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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30078 Norden snowshed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 She had.

 Hank will be back riding along with us soon…!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dee Garrett

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

Norden turntable photo © Southern Pacific Railroad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An open letter to readers and friends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Old Reno laundries!

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

Dear Mr. Breckenridge,

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

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

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

Sincerely,
R. Bud Holland
Tacoma, Washington

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

Hi again, Karl,

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

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

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

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

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

Bud Holland

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ranting here is occasionally permitted: Clean up the memories, let others enjoy…!

RenoCooksFrom time to time or when the spirit moves me, whichever comes first, you will read here not an account of bygone days or friends, nor of old schools or streets or the cars that motored down them, or that insipid little six-year-old squirt on his Schwinn pedalling all over town scribing how it used to be, but the opinion of the scribe who posts this column, the scrivener who labors long nights in the lonely writer’s garret while others are out cavorting about the village. This is one of those posts…

Permit me to bring an old friend into the text, whose name is Tora Bengochea  [pictured below]. Tora emailed me a couple of months ago, with an offer of some stuff I’ll elaborate on shortly. Having her permission I’ll post an early email from her, to get all the readers into the mood:

ToraI greatly enjoyed your article about the Liberty Belle.  We ate there frequently and our daughter was fascinated by the “Ladies of the Night” pictures in the women’s restroom; hence, we would have to visit the bathroom two to three times before, during and after dinner when she was little.  She’d stand in front of them and stare in awe at them.  Cracked me up!  I’ll send the wine bottle salt & pepper shakers with a happy heart to you.  
“The Nevada Bengochea family originated from four brothers who immigrated to the Winnemucca area in the early 1900’s.  So, whomever you knew is more than likely related.  Tim and I were at the University of Nevada from 1965 to 1968, He was activated in the National Guard to “rescue the Pueblo” from the North Koreans and I continued attending.  I taught at Traner Middle School; when he returned he became a cashier and later comptroller at the Primadonna Casino.  Seems so long ago/yesterday…”

OK, here’s the gist of what Tora’s original email contained. She, like many of us, is cleaning her house of “stuff” – stuff it’s taken a lifetime to accumulate, stuff we can remember the night we purloined it out of a restaurant or won in a raffle or foundLancers in a hockshop in Seaside, Oregon and couldn’t do without. She wrote, I have a set of Lancer salt and pepper shakers, a 1968 Verdi commemorative cookbook, and the grail sought by many young housewives several – awright – five decades ago: “Reno Also Cooks” – Washoe Medical Center Womens League’s highly Verdicollectible cookbook – highly desired not necessarily for the recipes but by the daughters of the then-young women who entered their recipes in the book (and a few men, also). One of the most popular columns I once ran was a selection of those recipes, right here, I’ll put a link to it at the end of today’s Labor Day rant. And another link to my “Tombola Days” site. If I can find them.

Tora asked, “Can you find a good home for these things? They’re my treasures, and don’t belong in a garage sale or Goodwill store…?” Uhh, yeah, Tora, I think I can do that…

So she sent them to me from her home in Oregon.

I have found homes for the treasures. A lady friend of mine who grew up in Verdi has the Verdi cookbook, and a waiting list of friends who want to see it. The Lancer shakers are with a youngish friend of mine, the son of my contemporary at the Sigma Nu frat house, who now entertains often in his home (with his bride, I should add!) and dozens of his friends will see them in the coming year, and conversations will ensue. And the Washoe Med cookbook? A tough call, but it went to a lady who has an abundance of daughters and whose mother entered a recipe in the book 40 years ago, so the little book is assured of being around and enjoyed ’til perpetuity.

OK, now let the rant begin: We all have “stuff” that we’ve accumulated. In yakking this column-topic up with some friends, all agree that most of our children wouldn’t give house room to most of the “treasures” we cherish. In my own writer’s garret I look up from the paper in my Underwood standard at a cast-pewter bear from my grandmother’s house in Petaluma, Calif., that came ’round the Horn in the 19th Century from Ireland; I see a dozen cameras of all age and stripe and description – movie, still, box, better 35mm. film cameras that no one wants now; a mahogany model of a PBM Navy airplane that no one remembers; a Deitz lantern I brought home from New England on a family motor trip in 1952, and a brass spittoon embossed with an Indian chief tobacco brand that I stole from a bar downtown when I was in college, when I could still write “Indian” and spittoons hadn’t become “cuspidors” in polite society yet.

