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

FearlessNoTextWell, 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…….

 

 

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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..

 

On our bikes we ride, out to Hubbard Field!

Thumbs upWell, here we go, together again! I’ve not written for a couple weeks while I was benched for my poor behavior, but now I’m on the loose again – my neighbors here in the new house on Sunnyside Drive, Tommy Weichman and Hank Philcox, have planned an adventure today, to ride our bikes out to Hubbard Field, the airport east of Reno. Mrs. Philcox – Corrine, we sometimes call her is a really good cook and packed some sandwiches, cookies, fruit and stuff for our trip. That new girl up the street, Judy Metzker, wanted to go too but she’s a gurrrllll, and would just slow us down. Yecch.

BambooBombar_T50So, off we go, down to the river and across the bridge at Belmont, then ride out toward South Virginia by that new lake with the island in it. We get to Airport Road and there’s hardly any traffic this Saturday morning, so we cross both lanes of Virginia Street and head east. Going further out Airport Road we can smell the swamp to the south of the road where Mr. Biltz and Mr. Dant have their game farm, and can see Mr. Chrisman’s trout farm out further south in the swamp. We’re Staggerwingstarting to get close to Hubbard Field, because we’re riding alongside the cross-runway and there’s a lot of old planes, most of them salvage from the war that was over a couple years ago.

Hubbard Field has been around for about 15 years [from 1950 when this was written!]. It was named for engineer Eddie Hubbard, a friend of Mr. Boeing’s and who built the airport. Boeing sold it to United Air Lines, three words, in 1936. Not too much has happened since. (United would sell it to the City of Reno in 1955.) Quonset hangarThe main airport is a great big Quonset hut turned into a hangar, and a little control tower set on top of it. Painted on the control tower is, “Reno, Nev. Elev. 4,415 ft.” The man who runs the airport, Mr. Hopper, saw us and motioned us to Towercome over to the fence. “What are you men up to?” he said. His real name was Claude (!) but he was a retired Navy pilot. Navy pilots all get nicknames. His was “Grass.” We just called him Mr. Hopper.

We told him we were just trying to see what happened at the airport, and he told us to park our bikes. We followed him up some rickety stairs and into the control tower’s “cab.” One controller was working. He showed us how they handled airplanes in 1950: If a plane was approaching Reno, the tower would call it, “Plane over Reno Hot Springs approaching Reno; if you can copy this, show your landing light.” If the landing light blinked, the tower operator knew that the plane could hear the radio. (If the plane could also transmit a message, the tower would already know, because the plane would have called tower first!) If the lights didn’t blink, tower would know that he was “NARDO” – no radio, which wasn’t uncommon in 1950. If the plane could hear, the tower would clear him, and give him the wind direction, barometer reading and what other planes were around.

But, if the plane was NARDO, the tower would take one of the big spotlights hung InteeriorLightsfrom the ceiling and give that pilot a green light (he had other triggers also, for a red flash or a white flash}. The pilot would continue his approach and land. When he got on the ground, he wouldn’t cross a runway or taxiway until he got another green light from the tower.  Or if he was taking off, he’d wait for a green signal. The system worked pretty well. He let us play with the lights hanging from the ceiling. We didn’t know it then, but those lights are still hanging in control towers today, for NARDO emergencies

 

BeaconHe let us listen to what the pilots who were equipped with visual omni-range, mostly in the larger airliner types, heard. A steady tone, [for grownups reading this, middle C on the piano, 256 cycles/second!] interrupted every 30 seconds by “dah-dit, dah-dit-dit-dah, dah-dah-dah” – R – N – O in Morse code. This told the pilot riding the VOR that he was locked on to RNO – Reno Municipal Airport. If he had all the equipment, he could also tell where he was.  There was a big bright beacon on top of the mountain north of Virginia City that we could see from all over town.

 Tom, Hank and I looked at each other – we’d really hit the jackpot by meeting Mr. Hopper!

 There was one big main runway at RNO – it was numbered three-four if you were landing south-to-north, or one-six if north-to-south. He told us that that was because your compass would be reading 340 degrees from the south, or 160° from the north. The cross-runway was shorter, and 90° off the main runway at seven and two-five. We could see also the “diagonal” runway that in 1950 ran from the south end of the main runway to the east end of the cross-runway. It was used mostly for parking airplanes now.

