March 24 • Dad’s new office in Sparks

Go to the first tale in this adventure

 

_BandstandWell, we’ve been here in Reno for a couple weeks; school will be starting soon down the hill at Mary S. Doten. Dad got a job as a real estate man working for an agent named Charles H. Skipper, whose office is in Sparks, a little town just east of Reno. Dad said he thinks it will grow pretty fast with a guy named George Probasco, building houses that the guys getting out of the service will be buying.

Dad took me out to Sparks this Saturday morning. We went out the Lincoln Highway, past a lot of old pre-war businesses and some “auto courts” that I’ll tell you all about one of these times when I’m writing again. But this morning I start our walk at his office, in a little tiny house on A Street. The main drag through Sparks is the Lincoln Highway, but in Sparks it’s called “B Street.” Skipper’s office is on “A Street,” south of the highway and on the south side of a pretty little park called the “Reserve” by the Union Pacific Railroad when they moved to Sparks in 1903. It was reserved for a park for employees of the railroad, and had sat there for 40 years, grassy with nice walkways, early light fixtures and a small eight-sided “Queen Anne” bandbox on the east end of the Reserve  (pictured above). It started at about 12th Street which in time to come would be a casino called the Nugget, and went from there east a long ways, toward what I’d learn in 1955 would be a bunch of great big tanks to hold oil and gas and stuff, starting about 4th Street. Getting myself adjusted, I figured out that 8th Street would become known as “Pyramid Way” because it went to Pyramid Lake.

SP Sparks roundhouseThe railroad’s property was fenced, on a line which started south of dad’s new office on A Street. There were a couple of gates, the big one that most of the employees used was at the foot of 8th Street, Pyramid Way. Just beyond that gate was the railroad’s “roundhouse,” a big building to turn locomotives with. I didn’t know it that morning but in a few years it would be torn down and its bricks used all over Reno and Sparks. There was another big building to the east of the roundhouse, where the railroad worked on its locomotives. During the war, which was just ended, a wing was added to the east of that brick building. There were big locomotives everywhere, with silver fronts and their smokestacks in the back, which was different than what I saw in El Cerrito when we lived there. And you could hear (and smell!) them from blocks away from the railyard.

 I met Mr. Shelly that morning with dad. He was a neat guy who owned a hardware store a little ways up Pyramid Way by the airport. He knew all about the railroads, and told me that there was over 30 miles of side tracks in the Sparks railroad yard. The ground had been built up in 1903  before the railroad laid all that track, with dirt that had been brought in from a little place west of Reno by a street that would later be called Stoker. But this was 1946, so I didn’t know that street’s name then. He told me that when the railroad opened their railyard they brought in over 1,000 tons of coal and made a big pile of it to use in their engines

The engines were built for the snow sheds west of town, with the engineers’ seats in the front and air pumped into the cab, to keep the smoke out when they were in the tunnels on the big mountain west of Reno. Boy, I can’t wait to go up and see those snow sheds and tunnels! I’ll write about it here when I do! The railroad bought a lot of those locomotives. Mr. Shelly told me that at one time over a hundred of them were built by Baldwin Locomotive in Philadelphia and towed to Sparks. He gave dad and I a ride in his pickup to the far end of the railyard, where we went over 14 sets of tracks, I counted ‘em, on Stanford Way to cross the yard. The street was named for Mr. Stanford, one of the railroad’s owners. And it was later closed to cars. One day in the mid-1950s they would start building those tanks, but we didn’t know that then.

FiremanSparks was a fun town to walk around in while dad worked selling houses. I’d go often with him on Saturdays. The Reserve got a lot of use with kids like me during the day and in the evening they’d have band concerts and dances in the little bandbox. There was a library across B Street that took good care of kids. On a sad note I remember a procession one morning with firemen marching slowly alongside Sparks Fire Department’s pumper truck. All its hoses were removed and a casket with a flag over it was in the hose bay. Dad said it was for the Sparks fire chief, who died fighting a fire in Reno at the Greyhound bus station on Lake Street. That was August 1948, and I think everybody in Sparks and many from Reno were on the lawn at the Reserve. That really stuck in my mind for a long time. There’s a memorial statue now for fallen firemen on Pyramid Way.

There were some nice stores on the north side of B Street. One all us kids liked was theAdams Sparks Bootery, where you could stand on a gadget and see your feet and all the bones and stuff inside your shoes, in a weird green color that looked right through your shoes! Another neat store was a friend of dad’s, Mr. Adams, who was the official watch repair guy for the railroad. He took care of all the railroaders, who had to own a certain kind of watch, and have it inspected each year. He had a big board full of pocket watches that he’d loan to the engineers and conductors while their own watch was being tested. I got lucky and got to have one  of those old “loaners” in later life.  

