I was reminded by none other than Buddy Sorensen at a recent convening of the Black Bear Diner Gentlemen’s Coffee & Bear Paw, World Dilemma Solutions & Laudable Opinions Kaffee Klatsch, that if I’m going to go carousing around town on Saturday mornings talking about old markets as we have been on-and-off for the past few years, that I’d darn well better pay some mind to the Ferrari family’s Food Store, and particularly to include the nickname of a popular member of the family.
That family member’s name is Bob Ferrari, who graduated from the original Manogue High School by East McCarran Boulevard at its Truckee River crossing, and went on to letter for four years in both baseball and basketball at the University of Nevada. He enlisted in, and later retired from the U. S. Army, then returned to teach at Sparks Middle School and eventually retired also from the school district. He’s now anything but retired in land development – his family recently donated a significant parcel to the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.
But all that pales in comparison to his duties in the 1950s as a grocery delivery driver, taking vittles from hither and yon to the Food Store’s customers. On the tailgate of their 1946 Chevy truck was lettered, Noodles – free delivery. Thus our friend and Sigma Nu fraternity brother, following a career facing military combat and later the trenches of a middle school – which together should merit sainthood for anyone – came to be known by his friends as “Noodle.”
I asked him whether any middle school students called him that or “Mr. Ferrari,” and he indicated “Mr. Ferrari, heavy on the ‘Mister’.”
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OK – it’s fine to have a little fun at Bob’s expense and anticipate him walking in to the Coney Island next Monday to a chorus of “Hey, Noodle!” but I owe the family more – the market was one of the stalwarts of our town. It was located in the venerable brick building on the southeast corner of West Second and West Streets, that building itself the subject of a Roy Powers painting in years past. I suspected that the Ferrari family brought their pasta skills from the old country, but learned that no, the family men were railroaders, coming to Reno from Palisade in eastern Nevada. The market was operated by several of Bob’s aunts and uncles and finally taken over by his parents, Ben and Nora. The family all pitched in, Bob and his sister Marilyn, who now operates the family’s motel in Kings Beach, and their younger brother, the late Ben Jr. – all taking their places in the store’s operation while going to school and college.
Bob remembers a great grocery trade within the fashionable Colonial Apartments around the corner, delivering there frequently to some shut-in residents. He recalls a small strongbox in the market that had been ignored for many years being opened one last time when the store closed in 1958. In the box were I.O.U.s from many local residents who had fallen victim to the Great Depression, families that the Ferrari family stood behind in a time of need.
The Food Store was an integral part of early Reno, and I’m glad we finally worked it into a column. Several e-mails asked why I hadn’t included it; the simple reason is that we hadn’t arrived at any downtown mom-and-pop markets yet. I’m glad Buddy got me moving on it, particularly with the nickname angle. But if you encounter Bob and call him “Noodle,” don’t tell him you read it here – I think he might have boxed a couple of rounds for Coach Jimmy Olivas while at the University, and I have a glass jaw.
© RGJ 2007