Staying close to West Fifth and Keystone, we see…

Safewayp>While I was capturing the Cue & Cushion et al seen in the previous post on film, (actually on digital, but that lacks the certain je ne sais quoi of film that this site is built upon), I strayed a block to the east, to Vine Street, and took a picture of what in its day was a Safeway, not just a Safeway but the greatest most modern Safeway in Reno or Sparks (akin to the one on Mt. Rose and South Virginia Streets), which now is obviously sunk into the depths of Reno’s slums.

The new (1962) Safeway was the bee’s-knees in shopping, replacing the old favorite Santa Claus Market a block to its north on Vine Street, that little rock market that received its name because it never closed, even on the day when Santa Claus came to Reno.

The Safeway pictured was the pride of northwest Reno, as I said in an earlier post a part of town then developing rapidly. Times changed and the Safeway closed, to become a home improvement store for many years, later an auto parts store, and now a piece of crap taking up space in what should be, and was, a nice part of our city. No opinion here, just a wish that things could be different. It’s a good and viable corner, but alas, yet another reminder of the rapidity with which the premier locations become mere embarrassments

An old friend meets its end

W Fifth

In the mid-1960s northwest Reno was the area to move toward – Sproul Homes were in their heyday on land west of what was once “Peavine Row,” now known as Keystone Avenue. And Keystone itself had only recently been brought north of the railroad tracks, right through the middle of Reno Press Brick’s pit where we used to swim on warm summer days.

Commerce naturally followed the folks to the area – the Keystone Square west of Keystone – Uncle Happy’s Toy Store and a few restaurants, the Keystone Theater, a Security National Bank and an Albertson’s supermarket. And a few other stores. On the east side of Keystone, the big Keystone Owl Rexall run by Frank Desmond and Jim Henderson, two great guys, and  Frank is still with us.

A Shakey’s Pizza Parlor on West Fifth, from whose parking lot I took the picture above (OK, Shakey’s has been gone for a while, but I could still smell the pepperoni and sausage, and hear the Reno Banjo Band playing in the background.)

In the building in the picture, some old friends: To the east/right in the photo, P&S Hardware, Gene Parvin & Bill Spiersch at your service. If a person put in a sprinkler system in the 1960s, P&S probably installed it, if George Warren Plumbing didn’t. One of the best hardware stores in Reno, maybe in a tie with Commercial Hardware on East Fourth Street, Shelley’s Hardware out in Sparks, and Builders & Farmers Hardware on South Virginia Street across the street from Sewell’s. Love to have P&S back in business, or their other location in the Village Shopping Center (Commercial Hardware opened a satellite in the Lakeside Plaza but it didn’t last long…)

Next to P&S to the west was Wright’s Painting & Decorating, Bill Wright at the helm of that business, and sadly, Bill has left us as has Gene Parvin, mentioned above; Gene a victim of a vehicle crash In the wine country of Sonoma a dozen years ago.

Wright Paints was the Ameritone dealer, with an array of wall coverings and draperies and blinds. A fun place to shop.

And, how can we forget the Cue? The burgers at the Cue & Cushion were generally acknowledged to be Reno’s best, then, and by those who remember them, even today. The rich and famous, and us poor working stiffs, mingled for lunch at the Cue for many, many years. And, if you wanted to re-buckle your Knickerbockers bee-low the knees, hide a dime novel in your back pocket and give yourself an iron-clad leave in a three-rail billiard game, thanks Professor Harold Hill, the Cue had the best pool tables in town, a town where billiard parlors were tumblin’ down after WWII. Don’t know where you’d go for a game now save for some armpit bar – pool seems to be  a thing of the past.

And, the thrust of the whole post for today, is, that the West Fifth Street Center, a name we never knew that it had, is going, going, gone. Remember well all the landmark businesses and buildings embodied in today’s post, because little parts of our town are slipping into distant memories. Drive by the old P&S Hardware this afternoon and check it out, then cross Keystone for a root-beer float at the Coffee Grinder in the Keystone Square, and tell Nick hello if you see him.

We gotta keep a few memories alive; (this one’s for you, Misha!)

How far we came in a ’64 Studebaker


While reading on the web of the newest Jeep wagon I was flat slapped like a gut-shot cougar by an automobile writer’s prose: “…A bruiser car. Everything about the new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, with its pugnacious nose, its monster 20-inch wheels with massive P295/45 tires, its snarling 470-horse V8 engine, shouts that here is a big, bad bully of a wagon…

“…This one, with the 6.4-liter V8 ripped from the dragstrip headlines, is meant to say something. It’s aggressive, it has that deep exhaust rumble…” – and then the writer goes on (and on) to compare it with a double-jack, water-back drink in a bar, leaving some doubt about where he drinks or why he goes to a bar in the first place. One steers this beast from the “cockpit,” by the way. God save us…

“…Stomp on the gas pedal on a freeway on ramp (after the requisite check in the rear view mirror) and those 470 horses will emerge loudly from those exhaust tips and ramp you swiftly up the ramp – the car’s zero-to-60 times are regularly under five seconds and it’s said to have a 160 mph top end…”  Somewhere about here I sensed that he might be getting orgasmic at his keyboard and I was tempted to click off this site before it was X-rated. This writer does get close to his cars. He did mention that this particular Jeep, er, Snarling Bruiser was approaching $70,000, which for me would be too much for a Jeep if had twin GE J-47 turbojet engines, a wet bar and a Barca-Lounger seat behind the wheel.

