OK, AFTER THIS WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED SATURDAY MORNING, SOME INFORMATION FROM ARLINE LAFERRY AND MISHA MILLER WAS APPENDED TO THE POSTAND WE KNOW A LOT MORE
A few weeks ago a friend was out walking along Marsh Avenue in the 800 block and she spied on the tiled turret of a beautiful old classic Southwest Reno home, a weathervane. On that weathervane was and still is a horse; a horse with wings that our friend seemed to think was a logo for a bygone service station chain popular in Reno and the rest of the free world in our younger days. She wondered, “Why is there a horse – a winged horse – a Pegasus, which is its mythical name – on the roof of this home?” (Many of us know the home and its owner, and in the interest of the owners’ privacy I’ll skip that detail.) The home, by the way, is at 843 Marsh Avenue, on the west side of the street a few houses south of St. Lawrence. The Pegasus, seen
in the photo, is painted the same light grey that the Navy painted the lower surface of WWII airplanes to make them difficult to see against a blue sky. And even harder to photograph, as this horse was [in April of 2014].
I’ll write parenthetically that I remember seeing that horse weathervane since my childhood and like many of us, have heard over the years that a prior owner and the probable builder of the home was an executive, or a relative of an executive, of the Socony (an acronym for Standard Oil Co. of New York) Mobil Oil. Sometimes Saucony. And in the past, I’ve taken a run at writing about it, and on every occasion honored the wishes of the home’s owner for privacy, and left it alone.
Enter now some confusion over winged stuff – I wrote “SoconyMobil” but a number of readers said, incorrectly, “No, no; that equine is the logo of Flying A,” which is sort of interchangeable with Associated and Tidewater Oil depending upon where the readers spent their youth. I, like many of us, pumped gas for Myneer Walker and Jimmy Melarkey at the Flying A on the S/W corner of Liberty and South Virginia Street. And several readers claimed, incorrectly, that our flying horse was on the old fluted column remnant of Ernie’s Flying A Truck Garage on East Fourth Street. All old Flying A’s incorporated fluted columns. Misha Miller, who has forgotten more about Reno than I’ll ever know, aligned with this crowd. But, we’re looking for a winged horse, not a winged “A”.
Time marched on, actually only a few days but the earlier text sounds more dramatic. I busied myself trying to learn who would put a service station logo on the weathervane of a beautiful Reno home, one of the nicest for sure, when it was built probably in the late 1930s (the assumption that it was a Standard Oil exec is pretty well carved in stone.) The year it was built, the owner, the architect, the contractor – all seemed to be pretty obscure.
As I write this, I have some pretty good clues that I can follow up this first week in February, and have some messages out to those associated with the present owner who will probably fill in some blanks. The notes right now lead outward from a Riverside Hotel exec with ranching ties around the state, to another family – which may actually be an offshoot of the same family – who owned it until sometime after 1945 and reportedly owned the former Flick Ranch along the Truckee which later became the site of Bishop Manogue High School.
Posted originally to the Blue Plate Special website in Jan. 2009 © Karl Breckenridge
And now, some further information, posted 7 pm on Saturday April 26, thanks to Arline Laferry, ace researcher with the Nevada Historical Society and a neat lady and good friend:
REG = Reno Evening Gazette
NSJ = Nevada State Journal
REG 1941 Aug 1 page 3. Building permits for new construction for July.
Mr. and Mrs. R. B. Callahan residence at 843 Marsh avenue, $35,000. Wine & Williams contractor
11/1942 mention of a tea being held at new home of Mrs. Raymond Callahan 843 Marsh
REG 1946 June 20 page 2
Approximately $80,000 was paid for the R. B. Callahan home at 843 Marsh ave in a recent sale, it was indicated by a deed filed at the country recorders office Tuesday. Purchasers of the home, one of Reno’s most elaborate are Mr. and Mrs. Bert Reddick, according to the filed deed. The house was built a few years before the war.
July of 1947 permits issued. Bert Reddick, 843 Marsh Ave, air conditioning $3,000
NSJ April 13, 1949 page 10
Purchase of the former Raymond Callahan house at 843 Marsh Ave by [TEXT REDACTED] of Reno from Mrs. Vivian Reddick was revealed yesterday. It was bought by Mr. and Mrs. Bert Reddick a year or so ago.
REG April 10, 1975 page 5.
Home tour by American Association of University Women.
One of the homes featured was the home at 843 Marsh Avenue. Raymond Callahan, the businessman who owned the Flying A, Gas Station, had a Pegasus on a weather vane on his Reno home during his ownership of it.
Now: Another reader Misha Miller responded, with the information that the Socony-Mobil horse on the roof was placed there as a good natured in-your-face to the owner of a Flying A Station; something for him to look at each night as he came in the driveway. Callahan did own what became Ernie’s Flying A on East Fourth Street. And Misha knows…if her theory’s right, and it well may be, it answers why I could never make a link to a Standard Oil exec in title – there wasn’t any!
