DUE TO THE EXIGENCIES OF THE LIFE OF A SIX-YEAR-OLD KID, IT IS EXTREMELY UNLIKELY THAT THIS SITE WILL BE UPDATED UNTIL LATER IN THE MONTH……….June 27 – Look out Eric Clapton – the kid bought a banjo!

cropped-kf_headshot.jpgOh boyoboyoboy – I’ve been working for my grandmother all I can, at her new house in that new bunch of houses called Westfield Village. I’ve been saving my money and finally got enough to buy a musical instrument I’ve wanted ever since Dad took me to a meeting of the Reno Banjo Club at the church down across Bell Street from Mary S. Doten School. His friend Mr. Goodwin helped me and told me what I could play with small hands like mine and Mr. Trump’s (couldn’t resist that!)

So today I’m off after school with my money, almost forty dollars. I left Central Jr. Banjo2Hi and crossed at West Fourth Street, which was also Highway 40 — the main drag across the nation. —  I can see Lee’s Drive-In to the west.   Guys my age all remember the neatest store in downtown Reno in the late 1940s –Shim’s Army Surplus store – authentic war stuff, hot off the Pacific war theater, just like John Wayne and Dan Duryea wore in war movies at the Tower Theater every Saturday morning.  Next to Shim’s was Quimby’s Awnings – this was before we knew what air conditioning is and every store in downtown Reno has an awning to extend over a sidewalk. For many years, Mr. Quimby made ‘em all.

            Railroad tracks! Teams of new “streamliner” diesel-electric engines started 30074 CabForwardreplacing S.P.’s venerable cab-forward steam locomotives a few months ago. The last cab-forwards in revenue service went through Reno only recently in late 1950.*

            At the north end of the block at Commercial Row, my buddy Jerry Fenwick’s parent’s art supply. And if you’re into model railroading and want a real-looking locomotive, you need to go to Fenwick’s. The American Fish Market, selling, fish, what else?  (Sometimes stunk up the whole block but Mom probably won’t let me write that.) Next to that store, the Sierra Bar, probably sold Sierra Beer, then the Nevada Photo Supply. A good store – the Land Corporation’s “Polaroid” was a brand-new photography process as we were walking this 1950s day.

Lees1Next the Sunshine Card Shop; if you wanted a card in 1950 you went to a card shop, not a drug store. On to the Dainty Cake Shop, two cupcakes for 14 cents, mocha topping, no sales tax, then mighty Sears and Roebuck, their farm store backing onto West Street to the rear. The other giant J.C. Penney’s filled the block from Sears to the corner. Those stores wouldn’t let us kids in, never did like them after that!

 

            Across West Second Street, a Hale’s Drug, then National Dollar Store, in one of those great old two-story loft buildings with the hardwood floors. Monkey Wards, sponsored our bike show every fall.

Bools & Butler Leather, saddlers to the Hollywood western movie icons who came to town for the Silver Spurs awards during the rodeo each July Fourth. And on that corner, Home Furniture. The Ginsburg family, nice people.

I’m going to cross Sierra at First Street. Just north of the Truckee I walk past the old brick Elks’ Home, whose four stories would be reduced to rubble in a fast fire following a nearby gas explosion in 1957. (I have a vivid recollection of my dad – and a score of other peoples’ fathers, husbands and sons – who customarily had lunch at the Elks’ and could not be located for a short period of time following the explosion.  That specter brings to mind the terror and frustration, multiplied by three-hundred-fold in the missing and by weeks instead of hours, that East coast residents must have felt on September 11, 2001.) But of course, I don’t know anything about that yet…

            Next to the Elks’ Home in the block south of West First, the finest department store in Reno: Gray Reid, Wright, a locally owned treasure.  That store in later years would move into a new building that later formed the main floor of the present Circus Circus casino.  But I don’t know about that either. I’m having a tough time writing today, my head must be on my new banjo-uke that I’m going to buy!            Across West First to the north, a retail building with clothier Murdock’s on the corner, and the Vanity ladies wear, the popular Town House (Dad’s friend Al Vario is behind the bar!) and jeweler Morgan Smith. Dad’s trying to get Mr. Vario to open his own restaurant, south of town.