 Well, dad’s calling me now across the park so I’m going to go. We’ll meet again soon – there’s a lot more places to walk in Reno and school will be starting soon and I’ll be off to kindergarten! Maybe I’ll be a better writer then, come back and we’ll see……

 Contact the six-year old at kfbreckenridge@live.com

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March 18 • Lumberyards and Ironworks!

Go the post that started this all…

kf_headshotI’ve grown braver in the past few weeks and discovered that my parents aren’t watching me like a hawk so this fine August 1946 morning I’m going to take a real walk, all the way down the Ralston hill to Fifth Street, buy another Bazooka bubble gum stick at Beetchen’s Cottage Market just east of Ralston and keep going. There’s a neat little brick house across the street from the market, surely a Delongchamps design with his hexagonal turret trademark. I’d learn later that it was owned by Mr. Brown, who with his partner Mr. Milbery fixed electric motors.

I crossed Nevada Street and turned to my right on Chestnut Street. Dad said that if oneBelmontApartments walked to the Truckee River on Chestnut Street, that he’d then be on Belmont Street, until he walked all the way up the hill to California Avenue, then he’d be on Arlington Avenue – same street, three names. And dad knew Belmont Street – he soon took an account for his new office as the manager of the Belmont Apartments on the corner of California Avenue and Belmont [above]. A nice building; the lobby reminded me of the lobby of the Majestic Theater. We’ll walk down there someday.

This is pretty neat! Since I started writing down what I’ve seen on these walks this is the furthest east I’ve been. I’d left the “two-one” section of Reno, and was now in the 1947 Fire ladder“two-two.” Reno’s fire department separated the town into 12 districts, with the “one” being south of the train tracks and the “two” being north. The second number divided the town into six zones, “one” being the furthest west, where I lived, and becoming larger as one went east. I had now passed into the “two” zone – the “two-two.” The fire bell in the belfry of the fire station on Commercial Row would ring two bells, then two more to tell the volunteers where the fire was if it was here. Before they had more sophisticated systems. But no fire today (that’s Reno’s new 1947 aerial truck in the picture…)

Walking down Chestnut, I passed Reno’s only high school. It actually faced West Street, away from me. I passed a row of nice, small wooden houses that would one day be removed to make a playground for the school. And I passed one house that had been turned into Reno High’s music department after it was given to the Reno School District. (I learned in later life that in 1955 the Reno School District would join 16 other Washoe County districts, and nothing would go right since  until complete paralysis set in. Too bad.)

30070 cab forwardApproaching the railroad tracks I passed my new friend Ty Cobb’s house on the east side of the street. His dad worked for the newspaper. I could hear the whistle on a locomotive so I waited for it to cross Chestnut Street. It was a “cab-forward,” sometimes called a “Mallet” which it wasn’t but that name hung on. The last Mallet went through Reno in 1929 but the cab-forwards were still “Malleys” – and boy did it lay a plume of smoke. No one ever talked about that but it really stunk up the town when it went through.

I kept walking after the train passed (did I tell you that I pretended to pull the whistle cord when the engineer passed, and he responded with a little yank on the loco’s whistle, and a big grin…? I meant to…) Beyond the tracks, passing Commercial Row, was a neat building on the east side of the street, between Commercial Row and Second Street. I poked my head in one of the big doors to see what it was, and saw sparks flying everywhere and heard a large din. It was Reno Iron Works, where men would cut and weld and fabricate steel into all sorts of things, like fire escapes and porch rails and stairwells and stuff. I learned later that Mr. Ginocchio started it in 1922 with a friend of mine’s dad, Mr. Avansino. Mr. Ginocchio’s daughter, Andrea, was to become my babysitter! She later married a doctor named Pelter and took over the iron works when her father passed away, but this was only 1946 as I write this so I don’t know any of it this morning. They gave me a tour, and I learned that most of the ironworkers lived in Little Italy, where I walked a week ago. There was another steel plant in Reno, owned by Mr. Schwamb, and all the workers there were either German or Italian. We’ll walk out East Fourth Street some day and see if they’ll let me in so I can tell you about it.

