More faded menus…

Liberty Belle

I used to save reader correspondence for a rainy day but am now of the opinion that saving for a sunny day might make as much sense. Our intrepid researcher Carmine Ghia and loyal assistant Persephone have a couple things in the mill for the next few Saturdays, but for this morning, so much good stuff has come in from a number of readers that we’re going with a Liberty Belle Farewelle wrap-up with a few more faded menus. Discarding grammar to make a little more space, we’re off to a few old haunts:

            My RHS buddy Russell Kuchler nominated a few; downtown on Virginia Street we find Tiny’s Waffle Shop, identified in a past column as Ty Cobb the Elder’s favorite after he’d filed his Cobbwebs column. Russ and several readers nominated Miguel’s, in both its locations, and Miguel Ribera’s earlier incarnation The Cove. Russ and others also nominated the Spudnut Shop on West Fourth at Ralston, and agreed with Hannah Satica that the Big Y drive-in in Sparks, at the big Y of Kietzke and B Street should be on the list. Hannah offered Dug’s West Indies in Carson City, and agreed with primo barbershop tenor Lauren House that the Moulin Rouge, on Sierra just north of West First is a definite honoree (Gilbert Vasserot owned the Moulin Rouge, closing it to partner with Joe Patrucco and open Eugene’s on South Virginia.) Lauren also threw Siri’s on East Fourth into the mix, and a few others joined him in reminding me of the Shore Room at the Holiday Hotel.

            In that restaurant-in-a-hotel category – yikes; now this thing has categories!? – we can’t forget the Trocadero Room in the El Cortez, later to be operated by Bill Fong of the New China Club, included in the earlier column. A favorite reader named the Troc but won’t let me use her name. Len Crocker, in his day another legendary sportswriter alongside the above-mentioned Ty Cobb Sr. at the Gazoo and the Nevada State Journal, swears that he saw Chico Marx one night at Johnny’s Open Door on Moana Lane – a joint that brought a lot of “Why-didn’t-you-mention-its” after the last column. And touched off a beef over some knowledgeable-but-daft readers whether Johnny’s was in the present Yen Ching across from Moana ballpark, or in another building that burned, and was replaced by the grocery store that later became Yen Ching. I’m flummoxed to say for sure, but it was quite a popular place. Johnny’s last name was Ross, by the way. Nan Spina sent a photo of Bishop Manogue’s first school bus.Bishop Manogue Bus copy

            Whoop, wrong file.

The Lancer came in a couple times from anonymous phone callers (leave your name and a number if you call; I’ll never use it without your permission.) And, the Lancer, which burned on July 30, 1971, was originally the Mesa, as several reported. Janet Blakely Horen, from faraway Washington state, recalls her grandmother Anna Frandsen Loomis taking all her grandkids to John Petrinovich’s Grand Café downtown for Sunday dinners, French lamb chops the specialty. I’ve mentioned Mrs. Loomis as a favorite lady from my childhood and as the lady who endowed the Christian Science Church and hired Paul Revere Williams to design it. I took Jan to the Mapes Coffee Shop for a milkshake while in high school but she didn’t mention that night in her e-mail. How soon they forget…

Several folks mentioned a few more places, and I pulled out some old menus to refresh my memory: Ray’s, between Reno and Sparks; owner Ray Saake named the restaurant’s Gay-Nor Room for his kids, my contemporaries Gaye and Norman. A buck-and-a-quarter for a Club House san. Cool. How ‘bout the Rice Bowl on Glendale in Sparks? It brought a half-dozen contacts, and at $2.35 for dinner for six I’m not surprised.   Mimi’s Hideaway, later the Truckee River Yacht Club on South Virginia Street, where Kenny Etter and I met faithfully to study for our real estate exams. The Central Park Lounge, Cork Proctor at the mike, in the Continental Lodge.

The Homefinder Faded Menu list goes on; I wish I could use more names of nominators, and I thank you all. And, thanks to the many who sent the recipe for Lerude’s Wigwam Apple Pie. It’s on the saving-for-a-sunny day topic list, and I can’t run it soon enough.


We say goodbye this morning to a pair of readers, old friends all. Helene Aldaz was once the only girls’ counselor in the only public high school in Reno, but her influence and great personality transcended to Reno High’s boys and girls alike. “Peach” and her husband Eddie, an insurance man who passed away four decades ago, became original residents of Westfield Village and never moved out – my dad sold them their house for about eight grand – and now I’m going to stick my neck ‘way out and say that when she passed away a fortnight ago she was the last original homeowner in Westfield.