 The Nevada Air National Guard was in the process of moving from the Reno Air Base north of Reno to Hubbard Field and the City of Reno was buying Hubbard Field Mustangfrom United. A Nevada ANG pilot named Croston Stead was taking off from Reno Air Base in a P-51 Mustang, and neglected to lock his blower switch on “high.” The engine petered out, the pilot was too low to parachute, and died in the wreckage. The Reno Air Base was being renamed “Stead” in his honor.

 There’s a picture around somewhere but I can’t find it, of 17 Lockheed ConstellationConnie airliners parked on that diagonal runway. Mr. Hughes, who owned Trans World Airlines, bought them from Lockheed and took delivery of them in Nevada, because Nevada has no sales tax. Somebody in the state raised hell, whoops, sorry Mom, raised the roof and some say that this triggered the enactment of sales tax in Nevada. (And Dad said I better write that these were Lockheed 1049s, not the later “Super Constellation” 1649s. I hate it when he looks over my shoulder when I type this stuff.)

 A plane is landing now, a big one, and we’re going to go down and watch it taxi up. DC3UnitedIt’s a United Air Lines DC-3, the pride of the fleet. Mr. Hopper says that most all airlines’ DC-3s are really military C-47s that Douglas Aircraft took back after WWII and “civilized,” getting rid of the double cargo doors and military stuff so the airlines could fly people in them. And a local restaurant, Eugene’s, way out on South Virginia Street, got a contract to provide snacks for the flight to Mills Field in San Francisco, and dinners to the passengers going east to Salt Lake City. He didn’t know it then, but by 1955 Eugene’s would be providing meals for 28 flights a day!

ElectraWe watch the DC-3 taxi up to the Quonset hut and the stair placed against the hull of the plane. It’s pretty impressive. And, leave it to Mr. Hopper, he got us a guided tour through the airplane and we all three got to sit in the pilots’ seats. Pretty cool.

We’ll, it’s getting late so we better shove off for Sunnyside Drive. We thanked Mr. Hopper and he said to come back any time! And we will….

That’s about it for now – come back in a week or so and we’ll see where the trusty Schwinn takes us about the city..

HA! I screwed up a fact and no one caught me for 24 hours – Red Kittell, who flew AC-47s in Vietnam, pointed out at coffee this morning that I called the UAL twin-engine plane pictured a rebuilt C-45. I know better – it’s a rebuilt C-47. There is a C-45 pictured, later known as a Beechcraft D-18, or just a Twin Beech. It’s the first airplane pictured in the column….the State of Nevada had one; used it to bomb the burning Golden Hotel with water in 1962…thanks, Red!

And, in response to a reader email, the last plane pictured is a Lockheed Electra, parked behind a Cord automobile parked behind Amelia Earhart, who flew an Electra.

 

 

 

 

 

Don Hartman checks in…

DonHartmanI appreciate your faith in my writing.  Not sure I even come close to you in writing  and skill….But, I will try.  I hate to steal your format, but, perhaps I may write about my own days growing up in Reno and going to “our” Mary S Doten K-4. 
“I am the 4-year old Don. Mrs. Molini and my mom have invited me  to visit Mrs. Parker’s K at Mary S. Doten where John Molini is enrolled.  Johnny is a year older than I. I walk down a short flight  of stairs.  The floor in the basement is dark, dark brown-painted cement and heavily waxed and shining.  I smell the wax.  I will never forget that wax smell. I turn the corner into an amazing room with a piano at the head of student chairs.  I am  excited at the orange-crate airplane set-up on the classroom room floor…………etc.”  Thanks for the  photo of home at Ralston Street and Ninth, where the US Air Mail Service’s plane went in!  I delivered Reno Evening Gazette to that house when John Hancock lived there in the late 50’s. 
I forgot to mention what I was wearing when I visited Mrs. Parker’s Kindergarten that day so long ago… : My mom had me put on my warm clothes for the visit  to Mary S. Doten as it was a cold, winter’s day in Reno……jacket, golashes with buckle-down fasteners, pants with extra giant cuffs, my cowboy belt with  red and green marble-like glass decorations…..my long-sleeve  flannel cowboy shirt and my beloved World War Two surplus leather aviator’s helmet complete with goggles.  I am more than ready to pilot that orange-crate airplane in Mrs. Parker’s room”  (Thanks, Karl, for the info on that house and Congress.)
And Karl thanks Don for this anecdote, and invites others to send in their thoughts and recollection, about early life at “Mary S” or about anything else that you want to put out for us….pictures are fine, state their origin if that’s known.
email to KFBreckenridge@live.com – don’t worry about making it perfect, my editorial staff, Carmine Ghia and typist Ophelia Payne can straighten it out (or screw it up) for you.