            Next to the north, the Parkway Hotel, with the wonderful Moulin Rouge restaurant on the first floor, the pride of Gilbert Vasserot who would later open Eugene’s restaurant.  Mr. Vasserot and Mr. Patrucco, who ran the Riverside Hotel’s Corner Bar, are Dad’s friends also and they told me when I grew up I could park cars at their new restaurant! Boy, are they in for a surprise…last weekend I almost turned Mr. Philcox’ Jeep over on the big hill at the end of Sunnyside Drive…ouch…

          Next door, Karl’s Shoes, no relation.  Hank’s dad’s place, Ken’s Fountain and Luncheonette. Somewhere in there was the old Eagle Bar that moved south to California Avenue in later years, then the southeast corner building with clothiers Leeds, Reeve’s and Mode O’Day, and a Payless Drug working their way east on West Second Street.

            WigwamCrossing West Second, I’ll stop for apple pie with Mrs. Lerude’s secret topping in the Wigwam Cafe, adjoining what was once the Wigwam Theatre and later the Crest Theatre on Second Street.

            Past the Wigwam Café was the Emporium of Music, a popular store founded Emp_Music_used  by Dick and Joe Woodward and that’s where I’m going! They’re nice people and are in the process of selling the business to the Maytan family. Mr. Woodward said he’d be my manager and get me some jobs playing my new ukulele around town when I got really good.

            We’ll, it’s getting close to dinner time and I want to go home and play with my new toy, so I’m going to sign off here are just walk without writing (my Irish great-aunt calls that “taking Shank’s mare” to get home.) I used that expression once in newspaper column and the whole damn newsroom thought I’d lost it. There I go again, writing in the future!

            I am going to explain one thing soon about locomotives that comes as a shock to people, about the old “Mallet” euphemism for steam locomotives. Come back in a few days and I’ll tell you about the rest of my walk home today, from the Emporium of Music to 200 Sunnyside Drive!

*A reader once sent a question about the old steam engines that’s propitious for this nostalgia offering: “Weren’t the cab-forward locomotives known as “mallets?”  Yes and no; the last loco of the mallet design locomotive probably went through the town in the late 1920s – the name eponymous with Anatole Mallèt, a Swiss mechanical engineer who developed a process for managing high pressure steam in heavy locomotives, having nothing to do with forward or conventional cab placement.  The Mallèt design fell out of favor with emerging technology and went by the wayside, but the name stuck as a term of endearment with the old-timers for the cab-forwards, into the 1950s and through to the 21st century, when we still hear “mallet” or see it in print occasionally, often as “mallett.”   Probably incorrectly, but little worth an argument.

WigwamCafe

Advertisements

Let’s go thwimmin’

“Knock, knock…”

“Who’s  there?”

“Panther…” 

“Panther who?”

“Panther no panth, leth go thwimmin!”

FearlessNoTextJune 18, 2018: Here, a moment of six-year-old kid honesty: I started to write a column about swimmin’, and turned to an old column of mine for some research and dates and stuff. The more I read, the more I decided, to hell with all that work; I did it once, why not just run it again with a few tweaks. So, that’s what you’re reading here…! I wrote,

When you’re up to your, er, waist in alligators, it’s sometimes hard to remember that the objective was to drain the swamp. Such was the dilemma a fortnight ago when my focus was on two new downtown bridges we read of last week right here – the Sierra Street and Lake Street bridges. But as I pored over the microfiche in the mossy stone-lined torch-lit chamber reserved for me five floors below the Nevada Historical Society on North Virginia Street, a dozen other tempting topics beckoned, and this week those hen-scratched notes become a column. The towns’ old swimming holes loomed large.

We alluded to the original Idlewild Pool last week, and here I wrote of the concrete-a_poollined pool in the present pool’s location that was dedicated in 1937. The city parks department in the years prior to 1937 maintained the west pond of Idlewild Park created ten years earlier, with rudimentary creature comforts like changing rooms and a snack bar. (The present 50-yard pool, with an adjoining kiddie pool, replaced the 1937 concrete pool in the early 1970s.)

a_reno hotI found a great article about Reno Hot Springs, penned by now-RGJ editor Peggy Santoro a decade ago. “Reno Hot” as we called it was a bit of a challenge for kids on our Schwinns, being a mile or so up the Mt. Rose highway. But, on the days that we could score a ride from one of our parents, it was a favorite, with a big warm pool, a good snack bar and a vista all the way out to Pleasant Valley to the south. On the topic of that pool I’ll mention the minuscule rock housea_herz still standing all by its lonesome across the Mt. Rose highway south of Summit Mall: That’s occasionally cited as a last vestige of Reno Hot Springs. The straight story is that it’s a leftover from the Herz Hot Springs – a resort that went away in the 1930s, a hoot-and-a-holler east of Reno Hot. 

