Old Reno laundries!

Thumbs upHark, hark; arriving in the Lonely Writer’s Garret from the faraway Pacific Northwest, too good not to post (Italics are mine)

Dear Mr. Breckenridge,

I just happened upon your Ol’ Reno Guy site the other evening while reminiscing about how much Reno had changed since I lived there in the 1970’s and visited for the Reno Rodeo last year.  A few “things” never changed but most of the real old Reno seems to be gone or going fast. 

My reason for writing you was about someone looking for a photo of theReno Steam
laundry on Wells Avenue.  While I don’t have a photo to share, I do have some information about the laundry business there in the 1960-1970 timeframe. In 1972 I moved to Reno from San Francisco to work for an old boss who had purchased the United Laundry on Linden Street just off South Virginia and behind Park Lane Mall (and CBS Plywood!). The United  plant was purchased from John Jaureguito (spelling?) (spelling is correct) of JJ Electric and the Herrera family who had a motel just south of town and across from the old “Hangman’s Tree Saloon.” The name was eventually changed to Brennan Lines and was sold to Mission Linen sometime in the 1990’s I believe.  Anyway, the Wells Avenue laundry was the “Deluxe Laundry & Cleaners” run by a woman who all I can recall was “Rosie” and the plant was referred to as “Rosie’s Deluxe.”  In addition there was the old “Reno Laundry & Cleaners” on Lake Street at Plaza.  I have attached the only photo I can find of that plant right now but I do have others someplace!  Brennan’s later assumed all the business of the old Reno plant in about 1972-73 which included accounts in Truckee and around Lake Tahoe that Reno Laundry had assumed from the former “Fontana Truckee Laundry & Ajax Linen” located on River Street in Truckee (the building is still there). The Reno Laundry building was torn down and replaced with a parking lot I think by Harrah’s. The other laundry that closed up around the early 1970’s was Barbash’s “Sunshine Laundry” on Mill Street.  That plant did most of the old Mapes Hotel linen and uniform work. Later in the mid-to-late 1970’s Pete Cladianos built a small laundry across East Fourth Street from his El Rancho Motel practically under the Wells Avenue overpass; this plant did work for both of the El Rancho Motels (north & south) and for the Sands Motel on West Fourth Street.

Well, I really enjoyed your site and will have to follow it in the future. Keep up the good work and know that it is providing “mental stimulation” for us old Renoites who have moved on.

R. Bud Holland
Tacoma, Washington

I read and re-read Bud’s excellent information, and finally wrote him: “This stuff is great, and I’m grateful! But – it’s too good and you’ve put too much work into it to keep it to myself – may I post it for all to enjoy?” He responded:

Hi again, Karl,

First, thanks for your fast reply. Sure you can use the material in your column any way you want. I went back and re-read my letter and I sure made a ton of mistakes in spelling and syntax; (actually, I made very few edits!) but at least you got the point.

Working in a laundry in Reno was always a real “experience” and a three-day weekend was pure mayhem with 20+ hour days to do a quick turnaround for the myriad motels then providing the only rooms in town – (Bud Horsley’s “Ace Motel” on Sierra Street, Bud and Cebe Loomis’ “River House,” the aforementioned Cladianos properties, etc.,etc.)… all before the “room boom” of the mid-1970s.

Most of the motels ran on what we called a “3-Par ” linen system (one on the bed; one at the laundry and one on the shelf for AM housekeeping changes) so speed and timing were critical in keeping customer satisfaction. A few of the sketchier joints out along East Fourth Street tried to get by with a “2-Par” with top down to bottom and bottom to the laundry! This could be countered by the “suggestion” of reporting to the county health department, so the customer would change laundries until the next laundry got wise to what was going on.

Truckee LaundryI started through some of my old packed stuff and found the attached uniform patch from the “Fontana” Truckee plant but still looking for the whole building photo of the old Reno Steam Laundry building (a huge brick structure from I’m guessing the 1890’s or early 1900’s). (We’ll give Bud a hand at the NHS) In addition I have acquired several old photos of that time period that maybe you or your readers can help me find the exact location in Downtown Reno.

