A jingle for Kris Kringle

“Slim” Dickens, fourth and illegitimate cousin of Charles


Clement Clarke Moore penned “A Visit from St. Nicholas” in 1822 and what pleasure it gives; seventy-five years later Francis P. Church wrote to Virginia O’Hanlon “Oh yes, Santa lives!” Their works became classics; each year the world says “Thanks!” and in a lonely Reno garret an obscure writer tries to break into their ranks, sending Holiday greetings to column readers, like

            One Cobb known as Bill and the other as Ty, one Clifton named Darrell and another named Guy; Jenny Brekhus and Pat Cashill, so full of the Blarney; Cal and Karen Pettengill, and our elf Caroline Darney. Joe and Penny Mayer and Dave and Nikki Chism grace our poem every time, Santa fondly remembers Gayle and Chris Wassenburg but like Gene Pascucci and Linda Patrucco they’re damn tough to rhyme,            

Jack Harker, Phyllis Wetsel, my sons Brent and Ron; Brent’s Laura, Ron’s Amy and the Rusks, Wally and Dawn. A sleigh for my grandkids Julia, Amelia, Jackie and Andy; a toast to Steve Rucker and the Scotts, Ben and Sandy. Jolly Bob Cashell looks sharp in his Santa Claus suit, while we say Weihnachten to the Nikoley brothers, Wolfgang, Hans, Uwe, Ingo and Lute. Ken Shelley and the Nugget’s Nancy Trabert, now wait, hold the phone; at the Coney Island we see Sally and at Simon’s it’s Sloane!            

Two nogs for two Kathys, (Breckenridge and Kershaw) and Michele and Woody Barry, four more for Holly and Merle Schneider and the Hornings, Sandy and Larry. From the Historical Society, Sheryln Hayes-Zorn, Mike Maher, Arline Lafery and Phil Earl ask “what’s shakin?” while up on the rooftop, it’s Ted and Sue Schroeder, and foxy Tara Price with Kim and Jack Bacon,              

Dave and Toddy Cutler, Ron Mestre and Don Young the Chief, hear the elves all holler to Luther Mack at once, “Where’s the beef?” Lou and Eva Mastos, and in San Francisco, Janet and Paul Meaney; the Black Bear Diner’s John O’Looney toasts Brickie’s Steve Senini.      

We send Season’s Greetings to the Ginsburgs, ol’ Dave and his Pam; to Laura and Norm Dianda, and the Francoviches, Diane and Sam. Wassail to Clare Holland, to Jim and Mike Blakely (Maria and Kay); two Neils (Cobb and Brooks), Gaye Delaplane and our friend John Gascue. Circling the North Pole in the XoJet it’s Cort and Nancy de Peyster, flying Eric and Meri Yarborough, (she’s my little see-ster.)             

I tip my hat to my editors, Kelly Ann Scott and Peggy Santoro, it’s hard to believe two fine ladies could be so fetching, and yet be so thorough! Another cup of cheer to our new mayor Hillary Schievy, while down at AT&T Park, the World Champ Giants shout “You Gotta Believ-ey!” [sorry…]            

To Jim Colgan and Elaine, to Jim Henry and Lee and of course Sherrie and Jim Corica; to John and Aliceann Doyle, Jackie and Bill Berrum and to Hannah Satica. G.O.D. Club’s Harry and Anne Spencer with their tall young son Zack; is that a tiny child in the manger? Why no, it’s a little Pine, name of Jack. James Ball took our picture, Jack Harpster wrote our book, stylish Jim and Patricia Rowe are always worth a look! Rusty and Judy Nash stay in touch, as does Laura Longero, and Michael Fischer’s a historian who’s forgotten more than I know,            

Tom Cook, Janet Lerude and her husband name of Warren, are all out caroling with Van Vinikow and a House name of Lauren. On Santa’s lap our Ellen Fockler is all smiles, and waiting in his line are Larry Heward and Jean Myles. Dee Garrett, Kelley Shewmaker and Cliffy Devine make this poem every year, count on Rose and John Ascuaga with Tony and Polly Scheuller to harness eight reindeer,            

Ted Stoever, Tom Case, two Georges (Fraser and Peek), land their sleigh on the rooftop with nary a squeak. We remember Linda Milabar and the good little girls Jackie Stoever, Lynn Case and Karen Fraser, and we’ll all lift a tankard for Suzi Jensen, Paul Kautz and Judy Vaughn for good measure. Craig Morrison throws another Yule log on the fire, and curled up before it are Al and Dolly McVey, and Catherine Oppio with Doc Jim Megquier,            

Comes now the Stockwell twins, Danny and Donny, toasting the ol’ redheaded Kittells, Red and fair Connie. Golfin’ Leo Seevers and Diane his inamorata, both follow my Gazoo page-mates Anne Pershing and Patty Cafferata. Well now, there’s Big Al and Pat Crawley, and Cecilia Pearce all according to Hoyle, all in an open sleigh with Joyce Taylor, Daryl Pelizzari and Irene and Kenny Doyle. Nick and Karen Miller stopped by for a beer, when who to our wondering eyes did appear, Jon and Linda Madsen with Tom and DaePaula Saulnier!            