 

 

The six-year-old kid’s ass is in a sling…

LittleKarlDateline 1949 – Sunnyside Drive and Peavine Row: My dad has sent me to my room for the rest of the weekeend and several of my friends have chewed me out for telling a small number of people to stick their comments about our town where the sun don’ shine – and telling them that if they don’t like Reno, the Lincoln Highway and the Purdy Highway go both ways and they’re free to find a town that suits them better. If they want to save a few old decrepit motels that should have been bulldozed years ago, or turn Reno into a haven for those who require subsidized housing, that’s their business. Just start their ki-yi-ing before the wrecking ball arrives – the City can’t do much on 24-hour notice to accomodate their squawking. Find an area today, as Mark Taxer identified, and work toward saving it. Right now the town is beautiful, all those motels down by Virginia and the Lincoln Highway are new, and gambling controls Reno. But it won’t always be that way – there’s already talk of a “freeway” going from the blue Pacific to the broad Atlantic’s shores, and whether to put Reno’s link down the center of town and take all those pretty old buildings and homes along Sixth and Seventh Street out so the “freeway” can go closer to Harolds Club. (It’s OK, Mom; Mr. Smith doesn’t want a possessive apostrophe in his club’s name.) And the University of Nevada – what a beautiful campus! It’s full of old mature trees, and open. Other universities have jammed their campuses full of building with no open area or parking. (OK, Mom: ” …nor parking.”) Thank God we have some intelligent management on The Hill. And others with sense enough to put the “freeway” north of the University campus and the town – and let all those beautiful houses on Sixth and Seventh Streets survive. Can you imagine putting a six-lane highway right through our town?

The worst part of being sent to my room is that I’m also without a radio and now it’s Saturday morning and I’m without “No School Today” to listen to, from Buster Brown and his dog Tige and his squeeze Mary Jane and Gilhooley Mahoney and his Leprechaun Marching Band. Rats.

I’ll see if there’s anything left to write about. Come back later Saturday or Sunday and maybe I can get myself loose. I hate being grounded.

Eugene’s

(this column originally appeared in the RGJ on June 23rd, 2001)

If you came to this site looking for the Wreaths & Shamrocks column, try here

Eugene Jarvis turned a classic old ranch house a fur piece south of Reno into an elegantly appointed restaurant after the end of World War II.  He might have called it “Jarvis’s”, but owing to either caprice or the awkward apostrophe, he elected to go with “Eugene’s”, thus bestowing one of the most instantly identified and enduring names in Reno’s heritage.

Jarvis picked the name, but it took two young men who met in New York at the 1939 World’s Fair and journeyed – separately – to Reno, to get the restaurant underway.  Joe Patrucco was the affable bartender at the Riverside Hotel’s well-known Corner Bar, while Gilbert Vasserot had opened the Moulin Rouge restaurant on Sierra Street.  Their youthful careers were interrupted by a world war, but they rejoined and in 1947 bought the restaurant from Jarvis, retaining the Eugene’s name and assembling a world-class staff that would give Reno a restaurant that would rival the finest in cosmopolitan San Francisco.  (Eugene Jarvis, possibly to create confusion for 50 years to follow, would open a second Eugene’s on a promontory above Lake Tahoe’s Crystal Bay.)