            Dale Darney left us a week ago today. Dale was a wonderful family guy and one of a trio of honest, serious historians of local railroads, the S.P,, Carson and Colorado, and his long suit, the Virginia & Truckee. He spent countless hours pulling together data from the California and Nevada Railroad Historical Societies and libraries, and the Bancroft Library at the University of California. He was of invaluable help to me, and to other scribes, and we send the readers’ best to Lynn and his family.

            FountainWe journey next Tuesday to stand at o-dark-thirty near Lotta’s Fountain on Market Street in San Francisco, wherefrom Enrico Caruso serenaded the survivors of the San Francisco Earthquake, one hundred years ago that morning. And we’ll cable an account of the centennial proceedings for next week’s page 10. Until then, have a good week and God bless America.

April 10, 2006

© RGJ 2006


RHS2009 My Term Paper
by Carmine Ghia Sept. 1957

I am writing this under diress pressure for Mrs. Lehners’ English class so I’m supposed to use good gramar and speling but I’d rather just rite down a bunch of stuff I like about Reno High School without all the fal-de-ral and let her correct it if it’s that big a deal to her.

Miss Stern let me borrow this typewriter. Mr. Marean told us in his Physics class that someday there would be a typewriter that puts letters up on a “screen” like a television’s with a typewriter hooked to it that you didn’t even have to touch. That’s pretty hard to believe! In Mr. Daniels’ journalism class we’re learning to use a “Speed Graphic” camera, a great big thing with film on slides that slip into the back of the camera. We go across the hall to a darkroom and develop the film for the Red & Blue school paper. Then we take it down to a printer on West Fourth Street by Central Jr. High who re-types what we write on some kind of machine called a Mergenthaler then prints the newspaper. An older guy in our class named Cal Pettingil Petengill Pettengill said that someday we’d all be “alumni” of Reno High and the alumni would put out a newsletter on a “computer,” whatever that is, in about 20 minutes without the typesetter, print it and mail it out for 44¢ a copy which is about eight times what a stamp costs now. I’d like to work on the newspaper if I could learn how to type and spel and use that camera.

They’re adding a new building for auto shop and stuff along Foster Drive so they can move all the shops out of the basement under the cafeteria. Mr. Morgan and Mr. Cline are in charge of that. The cafeteria is a nice place to eat and has good cinnamon rolls. It’s a good thing we have one because there’s nothing for blocks around the school, maybe Tony’s Dellickatesen Delikatsesenn Delicatessen downtown on First Street, Ramos Drug on California Avenue or Hale’s at Fourth and Vine. That’s about it. We hear that someday they’re putting up a bridge over the Truckee from Keystone Avenue but no one can figure out how to connect it to California and Booth Streets. So they’ll probably never build it and we’ll walk over the old Booth Street bridge to Hale’s Drugs or that new place they’re building on Vine, the Silver ‘n Gold, or something like that.

I like the music teacher at Reno High, Mr. Tellaisha and his wife Ruby. They built a great pep band for basketball games and assemblies. Assemblies are fun, each class gets to put on one a year and this year we’re doing “South Pacific.” One of our teachers said that there was a lot of language and meaning in that play that Rogers and Hammerstein wouldn’t be able to write fifty years later. But we had fun and sang “Nothing like a Dame” in spite of Mr. Finch telling us to sing “…like a girl.” What does he know? There’s a play opening on Broadway called “The Music Man” that the school will get to put on in a few years with a lot of “Barbershop” singing, whatever that is. Lauren House would probably like it, he’s a pretty good base baretonne altow tenor. We had an assembly the other day with a man named Pete Echevarria, who was the first guy in charge of the new Gaming Control Board and he was really funny. The Huskiettes marched in one assembly; they won’t date dumb guys like me but go for the jocks. We’ll see what they look like in 50 years. Ha!

The school has a club called “Huskie Haven,” once an old fire station downtown on Center Street with pool and ping pong tables and stuff to read and movies, but they closed it a few years ago. Now the Huskie Haven, which we all pay a couple dollars for on our Student Activity cards each year, has dances at the California Building and the State Building downtown, and skating nights at Idlewild Park with music and a weenie roast (the fire department floods the ice during the day so it’ll be smooth by dark). They’ve held a few ski days. They get a lot of good records for music at the dances, last Friday night the new Chordettes and Buddy Holly songs. Buddy Holly flies in a little airplane called American Pie to a lot of shows, which sounds pretty dangerous to me.

Mrs. Lehners probably won’t like my sentences chopped up like this but I’ve got to get this turned in by second period next Friday. I don’t understand the “Sessions” baloney; at Mary S. Doten we just stayed in one room and at Central we had “Home Rooms,” now we have “Sessions” with numbers and the only people I get to meet are the people with names close to mine, Ghia, so all I know are people with last names beginning in F, G, or H, and the cute chicks are in other sessions. To make it sillier, we have Sessions officers, so we have a president of a group that meets 12 minutes a day.