My thoughts returned to the Wagoneer of old, that sprung forth in the early 1960s while I was driving a Jeep “Station Wagon,” a two-door, four-passenger box with a tailgate that was probably the best all-round Jeep that Willys, and later Kaiser, ever built. My neighbor got a “Wagonaire.” A Studebaker. A good-looking car, or wagon. It ought to be; it was designed by Brooks Stevens, the American industrial designer who gave the world a design for some kitchen appliances, the full-dress Harley, dolled-up luxury passenger railcars, the Excalibur automobile (which looks a lot like a pre-war Mercedes, but that’s OK), and last but not least, the Wienermobile. With a sliding back roof the Wagonaire could haul a refrigerator home from Montgomery Wards or a tree from Arlington Nursery, if need be. With a Studebaker engine. Built in Canada. And Kaiser picked up on it, Studebaker exited the auto business after a hundred years of cars, trucks, Army Weasels, Navy Ducks (like the ones on Fisherman’s Wharf) and every other configuration of weird vehicle known to man.

Kaiser called it the Wagoneer. It was built from parts from every automotive body, brake, engine, transmission, electronics, hubcap and rear-view mirror company in the Detroit Yellow Pages, not unlike the seven blind men building the elephant. And it sold like hotcakes, some say more in the northern Nevada area than anywhere in the world. And with such dubious reliability that owners would put “lunching” on placards on their windshields if they pulled off the road to picnic, knowing that other Wagoneer owners would think that they’d surely broken down.

And they kept selling, constantly being improved and made increasingly luxurious. The last one rolled off the assembly line in 1991. 

Not a bad run, at that – from a 6-cylinder Wagonaire in 1964 to the last V-8 Wagoneer in 1991, to the Grand Cherokee of today with massive 20-inch wheels and a snarling 470 horsepower that’ll knock your, well, you know, right into your watch-pocket if it gets away from you on the on-ramp.

How is it in the snow? Or hauling home a tree from Arlington Gardens, like the Wagonaire of old? We don’t know. But it’s fast. And this guy can sure as hell write.

Getting back to work


No particular post tonight, just seeing if this still works. The photo’s a teaser, a few of the 17 guys in the picture that I’m going to turn into a little game for locals, to see 17 old friends and their cars a hoot and a holler outside of town. I’m now trying to get names of all 17, almost have all of them; only one remains with us, sadly the others have passed away. Come back in a day or two and I should have it posted.

A dog’s life


This is a re-do of the post that went with this photo of the supine canine on Chestnut Street in San Francisco. The animal shown, a large dog, is alive; we think. A beautiful animal indeed . ’nuff said

I just knew this would happen…


Two of my lifelong friends brought out a book a few years ago. Their names are Jerry Fenwick and Neal Cobb, and together they are to Reno what the Bettman Archives are to the US of A and Matthew Brady was to the Civil War – the two of them have this city on celluloid, cold.

The book was a tremendous success, photos of today contrasted against the same scenes going back in time, for comparison. Big, clear photos. I knew the book would be a winner, and that it would just encourage them. And it was, and it did. Now they’re doing a second book. And they’ve asked me to write another Foreword for the new book, as I wrote for the original. And I said I would.

I nicknamed them the “Grumpy Old Men.” Their opinions differed from time-to-time over the archival photos’ placement within the book, the description of the newer views, the dates that the older views were taken on film (many taken by their parents, who were all in the art and photo business in Reno before and shortly after WWII.) They differed on the occupants of buildings depicted within the book, on east vs. west, on 1909 vs. 1910, on whether the pizza on our work nights would be pepperoni, salami, garbage, pineapple, anchovy or just plain. On whether it would be Reno Now and Then, or Then and Now, and a sky blue cover or a dove grey cover. They differed on who would get top billing, Cobb vs. Fenwick, Oscar vs. Felix, on whether we’d listen to Benny Goodman, the New Christy Minstrels, Broadway, the SF Giants, jazz, Mario Lanza or the Chipmunks as the book was being crafted. They were indeed the Grumpy Old Men, and I swore that if I ever, ever got mixed up with them again, individually or collectively, jointly or severally, that I would have my head examined.

I’m getting used to my new brick home down here on the Truckee; the people who work here are friendly enough and let me wander the grounds at will, babbling aimlessly. They have allowed me my old favorite IBM Selectric III and some paper, and I am once again crafting a Foreword for the Grumpy Old Men’s second book, while they differ on the title, Reno Now and Then II comes to mind but I wouldn’t bet on it.

But it will be a hell of a book, mark my words, with wonderful old scenes of our picturesque town, some never seen publicly before, many with a running dialogue of little known, and often fun facts and anecdotes about our beloved hamlet, the Tough Little Town on the Truckee; The City of Trembling Leaves. (I can tell I’m getting very near to scribing a Foreword; I’m already plagiarizing John Townley and Walter Van Tilburg Clark!)

Publication date: The first. (The first chance they get.) But right now if I were loose in Reno I’d hold off on my Christmas shopping to ensure that my friend(s) will get a heck of a good book under their Christmas tree(s). Watch this space; the Ol’ Reno Guy will keep you posted.

If they let me keep my Selectric…