I’m writing again, in my best handwriting, trying to practice as I’ll be starting kindergarten next week at Mary S. Doten, just down the Ralston hill from our new Reno house. It’s a Saturday morning; Dad and I are off in the Chevy to handle some of his chores, and I’m tagging along.
We take off on Fourth Street through town to Alameda Street. Across the Truckee to the south is the same street, called Wells Avenue because a rancher named Wells used to drive cattle up the street and across the river to the slaughterhouse a block west of Alameda. My uncle John, who just got out of the service, opened a Flying A service station on the northwest corner, almost next to the slaughterhouse. He has a nifty Harley Davidson motorcycle “tricycle” with a box on the back and his station’s name on the back of the box. My grandmother hates motorcycles and people who ride them. Uncle John promised me a ride on his Harley one time and my mother told him she’d kill him if he did that. Women I’m learning at age six are hard to understand.
There’s a neat little store across Fourth Street, Akert’s Market it’s called. There’s a fun guy in there named Ben, probably in college now, who wants to open a store that sells booze and call it “Ben’s Liquors.” My mom told me not to use the word “booze.” Oh well.
Dad said that the city was going to build a fire station on Morrill Avenue, a couple blocks to the east. It would replace the old fire station almost across the street, called “Reno East” which is a duplicate of the one at the dead-end of California Avenue on Virginia Street. This is a busy area of town, East Fourth Street, with a lot of nice stores, hardware, auto parts, lot of auto stuff and garages. Mr. Blakely, a friend of dad’s since high school, operated Eveleth Lumber kitty-corner from my uncle’s service station. It makes custom cuts of lumber and is in high demand from people building houses needing weird stuff like handrails. It is part of a sawmill up the river toward Truckee.
We got back in the car and left to see my dad’s friend Mr. Menante, another schoolmate. His family owns a shop by the railroad tracks on Virginia Street, that takes the tires off cars and “vulcanizes” new rubber and treads onto them and they put them back on your car, to save buying new tires. Dad said it was a wartime thing. Mr. Menante’s business is called Reno Vulcanizing, pretty original. His plan is to move further north on Virginia Street to his partner Mr. Besso’s family ranch, and build a new Reno Vulcanizing shop on what will become Sixth Street.
Mr. Menante told me how my father shot him with a pistol in their senior year in high school, which cost my dad his appointment to Annapolis, which is a big Navy school back east. Turns out they were in a play and my dad’s character shot Mr. Menante’s character, but the gun misfired and bent my dad’s trigger finger so it wouldn’t straighten and he never got to that Navy school. Mr. Menante was a fun guy.
We got back in the Chevy after dad made arrangements to get the tires fixed, and drove across the railroad tracks to have coffee – ugh – how grownups can drink that stuff is beyond me. Dad parked the Chevy at kind of an angle in front of Tiny’s Waffle Shop south of Commercial Row. We went to see Mr. Southworth in his tobacco shop on Douglas Alley. My grandmother, after my grandfather died in 1906, married Mr. Strausburg who was a stockbroker and owned the little building, his office on the second floor, Southworth’s Tobacco on the street level. Mr. Southworth was a nice guy, had a cigar-store Indian in the window that would piss some people off in years to come. Likely not the Indians. But, this is 1946 and I don’t know anything about that yet. (Three years later Harolds Club would put up a mural with Indians all over it, and more on the roof of the building, but I didn’t know that yet either…)
We went into Tiny’s for coffee, and a bunch of Dad’s friends were in there at a big table. I met Mr. Tripp, who worked for Mr. Smith at Harolds Club across the street. His job was making little plastic name tags for the ladies who worked in Harolds Club, with their first name and hometown. Mr. Tripp, I think his name was Walt, was a nice guy, had a couple of sons my age, and wanted to open his own engraving shop – “Tripp Plastics,” he’d call it. Mr. Smith I understand was going to help him get started.
Mr. Cobb was in Tiny’s at the big table. He was a sportswriter from Virginia City who worked at the newspaper, over on Center Street. He was also the announcer at the Silver Sox baseball games in Moana Stadium, a long way out of town to the south, and he told me that he’d let me sit in the booth some night during a game. He was a nice guy. I soon met his two sons and daughter, tell you all about them one of these days.
All dad’s friends were nice men. One was funny, his name was Mr. Maffi, and he and his partner Mr. Lyons owned a service station at the end of California Avenue across the street from the Lake Mansion, which I’ll have to study to learn more about and write about it another day. Mr. Maffi came to our house on Ralston Street later today to help dad adjust the furnace in our new house, which originally burned coal but was converted by Mr. Maffi to burn oil. Dad and Mr. Maffi, (and Mr. Sala, our next door neighbor; I’ll write a lot about him in the future), had to leave to get a furnace part and probably some more beer (surely Sierra!), and Mr. Maffi, who had a glass eye, took his eye out and put it on the kitchen table and told my mother, who had a limited sense of humor, “Here, Floie, (for her name was Flo), I’m keeping an eye on my beer.”
Dad and Mr. Sala laughed, but Floie (Flo) fainted, right on the kitchen floor, cold as a mackerel. Mr. Sala went next door to get Mrs. Sala to help out. Floie soon returned to consciousness, and Dad, seeing this, went out the front door with the other guys to Mr. Maffi’s pickup and took off down Ralston Street to get the furnace part. And some beer.
As I recall, they discussed Mr. Maffi and the occurrence further that evening.
I’m worn out from writing; I’ll start school in a week down the hill at Mary S. Doten, and maybe I’ll learn how to write cursive so it will be easier to read. Come back in a week and we’ll stumble off around Reno some more, maybe visit my new school and my new friends, all neighbors, Tom Cook, Cecelia Molini (Pearce), Jimmie Ceander, and Marilyn Burkham. And another new friend that I’m going to introduce next week, Cedric Parkenfarker from up University Terrace. Cedric has the ability to look into the future, which will enable me to write my 1946 memories, but interject what happened in the future, like Marilyn Burkham becoming known as Ma Bell. And I’ll get my Brownie Hawkeye fixed so I can add some pictures again…it’s busted today.
See ya soon…………
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