Now we need the link to the Flick Ranch. We’re still working on this…
Often, while on my usual relentless quest for some new quotidian facet of bygone life in our valley, an idle conversation can take a subtle turn and lo, a column just begging to be written hits me right between the horns. While I usually try for a little greater depth than the following item affords, sometimes ya just gotta have a little caprice on the keyboard.
The talk at men’s coffee groups can transcend from informative and cogent, to complete blather, in about seven syllables, and that happened a few years ago at the Continental Lodge, or whatever they call it now, coffee shop. The intelligent and significant discussion was of the proliferation of bar codes in pricing, and the capability of a merchant to change prices, up or down, by mere keystrokes on a computer. And the follow-on thought was how much easier that was than re-marking everything in the store. So far, that all made sense.
But then, local historian extraordinaire Red Kittell brought up MONKEYTAIL, and what was slightly frightening was that most at the table knew what monkeytail is. Or was. Once upon a time there was a venerable store in western Nevada named Eagle Thrifty Drug & Market – we know them now as Raley’s. Eagle Thriftys [which was the correct plural spelling that the paper turned into “…ties”] sold everything under the sun, and their basement on the Wells Avenue store [now a Hispanic market] was a hardware/camper/TV and radio/auto mechanic/outdoor furniture freak’s paradise. All of their wares had a price on stick-on labels, with letters below the prices. A few hapless employees divulged to the profane world what those letters stood for, never to be seen ever again (it’s rumored they reside under the produce section on the Eagle Thrifty-turned-Raley’s Peckham Lane store.) In the monkeytail code, the “m” represented “1”; the “o”, “2”; the “n”, “3”, and so forth up to the “l” for zero. We learned over time that if we were looking at a Coleman lantern that was marked $16.99 and the letters under it were “TAE,” that the store had paid Coleman $7.85 wholesale.
It turned out that many retailers had such a code, and some were dandies; they had to be of 10 letters, none repeating. They started surfacing when bar codes and cash register scanners started ruling the west. Anyway, go out to the garage and find an old broom or a can of paint that came from Eagle Thrifty. Armed with this information, available nowhere else in this newspaper [OK, so I wrote this a while back, like 2001, in the RGJ], you can become privy to what the Gastanaga family that owned the chain made off your transaction these 40 years ago.
Takin’ care of business last Monday on Mill Street east of the airport, I spied a landscape crew aerating the expansive lawn of the complex on the south side of the street, just west of Edison Way. “What ho?” I thought to myself – pride of ownership remaining in a building three decades after the certificate of occupancy that mandated their green belt had passed? In Reno?
We’ll turn back the clock this Saturday morning to the late 1950s. While my research couldn’t nail this part down, I have a distant recollection that a San Francisco cop, a fair-skinned sort, once played with the military-issue sunscreen included in the survival kit of life rafts by adding some coconut oil and other stuff, to create a suntan lotion that didn’t smell like a burning clutch to his fellow beachcombers. Sea & Ski, he would call it, and he marketed it to other Bay Area redheads, later expanding into Southern California and eventually nationwide. His eponymous Rolley Company was off and running.
He caught the attention of pharmaceutical giant Smith Kline & French, later SKF and now GlaxoSmithKline, who bought him out for a pretty penny and set up a plant on Reno’s Valley Road in 1961. SKF outgrew the Valley Road plant and in 1967 acquired 10 acres in the embryonic Lands of Sierra Industrial Park. The plant they commissioned garnered SKF, as the owner, the architect Marquis & Stoller of San Francisco, and local contractor McKenzie Construction, several national awards.
What a beauty it was when it opened with great ceremony in 1968, and so remains, thanks to almost heroic efforts by its present owners, to the degree that a 21st-century bean counter can tolerate maintenance of a showplace that doesn’t show up on the shareholders’ bottom line. Originally redwood-and-glass, we thought early-on during construction that it was a Frank Lloyd Wright creation, which it somewhat emulates. The small front office area toward Mill Street, joined by a long glazed corridor to a larger plant area with a dramatic two-story glass north wall, is evident. But, what a pity the passing motorist can’t see the inner courtyard, extensively landscaped on rolling-berm grassy knolls, with pergolas and other architectural features surrounding a pond with a waterfall, fountain and a centerpiece redwood-beam bridge – the courtyard once an oasis of relaxation for the 150 Sea & Ski employees during a lunch hour or coffee break. The courtyard was featured prominently in local print and TV ads, and in its day hosted a number of civic parties and fashion shows. The redwood walls, alas like all redwood in our area eventually had to be washed to a lighter color, yet it remains one of the most attractive office courtyards in any local commercial setting even to this day. [2011: Still is.]
Sea & Ski was a community leader
Sea & Ski became a welcome member of the local business community, with a pleasant fit into the light, clean manufacturing model that civic leaders were attempting to woo into the area, also as warehousers of goods in a town struggling to gain national recognition as a “freeport” center – read “no state tax on goods warehoused here while intransit.” Sea & Ski’s execs, along with those of parent company SKF, were willing cheerleaders of freeport warehousing and distribution, and eagerly joined some local warehousing pioneers – Frank Bender, Pres Hale, and Jud Allen come to mind – on junkets about the nation selling Reno’s and Sparks’ industrial desirability.