      Gilbert, a Swiss culinary artiste trained in Europe, donned the chef’s toque, a hat he would wear six nights a week for years to follow, while Joe handled the “front” duties – also six nights a week.  And Joe greeted all equally – Eugene’s had the local reputation that a guest was a guest and none were treated better or more quickly than others; that all would receive old world hospitality be they Dennis Day sneaking in for dinner before his show in the Mapes Sky Room, or the local couple taking their daughter out to dinner on her 16th birthday. 

  • • •

The town embraced Eugene’s with civic pride, and eleven years after it opened in Eugene Jarvis’ ranch house, local architect Frank Green was commissioned to design a new restaurant building. 

        Premier local builder Allan Gallaway finished the new restaurant on a spot now near the domes left over from the Century Theater south of the Peppermill, and Gilbert and Joe reopened Eugene’s on May 14th, 1958 (a great photo of Joe and his wife Lucia, and Gilbert with his Lucienne, taken on the steps on opening night, will magically appear on my website soon…) [Lucienne passed away shortly after this column appeared.]   The original ranch house restaurant had been moved a few hundred feet to the west to free up the site for construction.  That structure burned a few years after the new restaurant opened.  And it wasn’t the old James McKay house, as I and many others originally believed; the McKay home was a long block to the south.

What a place the new restaurant was!  A classic bar with a beamed ceiling, leaded glass windows and thickly padded leather banquettes, and a bartender named Cliff Challender who prided himself on committing regular diners’ cocktail preferences to memory (Gilbert points with great pride at his sommelier – wine steward, to some of us – well-remembered by many as Antoine Balducci, who handled the patrons’ wine orders with uncanny knowledge, freeing up the waiters to provide better service.)

        The main room was quiet and open, with rich paneling and more leather – chairs and banquettes – and chandeliers with bulbs hand-painted by Gilbert himself for just the right effect. Pianist Del (few knew his last name was Dellaquadre) could be heard around the room, subtly, but less subtly when somebody would roll in with a party of eight and no reservations.  Del would break into La Vie En Rose, to some a charming love song, but to Joe Patrucco, somewhere out in the room greeting guests, a code to come to the front pronto and deal with a problem.

        One didn’t hear La Vie En Rose too often at Joe and Gilbert’s…

  • • •     

The bill of fare rivaled any fine dinner house in America, garnering Holiday Magazine Five-Star awards year after year when fewer than 75 were conferred in the whole country.  In 1960, Eugene’s hosted the City of Reno’s welcoming luncheon for the International Olympic Committee during the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics.  Business soon came from one interesting market, the airlines. United Air Lines, three words in the 1960s, began with meals for two flights a day to solve a logistical problem and found that the food was so popular on those runs that they eventually selected Eugene’s to prepare meals for twelve flights a day.  Years ago the rumor was that United changed their schedules just to use food from Eugene’s.  Bonanza Airlines also served Eugene’s fare enroute to Las Vegas.  Gil and Joe did take-out judiciously; for a good customer a little under the weather, a Broiled Langoustine Eugene’s or a Filet of Sole Meuniere, with Foigras du Perigord or Zabalione might appear on their sickbed tray.  Or, for Charles Clegg and historian/raconteur Lucius Beebe’s St. Bernard – all three fairly frequent diners — a nice dish of Skippy a la Comstock for the beast.

There’s too much on the menu here to cover in one week.  Soon, we’ll name names: the long-time employees who bought it from Joe and Gilbert in 1961; about photographers Gitta and Jimmie Smith, old-world names like Madalaine Chamot, Annie Creux, Walter Zhand, Rene Jacquemin, Raymond Capitaine, Sergé Nussbaum, Don Richter and Dave Blakely (Richter and Blakely?  Well, not all of them were old-world…) I’ll include some anecdotes from a recent visit with Gilbert Vasserot, some more from the late Joe Patrucco’s daughter Linda, about Eugene’s guests, staff, and great times in a Reno landmark, and finally about Joe and Gilbert’s Continental Lodge.