These will all go in the dumpster upon my demise, but somewhere there’s a person who wants a pewter bear from the Berne, Switzerland zoo, there’s one of the hundred men who flew a PBM in WWII, packed a Bell & Howell camera before digital cams existed or a bachelor like me who’s a bachelor because he reveres his spittoon and lantern. Somewhere, but where…? ) I gave one of my Underwood standards to Lt. Emerson Marcus, a remarkable young guy who’s the PIO for the Nevada National Guard and in my opinion if not selected as a future governor of Nevada or an Air Force four-star, someone’s missing the boat. Plus, his mommy’s cute…

So, I write today: Look around your house. Focus on one of your favorite gadgets. Cherish the memory. Then, try to picture it lying alongside a pewter bear or a spittoon in a 14-yard dumpster, because that’s where it will wind up if you and I meet our Maker around the same time frame. As I said, our kids don’t want it. Mine have my whole garret – a whole lifetime – to  deal with, and don’t want my treasures. But – somewhere, someone is itching to get that trinket of yours, and that PBM airplane of mine. Let’s make it easy for all. Look back upon the happy times that gadget has brought you, then say, “How can I be assured that it will find a home as good as the one I gave it?” Give it some thought. The Nevada Historical Society can’t find what they have now. I was offered eight old phone book cover artwork paintings, framed, that came from a friend’s dad’s office. The NHS turned them down. I found them a good, public home, where they’ll be seen and enjoyed by many, for years to come with the artists’ names affixed to them. The City of Reno, while we have a whale in our Believe Park, a Lear Theater falling down around itself, unmanned and empty fire stations and pretty murals gracing vacant buildings, does not have a museum. All wide spots in the Nevada roads have a museum. Sparks has a great museum. But don’t plan on your stuff going to the Reno Museum, ‘cuz we can’t get one together. Hell, this lonely writer’s garret is the beginning of a museum, only one of many inadvertent ones in Reno. But I’m divesting, not collecting. Anybody want a PBM bomber or a Dietz lantern?

A hat-tip here to Tora Bengochea. She did what we all should be doing. I know it tore Tim and her up to wrap up those cookbooks, and the Lancer tableware. But, many are already enjoying them, as they once did.

Who’s next?

Here’s some pages from the Washoe Med cookbook

Tombola Day’s! Washoe Med’s annual picnic

 

 

 

 

An air racing story not yet told…

FearlessNoTextThe poor little guy was bawling his eyes out. What the heck………..?

I wheeled my Jeep toward him, a lone little figure about my son’s age, standing with a well-worn paper sack in his hands, ill-clothed and needing a haircut from a real barber, a lad truly matching one’s perception of an urchin. I stopped next to him and killed the engine.MissAmericaP51

“What’s up, Pardner?”

Through sobs and sniffles, I was able to put together the cause of the lad’s grief. It would seem that he received for Christmas, a model airplane kit for the P-51 Mustang that had raced in Reno every year since the races began ten years ago (I’m pegging this event as being in 1976). In the paper sack was the cover of the model’s cardboard box and the assembly instruction sheet.

He had started last Christmas, now nine months ago, to save his pennies and go toInstruction sheet the Air Races the following September, and have Howie Keefe, the owner and pilot of Miss America, autograph the kit’s lid and the instruction sheet. But, upon trudging from his family’s home to Stead and presenting his meager funds at the ticket table for the air race pits – where the airplanes are tied down – he was informed that he was too young to go into the pit area – an FAA regulation and a RevellP51good, valid one.

He was crushed – nine months of hopes and a dream were instantaneously brought to an end. He walked, alone, back along the fence line separating him from the pits, and broke into tears. His life was pretty bleak to begin with; this visit was his beacon since Christmas, and it was just unceremoniously extinguished. I’ve never seen a kid – or a human – that upset.

Let’s take a few paragraphs and fill in a cast of characters. Howie Keefe owned and flew the P-51 named Miss America, race number One-One. It was totally stock – no clipped wingtips, prop changes nor tail mods – and therefore not terribly competitive at Reno. But it had an easily identifiable and unique color scheme, which rivaled be best of Raymond Leowy, the dean of industrial designers who designed Air Force One. The plane got the attention of Revell Plastics, who paid owner Keefe not a small amount of coin to offer the plane as a plastic model about a foot long. The plane was a beauty, and well known by all.

OK, that said, the owner/pilot was a man named Howie Keefe. I Howie Keefetipped my hat to him as a former WWII Navy pilot with a zillion hours PIC and the respect of all with whom he flew or raced in air races around the country. He was immensely respected, in fact got a call from the NTSB to join the team of investigators of the crash at Stead that killed 11 souls and pilot Jimmy Leeward, who I knew and liked very much.