The Lands of Sierra Industrial Park deserves a mention, maybe a Homefinder column someday. Sierra Pacific Power, in an effort to get the ol’ electric meters spinnin’, subdivided once-agricultural land northeast of the airport for major distribution centers (bet you always wondered why those streets were named Ampere, Edison, Joule, Ohm and so on – there you go.) They decreed, to their credit, that their sites were to house something besides gray tilt-up buildings on seven acres of blacktop, resulting in attractive additions to our town, with mandated, extensive lawns and vegetation, concealed trash areas, attractive lighting, comfortable outdoor employee lounges, and other amenities to beautify the park. Sea & Ski’s plant was the first – whoops, that word again – somebody might write me to say it was Addressograph-Multigraph Corporation’s building just to the south, but research eludes me here. Looks like a tie…
Change ultimately came to Mill Street
SKF closed the Sea & Ski plant in April of 1980. A chunk of the original ten acres had been previously sold, and the remaining asset was acquired by Hunt-Spiller Globe Turbocharger Corporation, itself a giant in its own industry. Globe operates another “clean” industry, rebuilding the turbochargers of giant diesel locomotive engines, and numbers among its clientele the railroads around the world that use American-built locomotives. Their aging facility is at once an architectural triumph and a maintenance nightmare, but they maintain it beautifully. While cheery Mary Wills, Globe’s guardian of the gate, will probably shoot me for writing this, she’d probably love to share with readers the view of the building’s still-gracious courtyard that she enjoys every day. The Sea & Ski building, now the Globe Turbocharger building, is an unsung treasure on the local landscape, and Mary’s deservedly proud of it.
And, I thank the kind folks at the Nevada Historical Society, my perennial wind-beneath-my-wings, for some needle-in-the-haystack help with the business-maturation chronology of this piece. Have a good week, and God bless America.
© Reno Gazette-Journal March 2, 2005
In an unguarded moment a few months ago I mentioned that if I ever bound these thoughts into a book I’d probably title it You’re going to do what to the Mapes? A better title might be something as boring as Strolling Downtown Reno, for it is those strolling columns that seem to draw the most reader response. [And that I love to write.] Following a few downtown strolls some notes, questions, and recollections piled up so off we go, the Saturday morning movie at the Tower Theater is just letting out; John Wayne and Richard Widmark beat the bad guys again and The Thing didn’t catch us so we’ll walk around downtown some more.
Most of the questions that arose were of the “where was the…?” category and while neither I nor my research assistant Carmine Ghia laid awake any nights over them, we can respond to a few: The Club Frisco – don’t call it that around Herb Caen – was in the Harrah block of North Virginia Street. Walton’s Town & Country Décor was on North Sierra, no known connection to the funeral home of the same name. That brings to mind the new office complex being built south of Del Monte Lane called Mountain View, a name that some out-of-town developer may come to regret. I for one already have too many friends residing in Mountain View, and they don’t keep office hours. Someone asked about the Red River Lumber Company; look out East Fourth Street in the 300 block, but call ahead to be safe that it’s open. Martin’s Cash Grocery was at East Fourth and Evans, and yeah, yeah, yeah, a good column might be of old mom-and-pop grocery stores – I hear that all the time and you’re right. Before families had 23 cubic foot refrigerators a trip to a corner grocery – not a supermarket – was de rigueur once every couple of days, and I’m cataloguing nearly 60 corner grocery stores in 1950s Reno and Sparks.
The Elk Hotel? On Commercial Row by the Arch Drug, and it had nothing to do with the Elks’ Home by the river. (Across Virginia Street was the Stag Inn, a good corner for the antlered.) “What was the Huskie Haven you mentioned in a Center Street walk column?” ‘Twas a social, after-school club for Reno’s only (public) high school (can you tell that I tangled with Manogue’s alumni over a “Reno’s only high school” reference a few months back?) Huskie Haven was former fire station on the corner of Center and Ryland, great pool tables, darts, study areas – a good place to hang out. It closed as a school district-sanctioned facility in 1955 when the Reno School District became the Washoe County School District, but continued on an unofficial basis, hosting dances most Friday nights at the California Building or State Building, and ice skating at Idlewild’s ponds during weeknights in conjunction with Parks & Rec. Life was good. And the Huskies welcomed the Sparks and Manogue kids. Primarily their women.
The Western Milk Depot, you asked? East Fourth near Evans, getting the milk cans off the Western Pacific Railroad cars arriving from Sierra Valley every day. When the excellent Washoe (Period) restaurant opened in the old Glory Hole recently, a reader wrote, “wasn’t there a Washoe Restaurant in Reno years ago?” Sure was – on Commercial Row. A radio station on Stevenson Street? KOH, on the west side of the street, torn down when the topic of another reader question, the Greyhound bus depot was built. Harrah’s wanted the downtown bus station site next to the Santa Fe hotel, primarily so the intervening alley could be abandoned and their properties joined. They acquired the half-block between West First, Second, Stevenson and the alley, then designed and built a bus station then exchanged it for Western Greyhound Lines’ terminal on Lake Street, (which curiously was never razed). That transaction was not without public rancor, for a few narrow-minded souls didn’t really want a bus station by a beautiful park and the river, knowing as they did that some discerning bus riders feel that there’s nothing more satisfying than fine wine and a snooze in a park after a long bus ride. Harrah’s prevailed. Imagine that. And closing out Stevenson Street, the early YWCA was on the northeast corner of Stevenson and West First.
