A ’56 Chevy with a load a’ love under the hood…

JeepersAt rest in my lonely writer’s garret on a halcyon midsummer day, the Giants at home in their SF yard and coming on the tube soon; a quart of iced tea on my side table, my weekly “Geriatric Nocturnal Abstinence” advice column filed. What could go wrong with that?

My phone rings. I foolishly answer it. That’s what could go wrong with that.

Larry57On the west end of the line is my ol’ childhood buddy Jerry Lenzora, a favorite classmate of mine from Reno High’s vaunted Class of 1959 and one of the funniest guys in our class. He’s a retired outdoor advertising guru, residing for these many years in Ripon, California, a hoot-and-a-holler out of Manteca; a small farming town of ten or twelve thousand souls with a Western Auto store and a bookmobile that comes in from the Stanislaus County Library twice a week.

Jerry is all a-twitter. “I’ve a Hot August Nights human interest story for you that will knock your socks off.” 

THAT’S what could go wrong. I tried telling Lenzora that I no longer write. I’m old, feeble, and my mind can no longer form sentences. I told him the local paper where I moiled once a week for 29 years no longer publishes me, and their readership has gone through the roof since I quit and they’re doing just fine. I strengthened the story by telling him that I’m under an order from the Ninth Circuit Court and thus can’t write anything to be published west of Denver, Colorado. But he kept jabbering. I told him that I had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in both wrists, ankles and one knee. I told him that I’ve written about Hot August Nights until I was blue in the face, that it’s all been written.Chevinterior

I told him the dog stole my laptop (I liked that one). I told him, no, no. No more writing. Call Mike Sion. Call Guy Clifton. Call Erin Breen. But he kept talking. My protests were falling on deaf ears.

THAT’S what could go wrong.

So I listened to his fanciful tale, replete with classic cars and the guys who fix them, pretty girls, a local couple who own a day-care and a garden shop, a newlywed couple, a weirdo V-8 engine that GM once built, of one of the most dreaded diseases in the land, and other stuff pertaining, sort of, to the proposed writing assignment. Beaten down, I acceded to give it a go.

Getting into my Hot August Nights writing mode, as all readers should do prior to reading about it, let’s do the checklist: The family car air conditioning set to “440,” four windows down doing 40 MPH, check. At least two round trips on Virginia Street from Liberty Street northward turning left into Sewell’s parking lot and return to get into the mood, check. Chicks in hip-huggers, guys in 501s, what the hell were “poodle skirts” anyway and who ever had fuzzy dice hanging from their rear view mirrors? Check. Bud Buley, the Reno motorcycle cop we loved to hate, on his Harley Wolfmanin the vicinity. Check. And our tube-set car radios tuned to XEAK, the Mighty 690 AM with the Wolfman [left] spinning stax of wax and Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys. Check. We’re ready, let’s cruise. Or in my case, let’s write something. The Giants can wait, the iced tea will turn to Kirkland Margarita writing fluid in due course, and the sooner I get Lenzora tamed down the sooner peace will return to the Lonely Writer’s Garret.

We’ll start at the beginning, if such it is, by dropping the name of Sparks native HollisLinda (née Franchi) and her husband Pawl Hollis [seen at right]; Linda the owner of Magic Tree Day Care and Pawl the owner of Rail City Nursery, and yes, the host of the radio show on KOH on Saturday mornings (the 1950s’ Big John & Sparky on KOH it’s not, but it’s PatJeneCanyonpleasant anyway…)

We’re admittedly having a bit of fun with this story, but here the text inevitably reins in: In 2000 Linda’s sister Anita (Follett) succumbed to ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In an effort to perpetuate her sister’s memory Linda endowed the annual use of her cousin Jerry Lenzora’s HAN rod as an auction prize. Newlyweds Patrick and Jené Hickey [seen at left visiting the Grand Canyon] bid on it at an ALS Society dinner earlier this year, and won the ride.

