Teutonic Marketing 101

German sign<

Here’s a sign on the west reaches of Victorian Way in Sparks, still known by most of my readers as B Street, that’s amused me for many a year. If I owned a motel and was catering to German tourists, I’d probably put sprechen sie deutsch on my sign.

But what do I know about tourism…?

Happy Turkey to All, and to All a Good Night. (Wait, that doesn’t sound right…)

PS if you’re looking for the flood story try this

A turkey lays an egg


The non-sensical piece that follows has run innumerable times, usually proximate to Thanksgiving, in the Gazoo when I wrote those columns, on my website when I had it years ago, and a couple times in the SF Chronicle when I sent it in (I didn’t really write it; I merely stole it from someone who told it in a joke and turned it into a news story.) It may be true, or not. The photo is a vintage British airliner, a Comet made by the forerunners of the Airbus consortium. A friend asked me over the weekend, are we going to read that stupid turkey story again? Yes you are; here it is. Maybe the next post will be of some substance. Or not. Happy Thanksgiving to All!

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Early in the maturation of jet airliners, British aircraft engineers, addressing the dilemma of strengthening pilots’ windscreens against bird-strikes at low altitude, think a Canadian honker vs. a FedEx Airbus getting together over Peckham Lane after takeoff. They knew the United States had much experience with this matter and contacted some Southern California aeronautical engineers, who supplied plans for a rudimentary catapult that hurled a standard, store-bought turkey at a test windshield at a calculated velocity for analysis.

            The British guys fashioned a catapult, and soon after sent the Yanks photos of a test cockpit with the windshield shattered, the pilot’s headrest in smithereens, a gaping hole in the bulkhead behind the pilot’s head and the flight engineer’s console behind that bulkhead totally demolished. Other photos depicted another huge hole aft of the console in the next bulkhead separating it from the crew lavatory, which was also trashed.

            A few weeks later, the Brits received a telegram from the Americans: “Next time, thaw the turkey.”


If you’re after the Thanksgiving flood story, click here

Pump Station #2


Earlier this week I activated a page on the dreaded Facebook in hopes of getting a few more people aboard this website, and make it worth my while to maintain. Almost immediately I received several e-mails, like four, asking what the little Mission Revival building I used on the Facebook page was, on the water, below a verdant hillside and with a city rising up in the background. OK, not a part of Reno’s heritage, but here goes:

The knee-jerk answer, the building is the San Francisco Fire Department’s Pump Station #2 – or at least it was for a hundred years, before being turned over to the SF Water Department a year or so ago. It’s easy to see; from Aquatic Park at the foot of Hyde Street, a hoot and a holler from the Buena Vista Saloon and its Irish Coffee – just look to the left at the spit of land forming one side of Fort Mason. Take a walk over; it’s not that far.

Shortly after the Great Earthquake of 1906 it was decreed by the citizenry of San Francisco that never again would the town be gutted by fire following an earthquake, for lack of water to douse the flames with. The pumps, which serve in concert with another station downtown, houses, or one time housed, three boilers at the right side of the building as viewed in this picture (a 30-foot masonry smokestack once graced the southeast corner of the roof, to the viewer’s near left.) The boilers’ steam powered an electric motor through a steam turbine, which motor turned a pump, which could raise sea water to the 10-million gallon Twin Peaks reservoirs, at an elevation of almost 800 feet above the bay level, and pump it at the alarming rate of 10,000 gallons a minute. That sea water could then be dropped by gravity down to smaller reservoirs in Ashbury Heights, the Hippies’ domain in the 1970s, or another reservoir on Nob Hill.

The machinery was incredibly beautiful to view – I was fortunate to get inside the building numerous times prior to the Water Department’s acquisition of it – and the 1909-era massive pumps, generators and boilers, with their dramatic “General Electric” brass nameplates, “Schenectady, NY” –  and switches and valves reminiscent of Captain Nemo’s bridge on Jules Verne’s Nautilus, were a treasure to behold. And most of that remains, I’m told. Sadly, following 911 the building’s SFFD signage and its very existence and function became clouded in the name of homeland security and I haven’t been able to BS my way back inside (yet!) since 2008.

