2005: Reno Little Theater and Virginia Lake


A fortnight ago I scribed that the Reno Little Theater opened its now-70 year run  in Reno with a play on April 15th of 1935 at the University of Nevada’s Frandsen Education Building, a venue I took from an RLT archive.  After I wrote that brilliance but before it appeared on page 8, I awoke with a start in the wee hours of a morning: The Frandsen Education Building?  Yikes – did I write that?  I did.  I was too late to fix it and you read it.

            The Education Building on the Hill, you see, is named for Reuben Thompson, a former Dean of Philosophy and the father of Mary Atcheson and Judges Bruce and Gordon Thompson.  The building was built in 1920 to a Delongchamps design, and named for Thompson in 1959.  The Frandsen Humanities Building, note, humanities, not education, was built in 1917 as the home of the College of Agriculture, and was named for Peter Frandsen, a sheepman-turned-animal husbandry professor.  Info is in conflict whether he was the head of the College of Agriculture but he had a building named for him, which ain’t too bad for a youthful émigré from Denmark.  The building became the Humanities building when the Fleischmann Aggie Building opened in 1958.

            Now the dilemma, if it qualifies as that, is which building the play opened in.  Leanne Stone, the gorgeous guru of campus history, surmises that it was in the Thompson Education Building, inasmuch as that facility has a stage, an amenity so vital to a play.

            And no one even took me to task for mixing up the buildings, albeit with a little help from an aging, yellowed news clip.  Old sheepman Frandsen would accuse me of pulling the wool over ewe readers’ eyes.


Seeing little future in that discussion, let’s move along to a topic this column has been harping on for a while, and send kudos to the City of Reno’s Parks and Recreation Department’s guys and ladies for the major redesign underway at the south end of Virginia Lake.  It’s worth a drive by, or will be in a few weeks if the weather ever warms up – new sod, irrigation, and dozens of trees – yippee!

            Pay particular note to the mature, existing trees on the west side of the cove in the southernmost end of the lake.  Those were planted in 1939, per one source, but show as skinny little sticks in a photo of the lake dated 1938, together with the other trees ringing the one-mile-even perimeter of the lake.  What I’ve never seen in a photo, but remember vividly in my mind as a youth growing up near the lake on Watt Street (What Street??) – that line got real old in a hurry – was the shelter for migratory waterfowl on that little corner of the lake’s shore.  All of the area under those trees was fenced, enclosing a system of cribbing, think railroad ties interlocking each other like Lincoln Logs and filled with straw, extensive foliage behind the fence to hide it all from view, and bold “Federal Government – No Trespassing” signs posted about.

            At one time, waterfowl, OK, ducks and geese, flew south for the winter, from the lush forests of Canada to the Mexican Riviera, a concept that faded when they could hang out in Reno and let someone feed them.  Who needs the commute?  The Department of Interior, as a bargaining chip for federal funding of the WPA and CCC to create Virginia Lake, laid down a requisite for a shelter where migratory fowl could safely nest on their journey.  The island on the lake also fell under this mandate as a shelter protected by a moat, if you will, and for a hatchery in the area now reserved for dog training and exercise.  The need for the shelters apparently subsided and the verdant little area on the lake’s shore was dismantled – and maintenance of the island terminated – in the late 1950s. Those 13 trees stand as a vestige of that bygone shelter. I photoshopped my recollection of the fencing and cribbing, as seen in the photo.

            It’s nice to see the attention one of our favorite public parks is receiving.  And no, it’s not Nannette Island – I was only kidding here a decade ago but that name stuck with a few folks.  (Fannett Island is in Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay.)


The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd: This column originated 16 years ago, and Gannett statistics indicated that readership increased by 1.7 readers per month, that number rising to 2.2 per month when they put me on page 8 permanently and substituted a black-and-white photo of me for the previous color photo.  Now, Homefinder researcher Carmine Ghia, polling individuals at the main post office and the Greyhound station, reports that readership has swelled four-fold, owing to publicity for the column gained through open letters to me in the RGJ’s “Your Turn” op-ed and Letters to the Editor following our recent tour of the Truckee’s Treasure [the trashing of the Christian Science Church by the Lear Theater folks]. Keep those cards and letters comin’, folks; my readership will surpass the Contract Bridge columnist’s yet.