Kathy and here-come-da-Judge Peter Breen, then Jim and Merle Bronson, editor Rick Hoover and our favorite, Lee Green. Skip and Nillsine Hansen and Jim and Yvonne Thornton boom out ho-ho-ho!, while Denis Graham does his all to get his Maggie ‘neath the mistletoe,            

Ginny Topol, Roberta Grinsell, Buddy and Trish Sorensen and Terry Markwell, and Tom and Bonda Young lift a schooner of Nevada Gold with Vance and Marilyn Bell. Lou and Eva Mastos, Dave Carbon and his Jeannie, and Elsie and Roger Gurr toast our man in Sparks, Geno Martini,  

And that’s our annual poem, we’ve written ‘em before, but unlike New York Sun editor Church and college professor Moore, immortality’s not knockin’ at our door. I can’t name you all, it changes year-to-year, but if we missed your name our kindest regards go to you anyway and next Sunday we’ll all meet right here!

Open-mall shopping, when consumers were tough

ParkLaneThere was a holiday season years ago when old local shopping habits started to fray at the edges – a new concept of merchandising opened south of town with a pretty good selection of stuff to choose from, and 3,000 parking spaces (parking downtown had started to become an issue in the mid-1960s.) Mighty Sears, by then no longer Roebuck, pioneered the migration from their location on Sierra Street to a new place called Park Lane in September of 1965; within two years the center would fill its 580,000 square feet of space – more total retail space than existed downtown.

               Many established friends from downtown Reno joined Sears, like Sonny and Randy Burke and Kenny York at Mt. Rose Sporting Goods and Betty Mirabelli’s Record Room (round black things that played music) when the main mall started opening in February of 1967. F.W. Woolworth’s opened a major store, larger than their downtown outlet (which would remain in operation for many years to follow.) Two major stores with a Nevada presence opened in 1967; Joseph Magnin, from North Virginia Street, and Roos Atkins (yikes, do I need to write men’s store for the younger readers? I guess I’d better…) Most thought Roos Atkins was established in San Francisco and new to Reno; in truth, its predecessor Roos Brothers opened in the Comstock in 1871 so they’d been around for a while.

               Established Reno powerhouse Durkee Travel migrated from their office across from the Holiday, whoops, Siena Hotel, and from West Second Street came Schilling’s Leather, think luggage and wallets. We had the World of Toys, and a Hallmark Store, for those who cared to send the very best; a hot ticket was Frederick’s of Hollywood – lacy stuff banned in Boston in 1967 but seen around every high school today during lunch hours. I can’t ignore Park Lane Florist where my RHS classmate Craig Morrison petaled flowers, and from Gray Reid’s downtown came the Bird Cage restaurant, later to be renamed the Gazebo. Two other classmates, one George Cross, rode the then-current hippie craze with his popular Sneed Hearn Ltd. tie-dye shop, and the other, Dale Prevost owned the leather shop – clothing.

               Owners Pik and Letty Southworth of Southworth’s Tobacco, the legendary store across from Harolds opened their gift-and-event ticket store Pik & Letty’s – the popular slogan attributed to, but never acknowledged by them was “Jesus is Coming, tickets at Pik & Letty’s” and if you read that here that I’ll be amazed. [The Gazoo printed it. I was amazed.]Weinstocks three-story department store would open a few months later. First National Bank originally opened in the main mall; four years later the present stand-alone Wells Fargo branch opened on East Plumb and Locust.  

               Hungry? Or thirsty? Stop by Eddie May’s Prime Rib on the west side of the mall, which several years later would become Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus, an excellent chain restaurant out of Washington state. Many remember their booths, created by heavily dark-tinted suspended acrylic panels that inadvertently created a mirrored maze. They lasted a few months ‘til the fire department pointed out that in the event of an emergency the diners would all be medium-well before they could find a doorway out. Eve Lynn’s Strolling Fashions held forth at lunchtime, and Duke’s Wild Goose lounge (a John Wayne theme, pilgrim) was a popular late-evening hangout long after the mall had closed.

               The mall was enclosed on four sides, but open to the sky – a wondrous sight under the perennial extensive holiday décor, new-fallen snow crushing beneath your boots, with John Tellaisha’s Reno High School choir or voices from any number of local churches singing carols this time of year. Swinging the Salvation Army bell were local Lions Club members that we all knew, often transportation and tourism exec Vic Charles wearing a gray Santa beard. (That was 35 years ago; Vic’s now grown a Santa beard of his own.) Park Lane was a beautiful sight at Christmas, and a great place to shop and meet old friends.

               The original developers were pooh-poohed by some locals, “What do a car dealer, a couple of doctors, a banker, a rancher, and an investor know about running a shopping center?” Apparently, quite a bit – Park Lane was vastly successful from its inception, setting the standard for local mall shopping. Architect Ralph Casazza built Shopper’s Square across Plumb Lane in about the same time frame – also deservedly successful – and the geographic sum for the local consumers was greater than the parts. In January of 1978, the year by the way that Meadowood Mall was built, Park Lane was sold to Macerich, a giant retail center developer.   Their motto, according to a RGJ article, was “We make good things happen.”

               Now writing in a benevolent holiday mood, I’ll explore that doctrine in another column. The casual reader may have noticed one glaring omission in the Park Lane tenant roster, a bookstore, and now comes the professional writer, closed-course, don’t-try-this-at-home plug: Waldenbooks, in the center of Park Lane’s west building, didn’t stock The Sting of the Scorpion, my new novel (with Linda Patrucco) but Sundance Books in Keystone Square does, and we’ll be signing it next Saturday morning at 11 ayem. They’ll have my last year’s You’re doing WHAT to the Mapes…? column compilation book as well. [2014 note: Sundance Books & Music is now located at 121 California Avenue at Sierra Street]

               Have a good week; buy a kid a warm coat and some gloves, and God bless America.

© RGJ 2006