The original name of early Reno’s premier law firm? Try Hoyt, Norcross, Thatcher, Woodburn & Henley, and why do you ask me questions like that? I’m a street guy, not a name guy. Researching this, Carmine also found an ancient reference to the firm of McCarren & Wedge, proving that we’ve been misspelling Senator Pat McCarran’s name for over half a century now. McMahan’s Furniture was downtown, as a reader recalled, on Commercial Row well into the 1960s. [Somewhere in this book we learn that later-congressman Walter Baring sold finer parlor furniture there.] No one asked, but Whitehouse Clothiers, Jacobs (clothes) and yikes! – a hock shop were also on early Commercial Row. Soon we’ll gather at the all-new Shoofly Saloon near the location of the old Nevada Turf Club.
Harry’s Business Machines – a sure Great Homefinder Longest-Running Business candidate if I ever get back on that kick – was and is on West Street, just north of the tracks. (Following a couple of GHLRB columns, I was accused of selling out accolades for goods and services, like I need fuel oil from Washoe Keystone for my gas furnace or Peerless Cleaners to press either of my Oxford shirts.) Harry’s owner Gordon Foote is a friend and a frequent contributor. [GHLRB = Great Homefinder Longest-Running Businesses. Not one of my brighter ideas, in retrospect.]
Closing notes: The old Temple Emmanuel? I’ll mention it again: on the east side of West Street across from old Reno High/later Central Jr. High School. I can’t resist including that Kay Fujii’s Nevada Nursery was on the south side of North Street, and the Western Pacific tracks ran along the west side of East Street. (East Street, never a dedicated street, actually the NCO/Western Pacific railroad right-of-way, mysteriously became known as Record Street relatively recently.)
You read this first in the Gazoo: Greg Street was named for Greg McKenzie (true) and Picabo Street (possibly). Have a good week; go buy a house, and God bless America.
• • •
© Karl Breckenridge 2004 from “You’re Doing WHAT to the Mapes?” and the Reno Gazette-Journal
Following a couple of “Walking” columns, I received an interesting email: “I’ve lived here for thirty years and I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I have a flash for this writer: There’s people who’ve lived here twice as long who don’t know what I’m talking about either, and I occasionally include myself.
So to appease him (her?); we’ll only go back thirty years this morning to 1970 – there’s only ten shopping days until Christmas, the Pinto’s warmed up in the driveway so we’ll drive to a couple of shopping areas. Park Lane Center, the granddaddy of local shopping has been open for four years now but we’ll start elsewhere and wind up there next week.
We like the Keystone area, as do so many people who moved into that booming area when Sproul Contractors started building homes in the first one-third of the 1960s. A mini-town sprang up with its own banks, cleaners, service stations, even its own disk jockey on KOLO radio – live from the El Cortez Hotel – Pete Carrothers, who romanced the so-called “Sproul” (northwest Reno) trade on the air, asserting that he woke up next to every woman in northwest Reno (leaving out the “if she had her radio tuned to 920 AM. Lucky them.) The hot spot became the Keystone Center, built by Al Caton, the owner of Keystone Fuel/Reno Press Brick, committing land formerly occupied by the brickyard’s quarry. It had a movie theater, and the hot spot we’ll hit this morning, Uncle Happy’s Toy Store, the best in the West. Sir Loin’s Steak House was a favorite, operated by a couple of young guys named Nat Caraseli and Bill Paganetti, who later opened a little coffee shop called the Peppermill in 1971. We might go back there for lunch, there or the Chocolate Pit, later to become the Coffee Grinder that fed a generation of local folks.
Across Keystone was the greatest drug store in Reno, the big Keystone Owl Rexall Drug, Jim Henderson and Frank Desmond, your genial pill-pushers. Jim has passed away; Frank is an occasional contributor to this column, both good friends to many. Many remember Jim doing TV commercials occasionally with two guys he met playing golf at Hidden Valley, whose names were Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. While it was occasionally difficult to ascertain what product they were selling on TV, if any, they were having fun, and we at home enjoyed their own localized Laugh-In. We’ll stop in there this morning on our shopping spree and pick up some gift wrap and stocking stuffers.