And now, dessert…

In a recent column, we spoke of what I boldly labeled the finest restaurant that ever graced local nightlife – Eugene’s – and I braced myself for a spate of e-mail pointing out a few other classy places, of which there are many in town.  That argument never arrived (a lot of agreement did, however.)  On the other hand, I heard from all 1,704 people, to listen to them, who had dined in the old house out by the present Peppermill that housed the original Eugene’s on the night owners Joe Patrucco and Gilbert Vasserot closed it in 1958.  And all of the 3,214 first-nighters when the restaurant reopened in the new building across the parking lot on May 14th the same year.  [Sarcasm herein missed by some readers – the new place sat about 130 diners.]  Gitta was there that night and took many photos of the diners, as she did almost every night, trundling off to her studio downtown to process and print them and return before her subjects left for a nightcap at the Riverside.

I promised in that column that in this sequel I’d name names and here we go, with little regard to sequence or grammar:

        It’s hard to think of Eugene’s without thinking of Gil and Joe, then almost automatically of the tall, ethereal waiter-turned-host-turned-owner, who approached Joe Patrucco in 1946, he looking for a job as a waiter, Joe then in the process of buying Eugene’s from Eugene Jarvis.  His name was Walter Zhand (still is) and this “skinny kid,” as Joe described him once in a letter to his daughter, became synonymous with wonderful service and food, first at Eugene’s, then at the Continental Lodge that Joe and Gil opened in 1963 (that’s a column for another Saturday), and later when he built the Galena Forest restaurant on the Mt. Rose Highway.  (Walter, with Raymond Haas and chef Raymond Capitaine, bought Eugene’s in 1971 and operated it into the early 1980s.)  Walter still walks from his home by Virginia Lake, ramrod-straight, still a great guy.

        Many readers wrote of their favorites: Angelo Buccalari tended the bar in the earlier years; Cliff Challender, of the masterful memory for patrons’ favorite drinks, took over later.  Armand was the wine steward of long standing; Raymond Haas was originally a waiter, becoming the lead wine steward when Antoine Balducci, who took over from Armand, retired.  Sergé Nussbaum, Walter Dixon, René Jacquemin, and Carmen.  Waiter Heinz Sauer’s name came up, as did a chef named Mel, and another named Steve LePochat.  Here’s a surprise: Retired Carson City dentist Tom Horgan, who bussed tables while in school. Ingo and Uwe Nikoley, they were there…

  • • •

The patrons were myriad and far-flung to Reno from around the world: During the Squaw Valley Olympics, Joe and Gilbert hosted Lillian Crosa, the figure skater from Gilbert’s native Switzerland, her coach Annie Creux, and ladies downhill contender Madelaine Chamot.  During the filming of The Misfits, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe and most of the cast made

Eugene’s their home-away-from-home for dinner (a photo in Gilbert’s scrapbook which he so kindly loaned me depicts our own Betty Stoddard in a page near the Misfit cast, and most people I’ve shown the scrapbook to at first see Betty as Marilyn.  Their 1960 resemblance was amazing…)

        It should be noted that the inspiration for this column came from two fronts occurring within a week of each other: the first, the aforementioned Betty Stoddard sitting with Bob Carroll in a Bonanza Inn TV commercial chatting about great old restaurants – the Lancer, Vario’s, Eugene’s, etc.  Almost simultaneously a lady e-mailed me about a restaurant that her father co-owned, out South Virginia by the Peppermill, a long time ago.  Might make a good column.  “Yeah, I’ve heard of it once or twice,” I answered Linda Patrucco Doerr, and I was off and running.

        Gilbert’s book contains dozens of other neat photos, most from Gitta, Reno’s pre-eminent nightlife photographer, a few from Jimmie Smith and a few more from Don Dondero.  One is of Reno mayor Len Harris and his wife, another of Mike Mirabelli, the music man and state treasurer, one of my old friend Dave Ginsburg and his parents, yet another of Eddie Questa, Jordan Crouch, and a few other First National Bank honchos who I can’t recognize.  And one real treasure: How many people remember Reno’s first TV news anchorman?  I picked him out of a shot, when others couldn’t: His name was, and remains, Durward Yasmer, the voice of KZTV. [later KOLO-TV.]

  • • •

Finally, the guys who parked the cars.  There were a few, I’ll name two old fraternity buddies: Don Richter, who prided himself on lurking around the restaurant watching for a party to get ready to leave, then bringing their car to the door as they walked out (he used his free time to dump the ashtrays and wash the windshields, and reportedly later took three years in the insurance business to get his income back up to what he made in tips at Eugene’s.)  A later valet was Dave Blakely, whose late parents Bill and Maryalice were steady diners at the restaurant.