But I saw its machinery operate, several times – elevating water 800 vertical feet takes some incredible power, and the century-old equipment in this building is amply up to that task. The reservoirs are fresh water, feeding hydrants easily spotted by their larger size, three valve outlets and red, black, or blue caps, delineating the reservoir that serves them. But – in the face of a large fire, like that anticipated after the Loma Prieta earthquake, the plant is fired up (modern diesel-powered generators have replaced the three boilers, creating electricity to run the pump.) Fresh water is preferred, due to the absence of galvanic action to screw up the fire trucks’ plumbing, but in an emergency the system kicks in sea water (San Francisco’s two fireboats can also pump sea water into the pump station or other risers along the Embarcadero.)

It’s a little San Francisco treasure that a thousand people walk past every weekend on their way up the path to the right of the pump station visible in the photograph, to a magnificent view over Fort Mason and the Marina. Pity they can’t see the century-old low-tech being tested and operated daily in the little building at the bottom of the hill…

If you’re after the 1950 Thanksgiving flood piece, click here

A November in Reno, 1950


We’re heading toward a column about the Thanksgiving 1950 flood in downtown Reno, but I’m trying to remember the asdfjkl;  keys on my computer – not having used them to write a column since mid-summer. So, off we go to the Nevada Historical Society on the University of Nevada campus where senior librarian Mike Maher offers up the November 1950 microfilm roll of the Nevada State Journal. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. This morning we’ll steal, with reverence to the late S.F. Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, his popular three-dot style of journalism and see what was going on 58 years ago this weekend. We start with an ominous cutline in the paper: The West Coast is being hit by bad weather, from LA to Washington, and it could go on for a week…


(Adjoining this text is a photo of the Gray Reid Wright building on the southeast corner of First and Sierra, now the site of the Paladio condo tower)


Onward: Savier’s, the popular appliance store at Second and West Streets on the  present Riverwalk corner is offering 12” LP records, the new ones that only turn 33-1/3 times in a minute, for 99¢ (“Oh, your record player turns 78 r.p.m.? Step this way, we’ll show you a new Admiral set…”)…two B-29 bombers collide over Arizona in a weather-related accident…The Jackie Robinson Story will be playing on Saturday morning at the Tower Theater downtown, admission 14¢ and an Old Home Milk bottle-top…next door to the Tower peek in Winkel Motors where they’re advertising a 1929 Ford for sale, 45 bucks and it’s yours…better yet, across Virginia Street Brown Brothers Motors, a heavy-duty auto dealership after WWII, has for you at ’48 Ford, a station wagon with wood siding, for $1,385. That, Beach Boys and Girls, is a Woody and would probably draw 25 times that 58 years later during Hot August Nights….five hundred earthquakes in 14 hours were registered at Mt. Lassen by the UC Berkeley seismic lab…the Owl Drug in the Mapes Hotel was offering a box of 50 Christmas cards for 58¢…


In the Nov. 17th edition: Continuing heavy showers reported over the West Coast.


A 14-year-old boy tossed a bomb into Northside Junior High School, was arrested, class was back to normal in an hour (nowadays the school would be on Code-Plaid Lockdown until Christmas, with grief counselors standing by)…Kellogg’s introduces the new Sugar Corn Pops at the Washoe Marke…the owner of the Pepsi-Cola bottling plant in Reno was arrested last night for bouncing a check…Reno Press Brick was 36 years old this year, and is now selling a new line of furnace oil (we came to remember them as Keystone Fuel, later Washoe-Keystone, now Allied-Washoe…)

● ● ●

Harry’s Business Machines at 232 West Street was offering Westinghouse LP record players…Barnes Radio was advertising a big fat post to convert a normal record player (78 and 33 r.p.m.) to play those new-fangled little 45 r.p.m. records. Of course you all knew that a silver dollar would fit exactly into the hole in a “45” record. Try it out, if you still have a cartwheel and a 45 record (record players were a hot item for this coming Christmas)…a Barn Dance, capitalized in a Nevada Star Grange ad in this morning’s Journal, will be tonight the Stone Barn, formerly the Sunflower Bar on the Carson Highway; maybe Radar O’Reilly will be there… some things never change: the University of Nevada, the state’s only college in 1950, is considering a tuition for Nevada residents, proposed at $100 a year, the university being tight for money…