Traveling down Keystone Avenue, we can go over the fairly-new Keystone Bridge, through an intersection that pits motorists from Booth Street, Keystone and California Avenues together to the amazement of all when it opened. In the venerable Village Shopping Center by Reno High School were a number of old friends, like Safeway, Sprouse Reitz sundries, the Village Drug — a great complement to the Keystone Owl Rexall. The Mirabelli family had a record store there, later to move to Park Lane. A fabric shop that was there seemingly forever finally closed; the present shoe repair shop was probably an original tenant. P&S Hardware had a branch at the Village; Gene Parvin and Bill Spiersch making it easy for the burst of homeowner/fixit guys springing up in southwest Reno’s new homes. A Pioneer Citizens Bank branch. We can’t forget the Chinese Village restaurant, which had a number of names in years to follow, notably a Dick Graves chicken store, and would finally become the original Truckee River Bar & Grill. A lot of good grub has gone through that corner in forty-plus years.
The Village is a Reno fixture.
• • •
We’re still stumped with a few gifts so let’s keep moving; as I said, next weekend we’ll poke around Park Lane a little in a column that’s kind of an encore. Many people enjoyed that Park Lane column that’s run several times in the past seven years, but we Homefinder columnists don’t get the big bucks for resubmitting old retreaded columns. (Plus, I can’t find it on my computer’s disk.) [I still can’t.] Next week we’ll update it to the early 1970s.
But now, it’s approaching noon on a December 1970 Saturday so we’ll park at Shoppers Square on Plumb Lane (I wish that Security Bank on the corner had an ATM – I could use a little cash.) Like Park Lane across the street, Shoppers Square was open then between the stores; the roof came later. (What’s with shopping center owners covering their malls? We Nevadans are a hardy lot.)
Silver State Camera held forth in the Square, probably the largest camera store in Reno at the time. I got an Instamatic there; still have it. But nowhere to buy film for it anymore. Hobby Towne was head-to-head in competition with Park Lane’s hobby store, both good places to shop. There was a Spudnut shop, nothing like the original on West Fourth Street, not quite as crowded as Krispy Kreme would be thirty years later.
You can call it Savon, you can call it Osco, but you doesn’t has ta call it Skagg’s, the Square’s big anchor’s earliest incarnation. And my favorite store, two great merchants Hal Codding and Jerry Wetzel, who moved their ski-oriented sporting goods store Codding & Wetzel from Pine Street downtown (I wrote about it in conjunction with the Olympic A-Frame.) Both owners were fixtures in local skiing and the 1960 Squaw Olympics; Jerry would die a few years later in a skiing accident, while Hal brightened our town for many years to follow. I’d be derelict if I didn’t point out that Hal’s daughter Cindi married a good friend to many of my contemporaries – Joe Murin – who recently was named by the RSCVA as Sterling the Butler, and if he can be half as dashing as his late father-in-law was, he’ll be a dynamite rep for our town. We’re betting he will be.
The hour draws late. Nod at Santa in the plaza, but don’t call him “George” and confuse the kid on his lap who thinks he’s really Santa. Maybe he is. (George Randolph, the Square’s perennial elf and Hartford Insurance retiree) Let’s walk across Virginia to the Central Park lounge in the Continental Lodge for a hot-buttered-rum.
Cheers to 10 shopping days, 342 safe-days at Ralston Foods, and God Bless America!
• • •
The end of an era
This item hurts: The RG-J last week bore the news that Mirabelli’s Music City in Park Lane Center is closing.
The article noted that the store moved to Park Lane as an original tenant in 1967 from the Village Shopping Center, where it opened in 1956. The Village was Reno High turf, and we sent two of our finest, Gary Bullis, now a local attorney and RSCVA board member, and Gary Machabee, local office furniture mogul, to be DJs at Mirabelli’s live from the Village. They
weren’t bad; Gary’s even keeping it as a fallback career. What the article didn’t say was that the store actually had tenuous roots even prior to that in Savier’s Appliances on West Second and West Streets, where it was the “Record Room.”
Good luck to Betty Mirabelli and to Buddy and Lori Lehman and their families, and our thanks for six decades of good tunes.
Epilogue: When Park Lane was opened by a bunch of local guys in the mid-‘60s, the detractors wagged “How could a doctor and a car dealer [among others] possibly run a shopping center?” Who knows, but they did, and it was a great, successful center. Now it sits dying, even while standing on the confluence of two well-traveled Reno streets, with acres of parking and easy access, thanks to some out-of-town experts who came to show us local yokels how it’s done. “Reno’s demographics changed,” they say.
Any number of local commercial Realtor firms could fill it up again.
• • •
I WROTE A PIECE ABOUT GYPSIES IN THE GAZOO LAST SUNDAY, HERE’S A LITTLE FOLLOW-UP FROM MY FRIEND JEAN MYLES, USED WITH HER PERMISSION…
Good story. When we were at Duke … 1955-57 … the King of the Gypsy Tribes in the West … U.S. and Canada … came to “Mr. Duke’s” Hospital to die.” As he was dying, the Gypsies gathered from near and far, filling the front lawns and the Duke Forest with tents and caravans. As you pointed out, they sharpened knives and tools, mended pots and pans, and made themselves useful to the community while they were there. When he died, it was amazing. You could hear the keening for miles. They did allow him to be taken to a funeral parlor, but they took his casket away with them. As you pointed out, one day they were there and the next day they were gone. Heaven only knows where he is buried. The day after they were gone, there wasn’t a trace that they had been there, except for some fire pits and flattened grass where the tents had been.