            A wonderful civic event resumes tomorrow morning at Reno High’s athletic field, the Moms on the Run benefiting breast cancer research.  Moms and dads can jog, or just stroll, and there’s even a class for kids.  Or if you’re tied up, bring a check to Pinocchio’s Restaurant on East Moana Lane [now South Virginia!].  Barbara and John Pinochio, who have sponsored the run since 2000, will know just how to distribute it.

Have a great week and a happy day, all you moms out there in RGJ land, and God bless America!

© May 2005 RGJ


Feedback about my Sunday RGJ column

Back to downtown Reno we go

Lerude's Wigwam


One of the bright spots in taking walks downtown is that you readers always prompt the next few columns, and this week we’re finally getting to a stockpile of “you forgots” and “where weres?,” thanks in advance to phone books, Sanborn maps, Polk City Directories and newspaper ads and a few friends. And in the 1947 photo above, you’ve probably already noted that Sierra Street carried two-way traffic, by the black coupe pointed north.

            You forgot Bello’s Tamales, capitals optional because I don’t think it never really had a name, just word-of-mouth advertising.  The best tamales in town, out on West Second near Washington in an old brick house, corn growing in the back yard, chickens to the west, with a gleaming pressure cooker in the immaculate basement.  Father would travel from Ralston Street and place an order in the morning, picking a plump Rhode Island Red sunning itself in the side yard, then return, probably have an Acme beer or two at Brickie’s across the street, then take the tamales up the hill to home.

            A tamale always tastes better when you look the major ingredient in the eye on the morning before you eat it.  And the steel Acme beer can is worth more now in an antique shop that both the tamale and the beer were in 1950.

            Where could you buy a Willys Jeep, now in civilian production following WWII?  Why, at Steinheimer Bros. Studebaker at Fourth and Sierra.  And don’t confuse that with Wiley Brothers Cars, on Plaza Street.  Where was Dermody Appliance?  On Arlington, then “Belmont”, between West First Street and the tracks.  John A. Dermody went from Whirlpools to warehouses, and I’ll stick my neck out by saying that Dermody Partners is now probably the biggest real estate taxpayer in Nevada. You forgot Duffy’s Tavern.  Not really; we didn’t walk Commercial Row, between Belmont and West Street, where William Bendix tended the bar. Not really. The main fire station was across West Street, on the northwest corner.  Chief Van Meter saved the bell when the belfry was removed, and it’s now displayed on the corner by the new station on East Second and Evans. [This is obviously an old column. We might be one of the few town in the world to tear down a modern fire station and build a ballpark with the revenue and taxes leaving Reno.]

            You forgot Chism’s Ice Cream.  I could never do that, a popular, longtime Reno family’s business on West Street, next to 7-Up Bottling in the attractive modern glass-fronted building. What does 7-Up stand for? I don’t know, but I’m sure a reader will tell us. [None did.]

            Faithful reader [the late] Kellene Gallagher asked once about the USO clubs; one venue they used was the Tropics on Center Street, which I think I tangled up in one column with the Palm Saloon on Lake Street (in Bill Fong’s casino), and got away with.

            You forgot Reno Mercantile, better know as Reno Merc.  No, we wrote earlier that it was on the southeast corner of Sierra Street and Commercial Row, in the oldest commercial building in Reno. And I didn’t even get challenged for that statement; the Masons built it in the 1870s. Landa Electric? On West Street south of the tracks – once upon a time if your clock or mixer would quit you’d take it to Landa Electric to be repaired. Once upon a time a clock or a mixer could be taken apart and fixed – now they’re molded in one piece and we buy a new one. If it was a big motor, we’d take it to Brown-Milbery, then on Sierra, now on Gentry Way, (known then as Airport Road – couldn’t resist throwing that bon mot in…)

            The one person in town who remembers T.D. Tuthill Inc. asked me where it was.  Never heard of it, but finally found it in mid-block on West Fourth Street next to Ruth Ryan’s Dance Academy. Fine little lady, Ruth was; many remember her brother-in-law, Gordon Sampson, a much-decorated stuffy Canadian of great swagger who was the president of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad at the time it suspended operation, which was either an honor or a career-ender, depending on your point of view. Wrote his own flowery obit. His life would make a good column for my RG-J compadres who write about people. I’m a street guy.

            An argument, and glad it came up because others might have noted it also: “The California Market was on California Avenue, not North Virginia Street as you wrote.” You’re right; there were two California Markets, one downtown, the other at California and Lander (now My Favorite Muffin) but in its day it was actually named the California Avenue Market. My father worked at the market – rode a bike delivering groceries to the residents of that neighborhood. George Minor opened it, Charlie Bradley and Fred Antoniazzi owned it later.