The 1951 Lincoln is out! See it alongside the new Mercury at (Ham) McCaughey Motors at 515 South Virginia (that showroom in later years the casino of the Ponderosa Hotel and now the Wild Orchid)…Ty Cobb’s sports column speaks of local legends Wally Rusk Jr. and Howdy Davis, expected to star in the Las Vegas vs. Reno High football classic at Mackay Stadium this afternoon (weather permitting; it’s raining like hell right now…) That’s Ty Cobb the Eldest, by the way who passed away in 1996, not to be confused with the Ty-Cobb-my-contemporary, an RGJ columnist and one-time assistant to Ronald Reagan, or further confused with his son the Ty-Cobb-the-state-legislator…or for that matter, the baseball player of some note, no known relation…

In the classifieds, check out a 2-bedroom Westfield Village home – now only about three years old – $12,500 will get you in, call real estate man Ray Smith…and here, a duplex, ten grand with no color restrictions (this was our 1950 town, folks; you may recall that I wrote one time that the youthful Sammy Davis Jr. was playing with the Will Masten Trio at the Skyroom of the Mapes, but, he stayed out south of town at Kaye Martin’s dude ranch)…Blondie even then was built like a brick outhouse, and saves Dagwood from his recurring nocturnal dream of a baloney sandwich, while Dick Tracy is saying goodbye to his dying buddy name of B. O. Plenty.  They just don’t dream up cartoon character names like “B.O.” anymore…Jack Poncia, 53, of Reno, and William Stead, 33, of Sutcliff, crashed their cars at Second and Lake, minor damage – William (Bill) Stead would 13 years after this fender-bender be one of the major engines in founding the Reno Air Races…Stead AFB was named for his brother Croston Stead, who died in a Nevada Air Guard P-51 that crashed shortly after takeoff at Hubbard (Reno) Field…


The clouds are continuing, and the rain is still falling…


The Reno High School Huskiettes will march with the Las Vegas High band from downtown up Virginia Street to Mackay Stadium for the game this afternoon. Tom McCreary of 239 Flint Street shot at his wife, missed her but hit his neighbor’s banister and is now residing in the city jail for attempted murder. According to the Journal, Tom’s neighbor’s madder than hell about the banister and his wife probably isn’t too tickled either (they get gnarly like that when you shoot at them…)…Sing Mo Hihn, in these bygone days before spell-checkers, the acting Prime Minister of South Korea, told Douglas MacArthur that the Korean War would be over by Christmas. Which Christmas that would be was presumably not specified…  


The Truckee River nears the flood stage.


Sprouse Reitz,  now the Ace Hardware at 1215 S. Virginia Street was offering Christmas portraits of your child, up to eight years old, with their patented “Natural Color Electric Camera,” using genuine Kodak film. Two bucks a sitting, no word if the Big Elf would be there to assist and petrify the kid… Look Magazine’s current edition is running a major photo coverage of the Shrine Circus Train that brought 2,500 children from Elko and all points in-between to Mackay Stadium last summer – almost every little sprout on the Southern Pacific line. (I wrote a column about that years ago and enjoyed researching it – the S.P. and the Western Pacific had to make nice and get the railcars off S.P trackage to run northward up to the campus on the W.P.’s tracks. Lots of happy kids, who slept like babies on the way home)…Hattons Men’s Store has a “new suit for Christmas” for $50, probably a great suit, knowing Hattons great old reputation…this I remember well: a plywood wall obscuring the construction of the new Ramos Drug – now the Cheese Board on California Avenue – was decorated by the University’s art professor Craig Sheppard into a mural depicting the Knothole Gang peering through holes in the plywood…Sheppard’s wife Yolanda sculpted the statue of Sen. Patrick McCarran in the Capitol Rotunda. A copy is now in the capitol in Carson City; her half-size working model is at the Nevada Historical Society – visit the Society and see it…


The Truckee rose to within a few inches of the Belmont [now Arlington] Bridge last night, but no general flood conditions are expected, read the November 19th bulletin (remember those words for a paragraph or two)…however, the residents of Scott Island (the land occupied now by the Reno Gazette Journal’s building) were evacuated…flooding was noted in Home Gardens (and y’all said that Rosewood Lakes couldn’t flood?) …Manogue High School – then on the south bank of the Truckee just west of McCarran’s present crossing into Sparks – had a dance last night, and the partiers were warned that the Glendale Bridge, now replaced by the McCarran Blvd. bridge, was unsafe…an irrigation ditch in Washoe Valley broke in the vicinity of Washoe City and closed the Carson City highway with eight inches of water over the roadbed…the Boca Reservoir, an object of concern, was holding…Reno High won the Reno/Vegas game, 12-to-6; Reno coach Dick Trachok, unbeaten in this second year of coaching, took time off for some minor surgery after the game…the divorce didn’t work out, so they had to get remarried: Jack Fabrican, divorced in Judge A. J. Maestretti’s court, was told that due to a technicality he may still be married (Merry Christmas!)…