Yours truly was aboard due to my friendship, away from and prior to air racing, with the likes of Fred Davis, George Vucanovich, Stan Brown, Roy Powers, Jerry Duty and a few others who would form the crux of Reno air racing in its infancy. And my name and often photograph appeared for the next 31 years in 31 air race programs, as “Home Pylon Flagman” and later with “Finish Judge” following. I was in.

I looked at my watch. I had an hour-and-a-half until I needed to be at my post at Home Pylon. Plenty of time until the earliest race. I made a command decision. “Hop in,” I said to the urchin, nodding toward the Jeep’s right, co-pilot seat. He did.

Then I broke a couple, if not more rules – the FAA’s about underage people being beyond the “line” – the fence separating competition from spectators, and the Air Race’s, against bringing unticketed people into the pit. I cruised up to the gate and the look on my visage probably adequately conveyed that the Jeep and all it carried were coming in – leave it alone.

JeepersWe drove through the pits. I noticed Jeremy (which by the way was the kid’s name) entranced with the whole vista. I found an extra Air Race Operations hat and offered it to him.

Soon, Pay Dirt! In a little shade-shelter very near Miss America, was a tall, elegant figure wearing a crisp red, white and blue flight suit. I stopped and said to Jeremy, come with me.

I was cheery to Keefe and his friends: “Hi Howie; I brought a little friend of mine to say hello; he’s got some stuff for you to sign!” Keefe looked at me askance, at Jeremy, at the official’s insignia on my hat, then said hi. Jeremy pulled the kit’s cover and the instruction sheet out, together with a heavy marking pen he just happened to have in the bag. And believe it or don’t, but Keefe asked Jeremy how to spell his name and signed both articles.

Jeremy’s nine-month quest had come true! But wait, it gets better:

“Howie,” I said, “May I show Jeremy your office in the Mustang?”

Keefe, as I expected he might, said, well why don’t I take him myself?  Jeremy, as one might expect didn’t need a second invitation. They both clambered up the wing – I, by now the ex officio photographer, followed,

Not tall enough to sit on his butt in the cockpit, he scrunched on his knees while Keefe pointed out the “stuff” inside – the throttle, flaps, rudders, joystick, gear, radio, trim knobs. I dutifully clicked shots of Jeremy, Howie, the cockpit, the crowd. My favorite was one with Jeremy and Howie, both with a smile you could see a mile, looking at each other and playing with some control on the panel. A bonding moment, indeed.

Time was fleeting. I corralled Jeremy and thanked Keefe profusely. And he actually thanked me for bringing them together. Jeremy and I returned to the Jeep.

I had already broken a couple no-no’s that as an official I should have been busted for, but on the way out to the ramp, I decided that once your heels are off the ground, it doesn’t matter how high they hang you. I steered toward my duty at Home Pylon. Tower cleared me on my handy-talkie to cross the main runway, and Jeremy was put to work at Home.  I sensed that the FAA overseer looked the other way.

Jeremy helped us raise Old Glory on cue, as eight Nevada Air Guard RF-4Cs passed over loud and proud just as the flag reached the top of the pole at the end of the Anthem.. He saw the Blue Angels, (the Thunderbirds?), from the best seat in the house. He saw air races. Some of my firemen buddies took him down to a crash truck. He learned how to cook hamburgers on a grill, the only skill really a requisite for working at Home Pylon. He helped us lower the flag and make a crisp tricorner fold, to fly another day.

Jeremy went to the air races. I took him home to a shabby trailer in Black Springs, to where 35 years before I drove a school bus. My first trip back. Yikes.

He was dead-ass tired – noise, excitement, smoke, seeing Howie – he’d had a day. I told him I’d see him in a couple weeks (I was shooting Kodachrome II back then with a Canon A-1; a bit different than pointing and shooting a digital today!). Roy Powers helped me get 8-by-10 copies of a dozen of the best pictures.

I went back to the trailer with the pictures in a fortnight. He was still on Cloud Nine. A Saturday, I took him to lunch. I wasn’t sure he was getting square meals.

I never saw him again. I sent some cards and letters, with return postage envelopes with my address. Nada. I went to his family’s home – they left, no forwarding address.

