A November in Reno, 1950

1950Flood

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…)

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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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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