lumberyardburnerAnd so it goes – I walked to Second Street and turned back west again to go home. I hit Ralston Street, and turned right to start up the hill. There was a motel being built on the corner, the B-Gay Motel, the sign said. But the neatest thing on Ralston Street in 1946 was the White Pine Lumber yard on the east side of the street, just south of the tracks with a three-story-high wood burner [left]. This is where Mr. Jaksick made “Presto-Logs,” compressed sawdust held together by the pitch from the pine trees, that were clean to handle and burned quite nicely. Three years later when my dad was chairman of the Berlin airlift train campaign that took stuff to Berlin, in Germany I think, when it was blockaded. A PrestoLogphenomenal number of these Presto-Logs were brought by Reno residents to the new Sewell’s Store on Sierra Street and were loaded onto the S.P. train bound for New York City harbor on a Saturday morning, to keep those German people warm. That’s a good story; someday I’ll write about that, but it wouldn’t happen for three more years so I can’t this morning.

But – on a frigid night in January, January 11th, it was in 1952, the Presto-Log storage area picked up a spark, and the stored logs plus the building plus a couple of other buildings at White Pine Lumber went up like a torch in a fire they could see from Truckee (well, not really…) and our town, relying heavily on those logs for heat, had none. Mr. Jaksick had another plant in Alturas, so he started bringing logs from there, but they were a little bit more expensive – five dollars for sixty logs. Two things beg to be told here: My dad at one point picked up a trunkful of Presto-Logs in our 1941 Chevrolet coupe. It was a straight shot up Ralston Street to our home across from Whitaker Park, but the logs were too much for the Chevy’s little “Blue Flame” six-cylinder engine. He damn near fried the clutch, then stopped the car at the bottom of the hill by my friend Marilyn Burkham’s house (“Ma Bell!”) and left me to guard them as he drove off with what the Chevy could handle, then came back and got me and the rest of the logs.

The second thing as I re-read this that I’ll include, is that Mr. Jaksick had a son a little older than I whom many of us know, and it was this younger (late) Sam Jaksick’s dad, Sam Sr., who built the sawmill by the railroad tracks.

Frandsen ApartmentsAnyway, I cross the Lincoln Highway now – West Fourth Street – and start to trudge up the Ralston Street hill for home. I passed the elegant Frandsen Apartments to my right toward downtown Reno. If you want, we could all walk together a half-block east on Fifth Street, to the Cottage Grocery and get some more treats.

See ya back here in a few days – I’m getting into this walking-and-writing groove, don’t know where we’ll go next…

write the six-year-old author at kfbreckenridge@live.com

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March 13 Monday •  down West Street to St. Mary’s Hospital we go

 Go to how this all began…

KarlatWhitakerWell, we survived our first dinner out at the El Tavern Motel’s coffee shop, might have to fall back in there one of these nights. There’s still some daylight this summer night but I know I’ll get my butt warmed if I take off on another exploration. Dad was putting the Chevy into the old wooden garage behind our house at 740 Ralston – that used to be a carriage house and still had some old horse tack in it. I could hear some people hitting a tennis ball in the courts across Ralston Street in Whitaker Park.

So – I waited ‘til the next morning to take off on another adventure – I invited the little red-haired girl from next door but she was only three years old, so she begged off. Didn’t want to hang with a six-year old. Too old. I walked east, along University Terrace. Old houses abounded – the divorcée residence I mentioned earlier – the Mount Rose Arms – was the first house on the corner. A long block away was West Street – a street beyond Nevada Street which I could see toward downtown but didn’t come north of the Orr Ditch, which was just along University Terrace. My classmates Bill and Margaret Eddleman lived at that street’s dead end.

Along University Terrace was an old house – a fraternity house for the Lambda Chi Alpha guys. A new one would be built by a Lambda Chi alum named Rodney Boudwin in a few years. Then a big beautiful brick house with some letters “ATΩ” out in front – never did learn what that meant.

 On West Street was a big two-story house that I’d learn soon belonged to the parents Twaddleof two life-long friends of mine – Gene and Ed Aimone. Ed grew up and owned the “Norfolk” gift store in the 1970s in the old Twaddle mansion  on the northeast corner of Ralston and Fifth Street (seen right). Of course this was 1946 so I didn’t know it now. We’ll walk by that on the way home later. Down the hill were two houses that in later life I’d read of, but never in any form that was for sure – one house on West Street supposedly belonged, according to some grown-up books, to the man who built Scotty’s Castle, Walter Scott, in 1922. The other house, next door to Scott’s, per these books, belonged to the University of Nevada, a couple blocks to the east, and was used as the President’s Residence. But I’d also learn in a few years that the president of the UN_PrexyHouseUniversity had a house near the southeast corner of the Quad, built in 1900 and in use until 1956 (seen left). When the Aggie building was built by Mr. Fleischmann. So I don’t know. I think that house was used for guests of the U. Of course, that story, as the Scott story, may be couched in bullshit. I would learn much of that in later life while researching history. Lots of that. I should mention what I didn’t know in 1946, was that West Street would be cut off by a “freeway,” whatever that is, in about 30 years and then the street would be just a short dead-end street.

