The 1949 Haylift

C-119

The Herculean effort to save livestock pinned down by snowstorms in the Rockies this week refreshed a vivid memory held by many of my contemporaries, of the incredible snowstorms of 1948 that closed schools and businesses from the Sierra eastward to the Rockies and even dropped 6 inches of snow in Las Vegas.  The earliest bellwether of what lay ahead for ranchers might have been a blurb in the Jan.27, 1949 Reno Evening Gazette about two C-46s dispatched to Arizona from Luke Field in Riverside, Cal. to search for 50 ranch hands lost in the back country.  As kids we caught a lift to Reno’s Hubbard Field to watch some arriving 1942-vintage Air Force C-82 (later re-designated C-119) Flying Boxcars (pictured above), twin-engine planes with huge clamshell cargo bay doors that could be operated in flight. The planes were staging in Fallon from all over the nation, some from nearby McClellan Field in Sacramento and many more from the 316th Air Carrier Wing in South Carolina.  The initial plan was to airlift hay to Ely and Elko, from where Nevada and Utah National Guard trucks would deliver it to the isolated livestock. But eastern Nevada airports and roads were useless, so the Air Force pilots suggested dropping the hay from the planes directly into the herds and bands of livestock.

            Hubbard Field saw incidental haylift activity for the next month, as the majority of the airlift centered at Minden’s and the Navy’s Fallon airstrips.  We recall our friends’ fathers, many relatively fresh out of WWII service, departing Reno for two or three weeks with the Nevada National Guard’s heavy trucks, and, if memory serves, a couple of Isbell Construction’s low-boys with drivers. Reno restaurants and food provisioners were pressed into service providing meals around the clock; and merchants kicked in to provide a few creature comforts to the legion of personnel amassing for the airlift.  By the first day of February it had become a major federal project directed by no less than Harry S Truman, with the Nevada effort repeating itself all over Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho and Montana.  The Feb. 4, 1948 Gazette relates that a pattern had become established, of five to six tons of hay being loaded into each C-119 for the 220-plus-mile one-way trip to the ravaged areas.  The hay arrived by commercial trucks from California’s Central Valley where it was handed off to 48 National Guard and army trucks shuttling between Reno, Minden and Fallon.  The Feb. 5 Gazette reported that the storm had increased, temperatures had dropped below zero and that the S.P.’s City of San Francisco passenger train had become marooned in Wells.

            Each plane carried an Air Force pilot and co-pilot, a flight engineer and a loadmaster, who were joined by two civilian volunteers.  Over the drop area the two civilians pushed four 75-pound hay bales aft toward the open clamshell doors where the FE and the loadmaster then kicked the bales out to the animals below (all four crewmen in the cargo bay were tethered to the plane.)   My youthful recollection was that volunteers lined up five-deep to get to be one of the two civilians aboard each sortie.  A contingent of ranchers and hands who knew their own topography rode along to assist the pilots in navigating to drop points where their own cattle and sheep were likely to be found.          

            One can only speculate of the thrill experienced by a Basque herder getting his very first airplane ride while the plane dove down a box canyon at 180 knots with a 30-knot wind bouncing it around and 15-below-zero air screaming through a hole as big as a garage door in the back of the plane.  Over the deafening roar one can almost hear him utter “Well, son-of-a-gun!” in Euskara Basque, Spanish and English.  Nevada writer Beltran Paris, a Basque sheepman who’s made this column before, wrote an excellent account of his terrifying ride over his own ranch.  A Nevada Guardsman who flew as a volunteer on two flights from Minden related to me that they often needed to make multiple passes over a herd or band, and after a first drop the pilot made a sharp turn down a walled canyon to start his second run. The remaining load of hay slid, pinning another Guardsman under a half a dozen bales and confronting the pilot with a ton of weight suddenly shifting his center-of-gravity while already holding a steep bank.

            These guys were good.

            On Feb. 27 the Journal carried a photo of a sort-of victory celebration with a bunch of guys at the Elko airport; visible are Elko rancher and hotelman Newt Crumley and local ad icon Gene Evans, then editor of the Elko Free-Press.  Why the celebration?  The 27 reciprocating-engine aircraft had logged 1,600 flight hours on 26 out of 28 days under Arctic conditions, with some 330 take-off-and-landing cycles in high winds on icy runways and dropped 1,800 tons of hay (they lost two days to weather or unavailability of hay.)  Save for one errant hay bale entering a rancher’s shed at a high rate of speed in Little Cherry Creek and demolishing his wife’s brand-new-fangled washing machine, nary a glitch was reported.  And the sun had come out…

            Eastern Nevada’s Operation Hay Lift was a success – when the snow melted off in the spring, the ranchers determined that 80 to 85 per cent of their livestock – cattle and sheep – had been saved, and this was typical throughout the western states where similar endeavors had been ongoing.

