlessly; a terrible moment was born, to paraphrase the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. An earthquake and incipient fire would reduce 40 percent of the City to rubble within a few days. Patrucowrowski’s four-room suite at the nearby Palace Hotel [above], built by men with streets named for them in faraway Reno, William Sharon and Billy Ralston, although only a few years old would be reduced to rubble, and Linda would take up residence with 45,000 other survivors in Golden Gate Park that night. She would ultimately secure quarters in an “earthquake house,” designed and quickly built in a month, following the quake [below, right].

sullivanShe would never again see her swain, the handsome Callan, for he perished in a collapsing building in the Financial District alongside San Francisco’s popular fire chief Dennis T. O’Callahan [left], an Irishman who had come through the ranks of SFFD and also died in the aftermath of the Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

Convening about daybreak that April 18, 2006 morning near Lotta’s Fountain, which turned into the meeting place for the quake’s survivors in 1906, the San Francisco press nominated Linda asEQ house SF their darling, and we spent the entire day hearing “Oh, we saw you on TV this morning!” We met, “we” being a crowd of mostly-costumed celebrants, 11 people who were alive on April 18, 1906, and one that those 11 welcomed into their exclusive group: A lady who was born exactly nine months after the earthquake. Golden Gate Park must have had some creature comforts…!

Here’s a little aside to all this: Many in Reno have seen the large-format, sepia-tone photograph taken by the Geo. Lawrence Company’s captive airship, from 1,000 feet above the present Reno High School and pointed northeast. The backstory is, that the airship/kite had been in SF for a year prior to the earthquake, taking pictures of The City for property owners, the San Francisco Fire Department, and for the insurance industry. The airship was packed and ready to be taken back to Chicago when the earthquake struck, and the decision was made to re-photograph the work it had done to assist all in assessing quake damage. Hence, it came through Reno in 1908, the date of the Reno picture. One of the 17 known original prints of this picture is in my possession; the image below on this page (identical) is scanned from a Library of Congress-held gelatin-silver 19.5 x 50 inch print copyright claimant Geo. R. Lawrence Co.; Chicago, IL, November 21, 1908; L/C control no. 2007663909 released for publication without restriction

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It was a fun day, a day of learning and enjoying and reliving. And a day that established our relationship with a friend, a Bay Area-gal named Donna Booher. We have stayed In touch now for these past 12 years, and I publish this – in part for fun and information, but in remainder to say to Donna: Sorry not to extend our usual greeting and offer to meet on the 30-line at Buchanan and Chestnut, but, we might be standing there at 4:3O ayem next year; one never knows!!

 

April 15, 2018 – Hangin’ out with the kid on East Fourth and Fifth, near Alameda Street in 1952

FearlessNoTextMonday, April 23 – The six-year-old kid rested this weekend at the Coliseum with about 5,000 friends, each driving 1.4 mommywagons and playing or watching volleyball on 88 courts. This number includes his two granddaughters. He is back to work now, will probably put up a new “bike ride” Wednesday….c’mon back!


 

Well, we’re back to school after our Easter Break, which we still call “Easter,” by the way. I gave all my brochures that I collected from my bike ride last week to Dad so he could buy a new car but he decided to keep the Buick he got from Mr. Scott. We’re taking it to New York and back this summer, I’ll have to do a lot of writing about that trip!

I wanted to finish up a story of cars, by adding some pictures of trucks but a few friends have asked about the new TV station coming to town, and the big tank that’s being torn down out on Fifth Street. Since the new TV station is being built across from the gas storage tank, that’s where I’m heading today.

Down Vine Street I go from Sunnyside Drive on my bike. Safeway is building a new store on Vine, the second of the “big” supermarkets in Reno. Don’t know what’s going to happen to the little markets – “Mom & Pops” Dad calls them. I better hurryBabcockBldg. up and write about them soon before they’re all gone. I ride east on Fifth Street, past Reno High School [left below]and the Babcock Memorial Kindergarten [right]. Until WWII it was the only Kindergarten in Reno and your parents had to pay to send you there. I pass by the new Sewell’s RenoHigh1912market between Sierra and Virginia Street, and press on beyond University Street and the Western Pacific railroad tracks on a street that’s not a street, named on the Sanborn map as private, owned by the railroad, but named “East” street. In a few years it will be called “Record Street” probably for those pretty girls in my class, Dale and Nikki. Their dad sells plumbing stuff south of the Lincoln Highway but it’s nothing to do with WPlocoEast Street. A brand-new Western Pacific locomotive, diesel-electric at that, is heading up north to Alturas and a couple guys are blocking Fifth Street while it passes.