 So, I walked east some more, to Sierra Street, where cars still went in both directions. On the west side of Sierra Street were more houses with those strange letters out in front, all in a row next to each other: ΠΒΦ, ΚΑΘ, and ΔΔΔ – Pi Beta Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Delta Delta Delta. Down the street a full block was another, ΓΦΒ – GammaRLThome Phi Beta. These were places a bunch of girls lived – (yecch!). I continued my walk down Sierra Street, beyond where the “freeway” would later pass. One interesting building across Seventh Street from the Gamma Phi sorority house was the Reno Little Theater. My mom wanted to go there and see a play sometime. It was in a nice little brick building, that was built initially as the Dania House, for I learned that there were a lot of Danish people in Reno, mostly in the dairy business. My dad’s friend Mr. Loomis’ grandfather, Mr. Frandsen, gave it to the Danish people for a clubhouse. Mr. Loomis’ mother gave the money for the Christian Science Church, which would later be called the Lear Theater. Mr. Loomis, by the way, was an amateur photographer; he took the picture of me posted above in Whitaker Park with the Eickbush mansion in the background

 There wasn’t much to see looking down Sierra Street except for a whole lot of apartment houses, so I walked west on Sixth Street to West Street again. There was a really pretty little building on that corner, looked a lot like Vikingsholm Castle at Lake Tahoe, I think it had the same architect, Faville & Bliss out of San Francisco. It was Babcockcalled the Babcock Memorial Kindergarten, built 46 years ago in 1900. It was a private kindergarten that operated up until WWII, which was ended only a year ago. Kids went to kindergarten after that in the five public schools, paid for by the War Department to get mothers out of their houses to work, and I would start kindergarten in about three weeks at Mary S. Doten Elementary School, the first kindergarten class to go to public kindergarten in Reno! Pretty neat – we’ll talk about that someday. The Babcock Building, by the way, was thereafter used for public meetings and stuff until 1955, when it became the first office for the new Washoe County School District. But, of course, I didn’t know any of this on this morning’s walk, because it’s still only 1946.

 I’m coming up now, on Sixth Street, to St. Mary’s Hospital. On the south side of the StMarysOriginalstreet are two buildings; one a school, St. Mary’s of the Mountains, which was a school for girls (yecch!) like Bishop Whitaker School across the street from my house. It later (1908) became Nurses’ Hospital, since the world didn’t need another girls’ school after the University moved in from Elko. Next to that pretty old building was the convent, a dormitory for the Dominican Order sisters who worked at the hospital. And, of course, across Sixth Street to the north, the tiny St. Mary’s Hospital. Then, along Elm Street, a short walk to Ralston Street. We’ll stop in the Ralston Market at the bottom of the hill for a Bazooka bubble gum stick, I think I have a nickel in my pocket for one. Then, up the hill, to home.

 I’m enjoying these little walks, to get to know my new neighborhood! Only too soon, I’ll be off down the hill to my first day in kindergarten. Come back toward the end of the week; I hear there’s a good party called “St. Patrick’s Day” coming up, and since my grandmother and her family were from Ireland, maybe I’ll be invited.BazookaGum

Yeah…..

 contact the six-year old at kfbreckenridge@live.com

 

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March 5 • the El Tavern – our first dinner out in Reno!

 

Go the first installment in this series

eltavern2Well, we’ve been in Reno for five days now and have been pretty much camping at 740 Ralston Street. It’s time for a square meal, maybe the first since we left El Cerrito a week ago!

Dad heard of a place out the Lincoln Highway, actually not too far beyond Vine Street, which is about the last street west on West Fourth Street. Beyond that on the road, are a dozen motels, among the nicest in Reno, all built before WWII. But, there aren’t many places for a family to go for a dinner out, anywhere in Reno in 1946. So we’ll give this one a try; it’s called the El Tavern Motel, but it’s also a truck stop, also one of the few in Reno or Sparks.