            Now anticipating a couple of e-mails: Yes – there was a second Operation Hay Lift, in March of 1952, and yes, the City of San  Francisco was marooned once again, that time on Donner Summit.  I thank James A. Young of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the Nevada Historical Society and Phil Earl for their past research. 

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Yahoo! e-mail has been hacked nationwide, affects this website

Yahoo! e-mail has been having difficulty for many months with major outages, citation www.downrightnow.com , and last night took a turn for the worse with a major outage evidenced by many users nationwide evidencing their displeasure and inability to get logged in. This website is tied to my e-mail address karlbreckenridge@yahoo.com which has been hacked – like many others – and goes to a page requesting my credit card information which is totally inappropriate. If you are a yahoo! e-mail customer, do not offer this information if prompted.

Therefore, should you need to communicate with the Ol’ Reno Reader, use my other e-mail address, which is kfbreckenridge@live.com .

NOW I’M GETTING THE SAME CRAP ON THE FACEBOOK LOGIN PAGE – “NEED CREDIT CARD INFO” 6:00 TUESDAY

Don’t tangle with the Truckee…

River

On the RGJ’s website tonight, Dec. 9:

A report of two missing children in the area of Crissie Caughlin Park prompted a search by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office RAVEN helicopter and the dispatch of Reno Fire Department water dispatch teams.

The boys, who were last seen about 2:45 p.m., were found safe by the sheriff’s office at about 3:08 p.m. and the search was called off. The boys were 8 and 12 years old.

Now, we go back a year or two, to May 21, 1953, wherein we read in the Nevada State Journal, that,

two brothers were fishing near the 2800 block of Idlewild Road on May 16th when they decided to wade across the river.

The younger boy, Jay, slipped and fell, and his brother plunged after him. The swift current carried both youths downstream. Steven’s body was taken from the river opposite the buffalo pens at Idlewild Park, and Jay’s body was retrieved near the Sierra St. Bridge.

Witnesses who testified yesterday were Sgt. Larry Mumpower, resident of a rest home near the drowning scene, who tried without success to save the children;Sam Saibini, battalion chief of the Reno fire department; Richard Rowley, who went into the river at the Sierra St. bridge to retrieve the younger boy; Bob Williams, contractor, who was in on both rescue efforts, and Dr. Leo F. Convino, who testified as to the cause of death.

And here in real time, we amplify some of that paragraph from the Journal: The rest home where the retired police sergeant resided was later known as the Elges Convalescent Home, which has long since been razed and is now the site of an uncompleted condominium development on Idlewild “Road.” Sam Saibini was a popular BC for the Reno Fire Department for many years, who in several of my older columns was cited for bravery in some of Reno’s humdinger downtown fires. The late Richard Rowley was an extremely popular guy locally, a skier of note, a Realtor of long standing and my parents’ neighbor on Dartmouth Drive. Bob Williams made the news in the early 1960s following a fracas in a downtown courtroom, ‘nuff said. Dr. Convino, I know not of.

The Journal story continues in italics: It was estimated by Williams that Steven was in the river for 18 minutes before his body was found at the park, while the younger boy was said to have been in the water more than 50 minutes. Chief Saibini, Williams and the other witnesses said every possible effort was made to revive the youngsters, without avail.

Steven and Jay were the only children of Mr. and Mrs. Ray E. Cairns, 1010 W. Seventh St.

And how do I, the anthologist with the failing memory remember this? I’ll tell you: I lived on that fateful day at 1095 University Terrace, University Terrace being originally Eighth Street, and the Cairns brothers lived one block from me – I was in Steven’s class at Central Jr. High. Our little northwest Reno rat pack lost two friends that day.

Those friends were the same ages as the two boys fished out of the Truckee yesterday. How nice that 60 years from now, no one will be writing about them…

 

Christmas dinner came early for 400 folks

018010

The site was the Washoe County Senior Center; the host was the Sparks Sertoma Club, the wait-staff was about 60 wonderful kids from McQueen High School, and much of the food came from local markets and purveyors.

It was a bitterly cold afternoon, but just a few over 400 people braved the frigid weather, and came, alone, or as couples, or families, and boy, did they eat! Turkey and ham, with all the fixin’s, a huge table of desserts of all stripe, music and carols, a lotta laughing and socializing.