            You forgot the Bundox.  OK, OK – that great restaurant and bar, where not a few business deals were cut, was opened by the late attorney E. F. “Bud” Loomis and his wife Cebe, and stocked with Chinese artifacts that Bud brought out of China when it was closed to Westerners before WWII (he had been overseas as an Envoy to China.)  Another great story for a people-writer.  He also owned the Oriental-influenced River House Motor Lodge. [And you can use the “search” window below to find a story about the Bundox.]   

            Roy Stagg’s Roaring Camp?  Across East First Street from the Bundox, much earlier.  Next to the Reno Bus Lines terminal and shop. 

• • •

I’ve quite a few inquiries left over – If yours didn’t get addressed, be patient.

            Next Saturday we might return to Sparks – one of the most respected and meticulous railroad historians in our valley, Dale Darney, contributed information about the elevating of the Sparks Southern Pacific yard which supplements the information I used for last week’s column.  And I’ll throw in a little teaser: We’ll also elaborate on the call girls that Southern Pacific employed in the post-war years.**  Fear not; this is still a family column, you’ll get a chuckle…  Fly your flag on June 14th, and God Bless America. [Guess I should note that in 2014 as I re-post this, let’s fly the flags for Memorial Day!]

**and since you won’t see the sequel to this column, I’ll explain in 2014 that the railroad’s call-girls in Sparks were the ladies who would get on the phones and stick their heads into the bars and restaurants in Sparks, to get the trainmen back to the yard to crew a train they were assigned to. And here you thought I was writing about hookers…

© RGJ June 1, 2002


Nevada Day, 1947



‘Way out in the land of the setting sun, where the wind blows wild and free,


There’s a lovely spot; just the only one that means Home Sweet Home to me…

It’s Nevada Day, 1947; the torchlight parade wove through Carson City last night and 40,000 folks, most from Reno, convened in our capital city to watch a half-dozen high school bands and a parade that stretched for over a mile.  Many of them rode the Virginia & Truckee Railroad that according to the Oct. 31, 1947 Reno Evening Gazette put a second train on the line just for the occasion.  A highlight of the parade was the six-horse Prairie Schooner from Dangberg Ranch.  Prominent Reno attorney Lester Summerfield delivered the Admission Day address after the parade, and following that some went to the Capitol Plaza to watch the Quadrille dancers.  Other revelers went to the traditional Carson City Senator/Reno High Huskie football game.

In a convergence of three great Nevadans, storied Judge Edgar Eather administered an oath of the court to Julien Sourwine [Senior], who was then introduced to the crowd by Senator Patrick McCarran. The Governor’s Mansion will be open from noon to four o’clock today, and then close so that Governor Vail Pittman and the first lady Ida can dress for the annual 1864 Ball tonight (one of the V&T trains will stay late to return dignitaries to Reno after the festivities.)

• • •

If you follow the old Kit Carson Trail until desert meets the hills,

Then you certain-ly, will agree with me, it’s the place of a thousand thrills…

In other news today, the County Fair & Recreation Board approved $15,000 for the Silver Dollar Derby and University’s Winter Carnival, two longtime staples in the Sierra skiing scene (and just in time, Sears Roebuck on Sierra Street is advertising J.C. Higgins skis, $12.50, with bindings.)   The upsweep is in, the sidesweep is out, per a Hollywood hairstyle maven, but we all knew that.  The state approved bread prices to rise by a penny, to 15 cents a loaf.  Donner Pass closed for snow yesterday, the first closing this year, but the weather was OK for the parade today.  A motorist remaining unnamed herein was fined a dollar for contempt of court while grousing about a parking ticket. The demand to see Forever Amberforced the Nevada Theater to schedule an extra 8:30 a.m. screening.  

R. Herz Jewelers – civic-minded in 1947 and remaining so in 2014, sponsored the aforementioned Quadrille dance in Carson City (the Quadrille’s an incredibly graceful dance to watch or perform, often to a Scott Joplin slow drag.  Pity it died out.)  Order your Christmas cards, a term politically acceptable in 1947, from Armanko’s Stationers on North Virginia Street soon.  The two motorists who canned up their cars on Geiger Grade last night, according to the Ormsby County deputy sheriff, can try a new-fangled concept and rent a car from Hertz Drive-Urself while they fix the wreckage.  (For the newer folks, Ormsby County later was re-chartered as Carson City, and yeah, I know Geiger Grade’s in Storey County – I’m just parroting what I read in the Gazette.)