I’d like to end this with some Mitch Albom-feel good conclusion, but can’t. Howie Keefe, at 92, banged life’s throttle for the final time in the midsummer of 2013, pulled the stick back and climbed up, up, the long delirious burning blue over Florida where never lark nor ever eagle flew, and touched the face of God. His passing was an immense loss to the air racing and aviation community.

Jeremy? Dunno. He said during the brief tenure of our association that he’d like to join the Navy when he was old enough and work around airplanes. I’d like to think he won his Wings of Gold and is now the wing-king of an F/A-18 Hornet  squadron flying off the Ronald Reagan. But I doubt it.

I’m just happy to have brought him that day at Stead. I write about Air Racing ad nauseam, or did a few years ago. But Jeremy’s story stayed within me, until this year. They’ll be back tearing up the skies over Stead in a few weeks. And for reasons unknown, I thought I’d put one last air race tale out.

I’d give anything to get that kid in the Jeep once more….

© Breckenridge 2018

Excerpt of Airman’s Prayer credit to John Gillespie Magee, Jr. “High Flight” 1940

Air Race Home Pylon Crew

 Home Pylon Crew, 1984: from left, my younger son Brent; Dale Tucker, now the home pylon flagman; a fugitive from Reno 911 in shorts; Dale’s parents Polly and Ed Tucker, chief timers; chief judge Fred Hallett, the father of Reno Air Race timing and statistics. The latter three have passed away, Dale’s the head flagman

 

 

August 17, 2018 – A new school for the six-year-old kid!


LittleKarlWell I’m back in school – Central Jr. High now, which was the old Reno High School until the new Reno High opened out on Booth Street west of town this summer of 1951. Dad says I gotta quit doggin’ it and get to writing – I’m no longer on Ralston Street and if I go another summer without writing no one is going to care what or if I write. But I’d still like to meet the moron that changed the school-start day from the day after Labor Day to a couple days into August.

RenoHigh1912

Our new school opened in 1913 as Reno High School. [Here, I’m going to insert the reminder I received from retired WCSD teacher  and my kindergarten classmate at Mary S. Doten Elementary, that our school was known as “Central Intermediate” when we were there, and  it had just been converted. The “Jr. High” designation came later. But changing it in this tale is laborious, and I like Jr. High better anyway. The Beach Boys never sang of an “Intermediate” school…!] Back to work: It was on the north side of the alley between Chestnut Street and West Street, facing West Street (the Temple Emanuel was directly across the street). A bunch of old apartment houses were on the south side of that alley, separating the school from the Lincoln Highway – West Fourth Street. The Lincoln Highway became Reno’s apartment row in the 1920s and ‘30s, with some of the nicest apartment houses in town on that stretch of the road.  One-by-one they were torn down, mostly to make motels, and the last one that most remember was the Frandsen Apartments on the south side of the highway. The apartment houses on the alley were eventually razed and the land became a playground for Central (I should mention that a home on the Lincoln Highway was donated to the Reno School District, and became a music/band area for the school!)

The new Reno High School was a pretty snazzy building – it was designed by the same architect who did the “Spanish Quartette” elementary schools I told you about a while back – Mary S.  Doten was one of them, only three blocks away to the west on Fifth Street.  The new Reno High was quite similar to the Spanish Quartette – or Four Sisters – George Ferris designed them all – picture two of the four that would remain in town for many years, McKinley Park on the Truckee River or Mount Rose School on Arlington, but with one more story, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Reno High looked like. They got rid of some of the better features like the balconies on the third floor when it became Central Jr. High last summer, but some of it stayed – the flagpole that was a gift of the VFW after World War II remained. That flagpole would be placed in front of another high school named “Wooster” many years later, but of course I can’t see into the future so I can’t really say.

The old Reno High – now our Central – was a neat place with a lot of nooks and crannies and stairwells. It had a big room downstairs with some built-in bleachers lining both sides, and a stage, with a full set of lights of different colors and a “fly” with curtains that would raise straight up, and a main curtain to draw side-to-side. It had a hatch to open big hole in the floor so an actor could jump in to fake a getaway. My own father shot a man on that stage in 1931, he did – he shot a classmate named Ralph Menante and his pistol backfired, damn near took his finger off! (This was all in a student play, by the way ….. they remained friends for a lifetime to follow.)

