July 21 – Northwest Reno is growing… 

karlatwhitakerThe six-year-old kid’s first post…

Been a long time since I could get to my notepad and write of more of what it’s like in my new town. One big news break is that Dad and Uncle John got me a bike – actually, they found a used bike and spray painted it blue in a friend of Dad’s auto painting shops, and they used some blue paint that the customer was getting his car painted.

They made the brake work, by pedaling backward, and went to Monkey Wards downtown on Sierra Street and bought some new hand grips with “Schwinn” spelled out on the rubber, and a new seat and some tires.

Pretty neat. I learned soon that after the war steel was still hard to get and bike factories weren’t back in production yet, so like most of my friends I had a used bike with some new parts. It’s a little bike, but I’m a little guy, and now I can get around all over town quick.

The afternoon that I got it I rode it on University Terrace from our house on Ralston Street, and crossed Washington Street. There’s a big hill there, and after only one block on my new bike I fell off of it and took a chunk out of my knee that would leave a scar the rest of my life! I got back on my bike and kept riding along University Terrace, beyond Vine Street. That was almost the end of Reno north of the railroad tracks. Most of the houses that I rode past had been built recently, just after the war, and didn’t have any grass or trees yet. They were fairly small with a garage for one car but not much else.

I rode past Sunnyside Drive, which hadn’t been paved yet where it met University Terrace. A lot of friends of mine’s fathers would soon start building a house for a family named Kotter. Reverend Vernon Kotter was the pastor of the Lutheran Church and these men had just finished building a church on California Avenue at Belmont Street so the church could move out of the Masonic building downtown. Now they were building his house on the northeast corner of University Terrace and Sunnyside. I got to know his kids; his daughter Marilyn was in my class at Mary S. Doten School. She was really funny. And her dad was a good guy – he’d become the resident pastor of Reno High School in years to come, and come out and bless our ball teams and stuff.

A street called Canal Street turned to the left off University Terrace. A lightning storm had just started a fire that burned the house at that corner pretty bad and there were some men there trying to fix it. Riding all the way to Peavine Row I could see where the flood came, as I heard it did every summer for about 10 years, from the wash on Peavine Peak. The water came down every summer and flooded the neighborhood about six inches deep, finally getting into the Orr Ditch down the street. The street would later be paved, and even later get the name “Keystone.” Keystone Street back then didn’t come north of the railroad tracks, and in time would be cut in to meet Peavine. I’ll have to tell you someday about our swimming hole at the brickyard “pit” between the end of Seventh Street and Highway 40. We’ll go back to that.

Some friends of mine lived at the south end of Peavine where it stopped at the Orr Ditch. Their names were Cairns, and on a Thanksgiving Day both brothers drowned in the Truckee River. A man out on Idlewild Drive found them both. It was a real shocker but we sucked it up and went back to school on Monday. I heard that someday there would be a crowd of “grief counselors” at school to make us feel better. But we remembered the Cairns brothers without counseling.

CableBackhoeThere were some old barns on the west side of Peavine, and one day they were bulldozed by Mr. Games’ dozers and trucks. A new market went up there, a big one. The Gastanaga family built it, and in years to come would enlarge it. It was one of the new “supermarkets” being built in Reno, like my dad’s friends the Sewell brothers were building a supermarket down by the high school on Sierra Street by Fifth.  Across University Terrace to the north, was the Rosasco chicken ranch, in a house that in years to come would be rebuilt as an eye-doctor’s office. Imagine that; an eye doctor thinking he could make a living anywhere but downtown Reno! What will happen next, I ask.

The Rosasco ranch owners had some cute granddaughters whose names were Pam and Jan, about my age. Pam was fun and her sister was quite a singer, I think she married a guy named Frank Savage and sang all over town. Remind me and someday I’ll write the story of how I was riding Mr. Thompson’s horse and trampled about 20 chickens and Mrs. Rosasco read me the riot act in Italian. Mr. Thompson was a neat guy, a childhood friend of my dad’s, and was an attorney or something and got a building named for him years later downtown. But he sure had a big palomino horse in 1952.  A mean SOB too.

1950GMCdumpMy dad’s friend Mr. Novelly was building a lot of houses west of Peavine Row, on a street that he named for himself, Novelly Drive. His first name was Ray, for Raymond Drive. They sold a lot of houses. He built a lot of houses, bigger ones, on the top of the Peavine Row intersection with Sunnyside. My dad sold him some land for the Metzker family and sold the City of Reno some land for a street, named Irving after my mother’s maiden name Irving. They were pretty nice houses.