        I’m indebted to many for the background for this yarn; to Gilbert Vasserot, who with Joe Patrucco – who passed away in 1994 – set the standard against which local dining class and elegance will be measured for years to come.  To Joe’s children, Linda Patrucco Doerr and her brother Bob (and Wendy) Patrucco.  And to Josette Jacquemin, Christiane Markwell, Denise Haas Hastings, and Carmen Buccalari Borges, for their reminiscences.

  • • •

YOU LIVED IN RENO IN THE EARLY 2000s IF YOU REMEMBER……………………

The 1960 Winter Olympic column is still receiving considerable interest, but I want to post this from Don. To get to the earlier Olympic column click here…

Well, I’m back home on Ralston Street after my Olympic story. I just got an envelope from one of my neighbors, Don Hartman, who lives up a couple of blocks from me kitty-corner from Maynard’s Market or the Pub ‘n Sub, whatever they call it now. Here’s what he wrote me on binder paper:

DonHartmanHi Karl; You often write of Reno when you were a little boy….great stories.  I am writing this on the Reno site as folks in 2080 might, who were ten or 12 years old in Reno in the early 2000s. In a sense, it is a future look at Reno and I bet some will be true.  If you do decide to post it…you may correct any grammar, spelling, etc….. thanks for letting me borrow that time machine that you mentioned last summer [pictured below], that let you look a little into the future so you could write about stuff that happened after 1946 when you were older than six-years-old. I’m afraid that I cranked it up too far, to the late 2000s, and hope I didn’t bust it. But I walked around Reno like you do after I turned it on, even though I’m a couple years younger than you, and here is what I wrote. You can use it if you want for your friends in Reno. See you at Mary S. Doten school down the hill…Don….

How many remember when the Reno airport was off Plumb Lane?  Fun to watch theSteampunk Clock planes take off.  Now to watch planes, we have to go to the new airport in far north Spanish Springs…….

How many remember when UNR had one campus on Virginia Street? Now there are two… the old, north campus and the new one where the airport once was. I drive by the new campus today and marvel at the veterinary school and law school but still think of the single old UNR campus.

How many recall when UNR north campus had a lake called Manzanita Lake?  We use to go there to catch crawdads…sadly it was filled in years ago to built new dorms.

Do you remember those pools at Idlewild Park?  I took swimming lessons there and was later a lifeguard in 2029 when I was in college…  Too bad they filled those pools in for tennis courts.

How many remember an event called “Hot August Nights”….my Dad use to take us there to see the antique and classic cars.  Too bad it ended in 2045. August is not the same in Reno anymore.

How many remember you could get a breakfast at the Squeeze Inn in NW Reno (the place is now a real estate office).  A family of four could eat a wonderful breakfast there for under $50 with tip……..today, lucky to find a breakfast anywhere in Reno for a family for under $200.

How many of you recall the Reno Arch?  As a kid, I use to love to look at those lights.  I understand today, the arch is located at the new UNR South campus.

I remember how fun it was to pile into the family car and Mom would take us to Meadowood Mall to shop and eat at the food court.  Now we have driverless cars and the mall itself is gone…..Google regional offices today.  I sure miss it when Mom and Dad drove us around Reno back in the 2000s.  Kids today in Reno have no clue how cars were in the good old days in Reno and Sparks..

How many of you remember when the area from th former Stead Airbase to Cold Springs was nothing but sagebrush and a few ranches?  My Grandpa use to take us there to target practice when I was a kid.  I was shocked when I drove out to that area recently. Nothing but homes! A blanket of homes called Peavine Highlands from Stead to Cold Springs. I understand when the new Red Rock Parkway is completed, there will be five thousand more homes built in the area. Please give me back the good old days in Reno in the early 200s!

How many can remember old downtown Reno?  It was so run-down.  My grandpa would take me there on the River Walk and the homeless scared me.  Luckily, they renovated the area and it’s now condos and office buildings.