Peggy’s yarn evoked many pleasant memories, from dog-paddling with Marcie Herz as twirps later to the high-dive boards with Rusty Crook, which mercifully went LawtonToweraway in what most agree were the mid-1970s (the boards, not Rusty). Three meters off the water, they were, almost ten feet for us Yankees. Lawton’s pool, several miles to the west on the Truckee, had boards before my lifetime and replaced them with a tower, not only one- and three-meter platforms, but a 10-meter, reminiscent of Butch Cassidy’s famous line, “Can’t swim? Don’t worry; the fall will kill you!” Lawton’s was probably the most pleasant pool in Reno, when combined with its hot tubs to the east; rooms; and excellent dinner for grownups, poolside on warm summer evenings; and the Mighty Southern Pacific’s choo-choo trains plying the tracks next to it – which we kids enjoyed but in reality probably doomed both Lawton’s and its present forlorn cedar River Inn replacement. 

The Mark Twain Motel came along, across South Virginia from Park Lane, with a great pool available to the public with the added amenity of a cover, ergo a year-a_human corkround pool. (Photo credit above: Nevada State Journal, August 5, 1955) The other year-rounder was another favorite, the Moana plunge on Moana Lane east of the ballpark (it’s frustrating to cite a landmark as a location for a bygone building, only to realize that the landmark’s gone also!) Moana plunge or Moana Springs was on the present soccer fields west of Baker Lane, site of the bygone ballpark. There. The Berrum family brought us a lotta laughs for a hundred years out there. If you liked diving off the three-meter boards around town, then you’d have loved the infamous rope at Moana, where one could take the rope to the ceiling and jump while emitting one’s best Saturday-morning Tower Theater Edgar Rice Burroughs “Tarzan” yell and bailing off, hopefully to land in the pool and not in the snack bar, the locker room or on your best friend in the pool. How did we ever reach adulthood, one wonders…? 

a_deerParkThe Railroaders had Deer Park, one of the last public structures completed after the beginning of WWII, and still immaculately maintained by the City of Sparks. I’ll be reminded of others – the YMCAs, downtown until 1953 then on Foster Drive after 1955. Baker’s, mentioned in the Nevada White Hats yarn a month ago. The prohibited and banned swimming holes, like Highland Park reservoir, Virginia Lake, Charlie Mapes’ home on Mt. Rose Street, the ditches (you ain’t lived ’til you take an inner tube down the Orr Ditch under Ralston Street a half-block from my boyhood home!) The city fathers (no mothers then) voted in 1947 to create a pond by the Orr Ditch at Whitaker Park – “No, guys; we’re trying to keep kids out of the ditches…” That idea sunk, no pun intended.

A few leftover hen-scratches: How many knew that in August of 1923 a bath house and “beach” was built on the river at Belle Isle? (Old-timers know that Belle Isle is the island between the two bridges on Arlington Avenue.) Or that in the mid-1920s Reno’s earliest incandescent, outdoor electrical lights were first introduced in Idlewild Park? Or that the city had bought 300 bathing suits to rent to patrons of the new Idlewild Pool? The August 14, 1937 Reno Evening Gazette was silent as to whether bathing suits were optional; we tend to think that they were obligatory. And now comes the pièce de résistance of the whole column, if such there be: Reno mayor John Cooper and Sen. Pat McCarran were dedicating the new 1937 Idlewild Municipal Pool in long-winded and flowery oratory, when a 12-year-old bathing beauty of unchronicled name decided to hell with all that, dove in, and became the first lady to swim in the new pool. The children who followed would pay a nickel to swim, their parents a quarter. Thanks for reading, and God bless America!