Mr. Games, whose first name I think was Earl, did all the digging of foundations for the houses on Irving and Novelly, and later on Whitaker Drive when Mr. Weichmann and Mr. Probasco opened that street and Keegan Circle up and paved it. Mr. Games’ brother ran the shovel that was already 30 years old then, and could dig a foundation for a house with a full basement, a hole for the furnace oil tank and the trench for the sewer and water lines to the streets, in about a day. He was good. I heard Dad say that natural gas was coming to that part of town soon but back then they all had oil heat.

smudgepotIt was always exciting to see Mr. Games’ trailer with the shovel on it, drive up to a vacant lot, because we knew a new house was going to be built. We used to steal, or at least move around, the little smudge-pots that the men would light every night to mark an open trench where a car might fall into it. We quit doing that the night that a  police car drove into a big open hole that he didn’t see in the dark. We were too scared to come out of our rooms for several days and play…

I should add before I go to bed, that in the summer of 1960 when the big fire took out the power lines between here and California and Reno was without power for three days, that somebody got a whole bunch of those smudge-pots out of a building they were stored in when they quit using them, and they filled them up and lined out an approach path to guide airplanes into Reno’s airport when the landing lights were out of business.

Ha! The old ways still work. I’m going to bed – that bike ride wore me out! – come back in a week or two and we’ll yak some more.

contact the six-year-old kid at KFBreckenridge@live.com

If you want to read about that big 1960 forest fire above Truckee, click here

Added Sunday morning: My little lifetime buddy Hank Philcox, who grew up a couple doors from me after my family moved to Sunnyside Drive, wrote me a letter on binder paper, I’m including it here: “Your description of the history of our neighborhood brought back many memories. You mentioned the Cairnes brothers…. Steve was in my class. He and his brother Jay were trying to wade across a swollen Truckee River with another classmate, Dee Rytting, when they lost their footing and were swept away by the current. I was actually in Idlwild Park when they pulled Steve from the water, and I didn’t recognize him when they asked me if I knew him. Still feel bad about that. Steve and I used to go shooting our BB guns together in the farm field at the corner of 7th and Keystone, which is where his family lived.

I also remember the floods that continued to come down the wash which is where Elmcrest and Novelly Drives were placed. One time I was playing Ping Pong with Tom Weichmann when we saw cars floating down Elmcrest. We jumped on our bikes to the water and a six-foot wall of water hit the house at the east end of Elmcrest. Funny part was the flash flood washed out a pig farm upstream and there were pigs washing down the street and when the waters passed, they were running all over the neighborhoods clear down to Vine Street.”

Thanks, Hank…KB

 

Advertisements

July 4  • The Fourth of July!

White Hats 1

The first post….

This is a fine how-do-you-do? Dad took off with Mr. Blakely and Mr. Corica to work at the Reno Rodeo, which is always on the Fourth of July. And I’m home with my baby sister and my mother on Ralston Street. But not for long! I’m takin’ off down the hill to see what’s going on downtown this holiday weekend with all the people in town for the rodeo! HA!

LoudspeakerTruckSo Dad, while you’re opening beer cans for the Jaycees at the rodeo grounds in the heat and the dust, I’m off. Walking down Ralston Street I can really see a lot of cars, more than usual, on West Fourth Street. Most of the better motels built after the war are either east or west of town. I got to stay In one a couple weeks ago when my Aunt Isabel came to Reno from Petaluma, down by the San Francisco Bay where Mom grew up. She stayed at a motel with a swimming pool and that was the first pool I ever swam in. I’ve swum in the Russian River by Guerneville but the pool is pretty neat too.

Coke truckI walk toward downtown and get to Virginia Street, where the rodeo parade is starting to march. There’s a big truck down by the railroad tracks with a loudspeaker on the roof. Some of the gasoline companies, and the Auto Club, or Three A or whatever dad calls it, have these trucks and send them around the country to rodeos and parades and stuff where somebody wants to talk to a bunch of people. I cross the highway at Virginia Street, the busiest intersection in Nevada. I better go home before I catch hell for sneaking off.