We’re decorating the gym tomorrow for the Sophomore Dance tomorrow night, and after the Senior Ball decorating fiasco last year, the girls were told to bring their dungarees and their father’s Oxferd Oxford shirts if they wanted to change after school to work in the gym. The Senior girls came to school in their dungarees and ratty shirts and were sent home before school to get into skirts or dresses. Mr. Finch said this is a school, and no student from Reno High is going to be seen in dungarees with torn-out knees, belly buttons and straps showing under sleeveless blouses, short tight skirts, red-and-blue hair, nose rings, tattoos, and boys with “Bite Me” on their t-shirts. When we walk across to the new Village Shopping Center being built across Foster Drive, we’re going to look GOOD!

That’s some of what I like about Reno High, and the ribbon in Miss Stern’s typewriter has almost run out. If this were 50 years later I could write, “send me an ‘e-mail’ with your favorite things about Reno High, and if we have an “alumni” newsletter going by then – maybe we’ll call it the Huskies Trails – something like that, kind of catchy, you could put your favorite memories in the newsletter along with mine.

But heck, who knows now what an “e-mail” is in 1957?

© Karl Breckenridge website 2001

Walkin’ “Midtown” c. 1955

Dick Dimond Dodge - 600 South Virginia St 1950So, it’s a 1950s walk y’all want. We haven’t taken a Saturday morning walk for a while, and although there’s frost on the pumpkin as I write, by the time you read this it could be a brilliant fall day. Or the dead of winter…no matter, we’ll meet on the lawn at the Lake Mansion on California Avenue and South Virginia and trek south to Mt. Rose Street, and return next weekend. Remember the walk rules: Space doesn’t permit including every man, woman, child or business along our path, nor a time span from the Civil War to today. We’re in our usual 1955-1960 time warp.


Onward we go across California Avenue with no stoplight, much to the consternation of the firemen in “South” Station across the street. We’ll walk by Lyon’s Signal service station on the corner (this is an era when almost every corner had one, if not more, service stations, heavy on the service.) Past there, Ham McCaughey’s Reno Motors was selling Lincolns and Mercurys, in a showroom that would later serve as Codding & Wetzel’s ski shop – Hal and Jerry, great guys – then later to become the casino area for the Ponderosa Hotel that would be built to the west of it.

We pass Reno Motors to Con Priess’ Kit Carson Motel and its expanse of lawn second only to the University’s Quad – many tiny rooms, stretching west all the way to Forest Street. It would later become the parking lot for the Ponderosa. Southward we pass Royal Tire, to have a few other names in years to follow, to the corner of St. Lawrence Street, and popular Glenn Turner Florist.

We’ll look both ways and cross St. Lawrence to what my contemporaries knew best as the Del Mar Station, but on the morning of this walk it was Heric’s Café, and would remain so for many years. [We’ll learn soon that it was also the Peppermint Lounge.] The Mt. Rose Market, one I wrote about in columns past was in the south end of that same building; a neighborhood grocer, as most were in that period of time. South past another bar that’s had a dozen names, to the Penguin Café, a favorite hangout until well into the 1980s, black-and-white checkerboard floor and all, their fare rivaled only by Ramos’ Drug around the corner. Now it’s Luciano’s original location, still great food. [2015 maybe not] Reno Pet Food was the baby of Don Combs, an incredibly funny guy whose [late] widow Rachael charmed all that knew her. Once upon a time a guy could work on his own car and might have gone to Ayres Auto Parts, south of the pet food store, for his plugs, points and condenser. (Do cars still have those gadgets??)

Across Taylor Street, a structure once the Dondero family home, later a laundromat, later still the American Red Cross, still later the KSRN-FM radio studios. South Virginia Street was used-car row in the post-war days, and we’ll just stroll past a few car lots now until we get to the corner, once a Richfield service station, later Tom and Suzi Jensen’s taco stand.

