The Bishop’s Bendix

bishop's bendix


Seen above is St. Mary’s, on the corner of Gough Street and O’Farrell in San Francisco, its full moniker the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. It was completed in 1971, to replace an earlier cathedral on Van Ness Avenue that was destroyed by arson in 1962. This structure is technically known as a “hyperbolic paraboloid,” and was designed to emulate a Vatican “miter,” which to us Christian Scientists is known as a “hat.” We will not include in this website that it has been dubbed variously as “the Bishop’s Bendix,” for its resemblance to the tumbler on a washing machine, that appellation given by who-else, Herb Caen. It has been also expressed as “Our Lady of Maytag.” Due to my vow not to trash this website with a bunch of inanity like I did the last one, these facts shall go unreported.

An unintended consequence of its unique design is that the, well, chest, of any maiden in San Francisco, and probably elsewhere, is represented on its walls. That actually is not the building design itself, but the sun’s shadow on the two southern walls of the building. On those walls, on sunny days, the shape of any woman in The City, large or small, Catholic or Protestant, may be seen, at some hour on some day of the year. A gentleman might say, “My lady appears on St. Mary’s on April 14th, at 1:57 p.m.,” for on that day at that hour the shadow might perfectly represent her, over two hundred feet high for all the San Franciscans to view and applaud.

Caen discovered this, popularized it, and for many years it was a sort of local joke with San Francisco residents. And damn few of the visitors. I have not heard the thought expressed for many years. But while looking for the picture of the Queen Mary 2 in my “SF” photo file, the Bishop’s Bendix appeared and the devil made me post this. One wonders if even Pope Benedict himself is aware of it, and our thoughts of having two Popes with the same robes and hats loose upon the world, each given a certain degree of sense of authority, will go for another column.

Paper or Plastic?

Hilltop Market

A reader asked me, “What is the building on the northeast corner of Ralston and West 11th Street, kittycorner from the Sigma Nu house?” Wasn’t it a commercial building many years ago?” Here it is above; a rather attractive stone building that has earmarks of being built by the Stewart Indian School students. It’s been rebuilt and changed a few times, added on to, boarded in. I think its earliest use was as the “Hilltop Market,” appearing once as the “Hillside Market,” and later as the “University Market.” But, almost certainly a little neighborhood market, serving the professors and their familys in Academy Heights to the north. Curiously, there was another market to the south, a block away, in a newer building (N/E corner Ralston and Tenth), with a variety of names over the years, (Maynard’s Market in its final incarnation as a market.) Now, we call it the Pub-n-Sub, a branch office of my Sigma Nu Fraternity house to the north. And neither was the Ralston Market, at the bottom of the Ralston Street hill, nor were they the Quality Market (Quilici’s, to most) at the bottom of the Washington Street hill. Nor the Cottage Grocery, Ralston and West Fifth Street, or the Santa Claus, Washington and West Sixth. North on Ralston at Imperial was Rommelfanger’s, probably the only Rommelfanger’s in Reno. Suffice it to say that there were no shortage of markets, in this area or anywhere else in Reno or Sparks.

Two points need to be included here: Reno’s numbered streets, First through Tenth, are spelled out; ones higher than that, as in “11th,” get cardinal numbers (Sparks’ numbered streets, by convention, are cardinal numbers from 1st Street-on.) Secondly, I used “catercorner” in a column one time and from the confused reactions that word generated I vowed from that date forward I would use “kittycorner.”

P.S.: The movie Quartet. See it.

Virginia Lake, an afterthought


A few days ago a couple shots of the Virginia Lake migratory bird shelter went up on this site, and it occurred to me later that I had a shot of the lake in its infancy, c. 1938, so here it is. Note it’s a bit more urbanized today. (If urbanized is indeed a word. Maybe it’s gentrified. Whatever, there’s a lot more stuff around it today!) One of these days we’ll write about the Hancock mansion on the southwest corner of the lake, above the park on Country Club Drive (not in this picture; the mansion was started a year later. That’s Country Club Drive, taking off to the west across the water from the island.)