“Mr. Greene, you want a drink of my Coke…?”
Nary a codger my age, nor a codgerette, if that spell-checks, didn’t lurk around the high south window of the handsome brick building at Center Street’s intersection with South Virginia, watching the parade of green-hued clear bottles down the conveyor line. They marched like sparkling soldiers in lockstep from west to east, our left to our right, being squirted four-at-a-time full of Coca-Cola, to then disappear from view just as another machine capped them – poetry in motion.
But, the precision parade of these African kola nut-shaped little vessels wasn’t what we gathered there for. Periodically one bottle would get screwed up in the cadence and take down the three soldiers adjoining it and the whole parade would come to a halt. And that, readers, made our wait worthwhile, for the white-coated old bottler minding the parade would pull those bottles from the line, glance out the window at us – outwardly feigning great disdain for our barefaced supplication – and give a gruff nod to the door on Center Street. Inwardly we knew he was grinning wide at the opportunity to give us a free bottle of Coke and hie us on our way.
And – we’d look at the bottom of bottle to see what city it was originally bottled in – any kids’ worthwhile Coke bottle collection had a number of bottles with big east coast cities’ imprints on them, having migrated west along the Lincoln Highway.
That big sunlit south window, with the gleaming stainless steel conveyor and piping – the bottles changing from glistening clarity to jet black as they were filled – was a focal point of any drive around Reno until the plant moved out onto Vassar Street in 1972. And, in the convoluted logic that frequently drives this column I’ll mention here that what triggered all this is that the subsequent occupant of the bottling plant, Restaurant Equipment and Supply – RESCO, if you will – just vacated the building, to move out to the old McMahan’s Furniture on East Plumb Lane.
Les and Stanley Farr bought two businesses in 1924 – the Shoshone Soda Works and Diamond Springs Drinking Water Supply Company. They built a brick building in 1927 on South Virginia Street for the soda operation, hand-bottling a number of regional brands of carbonated beverages. Les’ son Curtis became the sales manager. In William D. Rowley’s book “Reno: Hub of the Washoe County” a great old picture by Lauren Wood appears, depicting the original Shoshone building, looking kind of lonely ‘way out on South Virginia Street – but recognizable as part of the existing structure. In 1930, long before Coke Taught The World To Sing and Mean Joe Greene tossed the kid his Steeler football jersey in one of most popular TV commercials ever made, Coca-Cola franchised the Farrs to bottle Coca-Cola in the northern Nevada market. They sold the Diamond Springs water operation to another company in 1944.
They added on to that old building in 1939, and again in 1941, the latter addition incorporating the showcased bottling line on the south wall. That high window in later years was bricked over, its silhouette still discernable. (There was a little more room on the corner in those days with a little wedge-shaped park; Center Street, then two-way would later become one-way north and a turn lane took out part of the sidewalk.)
The Farrs, to their credit, maintained their building beautifully – landscaping, the stainless-and-glass gallery to the south, and on the Virginia Street parking lot a fleet of immaculately maintained yellow-and white, with red trim, cab-over-engine – (OK, ladies: flat-fronted) – delivery trucks with racks for the wooden bottle containers, hauling Coke from Susanville to Lake Tahoe. (How’d you like to have one of those delivery trucks restored in time for Hot August Nights – what a showstopper that would be on a cruise.)
Research – ahh, that ugly word – brought a few tickles. The Farrs, cooperating to plug the local debut of “Grapes of Wrath” at the Granada (where admission, according to an ad in a March, 1940 edition of the Nevada State Journal, was 10 cents or 25 cents, regular or loge) offered a free Coke with admission. Henry Fonda and a Coke, what a deal.
Leslie Farr passed away in 1977, four years after his son Curtis’ death in 1974. They created a beautiful building for our local landscape, putting a great deal more pizzazz into it than the minimum necessary to do their job. Those ol’ bricks have served RESCO well for over 30 years, and we wish that company 30 more good years on East Plumb Lane.
And – the old bottling plant remains a highly visible building with a lot of potential. Hopefully some user will come along to rescue and restore it, maybe even un-bricking some of the windows to light up a slick little mini-mall or the lobby of a community theater…THEY DID, AND CALLED IT JUNKEES!
Oh – I’m full of ideas. And I told you last week, that summer’s coming and it did. You read it here first. Just as you read last week that the Herz Brothers, Richard and Carl bought M.M. Fredericks Jewelry Store on Commercial Row – actually, they worked for Fredericks in Virginia City and then bought William Goeggel’s jewelry store on Commercial Row. And, modesty probably forbade Wilton Herz when we spoke two weeks ago and he didn’t mention it, but I’m ashamed of myself for not including in last week’s column that R. Herz & Bro. has honored the top scholar of each graduating University of Nevadaclass with the Herz Gold Medal award ever since 1910.
Have a great and safe long weekend, with wonderful weather – we’ve earned it! Take a columnist to lunch, know where your children are, buckle up, floss, and God bless America.
