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

 

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