Note, the preserve in the former post does appear in the lower left corner of this shot

No photo credit, sorry…</p>

Yikes, it’s a Navy PBY Catalina in my den…

PBY 4PBYinHenry

An amphibian, it was designed in 1933, sunk more enemy warships in the Pacific during WWII than any other Navy airplane; it remains one of the most stylish warplanes ever built. Yes, there was one parked at the Nervino airport on the way to Portola for many years, there’s still a club restoring and flying them (they remain quite seaworthy), and my buddy Don Stockwell built me one of my own from a kit, with a 52″ wingspan, and it turned on to final approach, gear up, long final, into my cave on Friday. He lettered ADM BRECKENRIDGE under the cockpit, as given my advancing age it could soon be flown to the homes of Andy, Ron, or Brent Breckenridge upon my impending demise and not arrive all cluttered up with my given name. Thanks, Don.

A Queen arrives in The City


February 5, 2007 it was, when the Queen Mary 2 arrived on her inaugural voyage into San Francisco. A few friends were there to meet her, including Linda and I, and our late life-long buddy Alex Kanwetz, on the deck of the Liberty Ship Jeremiah O’Brien that acted as SF’s host ship. The pilot boat with orange trim is seen trailing the QM2, with an Irish pilot much to the chagrin of the stuffy British Cunarder captain of the liner

The Migratory Bird Refuge at Virginia Lake



A long time ago if you were walking around Virginia Lake, you would have encountered – at the southeast corner of the lake – a ramshackle-appearing, which is just what it was meant to be, aggregation of cribbing akin to railroad ties forming walls about four feet high, and supporting a roof affair that was kind of open latticework but with some substance and strength. It was pretty rough looking and difficult, if not impossible, to see into through the cribbing. Within it was what always appeared to us sixth graders to be commonplace ol’ hay, piled about a foot high off the earthen floor. Shelves – might have been wooden park benches – were placed around the floor to create higher and lower areas and smallish cubicles with foot-high ceilings, and, partitions of what appeared to be cedar slats like a fence, creating walls of varying height within the room created by the walls and the lattice ceiling. A chain-link fence surrounded the whole thing, save for the east, (lake), side, about 20 feet outside its perimeter (the “fence” in the photos is Photoshopped in) Continue reading

An Air Force barracks in Sproul?

Eastbound in the longest school zone in Reno, I think (Kings Row?), it dawned on me that I was proximate to an anomaly in the early 1960s Sproul subdivision, that being the only non-Sproul-built home in the area. So I turned on Apollo and took a picture.

On Apollo and Attridge it sits, a noticeable departure from Sproul’s designs. It came over from Stead, many years before Sproul was developed, and placed adjacent to the runway that used to sit up by those schools after WWII (I wrote about it once; if I can find the text I’ll publish it here under Hillview Airport, for that was its name.)

This little home on the northwest corner was associated with the airport, I think; but I could never find out for sure. (The airport is now the best kept secret in Reno, why I don’t know. When I wrote of it folks were willing to put a net over me and haul me away.) Anyway, here’s the war-era barracks, rebuilt into a nice and well-kept little home.

Fun Fun Fun ’til her Daddy takes the T-Bird, oh, you know…

Red T-Bird

A sad sight on Allen Street in front of the MIghty Six-Ninety; a dead ‘Bird and a ’55 Chevy tow truck hauling it away. Absent in the photo are a few glasses of Merlot and a little PhotoShopping; the ‘Bird and the truck are each about five inches long, (models!) and I’m kind of proud of this post….eat your heart out, Lucas and Spielberg – Ha!

Sparks’ Mary Lee Nichols school – a landmark for sale?


The Mary Lee Nichols school on Pyramid Way in Sparks, with a for-sale sign on its west lawn? Yikes! This little building was an active school in the Sparks School District (pre-dating the Washoe Co. District), built in the mid-1910s and designed by Frederic Delongchamps with all sorts of historical designations, was in service ’til the early 1970s as a school in the Washoe District, then sold. Is there no “tail” on the deed requiring that it stay as a historically significant building? It’s too nice – and too historical – a structure to be used as just any occupancy. Check it out on the east side of Pyramid Way in the 400 block – it’s part of our local heritage.

The Sharon mansion


Enter now, stage left, Barbara (Beesley) Goss, with an e-mail query, and here I quote: “Was there a tennis court standing all by itself at the corner of Westfield Avenue and Booth Street, or am I losing my mind?

I can’t speak as to your sanity, my old Reno High classmate; we’re all at that certain tenuous age. The opening line of a book I wrote a few years ago takes the words of Gordon Chism, another RHS classmate, to heart:  “I am remembering now in ever-increasing detail, events which I’m not sure ever happened…”  Continue reading