But wait, a discouraging word (cue an ominous diminished chord riff on our piano): Jerry Lenzora turns the starter on the ride which has been nominated as the prime mover for the Hickeys’ 2018 Hot August Nights honeymoon cruising, and black smoke blows six ways from sundown. In a controlled panic, Jerry hauls what’s left of the little red Bel Air into Sam’s shop. Sam has a last name but it’s not finding its way into this text, because Sam is one of the diminishing fraternity of gearheads who make Hot August Nights possible, in fact without the Sams there may not be a Hot August Nights in coming years. I talked to Sam – he’s a fun guy. The Sams know the old hemis, the small-block Chevies, the Ford mills, what cools them, how their Hurst shifters and Holley and Carter carbs work and what keeps the vintage iron rolling. But, mostly-retired they sometimes don’t get quite fully signed up with the powers-that-be and they work a lot for cash, so Sam is henceforth known as Sam.

Sam checks out what’s left of Jerry’s Chevy and renders the opinion that the Chev’s ChevV8a350 cubic-inch engine is, in a word, toast. Jerry, crushed, relates to Sam that the little coupe was destined to be a ride for a couple of newlyweds next month, an honor they had won as the successful bidders in an ALS Society auction, and what will I tell them?

Sam, no stranger to what makes car-guys think, says don’t tell them anything. We’ll make it roll. Jerry foresees a “new” rebuilt 350 going in, costing upwards of four or five large, and a nail-biter to be done in time for the HAN cruise. But Sam is ‘way ahead of him. He finds a 305-cube V-8 Chevy block, yes, 305; an off-breed that GM built mostly for vans and smaller GM cars like Pontiac’s and Oldsmobile’s compacts. “Let’s get these kids cruisin’,” said Sam with a merry twinkle in his eye.

He called our friend Jerry a week later, pointed to the Chevy in the garage bay, and said “Check it out.” The 305 looked like it had been under the hood forever with all the chromed bells and whistles. “Crank it,” said Sam. Jerry turned it over and it barked to life like a 427 – a deep, throaty rumble, which after all is why we like big bores and hemis – the mellow exhaust sound. “Here’s your bill,” Sam said.

Jerry looked at it and a moment later picked himself off the garage’s concrete floor. It was well-under a grand. Jerry, steeled for a five-grand hit, was out the door for a sixth of that.

“Tell those kids to have some fun!” said Sam as Jerry drove off in the Chevy, a  glisten in his eye and Sam thus joining the honor roll of Good Guys for this 2018 ALS ride. In one sense, without his beneficence and celerity, the Hickeys’ newlywed cruise might not be happening in early August.

hollis2And, much the same can be said of Pawl and Linda Hollis who sponsor the cruise for a great cause, for a hideous malady that claimed my cousin’s life and the dad of one of my best friends. Certainly we note Patrick and Jené Hickey’s contribution, and that of my ol’ pal Jerry Lenzora, who went above and beyond to keep the little coupe rolling along this year.

 

So – during Hot August Nights, if you see a handsome young Lenzoranewcouple in a red-and-PatJeneLibrarywhite 1956 Bel Air being squired around with an old guy at the wheel, that’s how their cruise came to be – give ‘em all a high-five!

 

 

 

Photos of the Bel Air © Shannon Kuhn and Jamie Eisinga from Birch & Blossom photography. Photo of Jerry Lenzora, who knows…?

 

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A backstory of the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympic games

BodegaI swear, for every WordPress post that I make, like yesterday’s, the Facebook responses and the “Comments” sections of the posts are outnumbered four-to-one by emails to me, which the reader doesn’t see and which defeats the fun of the post! I’m therefore writing another post about the Blyth Arena post of a few days ago, (and, as one reader wrote, is “Blyth” spelled correctly without an “e” at the end?) Yes.Blyth Arena2

 

“Didn’t the arena collapse after a snowstorm weighed down the roof?” Yes, in 1983 a major snowstorm struck and the snowload collapsed the arena. The backstory is that the Squaw Valley developers had wanted to raze the arena. Permission was repeatedly denied, I think by the State of California, who owned the Olympic assets in the valley. The arena had survived larger snow loads, plenty of them, but this one took it down and it was never rebuilt. End of story. Maybe.