© Reno Gazette-Journal 2006
Maybe you’ve already had your turkey, pilgrim, but I write this Tuesday with visions of drumsticks dancing through my head, and hearken back to an era when 90 per cent of the grocery stores in Reno weren’t much bigger than a convenience store. I mentioned a fortnight ago that families 50 years ago had refrigerators only slightly larger than the little countertop units we have in our offices, and even after the World War II many weren’t even mechanical refrigeration – the Iceman cometh. Thus, we visited the market several times a week, and many shoppers were limited to buying only what they could carry or wheel home.
Markets sprang up around town, their locations dictated by demographics. Travel back with me now to a smallish postwar Reno and we’ll visit a few markets – many little more than a room added on to the storekeeper’s home, often on a corner. Some had enough room for temperature-controlled -few stores were large enough to sublet space to an actual butcher shop on the 7-Eleven premises. Let’s mosey around town and revisit a few stores. I’ll probably miss a few; so don’t be bashful about filling in the gaps. You probably think this is easy – just go through the 1950 City Directory, right? It don’t work that way, boys and girls. Many listings are just “B. Akert” or “J. Barnes”, and it takes a little scratching around to find it was “Akert’s Market” and “Barnes’ Cash Grocery.” And some have had a slew of names over the years – I’m gravitating toward the names they were known by in 1950, when the mom-and-pops last proliferated.
The southeast quadrant of our Reno was populating close to South Virginia and Wells, only starting to sprawl south of Vassar. Washburn’s Market was on Wilson Street, later a radio shop. Kearns’ was far southeast at Kirman and Vassar by the new Veterans’ Memorial School. A couple on South Wells Avenue – a redundant address in 1950, as there was no North Wells Avenue – Reid’s, and Polli’s a little further south. Glubrecht’s was far south on Wrondel near Hubbard Way, and as I recall there was a chinchilla farm across the street. With a name like Glubrecht’s it has to be good.
Organizing these markets, I tended to put the South Virginia Street markets together, and they were for the most part walking distance from southeast and southwest Reno homemakers. At the end of Wells Avenue at South Virginia was Black’s, a fairly comprehensive market with a butcher shop. A little to the south at Linden was the Twentieth Century Market, next door to Harris Meat, owned by Len Harris who would later be mayor of Reno. The Old Orchard Market across from the present Park Lane Center lasted well into the 1960s; to the north was the Mt. Rose at 711 South Virginia. The Farmer’s Market was exactly that, a little north of the Old Orchard by the present Peppermill, serving retail customers and wholesale to other Reno markets.
Southwest Reno, as we’ve learned in past columns, wasn’t exactly overdeveloped in 1950 – picture the town with no Plumb Lane east of Arlington Avenue and little development west of Hunter Lake Drive. (The Corner Market at Hunter Lake and Mayberry was rural, as in “dirt roads.”) The California Avenue Market (known for a time as the “South Side Market”) was the venerable grocery in that part of town, a full market with a popular butcher shop that went well into the 1970s – owner George Minor, later Charlie Bradley, finally Fred Antoniazzi – the legends of lambchops. A kid named Karl Breckenridge the Elder delivered groceries for them on a bike with a huge basket in the early 1930s. (It should be mentioned that most of these markets survived by running an efficient and speedy delivery trade, filling a good percentage of their orders by phone. Ergo, some stores were called “cash grocery” – no delivery, cash on the barrelhead, no charge accounts.) Still in the southwest was Clark’s Market, east on California Avenue in what would become Powell’s Drugs at Humboldt. To the south, Collier’s, on Mt. Rose Street by the present 7-Eleven, and the Lander Street Market, which closed in 2002near Mount Rose School, after new owners shut it down for too long, and it lost its zoning “grandfather” status. [Mt. Rose Street, Mount Rose School. Fourth Street in Reno, 4th Street in Sparks. Wanna be an editor…?]
I mentioned Akert’s Market on East 4th and Alameda (North Wells) Avenue, where the Akerts’ son Ben learned the grocery trade decades before opening Ben’s Discount Liquors. On East Sixth was Meffley’s, further out was Mathisen’s, later rebuilt and enlarged as Mathisen’s catering hall and now the home of Washoe ARC. On East Fourth was the Lincoln, Pinky’s (for the Pincolini family), and further out the M&M and L&H Meats. Davey’s, on Quincy by the future freeway. Muenow’s, on East Seventh.
Downtown, where a lot of people worked and then shopped on the way home, was Ring-Lee with one store on Mill Street and the other in the block now occupied by the 50 West Liberty Plaza. In that Liberty block also was a Safeway, and Frank’s on the corner of Sierra. Safeway had another store in the classic brick building that remains on the southeast corner of North Virginia and Fifth Street that opened before WWII as a Skaggs-Safeway. That store would survive until the Sewell family opened their “super-store” in 1948 across Virginia Street, that building demolished in 1995 to make room for the Silver Legacy. Lemaire’s was a block north of Sewell’s on Virginia; Louie Piazzo’s was across the tracks to the south in a space later occupied by The Sportsman (across Virginia from the present Eldorado.) The Reno Public Market was on East Second at Lake. A little larger than the mom-and-pops were the Eagle Thriftys (later acquired by Raley’s), the aforementioned-Sewell’s, and the Games family’s Washoe Market, still all downtown. Readers had a little confusion in town caused by the California Market across from Piazzo’s – often being confused with the California Avenue Market named above (that latter one often labeled the California Avenue Grocery in ads and print text. Same place.)
