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….


4 thoughts on “July 4  • The Fourth of July!

  1. Damn, Karl, you did it this time…..this fourth column made me so dizzy for the past, I could not even get out of my chair to go downtown and buy a hot dog!! Seriously, we led exactly the same lives. You mentioned so, so much in this column that meant so much to me. Unreal..
    *Reno Hot Springs and Idlewild….my mom would drive us to those pools. We’d double-dog dare each other to go off the tower at Lawton’s. Reno Hot Springs, while being a giant pool, never impressed me because it was only 3-4 feet deep all the way around. And, another…Bowers pools and those giant pine beetles in the dressing room. Idlewild was always so cold…
    *Fourth of July in Reno. I loved the colorful red-white-and blue banners hung across Sierra, Virginia, Center St. for the rodeo. And the parade….I rode in that parade on a big semi flat-bed truck playing the accordion with 40 other kids in Frank Greco’s Accordion Capers Band!
    *Nevada Air Guard….I loved watching P-51 (later F-51) Mustangs of the Air National Guard. And a buddy of ours, Johnny Molini, even became a General and Guard commander!
    *Baker’s Stables….along with Western Stables and Diefndorfer’s in Sparks, was a favorite place to go when relatives visited in summer and ride the docile old nags.
    *I, also, took swimming lessons at the Riverside’s then-new pool!!
    *Old Home Dairy….I collected 10,000 red bottle-caps with hopes of winning a bike at the Crest Theater Saturday morning kids’ movies. never did win that bike.
    *Mrs. Conrad never slapped me, but at recess she made me write my name with little rocks for punishment for bad behavior on the playground. Mrs. Conrad also taught me cursive…especially “H” for Hartman and same for Harold Linville (who, sadly, we lost in Viet Nam).
    *My dad, too, took me to the Sparks SP yards to see big steam engines when I was a kid. In fact my uncle, an SP conductor, snuck me aboard the cab of a diesel engine when I was 10 and I rode all the way to Fernley where my dad met me. After, we had the best burgers and fries at Cal’s Drive In at B Street and Prater Way.
    *I, too, loved watching Mr. “Tink” Tinkham’s Reno band at both Wingfield Park and the Quad at UNR.
    *Fish Derby at Idlewild pond…..always so cold and never caught a damn winning tagged fish! Not to bother, the derby was held just as school was out for summer so I could escape for three months from Mary S. Doten. That was more important to me than a tagged fish!
    Damn, Karl, you really did it this time. My head is spinning and I think I can hear “Home Means Nevada” coming from down the hall. Thanks for a wonderful story!! Happy Fourth of July…..see you at Mackay Stadium for fireworks tonight!

    Don Hartman

    • Great writing from an ol’ Whitaker Park buddy – thanks so much; don’t be surprised if some day Don and Karl might walk Reno together, and you’re going to do most of the writing…thanks, Don – keep ’em comin’!

  2. Dear Karl, once again I must thank you for bringing Reno memories back to me. I love Reno, and you for your wonderful memories for those of us not in Reno anymore. Yes, no place like home. Thank you.
    Betty Lougaris

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