I’m at Elko Street now, and can see the big gas tank, which is on a full-block lot GasTankbetween Fifth and Sixth, and Alameda Street and Eureka Street. [That’s a picture that I found in my World Book Encyclopedia, not a photo of the one in Reno, which I’ve never been able to find. But they’re all pretty much the same – the sides move up and down along the rails – this one’s down about 12 feet or so.] Pretty soon the City would re-name “Alameda” street to “North Wells Avenue.” That big square block is owned by Sierra Pacific Power Company and that’s where Reno’s early natural gas is made, mostly for cooking and less-so for heating homes. But all that would change. Dad’s friend Mr. Probasco was building homes after WWII away out east of Sparks almost east of Stanford Way, and heating them with a central gas furnace in the home. They were the first home furnaces in Reno and Sparks using gas as a fuel. They weren’t  forced air, but they worked well! Dad tried to tell me how they made gas but it was pretty complicated and people who read about it all scratched their heads, so I’ll just write the simple view of it here:

If one smashes coal hard enough, a gas is produced. And that’s what they did at the Alameda Gas Plant. A “retort” smashed the coal then collected the gas that that smashing produced. Coal was brought into that plant on railroad cars. The gas that resulted in the compression was routed into a big tank, whose sides were free to move up and down. The weight of the tank pushed the tank downward, and forced the gas within the tank to go out into the gas “mains,” which were all over pre-war Reno and Sparks, on the north side of the Truckee River.

Natural gas was being brought into the power company’s generating station east of Sparks, so they elected to make another run from the power plant to Reno. The retort building was dismantled, and the tank soon after was taken down. We all got our gas at our homes through the same mains as before, but it was put into the existing mains at a different location (eventually north of McCarran Boulevard and Hug High School). But I’m only a six-year-old kid, so I don’t know that yet. I also don’t know that the power company began storing transformers which are basically tanks of PCB, which fall over and spill the stuff on the ground. And PCB is one of the most toxic liquids known to man, and the square block was so contaminated with the stuff that it was decided by someone to just leave it alone, that the cost of cleaning it would exceed its value. So that’s why there’s nothing on the lot now but an X-ray building, on an area that wasn’t contaminated.

And that’s the story of gas coming to Reno and Sparks. I might write that when the new bridge over the Truckee was built in 1937, the gas lines were brought to southern Reno. And that little known to most and I’ll probably get spanked for writing this, but the big fire that I can’t write about until 1957 was probably in all truth caused by a bum hookup in the Sierra Street area, and just stayed kinda safe until it blew in 1957.  I’ll attach a “link” at the end of this writing to tell you about that. And if you ever go to San Francisco, as we’re going to do again one of these days soon, you might have seen “Gashouse Cove” on a sign or the name of a neighborhood out by the Marina – that’s where the early city of San Francisco had its gas retort. But that has nothing to do with Reno and I shouldn’t even write about it.

I’ve bitten off more than I can chew (Dad says that and I think it’s funny!) by threatening to write about the new TV station in the same letter with the gashouse and retort, so I’ll work on that later this week. And we  should talk about old groceries more; there’s one on the corner of Alameda and Fourth Street where my little (!) friend Benny Akert works – his parents own it. He dreams of growing up and running a store to sell discount liquor – he says he’ll just call it “Ben’s”. And another little playmate of mine, a foxy little gal named Beverly Pincolini, her family has a grocery store a couple blocks away, called “Pinky’s”! Bev would graduate from Reno High with me in 1959 and marry a guy named Fabio Reginato, the lucky dude. But I don’t know anything about that yet, of course. I thought a Pincolini Reginato Fabio was one of those new-fangled sports cars from Europe!

Come back in a week – I’ll tell you all about KZTV’s grand opening! Now – if you want to read more – click here whatever “click” means! and read about the big fire down on Sierra Street in 1957.

See ya later…….

 

 

April 8 – the new 1950 car models are out; let’s go downtown and look at them!

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The new cars models are out and a bunch of us from Whitaker and Peavine are going to ride our bikes down and see them! The salesmen in the showrooms aren’t too nuts about a bunch of rag-tag kids coming in and leaving their bikes in their doorway but how else are we going to know how the new cars work? And someday we may buy a car, so HA!

I s’pose we rode to see the Studebakers first, since they were at Western Distributing on the northeast corner of Sierra and the Lincoln Highway. They soStudebakerCommanderld American Flyer trains and hardware too. Studebaker had been around since they first made covered wagons for the pilgrims. And they made a lot of wartime stuff, like Weasels and Ducks. Their cars were pretty neat, and they sold a lot of pickups too. I didn’t know it in 1950, but in a few years they’d build the Avanti, which could have been America’s Corvette if they knew what they were doing.

Mercedes 188Just to the west a couple blocks, across Chestnut Street where the high school would this year become “Central Junior High School,” was Oden Motors, that sold a bunch of foreign cars, like Jag Jag 120and MG and Austin, later the Austin Healey, and Mercedes Benz. Those Mercedes were a little over $3,500 a car, the most expensive car  in Reno! And the Jaguar XK-120 was one of the prettiest cars ever made. Mercedes would later move to the northeast corner of Virginia and Liberty Streets.

FordRichardson-Lovelock Ford was to the east, on what I guess was now called “Center Street,” but not too long ago was “University Street” and some maps and Yellow Page ads still show University. Ford was a big seller, had some pretty neat cars, but I mostly wanted a pickupFordTruck truck like my Uncle Vic’s, which was an “F-1”. But I’d probably never get one, because I’m only nine years old and those pickups cost over six hundred dollars, more than the Ford cars.

We rode down Virginia Street past the courthouse, where there were a bunch of car dealers. Scott Motors sold Cadillacs Caddyand Buicks and at one time sold the Durant, a high-end General Motors car. My dad bought a 1950 Buick from Mr. Scott. He was a pretty neat guy; he had a Lockheed Electra like that lady pilot who got lost flying around the world. His son was my age and would later run the dealership. But I didn’t know that in 1950. Buicks had a touch that would continue BuickI’ll bet until at least 2018 – they had “portholes” on the sides of their hoods, three was for Special, Super, and Century; four was for Roadmaster, their big expensive model. They all had big engines, bigger than other GM cars. And the Cadillacs in the same showroom, on the west side of Virginia where Ryland dead-ends into it, were no doubt the ritziest car on the road. Some had air conditioning, and a gadget to dim your headlights when a car was in front of you. Dad said it didn’t work.

The Pontiac dealership was a block to the east, on Center and Ryland. Mr. Winkel owned that. Dad got Lees1a 1950 Pontiac “Catalina,” a two-door coupe that GM introduced that year that was designed to look like a convertible. Chevrolet had the “Bel-Air” version, and Oldsmobile the “88” model – all hardtops. Our Catalina (second from the left, light-colored car) was in a picture of Lee’s Drive-In on Sierra and Fourth Street that I found by accident researching drive-ins. But that was a lot later, I was a really old man then, about 50. Marsh Johnson’s Chevrolet was north on Virginia across Court Street from the courthouse. Mr. Johnson would later build a shopping “mall,” they called them later, called “Park Lane” a couple miles south of town.

Waldren Oldsmobile was just south of Scott Motor’s Buick. Mr. Waldren would be OldsRocket88one of the first to move off “auto row” on Virginia Street, staying on Virginia Street but building a whole new building just south of what would later be “Plumb Lane” by Mr. Johnson’s shopping mall. In later years there would be no Oldsmobiles (nor Pontiacs!) and the Oldsmobile dealer would become a fish/sushi place. Yecch…raw fish……

We parked our bikes and toured the Dick Dimond Dodge dealership at South Virginia and Moran Streets DimondDodgeand looked at those cars. Their dealership’s building was really pretty, said by some to be designed by a man named Frederic Delongchamps. I got in trouble once for writing that it looked just like an auto dealership on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco designed by prominent SF architect Willis Polk so I won’t write that again. I got a picture of it from my buddy Jerry Fenwick – someday I’ll write about Jerry’s parents’ art shop downtown. The Dodge and the other MOPAR cars  had a “Fluid Drive” – kind of an automatic transmission that you had to shift, but the clutch was automatic. Dad had a 1948 Dodge and like most Chrysler products the back-up light, which had to be turned on and off manually, was always on.

ChryslerWoodyDad and my uncle John and their friend Wayne Spencer were once in San Francisco, and while my mom and aunt and sister and all took off downtown to the City of Paris and Gump’s and Maiden Lane, my dad and John and Wayne had a few in some dive bar and got pretty well toasted, and Dad went up the street and bought a Chrysler convertible with wood sides. The next day he had to go back to the dealership on Van Ness Avenue and beg and plead to call off the purchase. It was almost a two Chryslerthousand dollar car anyway so he probably wouldn’t have been able to buy it. But we sure had fun, and was sorry to see him back out. Mom was, well, I’ll write of that another time.  Above, is the Chrysler New Yorker

MercurySuicideWe didn’t have to ride our bikes too far from Dodge to see the new Lincolns and Mercurys – just across Virginia Street. The Mercury (at left) was kind of a ho-hum car, not too much different than a Ford, (who owned Lincoln and Mercury), and the one in the picture has “suicide doors” (like the Lincoln below) – the rear side door hinged in back, so that if the car gets in a wreck the front and back doors jam and no one can get out. But the Lincoln was a great, big luxurious barge, the choiceLincoln 1950 of many rich people and government officials, and the Continental (below) was about the only specialized, souped-up car made in America. It had a V-12 engine – the biggest of the other cars had a V-8. And most had just a straight-line six cylinder engine. The ContinentalReno Motors showroom, which I didn’t know then, would later become the casino for the Ponderosa Hotel, and even later a place called a “men’s club” where ladies would parade around naked. Yecch – sounds  like an air conditioning  and heating problem that needs repair to me but what do I know? I’m only nine years old.

Ya know, this is getting too long. Dad  says the most I should write is four sheets of binder paper or people won’t get through it. There’s more to be written – the Henry_Jforeign cars, the trucks, and the attempts at “compact” cars like theCrosley Henry J (left) and the Crosley – let’s get together another time and we’ll ride off to more early Reno auto dealerships…see ya all soon, right back here…

Photo credit Jerry Fenwick for the Osen Motors Dealership building – the rest, God only knows..