“Did the sun really come out just before the opening ceremony?” Yes. The weather was foul, snowy, a blizzard. The doves that Walt Disney brought to be released stayed in their pens in the trailer. The band, an amalgamation of every high school in the area conducted by a music director from USC, couldn’t keep their instruments in tune against the cold air. But the spot came for the torch to be brought down the hill –  Little Papoose Peak, behind the jump hill. “Might as well…” the director said and the clouds parted, the sun broke through and Andrea Mead Lawrence carried the torch down the hill in full sunlight, no wind, and handed it off to Kenneth Henry of the UK, a speedskater who took it once around the oval  ice arena and lit the torch.

And the skies once again became cloudy…but the Olympics were underway, Richard Nixon did the prayer and Karl Malden recited the opening words.

Yes, the heavens parted…and we made some ‘firsts’ –  the first time a computer was used to tabulate scores – the first time a woman (skater Carol Heiss) took the Olympic oath for all athletes – it was the first year metal skis were permitted and Jean Vaurnet won Gold on them in Downhill, (yeah. then he went on to make sunglasses!) – we had the biggest Olympic jump hill (80 meters) – it was the first live broadcast of (segments of) a sporting event – dammit, I did a dynamite column about the Eighth Winter Games and now I can’t find it.

Another hot button for readers this weekend: Did a Russian die in the championship USA/USSR ice hockey game at Blyth Arena?

Many readers were there – in the first place, it wasn’t the championship Gold match, it was a semifinal. If they guy didn’t die, he’s still counting birdies from his shot into the wall by our goalie. The Cold War was in full swing, the US didn’t like Russia anyway and the feelings were mutual and it showed on the ice (I was working sound for NBC so had a pretty good vantage point). Their goalie had pulled some chickenshit stunts and thus paid the price. We won. And we won the Gold the next day over Czechoslovakia. It was an upset, I think that we won by a bunch of goals in the final minutes. We weren’t supposed to, but we had heart. I didn’t work that game, but heard it on our radio web.

The coolest part of the whole 1960 Olympics for many of us grunt workers was subtle: The Olympic officials, out of respect to the Czechs, cleared the scoreboard of our 9-4 win at Blyth Arena for the closing ceremony. But as soon as the flame dwindled and died and Richard Nixon called upon the Children of the World to gather four years hence in Innsbruck, Austria for the Ninth Winter Games, the stadium lights were dimmed. But all of us grunts’ eyes were on the arena scoreboard, which was then re-lit without fanfare to display “USSR – 2 USA – 3,” the score of the best match ever waged in Blyth. And we knew that a suggestion from the vanquished Russian coach helped us beat the Czechs.

And thousand of people saw the Limeliters, the Kingston Trio, Peter Paul & Mary and so many others in that venue but failed to see the Cold War symbol over their heads. which remained until Blyth Arena collapsed under mysterious circumstances on March 29, 1983.

 

Let’s get a bit of Midtown parking dialogue going! Write your take on this in the “comments” below….

FearlessNoText

AN EMAIL ARRIVED LAST NIGHT INTO MY LONELY WRITER’S GARRET

 

Good Evening, Karl,

I was thinking about an old Virginia Street casino which I recall visiting with my father, the Horseshoe.  What I don’t remember and which is a curiosity to me now, is where did the customers park while visiting that place, and other similar clubs, on Virginia Street?   The same question would present itself now, I suppose, if one were to attempt to do something with those old properties along Virginia Street. 
Thanks for any comments,
[a friend]
I responded today:HaroldsPigeonhole

Hi [friend] – I peeked at my email last night about 11:30 pm and then laid awake all night thinking: Where DID we park downtown…?
Sewell’s Supermarket opened in 1949 with a big parking lot, the east half of the block between Fourth and Fifth, Sierra and Virginia – (well, almost half; the south quarter was committed to Standard Stations and a hardware store.) But it was almost unregulated parking and we used it in synch with Sewell’s customers for three decades – I heard that the clubs kicked in a buck or two to keep their lights on at night.

In addition to the clubs, there were four movie houses, all doing a pretty good business each night – the Crest, the Granada, the Tower and the Majestic. And the State Building, later the Pioneer. All generated a need for parking.