We piled into the Chevy, a 1941 coupe that had a back seat; many coupes like this just had a flat deck behind the front seats, they called them “business coupes” and they were pretty much the norm. We rolled down the Ralston Street hill, a stop sign at West Fifth Street, then to West Fourth Street – the Lincoln Highway. Dad did a right turn and1941_chevvy we were off. There were no stoplights in Reno, as we had in El Cerrito and Richmond. The only one I remember on Fourth Street was hung on a wire that crossed Fourth and Virginia Streets – the busiest corner in northern Nevada for 20 years after the war. But we just rolled on westward. Dinner sounded good.

I could make several pages of  notes about the trip but I’ll save that for another visit – right now we just passed Vine Street and are beyond Reno’s city limits – a big ice plant, for many homes in Reno still had iceboxes. A brick factory. Motel after motel on the right, north side of the two-lane highway. In the distance on either side of the road, a large number of trucks, big highway jobs with trailers. All stopped. Their drivers are having dinner in the El Tavern Motel’s coffee-shop, a trucker’s favorite. The motel was a typical Reno motel, U-shaped with small units along the inside of the “U” and an office/coffee shop in the center area.

oldtruck2It turned out that my father knew, or knew of, the owner of the coffee shop that was in that motel’s office. His name was Bill Parker, a friendly guy. I learned that he was a hard-rock miner in central Nevada during the years before WWII, his youth, and with the war effort he was able to keep his job as an “essential war effort worker” during the war. He had mined ore, as most youthful miners had done, while he was still working. Most of the ore that he had unearthed was gold and silver, and I hope you’ll remember that for a while. Gold, and silver.

We enjoyed our dinner at the El Tavern, in a typical coffee shop booth with my sister, now only a few months old, in a bassinet on the seat bench. It was the first time we had had a square meal since we got to town, a week ago! My mom was tired, hadn’t shopped nor unpacked the kitchen utensils and dishes. This place had a nice menu, with stuff for kids like me.

Our waitress was a nice older lady, probably 50 or so, and why I’d remember her name 70 years later I don’t know, but it was Mrs. Dietz. She was the only waitress I can remember. The place had all the stuff that a coffee shop is supposed to have, with a juke box and Chism Ice Cream signs in many places and  big bright clock. One was really neat: It was a “Model Dairy” sign made out of glass tubing that lit up, “Open” when the coffee shop was open. First time I ever saw a “neon” sign. We’ll walk some more places in the days and weeks to come and see some more of these neon signs.

oldtruckThe truckers – probably about a dozen of them – hung out in the west end of the coffee shop and were pretty nice guys (in later visits to the El Tavern, of which there were many, I got to go up into the cabs of a few trucks!) Their trucks weren’t much by the standards of what trucking would become in the next 70 years, but they were big and tough and smelly and noisy. A trucker showed me the transmission levers – only one on the Chevrolet of my dad’s, but two levers on the big trucks – Marmons, Whites, Diamond Ts – one main one and one “Brownie” – for the Browning secondary transmission. I don’t remember a real sleeper unit, ‘cuz most of these were driven by one guy. But there sure were a lot of them out in front on the highway.

Going out for dinner was a real treat in 1946. We went to the El Tavern. We went out South Virginia Street about halfway out of town, to the “Q-ne-Q” which was a real honest stainless-steel diner a block south of Dick Dimond Dodge, where my dad soon bought a Dodge sedan that I’ll tell you about some night. Dimond Dodge was about at the end of California Avenue where another friend of my dad’s, Mr. Maffi, had a Signal Oil service station where we bought gas. His partner was Mr. Lyons.

There weren’t a lot of “family” restaurants in Reno after the war, plenty of nightclubs downtown we’ll visit here someday, Tony’s El Patio Ballroom where all of our parents went once a month. The families often went to the Toscano Hotel’s restaurant, on Lake Street between Second and Commercial Row, where the grownups would take one little private room and the kids got another, separate. A couple times I got to have dinner with that little red-headed girl I’ve mentioned before. Dad in the months to come would go down Second Street a few blocks by the Presto-Log factory and meet his friend Brickie Hansen at his family’s grocery store. Someday I’ll tell you about “Brickie’s”! And, there was a nice place in Sparks, a few miles east of Reno. It was a Chinese place – the Chinese Pagoda. I learned later in life that all the best Chinese restaurants on the west coast, and maybe everywhere, were in towns where there was a lot of railroading going on 50 years before I was born!

Much left to write about, downtown, restaurants, automobiles – come back in a few days or a week and we can all wander somewhere else in Reno in 1946.

 contact the six-year old at kfbreckenridge@live.com

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