Monday, Nov. 21 a.m.: At midnight last night, Reno was experiencing their worst flood in history, quoting Edward L. Pine, Army Corps of Engineers…the Carson River also flooded, inundating the Eagle and Carson Valley… I noted that this morning’s edition of the Nevada State Journal was abbreviated somewhat, indicating some difficulty in getting it on the street…there were a significant number of localized power outages, but the phone system, for the most part, came out unscathed…United Air Lines, three words in 1950, put on extra service with larger aircraft to accommodate Thanksgiving traffic that was being inconvenienced by the closure of Highway 40 and 50 to Sacramento and the suspension of the S.P.’s City of San Francisco railroad service

Tuesday, Nov. 22 a.m., two days before Thanksgiving: the waters were abating – one death had been attributed to a drowning, he an employee of Reno Disposal Co…the Rock Street Bridge, built in 1877 over Virginia Street, was lost in the flood (history generally records that the V&T railroad bridge being swept away. It was, sort of; it was in the advanced stage of demolition anyway, following the cessation of railroad use and the flood just finished it off)…the last significant flood in Reno had been in December of 1937 when the bridge linking Belmont Street to Belle Isle was swept away – it would be rebuilt the next year.


By Thanksgiving Day, the waters had returned to the Truckee channel, but the town was deeply scarred…









The Idlewild Market

Idlewild Market

As the reader may be aware, I’m experimenting more than seriously writing any posts, as I try to move this website into a new era and increase the readership. Therefore, the content is pretty soft and might be for a few more days while I get settled in. Hopefully the Facebook link will generate more readership, which will keep me postin’ for a while!

Here’s a picture I took today of the new “Idlewild Market,” on the spit of land between Westfield Avenue and Foster Drive, facing Booth Street. It was most recently a bank, Citibank as I recall, but that has been closed for a couple of years. Now, it’s apparently destined to becoming a market, which is interesting as there’s a 7-Eleven right across the street. But who knows? I know not of grocery demographics.

In my youth at Reno High the little corner, and at this time ‘way before Foster Drive crossed Booth to become the south terminus of Keystone Avenue, was a series of pre-fast-food places, like Foster’s Freeze and the Fat Boy, look that up on your political correctness index.

This column will try to keep you posted as to its progress in getting open…stay tuned!

Banking on Heritage

Heritage2Heritage Bank

A while back, we posted a little story of the reconstruction of the old Union Federal Savings building on South Virginia Street, across from the Black Bear Diner, (which was Lyon’s Restaurant when the Union Federal Building was built in 1972); we noted at that time that the bank building was built entirely of Legos, which of course was bullcrap. There was some sheetrock in it somewhere, maybe some asbestos.

Work continues on the reconstruction, and we here offer a picture taken this morning from the Black Bear Diner, where the Black Bear Diner Gentlemen’s Coffee, World Dilemma Solutions, Laudable Opinions, If-a-rumor-is-not-heard-by-9:00 a.m.-sharp-start-one, and Other General BS as may properly come to our attention, group meets with great regularity.

The building, as may be seen, is coming along handsomely with its new beams breaking up the former ridiculous wall treatment. We will keep readers apprised of this progress.

A readers’ note: This is being placed on Facebook, to try to get enough people reading the Ol’ Reno Guy to make its preparation and research worthwhile. You may see some problems, between WordPress, the host website, between Facebook and its antics, and my own shortcomings with computers. Bear with me for a week or two.

Cranking this site up again (maybe)


I’m attempting to resurrect this site with a little more readership, and using the dreaded Facebook to accomplish that, inasmuch as it’s too much work for a small readership. I regret that when this is published it’s going to notify a few followers, as this is strictly an administrative post, attempting to see how the Facebook tie-in works. So…

Enjoy the photo of the bus attached; note it’s a modern bus, painted in the same color livery as the old Reno Bus Lines that many of us remember.

If I can get this working again, I’m comin’ back! Cheers, Karl