More car lots as we cross La Rue Street, translating from the French to Street-Street, the most notable lots were Hermann & Wilson’s (Chryslers), and Pio’s – Pio Mastroianni was an immensely popular Reno businessman whose surname I’ve never spelled right yet on the first try. At Martin Street, one of the earliest Eagle Thrifty Drugs then the Ox-Bow Motel, Harry’s Coffee Shop (later the Olympic) and a Shell Station. (Note the proliferation of great little coffee shops before the fast foods took the viability out of them.) Beyond Mary Street, the Pet Emporium where good ol’ Tom Jamison now has [had] his Pro-Serv printery and clock shop (clockery?), the Ho-Hum Motel, then Rauhut’s Bakery’s final location, now an open shell in the building. Two premium furniture stores: Freemont & Humphries, and Sellman & Gravelle Furniture and Décor a few doors to the south. Harry O’Brien, the Smilin’ Irishman was in that block before moving out to Glendale Road, Ma Bell had a phone truck garage there for a time, Nevada Traction sold tractors in this block, and we had two bars, Klub 1091 under the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, and the 1099 Club on the corner, and you don’t want to confuse one with the other if you’re pub crawling. And, a Wash-a-Mat, when “Laundromat” was a copyrighted term. The 1000 block was a busy one.

South of Caliente, the South Virginia Deli and Liquors owned by the Games family, who would build the new Washoe Market on the other end of the block – (it’s now an antique store). In midblock was Sprouse-Reitz, ditto [presently Ace Hardware], and a little building that some say was bootlegged onto Sprouse-Reitz, years ago. In the time of our walk there was a long gap from Arroyo to Pueblo Streets – the El Reno Apartments that once occupied it had all been removed, and the block was vacant for a time before the Sewell family built Sewell’s Market and joined the Bates family opening Nevada Bank of Commerce, both in the same building now occupied by Statewide Lighting and more antique dealers.

Another bank across Pueblo was an early First National Bank about which I touched off an e-mail riot sometime back, saying it had the first drive-in window in the state, while even admitting that Joe Sbragia’s FNB on Pyramid and Greenbrae, or an FNB in Las Vegas might have preceded this one by a month or two. Touchy, touchy… Rauhut’s Bakery occupied the southern part of that building, the best-smelling bank branch in Reno, later moving to their final location to the north, mentioned a paragraph or so above.

I think there was an beauty shop in what is now Miguel’s restaurant prior to Miguel Ribero but can’t pin that down. Miguel’s became a Reno classic, moving to a building across from the Peppermill for a time in the early 1970s, retaining the older location as the “Cove.” Before he passed away he beamed back to the old site; the food there better for extraterrestrials and mortals alike. A good hombre, Miguel was. We’ll end this tour at the Office Bar, now Mr. O’s, and cross Virginia Street next Saturday to Bill Stremmel’s new Volkswagen dealership, then catch lunch at Landrum’s – the Gazoo’s buying.

Have a good week, take a columnist to lunch and the family kayak down to the Truckee’s banks and enjoy our new park; congrats to my buddy Skip Hansen, named a Life Member of the Reno/Sparks Board of Realtors, and God bless America.

Strolling the east side of South Virginia

When last we met, we huddled over the shuffleboard table at Paul O’Gorman’s public house at South Virginia and Mt. Rose Streets, with a promise of walking north to our cars at California Avenue. I might have stopped too soon last weekend – several readers mentioned the early Safeway superstore in the “Val-U-Mart” Center across Mt. Rose Street, now an auto parts store [even later and presently Fed-Ex Office], and the early Eagle Thrifty Market, later a Raley’s, in the present Sports West gym; how could we forget the Cork Room and Spaughi’s? and the golf driving range south of Walts Drive bordering the early Vario’s, later Cicero’s, now Bricks, no apostrophe. Bob Helms and his group attempted for a time to build a hotel-resort on that block-deep site.

Now we can cross South Virginia, near the New York Deli not far from the present IHOP, and Warren’s Sav-Mor store, that would later move to Moana West. A slumpstone building next, housing a used-car lot, nearly across from the Continental Lodge, drab now but at one time invisible beneath a façade built around it to replicate a stagecoach, wheels, drover’s seat, luggage rack and all – looked like it should have been on the roof of the Liberty Belle. It was a Richard Graves creation, he the son of the Nugget’s Dick Graves, opened as a restaurant with chuck wagon vittles, whatever they are. It did well for many a year. Bill Stremmel built his Volkswagen dealership, Bugging out of his original West Second and West Street showroom. [Now, partly Lulou’s Restaurant; that cross-street came later.] Walking north across Pueblo Street, we find Applewhite Motors, notable only for their pre-FAirview (32) prefix phone number, 3-0000. We have to remember the late Ted Mattson’s little office on our path, Ted a fine Realtor, as were Ted’s office neighbors Gene LaTourette and the octogenarian Tom McKeown, now running a golf resort in Maui, the poor soul. The Lord smiles down on a few old Realtors. Walking north, Circus Potato Chip’s factory, next to my classmate Roy Walker’s Thriftee Seat Covers auto upholstery, and the venerable Landrum’s – with only seven stools, we strollers may have to eat our chili cheese omelettes in shifts.

