The early neighborhood on West Fourth Street

CircleRBThere was a time when all of us reading this column walked, all together, and we looked at the old town. We usually picked a period of time around 1950 and visited the old stores and gas stations and restaurants and parks. But for some reason we never walked the neighborhood where West Fourth Street turns into Highway 40 – west of Keystone Avenue. And to the amazement of many newer readers, there wasn’t even a Keystone north of the railroad tracks before 1960. Vine was our westernmost street. Thus, there wasn’t much to see west of Vine Street.

          Or was there?

          Just west of Keystone was Reno Press Brick, originally Pressed brick – now there was an operation, owned by the Caton family. The late local historian Beth Miramon did an incredible job of assembling the myriad of local buildings, many still standing, which used the “press” manufacturing process. Caton’s companion business – Keystone Fuel – utilized a part of the huge site, from the highway northward almost to Seventh Street, the land now known as the Keystone Shopping Center (the heating oil was integral to firing the brick kilns.)

          Next west, Union Ice serviced homes and businesses even after World War II, when the transition to refrigeration still wasn’t quite complete. One of my dearest readers, nonagenarian Jean Hubbard remembers her late husband Tom and his partner Merrill McKinnon moving their truck repair business from East Fourth Street to the beautiful old stone building next to Union Ice now serving PAR Electric. McKinnon & Hubbard, they were, when men were me and ships were wood; when Macks and Reos climbed old Donner Summit – in “Grandma.” OK – low-low gear. Before 1952 it was Skateland, once hosting a young Eve Arden/”Our Miss Brooks” and I suppose I’ll have to explain that later.

          Then, the Silver State Lodge – a collection of log cabin motel units demolished only recently, where my contemporary Pat Ferraro Klos grew up as a young diva. We can’t forget the El Tavern Motel, still there and one of Reno’s hottest in 1950, also housing a tiny truck stop/diner. The proprietor of that diner was Bill Parker, a hard rock miner from Central Nevada who would build a new restaurant a long block to the east in 1958, and name it after Gold ‘n Silver. The Sunset Motel was also high-end, but lost its west wing when Stoker Drive was cut through in 1965. Across Stoker was the classy Circle RB restaurant, “RB” for Reno Browne, the songstress daughter of powerhouse local attorney John Robb Clarke. It later housed the Chinese Pagoda when that best-ever Chinese joint lost its space on B Street in Sparks. Now it’s Micasa Too. Should Alex Trebek ask where Micasa One was, (actually just Micasa), tell him Mill and Terminal on the southeast corner. You’re welcome.

          The 4th Street Bistro? Yup –it was Luigi’s. Overpriced then too. Ahh, the Villa Roma – if those walls could talk. It was later to become the Glory Hole, one of Reno’s longest-tenured restaurants, and now Washoe [2018: Whispering Vine Wines]. The motels beyond Johnny’s – the Dutch Wife, Silver Spur, Westerner, the Zephyr – were upscale, well-run, the first ones that visitors to Reno would see, and generally ran “no vacancy” during the summer until the town died in autumn.

          This is kind a quickie little article, just to let all know I’m still alive. Come back once in a while…!

© November 2014 the RGJ.com