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…

8 thoughts on “Let it snow, 1948

  1. You need to be cooped up with your laptop, more often!!

    EXCELLENT story!!!

    As always… Looking forward to your next one!!!!

    • Rita Cannan was not deeply concerned about what my father with his shovel, or my fellow classmates, would or wouldn’t appreciate. She was out to give us an education. And she did…

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