The ROTC had a shooting range in one wing of the building’s basement – the ceiling of that range was all screwed up from 40 years of kids – soldiers – misfiring Garand M-1 rifles into the air. [See Hank Philcox’ letter below…] Upstairs was a big gym that was a lot brighter than the assembly room of the same size directly below it. It had windows and was quite bright. Back in my crystal ball mode, I’ll write of the electric scoreboard for basketball games that hung in that gym – the scoreboard later went to a school that would be called E. Otis Vaughn, and is still there as you read this. I have, with the usual luck anyone has with the school district, tried to save  that unused scoreboard and have it donated to the Reno High’s alumni center but the school district doesn’t give a rat’s ass about its heritage so the scoreboard will probably eventually be dumped. Too bad.

Speaking of school districts, I should probably write that when we started at Central Jr. High and until 1955, Reno School District was only one of 18 districts in Washoe County. No wonder things worked.

The food was good at Central Jr. High. We had a big lunchroom in the basement with good, cheap lunches. Most of us took turns bussing tables. In the colder winter days we enjoyed the “noon movies” – mostly fairly new Hollywood movies, comedies, some drama, some Westerns – usually split into three segments and they showed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  A good sound system and a bright Bell & Howell projector – a pleasant way to spend a lunch hour!

Upstairs in the south wing was the library, and we at Central were the benefactors of an almost total updating of the Reno High library when the high school relocated to Booth Street. The lion’s share of the books were left in the “new” Central, and we had this wonderful asset upstairs, Miss Thomas presiding over it, and came to really enjoy it [See Anna Siig’s  comment below].  A wood-shop downstairs, a home-ec suite upstairs. Dropping names, Chauncey King was our principal, Chet Green, one of the best teachers I ever had, was the vice-principal; John Gonda, Ted Furchner and George Getto became good friends, and in the fifth-grade slot, a new teacher named Fran Trachok! Mrs. Howard was the school’s secretary, a lass not hard for a fifth-grader to behold.

Frandsen ApartmentsWho went to Central? Well, if you lived north of the Truckee River and west of Virginia Street, we were probably classmates (the alternatives were Northside, east of Virginia Street, and B. D. Billinghurst, south of the Truckee in the sparsely-populated area of town) [see Eric Nummela’s comment below]. We were starting to see more kids from the air force base north of town that had just last year been renamed “Stead” from Reno Air Base. I’ve written before of the children of ladies, and a few men, living temporarily in Reno seeking a divorce; since most of their housing was in the upper-Ralston area, they came to Central while in Reno. A lot of kids lived west of town along the Truckee in the power company’s hydroelectric plants, and the only school bus I remember brought them in to class each day.

Anyhoo, it was a great school, comfortable, with good teachers, sports and facilities. I’m sure that the same could be written of Northside and B.D. The 1950s were good years to be a kid.

Oh – on a sadder note – Central Jr. High suffered a fire in 1966, which didn’t do a great amount of damage, but Darrel Swope Middle School was open in a populous area southwest of the new Reno High, and Central was razed…

A ’56 Chevy with a load a’ love under the hood…

JeepersAt rest in my lonely writer’s garret on a halcyon midsummer day, the Giants at home in their SF yard and coming on the tube soon; a quart of iced tea on my side table, my weekly “Geriatric Nocturnal Abstinence” advice column filed. What could go wrong with that?

My phone rings. I foolishly answer it. That’s what could go wrong with that.

Larry57On the west end of the line is my ol’ childhood buddy Jerry Lenzora, a favorite classmate of mine from Reno High’s vaunted Class of 1959 and one of the funniest guys in our class. He’s a retired outdoor advertising guru, residing for these many years in Ripon, California, a hoot-and-a-holler out of Manteca; a small farming town of ten or twelve thousand souls with a Western Auto store and a bookmobile that comes in from the Stanislaus County Library twice a week.

Jerry is all a-twitter. “I’ve a Hot August Nights human interest story for you that will knock your socks off.” 

THAT’S what could go wrong. I tried telling Lenzora that I no longer write. I’m old, feeble, and my mind can no longer form sentences. I told him the local paper where I moiled once a week for 29 years no longer publishes me, and their readership has gone through the roof since I quit and they’re doing just fine. I strengthened the story by telling him that I’m under an order from the Ninth Circuit Court and thus can’t write anything to be published west of Denver, Colorado. But he kept jabbering. I told him that I had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in both wrists, ankles and one knee. I told him that I’ve written about Hot August Nights until I was blue in the face, that it’s all been written.Chevinterior

I told him the dog stole my laptop (I liked that one). I told him, no, no. No more writing. Call Mike Sion. Call Guy Clifton. Call Erin Breen. But he kept talking. My protests were falling on deaf ears.

THAT’S what could go wrong.