A great night indeed. Most left the warmth of the county building to less certain surroundings. A few knew no destination as they went into the bitter night.

But for two or three hours, Christmas came early to some nice people. Thanks, Sertoma. Thanks, McQueen High. Thanks, to all who donated food.

Reno and Sparks still have a heart…

The Babcock Kindergarten

BabcockBldg.

Topic A for this Saturday is the Elizabeth Babcock Memorial Kindergarten, named for a schoolmarm/émigré from Carson City. “The Babcock” opened for the 1901 school year in an attractive private building on the northeast corner of West Sixth and West Streets. It was operated by the Reno Kindergarten Association. I include it herein and herewith because a day or two I mentioned it in an irreverent column about snow and the current district’s dedication to serious education as opposed to preventing a few children and adults getting the sniffles on a wintry day.

The Babcock Building also served some other municipal uses to generate a little cash flow; per the Nov. 8, 1901 Nevada State Journal “…rooms are available to rent for meetings and socials,” and a U of N fraternity party brought all two of Reno’s Finest out on the night of March 2, 1907 (NSJ).

The school district in those early years was the Reno School District #10, the “10” a number assigned by the state. I’ve written in the past of the existence of eight, sometime expressed as nine if Franktown is included, school districts in Washoe County when the Washoe County School District was created in July 1956, combining all those districts. Several other archives at the Nevada Historical Society indicate that number to be 17, counting all the one-room schoolhouses in the county.

The Babcock functioned merrily at Sixth and West as a kindergarten until the Reno School District bought the building in May of 1932; conflicting archives point to 1933 (if the world relied on our school district to keep records, Columbus would have discovered Malibu and Washington would have thrown the dollar across the Pecos.) Reno’s kindergarten students were split out into the district’s five Reno schools (the Spanish Quartette and Southside School at Liberty and Center Streets.) The Babcock Building became the head-shed for the Reno district and remained so after the WCSD was created in 1956. Regrettably, in the 1950s the classic brick building we remember in our 1940s youth, close to our Reno High/Central Jr. High and Mary S. Doten alma maters, got a treatment akin to the blonde Olympian who won a Gold medal and had it bronzed: The new district stuccoed over the ivy-covered Babcock Building. Yikes!

The Washoe County School District remained headquartered in the old building, even after the Babcock was sold to the West Sixth Medical Building Group in October 1961. The “new” district moved into the East Ninth Street “Greenhouse” in January of 1962, built right smack in the middle of our athletic field – the original Foster Field, darn ‘em – where we trekked from all over town to play ball, held our fantastic and talented pet parades, our school picnics, and tried not to get caught tubing down the nearby English Mill Ditch.

As always happens to Reno’s most elegant old buildings with any history, the Elizabeth Babcock Memorial Kindergarten was razed in March of 1966. But “the Babcock” – the education envisioned by early members of the 20th Century Club and the classic building they built to provide it, live on in the great pantheon of Reno’s heritage.

(By-the-by, “NSJ” appearing somewhere in the preceding text and most of these yarns is Breckenridge shorthand for the Nevada State Journal; one may also see “REG” if I neglect to extricate it, Reno Evening Gazette. These papers were combined in 1983 to the present Reno Gazette-Journal.)

Bach’s “Shepherd on the Rocks with a Twist” pegged to headline the Reno Master Works Chorale’s Christmas show!

Sextette
We anxiously await the Sierra Nevada Master Works Chorale's Christmas offering next Saturday, Dec. 14th at the Nightingale Hall of the Church Fine Arts Building at the University of Nevada "How Great Our Joy." Our friend Larry Horning will be one of the leads, possibly in the role of the shepherd.

The doors open at 7 p.m. with a showtime of 7:30 p.m. Free parking will be available at the Brian Whalen Garage. General Admission is $20, Senior/Student $15, under 12 free.

This website has been afforded an early preview of the samplings of the music to be offered, including,

Hansel and Gretel and Ted and Alice,
an opera in one unnatural act
Fanfare for the Common Cold
Birthday Ode to “Big Daddy” Bach
The Abduction of Figaro, a simply grand opera
1712 Overture (often mistaken for a later work)
Toot Suite for calliope five hands
Suite No. 2 for Cello, All by Its Lonesome
Perviertimento for Bagpipes, Bicycle and Balloons
Shepherd on the Rocks with a Twist
Oedipus Tex, and Other Choral Calamities
Music for an Awful Lot of Winds and Percussion

(The program is subject to change by event night)
photo credit Richard Termine for The New York Times

Christmas countdown: Two men you should know…

WhitakerSchool

This august site will endeavor, during the next 20 days, to bring back some memories of Christmas around Reno and Sparks that readers of a certain age, if any there be, might enjoy (this website is on a collision course with reality, because the demographic who reads my stuff is either a/ deceased, or b/ not prone to using the internet. Ergo, I occasionally wonder why I write anything at all.)