• • •

Whenever the sun at the close of day, colors all the western sky,

Oh my heart returns to the desert gray and the mountains tow’ring high…

Let’s see here: The University of Nevada’s Tommy Kalmanir was fourth in the nation in kickoff returns.  The Wolf Pack is off tomorrow to St. Louis, by airplane yet, but Coach Joe Shekeetski says that halfback Dick Trachok is questionable for the game with an injury.  (By the way, to several who wrote: The appearance of UNR herein last week was an editing change that didn’t tickle me one bit.  I write that only with respect to university events following 1967, when we first had a UNR and a UNLV.)  Penn State has the top defense in the nation this week; I don’t think Joe Paterno was coaching there in 1947 but wouldn’t bet against it.  Some things never change: Michigan was picked for the National Championship in 1947, and now in 2006 the game of the year might be the Wolverines vs. Ohio State.  Nevada has a two-day chukar season in 1947, three birds total.

            Want to get away?   Ride the mighty S.P.’s City of San Francisco, 33 hours to Chicago for 44 bucks.  Or fly Bonanza Airlines’ daily DC-3, $22.50 to Las Vegas, only $11.60 to Tonopah. This is cool: Joe Patrucco and Gilbert Vasserot are re-opening Eugene’s on South Virginia Street. Fifty-four years later in 2001 I would write back-to-back columns about Eugene’s, describing it as the benchmark that other Reno restaurants would strive to reach, and taking its place alongside the finest restaurants in San Francisco.

And no one disputed my words…        

• • •

Where the moonbeams play in shadowed glen, with the spotted fawn and doe,

            All the live-long night until morning light, is the loveliest place I know…

There were six, count ‘em, six, fire calls in the last 24 hours. Lucky Cowboy screens tomorrow morning at the Tower Theater; bring 14 cents and an Old Home Milk lid.  We spy a furnished two-bedroom home in Sparks FSBO, telephone 6541.  Lou LeVitt, a great guy I knew as a kid, is playing at the El Cortez’ Trocadero Room.  A Stetson felt hat at Grey Reid Wright was advertised for $12.50; get the same skypiece for only eight bucks at Parker’s (and no sales tax!).   Spike Jones and the City Slickers are live on the ABC radio network, affiliating with KWRN in November (that’s K-Washoe-Reno-Nevada).         

            We sang Home Means Nevada as kids on Friday mornings throughout Reno and probably the whole state. Thanks, Bertha Raffetto, for penning it in 1931.  God bless America, and Happy 142nd, Nevada; you’re lookin’ good!

Admission Day, 2006

© Reno Gazette-Journal 2006


I’ve been saving some responses to Karl’s columns about the old days……here are a few, mainly referring to his piece on the Squaw Olympics and the Vagabond Bus.
Ty Cobb

Bill Rose:

I was thinking of our Squaw escapades last week.  In the context of “what are these jerks thinking of bringing Winter games back to Squaw/surrounds.”  There were so few attendees (I think at least 10% of the entire fan base stayed at Madsen’s Brockway house)  that it was hardly worth mentioning.  As you allude to — can you imagine what kind of a nightmare that would be in today’s setting? 

A couple of things I remember, other than getting into the USSR/USA hockey match — I know you remember the Russian hockey player walking by us as we piled out of the bus looking at us and saying,  “Nyet. nyet”!!   The other one is watching Carol Heiss doing compulsory figures in the open at Blythe.  I stood 10 feet from her.  Badges, badges?  We don’t got to show you no stinking badges.




Larry Heward


Thanks. I remember some of it. Do you remember the official hostesses for the Olympics? Michele and Michon Cardinal.

Lovely girls.



Sharon Quinn

Oh yes, I did have a pair of black Bogner ski pants. They were stretch and cost $50, my mom had a fit. My friend Joanna Quinn Darrow from Newport, also had a pair. Fun memories.

Dave and I drove to Squaw, parked in someone’s driveway, snuck through a backyard, crossed a creek and entered the Olympics and enjoyed the day with no tickets.



From Bob “Bubbles” Brown in Washington, DC


    Many thanks for forwarding Karl’s RGJ col on “Little known Facts About the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley.” Fondly remember many locals–most Sigma Nus–such as Dorworth, Bosta, Ericksen, Wetzel, ad infinitum!