So I listened to his fanciful tale, replete with classic cars and the guys who fix them, pretty girls, a local couple who own a day-care and a garden shop, a newlywed couple, a weirdo V-8 engine that GM once built, of one of the most dreaded diseases in the land, and other stuff pertaining, sort of, to the proposed writing assignment. Beaten down, I acceded to give it a go.

Getting into my Hot August Nights writing mode, as all readers should do prior to reading about it, let’s do the checklist: The family car air conditioning set to “440,” four windows down doing 40 MPH, check. At least two round trips on Virginia Street from Liberty Street northward turning left into Sewell’s parking lot and return to get into the mood, check. Chicks in hip-huggers, guys in 501s, what the hell were “poodle skirts” anyway and who ever had fuzzy dice hanging from their rear view mirrors? Check. Bud Buley, the Reno motorcycle cop we loved to hate, on his Harley Wolfmanin the vicinity. Check. And our tube-set car radios tuned to XEAK, the Mighty 690 AM with the Wolfman [left] spinning stax of wax and Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys. Check. We’re ready, let’s cruise. Or in my case, let’s write something. The Giants can wait, the iced tea will turn to Kirkland Margarita writing fluid in due course, and the sooner I get Lenzora tamed down the sooner peace will return to the Lonely Writer’s Garret.

We’ll start at the beginning, if such it is, by dropping the name of Sparks native HollisLinda (née Franchi) and her husband Pawl Hollis [seen at right]; Linda the owner of Magic Tree Day Care and Pawl the owner of Rail City Nursery, and yes, the host of the radio show on KOH on Saturday mornings (the 1950s’ Big John & Sparky on KOH it’s not, but it’s PatJeneCanyonpleasant anyway…)

We’re admittedly having a bit of fun with this story, but here the text inevitably reins in: In 2000 Linda’s sister Anita (Follett) succumbed to ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In an effort to perpetuate her sister’s memory Linda endowed the annual use of her cousin Jerry Lenzora’s HAN rod as an auction prize. Newlyweds Patrick and Jené Hickey [seen at left visiting the Grand Canyon] bid on it at an ALS Society dinner earlier this year, and won the ride.

But wait, a discouraging word (cue an ominous diminished chord riff on our piano): Jerry Lenzora turns the starter on the ride which has been nominated as the prime mover for the Hickeys’ 2018 Hot August Nights honeymoon cruising, and black smoke blows six ways from sundown. In a controlled panic, Jerry hauls what’s left of the little red Bel Air into Sam’s shop. Sam has a last name but it’s not finding its way into this text, because Sam is one of the diminishing fraternity of gearheads who make Hot August Nights possible, in fact without the Sams there may not be a Hot August Nights in coming years. I talked to Sam – he’s a fun guy. The Sams know the old hemis, the small-block Chevies, the Ford mills, what cools them, how their Hurst shifters and Holley and Carter carbs work and what keeps the vintage iron rolling. But, mostly-retired they sometimes don’t get quite fully signed up with the powers-that-be and they work a lot for cash, so Sam is henceforth known as Sam.

Sam checks out what’s left of Jerry’s Chevy and renders the opinion that the Chev’s ChevV8a350 cubic-inch engine is, in a word, toast. Jerry, crushed, relates to Sam that the little coupe was destined to be a ride for a couple of newlyweds next month, an honor they had won as the successful bidders in an ALS Society auction, and what will I tell them?

Sam, no stranger to what makes car-guys think, says don’t tell them anything. We’ll make it roll. Jerry foresees a “new” rebuilt 350 going in, costing upwards of four or five large, and a nail-biter to be done in time for the HAN cruise. But Sam is ‘way ahead of him. He finds a 305-cube V-8 Chevy block, yes, 305; an off-breed that GM built mostly for vans and smaller GM cars like Pontiac’s and Oldsmobile’s compacts. “Let’s get these kids cruisin’,” said Sam with a merry twinkle in his eye.

He called our friend Jerry a week later, pointed to the Chevy in the garage bay, and said “Check it out.” The 305 looked like it had been under the hood forever with all the chromed bells and whistles. “Crank it,” said Sam. Jerry turned it over and it barked to life like a 427 – a deep, throaty rumble, which after all is why we like big bores and hemis – the mellow exhaust sound. “Here’s your bill,” Sam said.

Jerry looked at it and a moment later picked himself off the garage’s concrete floor. It was well-under a grand. Jerry, steeled for a five-grand hit, was out the door for a sixth of that.