            But, pressing on, I’d like you to know, or recall, a couple of guys who brightened our Christmases, and with both of them I’m going back into the 1960s.

            The first was named, and I write “was” because he was in his early forties during the time we’re reading about, and if he lives, he’d be one old rabbi. His name was Philip Weinberg, and I suppose that in this mid-1960s recollection he had some association with Temple Emanuel, which at the time was on West Street between West Fourth and Fifth Streets. It would soon be relocating to Lakeside Drive just north of Manzanita.

            Rabbi Weinberg, as memory serves, took a page from the military, wherein many of the Hebrew faith would take over the posts of their Christian counterparts on Christmas Day, that the latter may enjoy the holiday with their families. Weinberg chose to stand in for Reno’s police chief Elmer Briscoe, a man not averse to lighten his workload on any day, particularly Christmas. Weinberg’s offer was readily accepted by Chief Briscoe.

            The interim chief dutifully showed up on Christmas morning, in the stead of Chief Briscoe, and spent his day making the rounds of the police station, visiting with the on-duty officers and taking a ride in a patrol car, cheering the hearts of many, and mostly Chief Briscoe, home by the hearth with his family.

            This went on for several years; I’d say three or four. And as I recall, there was only one problem, the minor matter of a Reno resident being run over, possibly by a sleigh and eight reindeer, and dying on Christmas Eve, leaving Weinberg to do whatever police chiefs do under such circumstances. Otherwise, the watches were quiet.

            So, Rabbi Weinberg, wherever you may be, the Ol’ Reno Guy sends Holiday greetings to you, and the readers and residents remember you fondly.

•••

The second man we celebrate today I do know passed away many years ago. In about the same time frame that the Rabbi was bailing out the Chief (and my favorite English teacher the late Roberta Kirchner would question my capitalization of both those appellations), there lived among us a sign painter verging on genius, whose name was Red Nibert.

            Red operated out of a smallish hut on Mill Street just east of Kietzke, when there wasn’t a whole lot happening on little two-lane Mill Street. For most of the months of the year, Red painted signs. And painted them well; his work had a signature that was fairly evident, and was in demand.

            Then one day, in early December of what might have been 1964, like right about now, a Christmas sign materialized on the windows of the newish Sambo’s restaurant on the northeast corner of newish Keystone Avenue and oldish West Fourth Street slash Highway 40. The sign was bright and alive and eye-catching, sleighs, reindeer, Santa himself, mistletoe, holly, candles and “Merry Christmas!” emblazoned on maybe four, eight-foot wide windows on the Keystone Avenue side.

            Yikes! What was this? A Christmas sign on a commercial building? What genius! The genius behind this was our friend Red Nibert, who painted the window with its extensive detail and eight colors in about 17 minutes flat. Soon Red was loose all over our little hamlet, brightening the hearts of patrons of restaurants, commercial buildings, even the Mapes Hotel and some delivery truck windows. Red was indeed a genius, becoming even more of a genius as each day wore on and holiday cheer infused his creative veins and mind. Credit for all the windows you’re seeing now, goes to the friend I re-introduced you to today, a man of Chrismas and Christmas cheer, Red Nibert.

•••

A few final notes beckon for this visit: first, yes, I use Christmas, for it is now the Christmas season, and while I wrote with the highest respect for our Rabbi friend, the fact remains, Christmas is upon us. The second final note for today, is, yes, I wrote the word “Sambo.” I wrote of Sambo’s restaurants a dozen years ago and was assailed as being racist. No, I’m not racist; no, the restaurant chain didn’t close because its name was racist (as most think), and yes, the restaurant chain was formed by two dudes, one named Samuel and the other Beauregard, who called their restaurant Sambo’s. Sam and Bo, get it…?

            And in closing, one may wonder, “Why the hell is the picture of the Ozi Willium Whitaker Episcopal School for Girls in Whitaker Park on the hed of this column?” And the reason is because in a recent offering about snow and schools and stuff, I mentioned Whitaker Park. And it ain’t over yet; next chance I get I’m going to insert a picture of the Babcock Kindergarten, mentioned in the same column. And yes, Willium is correct. I wrote it once in the Gazoo, they corrected it for me and four history nuts jumped me.   

And won’t you all be happy when the sun comes out and I can get outside and ride my bike, and quit writing on the web!?

            All for now…

           

Let it snow, 1948

30072 snowplow

Officials of the Washoe County School District today placed an order for a steam-operated plow to assist in keeping the schools open when snow levels in Reno exceed the allowable two inches, measured from the pavement to the surface of the accumulated snow. There has been some consternation in the District since 1956, when there were nine school districts in Washoe County and those in the snow-prone areas (Franktown, Brown, Huffaker, Galena, Verdi) would routinely close if snow threatened safety, while other districts (Reno, Sparks, Natchez, Glendale) remained open and in business. (There was no Incline Village nor Stead.)

Old-timers remember several winters in Reno when the snow exceeded the tops of fire hydrants and the fire department implored folks to put a broomstick marking the hydrant so they could be located if necessary,  when closure of school was considered, but only a very few times that the interior schools actually closed for a day. This reporter recalls his father, alongside other fathers, shoveling the steps of Mary S. Doten School on West Fifth at Washington Street, as conscripted by Rita Cannan, large-and-in-charge as principal of that school, whom one didn’t trifle with. One just shoveled.

There was a bus, at least one, maybe a couple down south we didn’t know about. The bus to Mary S. Doten (and Reno High, at West Fourth and Chestnut) came in from Verdi and points west with the ranch kids, and the many children of the Sierra Pacific Power Company employees who lived and operated the power stations on the Truckee channel west of town. The driver of that bus was known for being a one-armed bus driver, not a situation one encounters often. And it was a stick-shift, at that.

But we got to school, I from Ralston Street, others from further away. But we got to school, or else, and Rita Cannan didn’t particularly give a rat’s-ass how we got there, but she would feel terribly hurt if we didn’t show up. When we arrived, we stopped first in the boiler room next to the kindergarten room to drop off our galoshes, hats and gloves, and somehow kept them straight, 200 pairs (We were in the first public-school Kindergarten in Reno, for prior to that it was, before WWII, the Babcock private Kindergarten at West Fifth and West Street, and during the war, subsidized by the War Department so moms with kids and husbands off to war could get out and commit some war effort.) Long story, another column someday.

This column is what happens when a writer gets cooped up with little to do on a snowy day with little else to do and gets a little buggy on a laptop. And somewhere up there I think I wrote Chestnut Street, which we now know as Arlington Avenue (the other day I spoke to a friend of the Belmont Street bridge, and she looked askance.) Or awry. Or bewildered. Arlington, when my dad was shoveling snow under the watchful eye of Rita Cannan, was Arlington from the golf course north to California Avenue, Belmont from California to West First, and Chestnut from there to the north end up by the Orr Ditch.

Anyway, the snowplow is ordered (you can see the Nugget in the background of the photo), and henceforth, there will be no more snow days at schools, and teachers and students alike will be expected to have their fannies on deck at eight bells in the schoolrooms in the interior of town, as we did in the old days (don’t you love that expression? Hey, I left out the part about getting the cows in Whitaker Park across from my house milked before I left to school…)

All for now…

When you say Bud…

Budweiser

One TV ad has always been the harbinger of Christmas (yes, I still use that word this time of year). The Clydesdales, hitched to a small freight wagon, a cloak of fallen snow on the gently-rolling hillside, the laughing men in rugged garb under starry skies, the horses’ breath evident in the fading light; the wagon, laden with a freshly-cut Christmas tree pulling into the looping drive of a white clapboard cabin with an inviting fire burning inside, its light visible through the cabin’s Cape Cod window.

And all the while, the strains of “When you say Bud, you’ve said it all” swelling in the background, sans the familiar lyrics.

I always thought that that commercial signaled the official beginning of the Holiday season. I once wrote that it was the oldest continuously-played commercial on television (I do think it underwent one change, I’d say in the early 1990s, when the words “Please Drink Responsibly” were added.) Nobody argued. Otherwise, the same commercial, unchanged since the early 1980s. Christmas begins.

Alas, Budweiser is now the asset of a German brewery. And alas, last year, I didn’t see it on the tube. It might have been there, but I didn’t see it.

Watch for it this year. Maybe it’ll be with us again. No one says Christmas anymore, but we can sure as hell have a Bud for Santa on our hearths.