© RGJ 2014

 Lets give some attribution for photographs: Old Idlewild pool, RGJ file; Reno Hot Springs sign, Marilyn Newton/RGJ; Herz Hot Springs rock house, Tim Dunn/RGJ; Lawton’s dive tower, Nevada Historical Society; news photo 7-Up stunt, Nevada State Journal; Deer Park, Sparks Heritage Museum

 

 

Of Heaney and Herb

LittleKarlA fortnight ago I surprised Hank Philcox and a few others right here with my revelation that I’d written a Herb Caen column. Which was ‘way before disc, and I can’t now locate in print. But I will. [Caen pictured below right, atop the Fairmont Hotel]

My better inclusion in Caen’s column came in 1966, when a bad guy entered GeorgeHerbCaenFairmont Heaney’s pawn shop downtown and stole 18 uncut gems. The perp was cornered soon after by the fuzz, and taken to a room in the newish Reno police station and held until, well, until the gems reëntered daylight, ‘nuf said there. The crime was duly reported in the Nevada State Journal. And probably the Reno Evening Gazette.

 I – then living in Reno – wrote Caen at the SF Chron, 500 Mission Street, adding a dimension to the yarn. Remember at this juncture in time, one didn’t phone Caen ‘lessen they were named Wilkes Bashford or Willie Brown; there was no such thing as a fax in 1966, and the mere whisper of emailing a document would get one incarcerated for mental observation. Hence the Nevada State Journal clip of the yarn traveled to Mission Street via snail mail, together with my assessment of the caper.

 Nor was there digital access to the Chron following its publication, so the waiting game began. Filching a Chron each day after a few days had passed, to see if Caen had nibbled at the bait, a week went by. Then, pay dirt.

 “Our man in Reno Nevada reports that…” and so on, Caen’s usual making something out of basically nothing, and concluding with my comment.

 At this juncture I’ll clarify that I shared the same given name with my father – Karl – a  practice that should be made illegal in modern, computer times. He gets killed in 1971, Union Federal Savings calls my home loan. My mother, Mrs. Karl, passes years later, and my Visa card goes bye-bye. Can’t be too careful. But Hank Philcox, among others, know that my parents’ credo in life was, “What will people think?” What will people think of Karl Breckenridge, a bastion of Reno business, sending some smartass comment into Herb Caen. He was embarrassed; I was severely chastised. (But I loved it!)

 I asked society undertaker Ted Williams of Walton’s while dining at Brickie’s in preparation for my mother’s funeral service if I could place on my parents’ gravemarker at Mountain View, the simple words, “what will people think  now?” Ted declined. Oh well, no matter.

 Caen’s words and my comment were picked up in the Reno Gazoo back when it still had a local presence and a personality, and eventually received nationwide exposure when it was picked up by the UP, now UPI, wire service. Karl the Elder was definitely in the national bright beam, and boy was he pissed!

 Hank Philcox knew Flo and Karl the Elder, and can appreciate this story.

 Anyway, that was my shining moment in Herb Caen’s column,  not in the stand-alone columns that I and a few others wrote when he was hospitalized, c. 1983.

 Oh by the way, the comment was: “Reno records the world’s first 18-jewel movement.”

 No big deal…

 

 

 

June 8, 2018 • Let’s go to a movie!


VirginiaStreetNorthThis episode of my journalistic endeavor starts kind of biographically, if that’s a word. It started by me walking into walls and trenches and stuff ‘cuz I couldn’t see them, and not being able to see the board in Mrs. Conrad’s third-grade class at Mary S. Doten. She told my parents that I couldn’t see. They sent me to Doctor Magee, the elder, in the bank building across First Street from that new hotel by the river that just opened. He said that I couldn’t see too. Or also, whatever is correct.

LottaJPEGSo I got glasses – big ugly ones, for I was blinder than a bat and needed real “Coke-bottles” and they were. But I couldn’t keep them on my head and they fell off and I lost them and had all sorts of problems. Doug Bishop called me “four-eyes” and I punched him and got sent to Miss Cannan the principal.

About that time two companies, American Optical and Bausch & Lomb were in a joint-venture to make something called “contact lenses” were looking around the nation for kids like me – young, active, and blind as bats. Mr. Hamilton, the optician that made my Coke bottles sent them my name. They got hold of my parents. “We’ll give young Mr. Magoo a set of lenses, at no cost to you,” they said. My folks said OK. No one asked me.

I was taken to Dr. Magee, not Magoo, in the bank building and went through a bunch of gyrations to make contacts for me. About a week later, I went to Hamilton Opticians next to the Crest Theater and the lenses were put into my noggin.

I could see like an eagle, and they didn’t really hurt, even although they covered upContact-lenses-old-new almost the entire white part of the eye [old and modern pictured at the right] I couldn’t get them in or out too well, but I could see. Like I’d never seen before. And nobody called me four-eyes. I was Reno’s first successful contact lens wearer, and would wear them the rest of my life. And at one point, become one of the last people to still wear hard lenses, albeit a lot smaller than the first ones, in existence. I think they made them special for me in later years.