    However, my congratulatory e-mail to Karl did take issue with one fact, re: “Mouthwash Toni Sailor” taking more gold than anybody. My question to Karl was had he ever heard of a crazy young Frenchman named Jean Claude Killey (see ’68 and ’72 Winter Olympics). I believe Jean Claude is the guilty party!  [NOTE TO BUBBLES FROM KARL: KILLY AND SAILOR TIED FOR MEDALS, I DISCOVERED; SAILOR ACTUALLY IN THE LEAD WITH ONE MORE SILVER TO ONE OF KILLY’S BRONZES. AND NOTE THE SPELLING! PS YOU EVER GET THAT BOOK I SENT???]


    The Vagabond Bus at Blythe Arena was new to me. Of course, during the ’60 Games I had a job of much lesser importance, as the chauffeur and gofer for the 4 top UPI correspondents covering said Olympics. But the job had its perks–a parking place 3 spaces from the front door of press headquarters at Squaw; the run of the International Olympics Press Club at both Squaw and the Mapes Hotel (which is Olympiceese for the comp bar and food station). I also had a ski pass for all of the hills, allowing me to go up on the downhill, giant slalom and slalom course to watch–up close and personal. I recall meek and sweet Joan Hannah, a USA alpine skier, on a tough flush in the slalom, hitting the ice, taking a nasty spill, and declaring–not for attribution, of course–declaring loudly “f—in’ bumps” prior to finishing her run.


    Your Vagabond Bus at Blythe did stir memories of my association with the Vagabond Bus: For instance, sneaking the Bus into old Kezar Stadium at the East/West football game, and using my press card to get back in, after parking the Bus outside. Also, a Vagabond Bus visit to the Mark Hopkins on New Years Eve. Also, the Vagabond Bus as an entry in the Portland Rose Parade. And, for a local angle, giving the Security Guard at the Gold & Silver a spin around Reno on a Fourth of July weekend, enough said.


    Some ought to write a book about these treasured moments in “The Days in the Life of the Vagabond Bus.”


    How did the “Three Tys” gig go. I would liked to have been present, because I have many fond memories of “Georgia Peach” stories that your dad shared with me.


    I enjoy your col in the RGJ; gives me better insight–from a real expert–on foreign affairs. Keep in touch. Happy New Year!!!


        Bob Brown (in Washington)


From Allan Myer in Connecticut:

Yea while you were f~~ing around at the Olympics I was protecting your ass at Ft. Bragg.  


From Len Baldyga in Chicago:

Ty. Tsk, tsk. We used to use the same method to get into movie theaters in Chicago in the old, old days where the concession stands were outside the theater. I also had a press pass for the Chicago Bears and then Chicago Cardinals football teams representing the suburban Berwyn Beacon newspaper except the paper had been closed for more than a year. In preparation for this year’s U.S./Russia game my wife and I watched the “Miracle” about the Lake Placid game. Good flick. Cheers.Len

Triggers a lot of dusty memories! Thanks for sending it, Ty.



And this from Jackson Stephens:


I’ll bore you with only one personal incident that this piece brought up:

Fifty-one years ago next month my only child drew his first breath at

St Mary’s.  At that time fathers were not allowed to be present at the

birth, so I spent the night like George Gobel pacing the hallways (without

his copy of War and Peace, however) until Kris’ triumphant emergence.

By the time our new little family of three was united, and mother and

child were sleeping, it was close to noon and I was starving.  How

could a proud new father celebrate the birth of his first child in style?!

I chose the $2.95 “La Favorita” (taco, enchilada, chile relleno, rice

and beans) at Miguels on South Virginia.  I can’t remember whether

he showed me all his “flying saucer” pictures again or not.

I recollect two key guys opening the gates to free entrance: a very alert security guard named Ed Aimone and a high ranking ROTC cadet named Whitney Brown.

Ted Schroeder

My mom was the interpreter for the Finnish ski team for the Squaw Olympics, so we did get in with passes. The one fellow I met (Kalevi Hamalainen) won the gold medal in the cross-country. It was pretty cool to walk around with him, even if I didn’t speak Finnish.

Joanne Pollastro Walen

A Majestic Theater

We’ll mention peripherally that page 8 columns are historically written on either a Sunday or a Monday night for the following Saturday, a tradition that may change if the American League can’t figure out how to finish a baseball game in under five hours. [I think this was a long ball game, don’t know now in 2014 why I wrote that…]

            That said, our attention shifts to a well-worn pamphlet offered by a friend, detailing the grand re-opening of the Majestic Theater, or Theatre for those of the cultured sort, a gala that took place on November 4th of 1925. It should be mentioned for the newer Homefinders to Reno that this fine edifice, on the southwest corner of East First and Center Streets was since its opening in 1910 so seismically unsound that it took three days, two D-8 Caterpillar dozers and thirty pounds of dynamite to get the proscenium arch to fall when the building was razed 60 years later.

            The original theater was a dandy built by Nevada’s Senator George Nixon, housing primarily stage plays. Its first significant production was “The Merry Widow,” a show remembered principally for launching a style of ladies’ undergarments. It rocked along with similar stage and musical fare for another 15 years, operated by Nixon’s widow until it was sold to the nationwide T&D Enterprises, who also operated the nearby Grand and Rialto – later Granada – theaters downtown.

            T & D’s boss M. Naify closed the house and loosed architect Frederick DeLongchamps on its carcass to transform it into a first-rate, 1925-modern edifice in the Moorish style that typified most theaters of the day. Note that most of the nation’s classic theaters embraced that theme, with many theater names evocative of the Naify family’s eastern Mediterranean heritage or the world’s then-current passion for the Moorish culture.

            DeLongchamps embodied a grand staircase to a landing where twin staircases departed to either side. I’d like to think that someone rescued the ornate staircase handrails (and the massive chandelier) when the building was demolished in 1981. At the top of the stairs, a promenade divided the upper deck (whoops, too much baseball – make that mezzanine) and the loge. According to the souvenir program, DeLongchamps offered “…a most inviting rest-room for the ladies, beautifully appointed with comfortable chairs, lounges, dressing tables and mirrors.” As I recall there was a men’s room also, possibly not so commodious. There was a “modern, forced-air furnace,” (no mention of air-conditioning), and electric lights, inside and out, supplied by the Truckee River Power Company.

            As in any of these old programs and brochures, the lifestyle and trends of 1925 advertisements were revealing: The Revada Sales Company, which we visited on a West Fourth Street walk column, offered the new Star Coupster. We’ll, if one can have a roadster, why not a coupster or a SUVster also? Phone 777 to reserve yours. The Overland Hotel was proud to be the home-away-from-home for the Naify family during construction, and the Piggly Wiggly Market, only a block away, was lining up for Majestic patrons’ holiday parties. At 42 West Second Street, H. E. Saviers & Son, even before my friend Sandy was born, promised that “One hearing of the marvelous Victrola will change your conception of Music in the Home. Phone 555.”

            A block to the north on Center Street, visit the Nevada Velie Co. and test ride the modern Velie with the “aeroplane type motor,” that vehicle I believe to be a powered bicycle but I’m sure I’ll hear if it’s otherwise. [I didn’t] Shearer & Wagner on North Virginia next to Hilp’s Drug Store was renting Stewart Warner radios for three bucks a month, reserve yours by phoning 988-L. And if it’s wood or coal you need, Raphel & Henrichs, Felix and Rufe respectively, can bring you a load from their yard by the railroad tracks on Bell Street; call them at 1248 (a four-digit phone number? When will this town quit growing?)

            Marta Howland Milliners, opposite the aforementioned Rialto Theater on West First Street, has new Satin Hats arriving daily, if yours is departing daily, a steal at seven to ten dollars, presumably depending on your lady’s head size. Purity French Bakery even in 1925 was at 357 North Virginia Street, next to the original Little Waldorf; the Reno Business College offered stenographic careers for young ladies, try advertising that today, and Nevada Transfer & Warehouse would “Never Scratch Your Furniture” and if you believe that you’d also believe that the Easter Bunny would sell you a Marmon with a 145-inch wheelbase, a veritable 1925 Hummer, at Nevada Marmon Company on Court Street at Granite. Now, Court Street at Sierra, soon the site of the Mills B. Lane Justice Center [now], and how ya’ doin’, Bubba?

            In conclusion, we couldn’t mention the Majestic Theater without including the time-honored epilogue for any movie at the Majestic – apple pie and a milkshake next door at the Mapes. Don’t continue to mail me these old programs and catalogues; it only encourages me to write some more.


            Have a good week; and God bless America!


© Reno Gazette Journal May 2004   


Read new articles on Sundays in the “Nevada” section of the RGJ




Mike’s return – 2005


A new/old face appeared at the Eight-Ayem Black Bear Diner Gentlemen’s Laudable Opinions & Solutions Koffee Klatsch early this week.  Mike Sommers had returned to Reno for the Reno High all-school reunion next Sunday – his first trip “home” of any duration since leaving for a 35-year teaching career in Garrison Keillor country.  He had already covered more ground and seen more old friends than I see in a year, and his insights into our valley were thought provoking.  Always looking for a column idea, I put his questions in quotation marks and our responses in open text.

            “When did the MGM become the Hilton?”  Right after it quit being Bally’s – come back next year and it’ll be a big condominium [Grand Sierra Resort]. “I saw where they’re tearing down the Sparks Theater this week – we used to go there to meet all the Sparks High chicks – how can they do that?”  Right, like the Majestic and the Granada theaters – no more. “I miss a chili-cheese omelet at Landrum’s.”  Take your car title there for a loan, seven stools to serve you.  “And the Turf Club with the trumpeter on the roof?  Where do you go for pastrami sandwiches?”  The building got trenched.  Try the Coney Island for a great pastrami. (Our trench, or Trench, capitalized occasionally lately, blew Mike’s mind. [That’s not the half of it; try telling an intelligent person from somewhere else about STAR bonds! We didn’t even go there…] “What’s wrong with train whistles and a car getting pushed sideways a block occasionally?  We grew up with that.”

 “I haven’t heard any Air Guard 101s.  Are they overseas?”  The Guard parked the Voodoos for RF-4s in 1976, sent those to the boneyard in Arizona ten years ago and have herded C-130s around since.  And they may go away now. [We didn’t mean to the Middle East.] “I came in from Stead and saw a great big jailhouse on, what, Parr Boulevard?  Don’t they still have a jail on the top floor of the police station on East Second Street?”  Nope, we’ve got more bad guys now than we did 40 years ago. Funny how we all remember that penthouse on East Second Street.

The Kietzke roundabout  and Da Del Monte Lane      . 

            “I went to see our ol’buddy [so-and-so] in his law office, out somewhere on the end of Kietzke Lane in a complex I didn’t even know where I was.  Wasn’t the conventional wisdom that attorneys all had to be walking-distance from the court house?”  That happened like Topsy – one day it seems most of the bigger firms had bailed downtown for the newer buildings with decent parking.  “I went by Moana Lane and South Virginia and got lost – no Sierra Pacific building.”  Progress – now they’re out south of DeLucci Lane by Home Depot. And they’re not Sierra Pacific anymore, either.  “There’s a Home Depot that far south?  Nawww…”  That ain’t the half of it – there’s a new one even further out south by Damonte Ranch.  “I meant to ask about that – wasn’t Mimi’s Hideaway on Del Monte Lane?  What happened to that?”  Changed it to “Neil Road”; too much confusion with “Damonte” two off-ramps south.  “Why didn’t the Highway Department just use another name for Damonte from the git-go?”  Welcome back to 2005 Reno, Mike. If you like that, you’ll love Zolezzi Lane now; too bad the Texans building Arrowcreek didn’t. Most of our town, you see, is for sale (we didn’t know about the modern firehouse getting yanked down for a ballpark yet. That would come later…)

Where’s the roundhouse?

          “I was out in Sparks, coming back from a mini-city called Wingfield Springs.  That old pit you could see from the freeway is beautiful.”  Hats off to the City of Sparks – they did the Sparks Marina right, as Sparks does most else that they tackle, thank City Manager Shaun Carey.  “And that beautiful old S.P locomotive shop – can’t they try to save that?”  Whoever they is, they is trying.  Last we heard the City of Sparks and Q&D Construction – you remember our old classmate, Norm Dianda, the “D” of Q&D? – were working on a joint venture with Union Pacific Railroad if everyone can get their plates clean enough to pursue it.  (“Q” was the late Babe Quadrio.) [Dunno about that one in the present economy. Hope springs eternal.}

            “Weinstock’s at Park Lane?”  Refer back to the Sparks, Majestic and Granada theater yak – pretty classy-looking theater on the old Weinstock site [becoming known as seagull gulch].  Yecch.   “Answer Man, on Peckham Lane, best hardware store in Reno.  How can the town do without it?”  Refer to Home Depot and Lowe’s.  “Is that bowling stadium downtown really all a bowling alley?”  You’re kidding, right?”  Nope. And at some times it’s actually full of bowlers, with spare time on their hands.  Think about it. But we don’t know; we can’t roll there. We’re just residents.

            “The diversion dam – waterfall – downtown next to the bridge on Belmont by Wingfield Park – that was iconic with Reno for so many years.   But the rapids are neat too.  Did a flood do that to the dam?”  Actually, a computer designed the rapids, Belmont is Arlington and Wingfield Park, formally Belle Isle, is Barbara Bennett Park, but the kayak course and the swimming hole it created by serendipity, probably did more for getting folks downtown than did the Men’s Club.  Our city did good.

            “The University campus has grown.”  Understatement of the year.  “The Bruce Thompson Federal Courthouse.  Is that Jeff’s dad?”  Yup, our classmates Jeff, Judy and Harold, kids of Bruce and Ellen.  Got his own courthouse.  “That black thing on Liberty Street – Close Encounters of the Third Kind leftover?”  The Nevada Museum of Art.  Beautiful on the inside, Mike – I gave him a guest pass.  Knowing him, he’s used it.  Ditto the Harrah Auto Museum – he’ll go there also.  “The city hall in the old FNB building on First and Virginia?  Naww…”    Yeaaahhh.  Have fun parking your pickup in the high-rise garage next door.

            Time grew short.  Mike’s insight – of that which we saw over three decades while he saw condensed into a week’s touring – gave us a new view of our valley.  We agreed to meet at one joint that had survived the racking and wresting of change, Mama Stempeck’s Halfway Club, for lunch.  And Inez didn’t let us down.

            Have a dandy week; goodnight from New York, Peter, and God bless America.

Peter Jennings passed away August 7, 2005 

© Reno Gazette-Journal August 2005

About the nightlife photographer RGJ column…

Smoking Report Anniversary

Sometimes an e-mail arrives that’s so well-written it just needs to be shared with readers. This is one! Karl

I probably know you, about you, or some members of my family in Reno know you.  Our family has been in Reno since 1936, moving from Tonopah that year.   
I worked at the Holiday Hotel in the Shore Room from 1964 to 1969 while I attended U of Nevada, starting as a 17-year-old busboy and getting promoted to waiter in later years until I graduated.   I learned as much at the Holiday as I did at the University.  I graduated from Manogue in 1964, yes our fiftieth is this year! 
I remember our Holiday photographer’s name was Jeanie.  As I recall in those days only official photographers were allowed in the casinos to take photos.  The casinos didn’t want some people photographed, probably due in part that others would be amazed they were still alive!   I do remember a few parties that looked like a casting call from the Sopranos. 
Jeanie had busy and slow nights.  But when Joe Conforte showed up with his girls a lot of photographs were taken.  Ever the convivial customer, Joe made sure each busboy who merely filled a water glass was given free pass card to his ‘ranch.’  Now there was a guy who knew marketing! 

[here an editorial note: the casinos in their heydays would not allow photographs anywhere. Should someone bring in a camera, it would be confiscated by security, the film removed, and the camera returned to the patron. The better-operated casinos, like Harrah’s, the Holiday, Harolds and the Nugget would process the film, remove anything they deemed inappropriate, and then return the prints that remained to the casino patron some days later. And now, we return to the e-mail!]

The best memory of the Holiday food is probably the Seafoodarama on Friday night.  When I started there in 1964, it was $2.95 for the buffet, an entrée, and French pastries for desert and of course coffee or tea.  The most popular entrée was broiled lobster tail, and you could also get lobster bisque on the buffet for your soup.  Oysters Mornay, Kilpatrick and Rockefeller, cracked crab, lobster and shrimp salad and smoked herring were also on the buffet.  My memories are still reasonable because I worked the buffet line many times. It was packed every Friday serving around 700 as I recall.  Memories of the Holiday were brought back this week when I heard our chef, Michel Aurnague, had died. 
When I left Reno in 1969 and told others of our ‘little’ town they were amazed at the celebrities who found there way there over the years.  Monsignor Emmpy at St. Thomas knew Danny Thomas and Danny came to St. Thomas grade school and gave us a performance singing and telling some jokes.  Monsignor apparently knew Danny from when he was an entertainer.  But I can tell you as an altar boy for Monsignor Emmpy, there was nothing entertaining about him! 
Happy memories.   I enjoyed reading your article. 
Michael R. Handy, CPA, RIA, MBA
Handy & Reagan, LLC

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