“Tell those kids to have some fun!” said Sam as Jerry drove off in the Chevy, a  glisten in his eye and Sam thus joining the honor roll of Good Guys for this 2018 ALS ride. In one sense, without his beneficence and celerity, the Hickeys’ newlywed cruise might not be happening in early August.

hollis2And, much the same can be said of Pawl and Linda Hollis who sponsor the cruise for a great cause, for a hideous malady that claimed my cousin’s life and the dad of one of my best friends. Certainly we note Patrick and Jené Hickey’s contribution, and that of my ol’ pal Jerry Lenzora, who went above and beyond to keep the little coupe rolling along this year.

 

So – during Hot August Nights, if you see a handsome young Lenzoranewcouple in a red-and-PatJeneLibrarywhite 1956 Bel Air being squired around with an old guy at the wheel, that’s how their cruise came to be – give ‘em all a high-five!

 

 

 

Photos of the Bel Air © Shannon Kuhn and Jamie Eisinga from Birch & Blossom photography. Photo of Jerry Lenzora, who knows…?

 

A backstory of the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympic games

BodegaI swear, for every WordPress post that I make, like yesterday’s, the Facebook responses and the “Comments” sections of the posts are outnumbered four-to-one by emails to me, which the reader doesn’t see and which defeats the fun of the post! I’m therefore writing another post about the Blyth Arena post of a few days ago, (and, as one reader wrote, is “Blyth” spelled correctly without an “e” at the end?) Yes.Blyth Arena2

 

“Didn’t the arena collapse after a snowstorm weighed down the roof?” Yes, in 1983 a major snowstorm struck and the snowload collapsed the arena. The backstory is that the Squaw Valley developers had wanted to raze the arena. Permission was repeatedly denied, I think by the State of California, who owned the Olympic assets in the valley. The arena had survived larger snow loads, plenty of them, but this one took it down and it was never rebuilt. End of story. Maybe.

“Did the sun really come out just before the opening ceremony?” Yes. The weather was foul, snowy, a blizzard. The doves that Walt Disney brought to be released stayed in their pens in the trailer. The band, an amalgamation of every high school in the area conducted by a music director from USC, couldn’t keep their instruments in tune against the cold air. But the spot came for the torch to be brought down the hill –  Little Papoose Peak, behind the jump hill. “Might as well…” the director said and the clouds parted, the sun broke through and Andrea Mead Lawrence carried the torch down the hill in full sunlight, no wind, and handed it off to Kenneth Henry of the UK, a speedskater who took it once around the oval  ice arena and lit the torch.

And the skies once again became cloudy…but the Olympics were underway, Richard Nixon did the prayer and Karl Malden recited the opening words.

Yes, the heavens parted…and we made some ‘firsts’ –  the first time a computer was used to tabulate scores – the first time a woman (skater Carol Heiss) took the Olympic oath for all athletes – it was the first year metal skis were permitted and Jean Vaurnet won Gold on them in Downhill, (yeah. then he went on to make sunglasses!) – we had the biggest Olympic jump hill (80 meters) – it was the first live broadcast of (segments of) a sporting event – dammit, I did a dynamite column about the Eighth Winter Games and now I can’t find it.

Another hot button for readers this weekend: Did a Russian die in the championship USA/USSR ice hockey game at Blyth Arena?

Many readers were there – in the first place, it wasn’t the championship Gold match, it was a semifinal. If they guy didn’t die, he’s still counting birdies from his shot into the wall by our goalie. The Cold War was in full swing, the US didn’t like Russia anyway and the feelings were mutual and it showed on the ice (I was working sound for NBC so had a pretty good vantage point). Their goalie had pulled some chickenshit stunts and thus paid the price. We won. And we won the Gold the next day over Czechoslovakia. It was an upset, I think that we won by a bunch of goals in the final minutes. We weren’t supposed to, but we had heart. I didn’t work that game, but heard it on our radio web.

The coolest part of the whole 1960 Olympics for many of us grunt workers was subtle: The Olympic officials, out of respect to the Czechs, cleared the scoreboard of our 9-4 win at Blyth Arena for the closing ceremony. But as soon as the flame dwindled and died and Richard Nixon called upon the Children of the World to gather four years hence in Innsbruck, Austria for the Ninth Winter Games, the stadium lights were dimmed. But all of us grunts’ eyes were on the arena scoreboard, which was then re-lit without fanfare to display “USSR – 2 USA – 3,” the score of the best match ever waged in Blyth. And we knew that a suggestion from the vanquished Russian coach helped us beat the Czechs.