Do you remember how cheap groceries were?  My Mom would shop at a place called Safeway (now gone)….she could buy a week’s worth of groceries for the family for $150 – $160….now it would cost $850 a week and a drone will deliver groceries.  It was so fun to go to Safeway in Reno and ride in the cart as Mom pushed me around the store.

How many of you remember John Ascuaga’s Nugget before it became the “Nevada Biltmore,” and the Grand Sierra before it became condos on one wing and the “Sierra Hampton Hotel” on the other wing?  I think they were going to demolish the Nugget about 15 years ago and it lay dormant and run-down for many years. So glad the building is still there even though it is no longer the Nugget.  I remember both when I was a kid. Great places back in the day. My late Grandpa told me when I was 10, that he used to order a giant burger at the Nugget many, many years ago when he was in college.. …forgot the name of the burger… I recall kind of an odd name for a burger; I might even say an Awful name…

It used to be so fun to ride the bus down Virginia Street or the bus to the airport off Plumb Lane.  Today, we have to take light rail especially if we want to go to the airport.  I miss the old buses in Reno especially those blue ones UNR use to have back in the day.

 How many recall, that Reno was so safe to raise kids? I used to walk or ride my bike sometimes two blocks away in the 2000s. Not sure if kids could do that today in Reno.

How many remember the old Reno High School?  How many attended Reno High?  I loved that old brick building at Booth and Foster Drive. The new RHS is nice, but I miss the seeing the old one when we’d drive by with my Dad. My Dad even took us there to watch high school football.

Do you remember when your parents could drive you to Lake Tahoe for the day?.  Sure a pain today as there use to be so much traffic to Tahoe, they started toll roads.  My Dad would be so upset.

How many recall that Aces Stadium that once was in downtown Reno?  How many went there as a kid?.  My Dad took us to games at that downtown stadium.  If you went to Aces games, do you remember when your Dad could buy a hot dog and drink for you for only $9.00?  Last time I took my grandson to the new Aces stadium located near Verdi, it cost $35.00 for a dog and drink. I miss Reno of the 2000’s.

I recall it only cost me $9.00 for a child to go to the movies in the 2000s.  Heck, I took my granddaughter to the movies the other day and it cost $30 just for her….and, damn, popcorn at the Reno theaters with butter cost eight dollars in the good old days.  Lucky my granddaughter did not ask for popcorn as today it is $40 for small buttered popcorn.

I use to love to watch the mail carrier come to my house on Ralston Street.  So cool to wait for my new video games to arrive in the mail or a letter from grandma who did not know how to use a computer. Can’t understand why there are no more post offices in Reno like the good old days.

In the 2000s we had computers, but Dad loved to read a large, flimsy magazine-type thing called a “newspaper.”  I can barely remember what they looked like when delivered to my house on Silver Crown. Drive.

How many remember a place called Wild River or Wild Island (I forgot the name). It was a wonderful place in Sparks where my Mom took us for birthday parties.  You could swim there and slide there and even drive bumper cars. I think it was torn down sometime around 2035 to make way for a large warehouse. I sure miss that place.

Remember when Reno was a fairly small city back in the 2000s?  I loved the old Reno back then. I heard Reno and Sparks now have close to a million residents. 

How many recall that big whale near the river?  I thought it was a real whale. As a kid, I thought it was cool.. My Dad said the whale was a waste of money. I think that whale now is at the new Reno airport in Spanish Springs.

It was such fun when, if I were a good boy, my Mom would take me to a place off McCarran called “McDonald’s.”  I will never forget the thing for kids called Happy Meals.  The toy meant so much to me.  I think the last McDonald’s in Reno was torn down years ago. 

Bring back the good old days in Reno!!.

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Endnotes:

Karl….The real reason I wrote all this essay  was NOT  to look into the future, NOT to be cute or silly….I actually wrote this piece to show that…..MEMORIES ARE ALL RELATIVE…………… ! 

And, in response to Don, Karl writes….Don.. as you know I welcome and encourage guest columns. This one of yours was wonderful, ran almost with no editing, and I hope will be the first of many you send up from Sacramento! Keep the time machine and crank out another column ASAP. See you on the deck of the Pub ‘n Sub when it warms up!!