In my wakeful night, I enumerated in my mind all the parking spaces that we locals knew of, pretty much by twosies and foursies, some by a church, others behind a retail building down an alley or something like that. And there were quite a few of those.

As far as parking spaces dedicated to a specific club, pretty darn few. At some point the demographics of the downtown visitors enters the picture. Almost all downtown motels had sufficient lots for their clientele’s cars, and we developed a “sixth sense” of where we could park on their lots, by mid-week, by weather, by time of the year. Thus quite a few became available to the locals that knew the system. Some of the bigger motels, the Continental on South Virginia and the Pony Express on the Reno/Sparks line for two, had small shuttles that ran most of the reasonable hours all year. They moved a lot of people. 

The casinos started opening showrooms, and recognized a need for some sort of organized parking. Harrah’s finally built a garage, Harolds built the ill-fated pigeonhole garage but it lasted for many years. The Holiday Hotel opened in 1957 and wisely committed a huge amount of land to parking south of Mill Street, and didn’r really get too excited about policing it, and we parked there often. A serendipity moment for the Mapes Hotel was the 1953 explosion of the YMCA adjacent to it to the east, and this site was paved, never to be rebuilt upon, to the benefit of Charlie Mapes on the west and the Majestic Theater to the east. FNB opened its parking garage in 1964 and left it unrestricted in the evenings, and even the City of Reno relaxed its parking hours and enforcement – this is in a day when an entire block, both sides, was parking spaces, maybe one loading zone each side of a street, all the rest parking. The Post Office’s lot was there also, restricted but few cared!

This forms kind of a half-assed answer; the best characteristic I can venture is that if a merchant, be it a bank with multiple-stories of parking like FNB and Security on First Street, or a shoe store like Nevada Shoe Factory on Sierra with its two spaces or Montgomery Wards with about eight places on the alley, didn’t need their parking on an evening or a weekend, they left it unsupervised and available, and were never disappointed. Thus there were probably 300 places to park, plus the garages, if you knew where to look, and we did.

A final observation is that we were maybe healthier and less fearful of walking in downtown Reno, a longer distance, and might park as far south as California Avenue or as far north as the University, or west to the Gold ‘n Silver, to go downtown. Not in today’s Reno, thanks!

I hope this offers a beginning of a logical answer, but I’m not sure it will. I’m amused by the inability of the Midtown kids to figure out their parking problem. We used to go to the Sawdust Festival and Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, a tiny beach town where upwards of 100,000 people a month still visit in the summer months, brought to town by a well-organized effort using county school buses to and from pickup points. Their drivers might be costumed, a banjo band might be riding the bus with you, and you might find a cold beer or glass of Merlot under a sunshade it the parking lot when you returned. Sparks has figured that out for its special events; Reno, not so much.

I’ll probably dwell and stew on this some more, and  may bore you further in the future….

Thanks for writing…….Karl

Harolds Club pigeonhole parking garage photo scanned from early Harolds Club calendar

An old friend visits Virginia Lake

Thumbs up  A popular lass in my childhood, who was graduated from Reno High a year after I (1960 for her) and whose name was Rosemary Haenel, now Rosemary Haenel Voyles, sent along a summer greeting that’s kind of cool and I asked her if I could put it on the web. Here it is, with a little narrative in her own voice!VoylesVLake

A Four-Year-Old Named Rosemarie at Virginia Lake in 1946 with Mother in the Dark Jacket and Mrs. August Brinkby in the Light Coat

“Hi Karl!  I dragged my photo out and thought you might like it. This view shows no buildings toward the future Peppermill, looking southeast.  My family spent a lot of time feeding the ducks healthy bread in those days at Virginia Lake. The Brinkbys lived two doors down the street on Hill Street toward Liberty St.  Frieda was from somewhere in Germany and August from Denmark.

Happy Summer!

Rosie
Thanks, Rosie; a great shot…to orient the observer, the overflow glory hole to the Cochran Ditch is evident in the right margin of the photo, right where it is today! Thought of this after I posted the picture: Rosie and the lake were both four years old when the shot was taken………