I continued my exploration of our family’s new digs on Ralston Street. The parental rules of the exploration were that I was not to cross University Terrace, one house away from ours, and not below the Mighty Orr ditch, which at that time was open throughout its length, passing under Ralston Street after wending its way from the west, forming the southern boundary of Whitaker Park (in later years, corresponding to the construction of a freeway south of it, it would be covered).
So, up the hill I walked to the corner, kitty-corner across the intersection was the Eichbush home, and within the home a pretty girl with jet-black hair, named Mary, two years older than I. In the other direction, to the east on University Terrace, was a house with a couple kids I’d soon meet and know throughout our lives – their names were Margaret and Bill Eddleman – Margaret, a friend of Mary’s, was also two years older than I, and brother Bill three years’ Margaret’s senior. We’ll learn more about them in the pages to follow. And I probably better snap a picture of the Eichbush home for this journal. [I went up to the house with my Brownie Hawkeye today 2/11 but it’s so overgrown it wasn’t worth taking a picture…sorry]
The Eichbush home was a beauty, and would remain so for at least the next sixty years, one of Reno’s unsung treasures. On the northeast corner of that intersection was a boarding house, with a rudimentary kitchen and restaurant. It was in some respects similar to other boarding houses in the Ralston/Washington/Bell street corridor surrounding Whitaker Park. I would learn in later years that these houses – each with a half-dozen private rooms, more or less, and a common area for dining and guests, sprung up as Reno grew, sharing a commonality of being close to St. Mary’s hospital, down the street four blocks. The homes were generally known as “birthing hospitals,” where by prearrangement ladies could go to have a baby delivered – (grammatically, to be delivered of their baby, but that rule fell into disuse) – where there was a midwife present, nurses and a doctor on call, with many more only a few blocks away at St Mary’s. A remarkable number of people born between 1900 and WWII were born in such hospitals. And we learned more about St. Mary’s creation, which I’ll get around to writing of in a day or two, if not today.
The boarding house across University Terrace had been such a hospital, and as most of the other boarding hospitals did, it fell into disuse during WWII, when there were fewer babies being born in Reno, and, as the hospital started to grow, and opened a maternity ward of its own. There were therefore many empty birthing hospitals in the neighborhood.
I listened intently while my new friend, Dr. David from next door, spun a tale of the neighborhood. Almost beyond my ken to comprehend, he spoke of a law governing divorces that had gone into law in the years before the war. A requirement of the law was that a person seeking a divorce had to live in Nevada for a while before going to court. The increasing vacancy in birthing hospitals and the increasing need for lodging were a marriage made in heaven, no pun intended for the divorce element of this, but simply stated, there opened up a whole lot of private rooms around Whitaker Park and St. Mary’s hospital.
In the weeks to come, I’d start school at the bottom of the Ralston hill, but we’ll get to that later. For now, I’ll flesh in the birthing hospital-conversion-to-boarding houses aspect of this rambling:
Bear in mind, that what popped the whole issue up was that boarding house across University Terrace – the Mount Rose Arms guest house, I think it was called, “Mount” spelled out, which it generally isn’t save for Mount Rose School. There were a couple of kid-sized bikes around the little two-story wood building. I didn’t have a bike. I probably ought to get to know those kids. Not that I’d learned to ride a bike yet…
The thought that will emanate from all this babbling about divorcée-boarding houses is that there lived in the vicinity, quite a few children; those children the kids whose mothers were in Reno for a divorce. I hadn’t started school yet, but came to know that we’d meet those children in school and they would become our friends. Sometimes they’d stay in Reno, but more often than not when the court action was complete, these classmates would disappear as quickly as they joined us. Too bad – we’d made some good friends. This went on throughout our four grades plus kindergarten at Mary S. Doten School. And, yakking with friends in later years, seemed to be more prevalent around St. Mary’s hospital, as that was the magnet for the birthing hospitals that enabled the boarding houses.
This is quite a new neighborhood for me – there’s a big home up the street, whose owner I’ll meet in the next few days. It would later become a fraternity house; of course I don’t know anything about that this morning. And a couple of little grocery stores, lots of professors walking to the University living around here. And that little red-haired girl from next door is out in the yard again. At the next time we write down a few recollections, we’ll walk northward from Whitaker Park, by house where the plane had crashed 24 years before, by the two barracks that hadn’t been moved to that corner yet, and about the Pub ‘n Sub restaurant that was still the Ralston Market as this is written. Come back in a few days; I’ll meet you right here..
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