Crossing Arroyo, well-nourished, we find what was once a White Spot grocery, replaced later by an early post-war retail building that housed a number of shops and restaurants – Martin Furs, Ma Rue Beauty Shop, Brookie’s Grill, and every guy in Reno’s favorite, Builders & Farmers Hardware. Upstairs was the greatest hardware store known to man, downstairs the most intricate model railroad ever built in Reno – few will ever forget the smell of artificial smoke puffing from the O-guage locos’ stacks, mixed with ozone from the big Lionel engines’ single-pole motors, plodding their cargo around a couple of hundred feet of track. What a store…

We’ll walk past Reno Frozen Foods north of the retail shops, later occupied by Flowers Distributing, which distributed not flowers but OJ and other cold stuff to grocers (kind of like Eagle Service a few blocks to the north during this time period, a mortgage broker, not a place to take your eagle every 5,000 miles for a tune-up.) On the corner, a Standard Station, and have I ever written that in our mid-century time period, a Standard Station was owned and operated by Standard Oil, and a Chevron Station a Standard Oil franchise? I didn’t think so. Standard closed this station, and did the only logical thing to do: park reefer trailers all over their lot to be used by the meat-packer next door. In a moment of civic pride, they flashed the underpinnings of the trailers, an only-in-Reno neighborhood cleanup display of solidarity.

Crossing Vassar Street, another service station, this a Signal. Further north on the block in a handsome two-story brick building with offices above, the Hansel & Gretel children’s apparel shop, I’ll write at some peril the largest then in Reno, and one destined to stay in business for many years hence (in Moana West). That South Virginia store became John and Janie Oliver’s waterbed store in years to follow and is now an adult bookstore. To the north, a Richfield station through the block to Center Street, later a drive-in, then yet another service station on the corner at Center Street, with a dozen names and operators.

We cross Center Street with some caution, because on this morning of our walk it’s still a two-way street with traffic entering from the north toward South Virginia. One of my favorite buildings in Reno was the classy brick Shoshone Coca-Cola bottling plant, the gleaming stainless steel bottling line visible in the huge south windows, a parade of pale green Coke bottles being squirted full and capped right before our eyes, boxed in wooden cases, and loaded onto the yellow, red and white delivery trucks in what’s now Restaurant Equipment and Supply Company’s parking lot A modern industrial miracle when the Farr family, nice people, opened it right after the war. Down the street across from Martin Street was and is Pangborn (then Pangborn & Douglas) CPAs, now the lair of my buddies David Morgan, Harry Parsons and Roberta, the Grinsell Who Stole Christmas, and onward to the Arctic Circle Drive-in at the corner. Onward to the next corner to the Q-ne-Q Diner – a stainless steel structure right out of a James Dean Hot August Night poster, where I had dozens of those new “hamburger” things with my dad right after the WWII while he met his buddies for coffee on Saturday mornings.

We see, from the Arctic Circle across LaRue Street, the neon “Barnes Radio” sign that would look so good in my backyard; Jim Barnes a radio pioneer in Reno who at one time had blue license plate W1, and also owned Barnes Cash Grocery on West Fourth Street. During the days when few locals had radios, Jim hooked up his set to loudspeakers and broadcast news of the day and prizefights to a crowd that assembled in front of the store on the Lincoln Highway. At the Cheney Street corner, we opine that the Giller family might have named their defunct ambulance service on that corner anything but “Aids Ambulance”, and a few steps to the north, the new Caravan Motel and its legendary cocktail lounge where if the walls could talk, I could write another book. And looking across the street, I’m reminded by my childhood friend Bob Busey that post-Heric’s Coffee Shop and pre-Delmar Station, was the Peppermint Lounge, where presumably one so inclined could do the Peppermint Twist. (Other landmarks I forgot last week were the El Borracho watering hole and the adjacent El Dorado Motel. Check out the incredible rockwork on both of them. They were all in my notes – who knows why not the column?)

Approaching the end of the walk lays Savage & Son Plumbing, Nevada contractor’s license #10, with its basement chock-full of oddball obsolete fittings and parts awaiting those goofy enough to want to buy and remodel old, picturesque homes with hundred-year old plumbing. [Savage is still hard at it on Wrondel Way – no basement anymore but their terrific inventory lives on.] Finally, Dick Dimond Dodge in the attractive, San Francisco-style brick building, [PICTURED ABOVE] later known briefly before its demise as Les Schwimley Motors. And lo, we cross South Virginia Street to the Lake Mansion, our tour completed.

Have a great week, a great Holiday season, and God bless America.

© RGJ December 2005