And thousand of people saw the Limeliters, the Kingston Trio, Peter Paul & Mary and so many others in that venue but failed to see the Cold War symbol over their heads. which remained until Blyth Arena collapsed under mysterious circumstances on March 29, 1983.

 

Let’s get a bit of Midtown parking dialogue going! Write your take on this in the “comments” below….

FearlessNoText

AN EMAIL ARRIVED LAST NIGHT INTO MY LONELY WRITER’S GARRET

 

Good Evening, Karl,

I was thinking about an old Virginia Street casino which I recall visiting with my father, the Horseshoe.  What I don’t remember and which is a curiosity to me now, is where did the customers park while visiting that place, and other similar clubs, on Virginia Street?   The same question would present itself now, I suppose, if one were to attempt to do something with those old properties along Virginia Street. 
Thanks for any comments,
[a friend]
I responded today:HaroldsPigeonhole

Hi [friend] – I peeked at my email last night about 11:30 pm and then laid awake all night thinking: Where DID we park downtown…?
Sewell’s Supermarket opened in 1949 with a big parking lot, the east half of the block between Fourth and Fifth, Sierra and Virginia – (well, almost half; the south quarter was committed to Standard Stations and a hardware store.) But it was almost unregulated parking and we used it in synch with Sewell’s customers for three decades – I heard that the clubs kicked in a buck or two to keep their lights on at night.

In addition to the clubs, there were four movie houses, all doing a pretty good business each night – the Crest, the Granada, the Tower and the Majestic. And the State Building, later the Pioneer. All generated a need for parking.

In my wakeful night, I enumerated in my mind all the parking spaces that we locals knew of, pretty much by twosies and foursies, some by a church, others behind a retail building down an alley or something like that. And there were quite a few of those.

As far as parking spaces dedicated to a specific club, pretty darn few. At some point the demographics of the downtown visitors enters the picture. Almost all downtown motels had sufficient lots for their clientele’s cars, and we developed a “sixth sense” of where we could park on their lots, by mid-week, by weather, by time of the year. Thus quite a few became available to the locals that knew the system. Some of the bigger motels, the Continental on South Virginia and the Pony Express on the Reno/Sparks line for two, had small shuttles that ran most of the reasonable hours all year. They moved a lot of people. 

The casinos started opening showrooms, and recognized a need for some sort of organized parking. Harrah’s finally built a garage, Harolds built the ill-fated pigeonhole garage but it lasted for many years. The Holiday Hotel opened in 1957 and wisely committed a huge amount of land to parking south of Mill Street, and didn’r really get too excited about policing it, and we parked there often. A serendipity moment for the Mapes Hotel was the 1953 explosion of the YMCA adjacent to it to the east, and this site was paved, never to be rebuilt upon, to the benefit of Charlie Mapes on the west and the Majestic Theater to the east. FNB opened its parking garage in 1964 and left it unrestricted in the evenings, and even the City of Reno relaxed its parking hours and enforcement – this is in a day when an entire block, both sides, was parking spaces, maybe one loading zone each side of a street, all the rest parking. The Post Office’s lot was there also, restricted but few cared!

This forms kind of a half-assed answer; the best characteristic I can venture is that if a merchant, be it a bank with multiple-stories of parking like FNB and Security on First Street, or a shoe store like Nevada Shoe Factory on Sierra with its two spaces or Montgomery Wards with about eight places on the alley, didn’t need their parking on an evening or a weekend, they left it unsupervised and available, and were never disappointed. Thus there were probably 300 places to park, plus the garages, if you knew where to look, and we did.

A final observation is that we were maybe healthier and less fearful of walking in downtown Reno, a longer distance, and might park as far south as California Avenue or as far north as the University, or west to the Gold ‘n Silver, to go downtown. Not in today’s Reno, thanks!

I hope this offers a beginning of a logical answer, but I’m not sure it will. I’m amused by the inability of the Midtown kids to figure out their parking problem. We used to go to the Sawdust Festival and Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, a tiny beach town where upwards of 100,000 people a month still visit in the summer months, brought to town by a well-organized effort using county school buses to and from pickup points. Their drivers might be costumed, a banjo band might be riding the bus with you, and you might find a cold beer or glass of Merlot under a sunshade it the parking lot when you returned. Sparks has figured that out for its special events; Reno, not so much.

I’ll probably dwell and stew on this some more, and  may bore you further in the future….

Thanks for writing…….Karl

Harolds Club pigeonhole parking garage photo scanned from early Harolds Club calendar