• • •
Paper or plastic?
Now we’re nearing the Sparks neighborhoods, so we’ll pick up the beat there and stop in the express lane of the Stop ‘n Go on the corner of East Fourth and Coney Island, then I’ll say this one last time and you’ll never have to read it again in a Web column: When we’re recalling the old days, the present Victorian Avenue shall forever be known as B Street. (I’ve grown weary of making that distinction week-after-week.)
Down the road to Sparks, in no particular order, we have Kellison’s on B Street, a block from Baker’s Grocery and butcher shop, and I once joked with the guy who assembled the Homefinder real estate supplement each week that on the Saturday following his retirement from the RGJ, which I thought then would coincide with my final print column, I would publish for you all to read the motto on the side of Baker’s 1950 Chevy panel delivery truck. I’ll keep the deal; the top line of their motto painted on the truck started “You can beat our prices,” and the lower line started, “but you can’t….”, and here remind you that they were also a butcher shop. Pay ‘n Save was a little to the east on B Street; as we learned last week most grocery stores carried charge accounts and delivered – the name Pay ‘n Save indicated that it was a no-frills store.
“Conductor Heights” – the residential area south of the S.P. tracks – was well served by Gomes’ Grocery on South 17th Street (now Rock Boulevard). On Prater and 15th Street was Kendall’s, nearby the Wright Way Market, a classic that Washoe County Clerk Amy Harvey would shoot me for not mentioning. Smitty’s Market (Lody Smith’s family) was on B near Pyramid Way (OK, it was still called “8th Street” in 1950). How could we forget the Midget Mart on B near 2nd Street – one of the earliest “mini stores” and still in business today as “Litke’s,” and tied with the Wright Way market as the oldest markets in Sparks.
• • •
All together we go now, west along Highway 40 but we can’t stop for coffee at the Gold-n-Silver because it won’t be built for seven more years. (Some reader will probably suggest Hale’s Drug’s fountain at West Fourth and Vine, for the best hamburgers in town in 1950.)
It’s nearing Christmas, so I’ll mention the Santa Claus Market first – a tiny little rock building on the corner of Vine and West Sixth, the native stone spray painted bright silver and not likely to be confused with any other structure in Reno. It was so-named because it was open Christmas Day. Across West Fifth Street from Mary S. Doten School was the Cottage Grocery, Johnny Beetchen, proprietor, who was also the butcher (as I mentioned last week, a butcher shop was a rarity in these little mom & pops.) A block north on Washington Street at Seventh was the Quality Market and gas station – known to most as “Quilici’s” – and many of us aging northwest Reno denizens long for the chance to have grabbed up their gray ’40 Ford pickup with “Quality Market” on the doors, always parked alongside the antique hand-operated, glass-reservoir gas pump that really belongs on someone’s, say my, patio. It probably got carted off as junk when the I-80 freeway ate the old Quality Market site. I can say with authority that the Quality, Cottage and Santa Claus sold one Hell of a lot of Bazooka bubble gum, licorice ropes and banana Popsicles after school
Ralston Street? You bet – three markets I know of: the Ralston Market at the foot of the hill by West Sixth Street [gone], Maynard’s at Tenth Street, (now the Pub-and-Sub, Sigma Nu fraternity’s beer garden branch office) and the University Market two blocks to the north of Maynard’s. On West Fourth Street, Reno’s apartment row, the Elmwood Market at 435 West Fourth and Churchill’s across Highway 40 from old Reno High (in 1950, a year later Central Jr. High, now the Sundowner site.) Barnes’ Cash Grocery, a block to the west on the ol’ Lincoln Highway.
On West Second Street, (Brickie) Hansen’s Market, across from Bello’s tamale factory, best in the west. Vanoni’s Market was further west at Arletta (Gardner?) Street. While noodling around West Third at the site of the present Sands Resort we find the Porta family’s market, stocking every manner of pasta for the “little Italy” district north on Washington Street. I’d mention that it was later the first location of a Porta Subs, but Lee Green, neé Lina Porta, wife of our favorite Central Jr. High vice-principal Chet Green, wouldn’t want me to do that. Nevada’s faculty enclave”: Rommelfanger’s, ‘way north by College Drive, and DuPratt’s, nearer downtown at Sierra and West Sixth. That was the town’s only Rommelfanger’s, by the way.
There are others, like the Ferrari family’s Food Store on West Second and West Street, so stay tuned – we’re not done shopping yet. The food store is a column of its own.
And that’s the way it is at the tail end of January, 2009. Have a good week, watch for the classic Mean Joe Greene-Coca Cola commercial during the Super Bowl game (“Hey, kid…..), and God bless America!