Many have accused me of dogging it this Fourth of July weekend because I haven’t written anything new. C’mon, I’m only a little guy and it’s a holiday and it’s hotter than a bride’s breath so I’ll post soon, soon, soon….beside, I’m trying to listen to a New York Giants baseball game on the radio – everybody says that some day it will be on a “television” set right in our living room but today it’s on KOH, live from Detroit. Hard to write and watch at the same time.

Harolds Club BuickI was asked what’s around the bend on these little walks we’re taking. Well, I can tell you – I want to get Dad to take me down to Harold’s Club – note that as I write this  in the 1940s it’s still using an apostrophe in the name. In a few years it will go away. If we can walk down on a Saturday morning between 10 o’clock and noon, Mr. Smith closes the second floor of the casino so that kids can go in. I want to see the “Roaring Camp” stuff that Mr. Smith bought from Mr. Stagg and all the old guns and saddles the blue Buick station wagon with the steer horns and stuff. There’s supposed to be a bar with silver dollars in the bar. I’ll tell you all about that soon.

Another story is going to be about learning to swim in Reno. I’ve received a lot of letters from readers at our home on Ralston Street, asking me to write about old swimming places like Reno Hot Springs and Lawton’s west of Reno (pictured), Idlewild Pool in Reno (the new one, not the big pond on the west side of the park that was the first LawtonsTowercommunity pool). And Baker’s Stables a long way south of Reno and Deer Park in Sparks, that only opened right after the war. And I also have some notes about the people who gave us swimming lessons, like Marcie Herz, Rick Burgess at that new pool at the Riverside Hotel and some of our friends like Billy Berrum who show us about swimming at Moana Springs. Billy’s a good guy, only a little bit older than me, maybe ten years old. (And in a few years Mrs. Conrad would slap me for writing “older than me” when it should be “older than I” but I’m too young to get hung up on grammar.

Dad still goes down to Sparks a lot in his business, and one day got me in to the railroad’s locomotive shop. I got to climb up onto a cab-forward steam engine. They30070 cab forward were working the shaking tank in the shop and I got to see (and feel!) that. And they’re starting to tear down the roundhouse at the south end of 8th Street in Sparks, (later they’d call it Pyramid Way). Writing is funny, in Reno it’s written “Eighth Street” which is up by the University but in Sparks it’s written “8th Street”. I’ll never make a very good writer.

Dad’s friend says that we should take a good look at the old steam locomotives because pretty soon they’ll all be those boring streamliners. I didn’t know it then but the last steam engine that would roll through Reno and Sparks on a revenue basis would be pretty soon – late October of 1949. After that we only saw them in the winter pushing plows or pulling heavy trains over Donner Summit. I’ll try to find a picture of one for you.

We got out to the new airport a while ago and Dad drove right out onto the runway so we could watch the Nevada Air Guard land a couple of P-51 “Mustangs” – little fighter planes. And we watched a United Air Lines DC-3 take off for San Francisco. And we went up into the “control tower” on the second floor of the United terminal and hangar. That was pretty cool and I’ll try to write it down.

Brandon Crawford just got a home run in Detroit. Thank God that the horrible “replay” hasn’t been invented yet. But then TV hasn’t either.

C-119We had a little excitement in Reno and western Nevada last winter – it got really snowy and the cows and sheep couldn’t get to their pastures to the Army Air Corps brought in a bunch of huge freighter airplanes that had doors in the back, and all the men of Reno and Sparks met out at the airport to load hay into the planes to drop to the livestock. We’ll read about that. Dad got to go on a couple of their flights.

Yeah, Idlewild Park, for sure. I’ll write about the zoo at the park, and our class going to the Old Home Dairy across the street from the park, where we get a lot theCalifornia Building milk around Reno. And the fishing derby. Virginia Lake has a new park too. We’ve gone to some Reno band concerts out there in July, in August they’ll all move to the “Quad” at the University where we can walk from our house. Dad and Mom know some people who play for that band. And we get watermelon during the show and get to march to a Sousa march around the Quad with Mr. Tinkham the bandleader. And the grownups – can’t sing worth a darn but they end with “Home Means Nevada.”

Got to go to the neighbors’ for some hot dogs. Fireworks tonight at Mackay Stadium, Joe Battaglia and the Men of Renown will do the National Anthem as usual. Sorry to bail on you  early but the game’s tied at 3-3 and the barbecue’s starting.

Be safe out there, come back once in a while….