But, the reason for all this jabber tonight is, that I’m functioning, or not functioning, on one lens, the close-up lens (in later years one lens was for driving and distance, the other for reading and writing. I trained my brain to look through the appropriate lens.)

But as I type this I can’t see diddeley, nor will I ‘til I get a replacement next week. Therefore, (I started to type ergo but I’m only a little guy and don’t know that word yet) this column will be pretty short and have few pictures. Sorry ‘bout that.

Having used half a column with my personal BS we’ll now all go to a movie. It’s Saturday morning in Reno, Nevada; Big John and Sparky were on No School Today on KOH radio earlier, and we’re off on the bike to the Tower Theater!

The Tower is an old theater on the northeast corner of Ryland and South Virginia Street, at the near right in the photo above. It  shares a building with a bowling alley, and it’s not too hard to hear through the walls – a dashing young Reno columnist once wrote of the moon overhead, the trailing wake of the ocean liner, the tradewinds echoing soft violins as he looked deep into her yearning eyes in the Tower Theater, just as the toasted keglers on the other side of the wall in the Reno Bowl picked up a turkey third strike in the last frame and all hell cut loose. So much for romance. But this was 10 ayem, it was Saturday morning, and every kid in town, almost all under 15, was at the movie.

We all – 500 of us from all five Reno elementary schools, plus Billinghurst, Northside and a few from Reno High – remembered what happened last week. Our admission was the tear-tab from the center of the paper cap in a glass bottle of Old Home Milk, plus 14 cents. I’ll get argument about that, but I checked it out. A cap and 14¢, no lie. The theater had no loge, just a big, sloped floor, with pretty comfortable seats that would stay around Reno in various venues for 75 years, but that’s another story. Most remember that the end-seat in every other row was one-and-a-half seats wide, or wide enough for cuddling with an older gal with a medium-sized fanny. They were in great demand (the wide theater seats, not the narrow fannies.)

(Boy, Mom’s really going to be mad about that line…oh well…stet)

Our Saturday morning movie always started with two or three funnies – ones that wouldn’t be shown to children in another 60 years – coyotes getting blown up with Acme dynamite, rabbits run over by cars, pigs, (named Porky, at that!) being slapped around by their dates, cats beating up mice, an old guy in an Elmer Fudd hat with a shotgun, blind guys like me getting the raspberry from Waldo – bullying, abuse, violence – we were marred for life. We just didn’t know it yet!

Then we’d get the newsreel, and surprisingly it was pretty-well done – not too much detail, easy to follow, palatable even for a ten-year old – what was the latest on that asshat senator McCarthy and Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss? And the Rosenberg spy trial? Perry Como was singing Don’t let the stars get in your eyes, Patti Page – How much is that doggie in the window? and Dean Martin That’s Amore! Mickey Mantle and Pee Wee Reese lead the leagues in batting (check me on that; it’s been a while!) Thus we got our news…

Now, a serial. They don’t film them anymore. As we left last week, she was tied to the railroad tracks, the pianist was playing some ominous chords, the locomotive, maybe an old V&T loco once from Virginia City, was bearing down on her full bore with the bad guy holding a six-shooter to the hapless engineer’s skull (ahh, those guns and bullying again) while the good guy is throwing a switch to take the loco out of harm’s way and save the damsel. Would he throw the switch in time? We’ll know in a moment…

And, finally, the main course – a full-length movie, usually a pretty good flick, fairly new, sized for kids – no deep stuff nor heavy breathing. Nor naughty words. Almost. A fun time.

We left – our thespian needs satiated for another seven days – always with the carrot to bring us back next Saturday like a locomotive, having avoided the maiden tied to the tracks, but now left in mid-event while making wide-open-throttle toward the bridge that’s out over the 400-foot ravine to the raging river, the 3,000 nuns and orphans on the train unaware of their possibly pending fate.

Daylight was bright in midday on Ryland Street, but our bike, left unlocked blocking the street, was still there.

And we all had something to talk about for the week ahead…! Save a milk carton lid, Mom; I’ll need it next Saturday…

 

SOME GOOD COMMENTS FROM OLD FRIENDS IN THE ‘HOOD FOLLOW BELOW: