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


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3 thoughts on “2005: Reno Little Theater and Virginia Lake

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