Thanks again and look forward to perusing your site more thoroughly.  Oh, as a side note the column on “The Continental Lodge” got me onto the site, as that was where we closed the deal on the United plant, with a small loan from the Security Bank across South Virginia Street by the Holiday Market.

Bud Holland

And we’ll bet that Art Johnson was at Security to help him with the loan! This is a work-in-progress and you can bet that in days to come we’ll help Bud with some of those pictures and some supplemental information about old laundries! Thanks again, Bud – reader comments are definitely open and welcome – Karl


The six-year-old kid tours HRPS’ Harvest of Homes…

HRPShomes copyWell, we’re back to business around the house and the youthful miscreants from the Sunnyside/Whitaker/Vine/Peavine/Keystone ‘hoods are hard at it at Mary S. Doten and Central Jr. High schools. The Novelly brothers, Orville, Raymond and Orfeo, are building houses right and left up West Seventh Street, and Wesley Weichmann and George Probasco are on fire also, building east of Peavine Row. In a few years I’ll have to call Peavine Row “Keystone” when they bring that old street north of the SP tracks through the old Reno Press Brick quarry. Reno is booming!

LittleKarlMom and some of her friends are all worked up about a home show that’s going on next weekend. Six owners of nice houses have agreed to open their homes up and let people buy tickets to see them. The addresses of the homes are on the picture they sent out which I’ll try to attach above this mimeographed sheet you’re reading. (I’m writing this in 1949 but have to admit that you’re liable to think I have vision into the future, because I’m throwing all chronology out or I’ll never get this done!)

A bunch of people called the Historic Reno Preservation Society do this every year, and con a half-dozen Reno homeowners to contribute their homes, as I wrote. I type “contribute” because the proceeds of HRPS’s Harvest of Homes tour goes to some eleemosynary purpose like funding grants to beautify our burg. Most of the homes on display have some history or providence [which my ol’ buddy Mike Robinson wrote to say that I probably meant to write “provenance,” and he’s right] attached to them; above there’s a house on a street called Mayberry which once was called “Shewmaker” and long before that was the “Verdi Road.” I’ve learned in my nine years on earth that many streets in Reno got their names from where they went – “Valley Road” went to Surprise Valley north of town, “California Avenue” went to California, the “Purdy Highway” – early Virginia Street –  went to Purdy north by Susanville and so on. The Verdi Road went to Verdi.

The house on Mayberry is evocative (pretty big word for a nine-year-old, huh?!) of the tour. It had some shady dealings and owners for many years until a few years ago. Tim Elam and his wife Joan own it now. It opened as a resort just after the turn of the last century and was hell and gone (Dad says that but I’m not supposed to!) west of Reno and was a training camp for the “Fight of the Century” Johnson-Jeffries boxing match even although the century was only 10 years old. After that some bad guys named Graham and McKay ran it as a gambling spot and night-club called The Willows in the Thirties. The CIA could learn from them both, of keeping pictures out of the history of a place – I’ve looked for years for pictures of The Willows, but nada. The Elams have done a lot of work on it and bought a couple cabins from an old downtown Reno motor court and installed them in the back yard.

It’s quite a house – “Enchanted Gardens,” it’s known as, and really worth seeing. I got Mom’s mailer about the tour and am off to see some of these places on my bike before all those grownups get there on Saturday.

The members of HRPS, Historic Reno, oh, you know, do quite a job with the history of each house on the tour – the years they were built, the builder,, the architect, the owners of the homes and a little vignette about the owner or the house, like the two on Wonder Street and their link to Tony Pecetti. He owns the El Patio Ballroom down by the fire station where all the grownups who live in Reno, not the tourists who drive here, go to dance on weekend nights. It adds a lot of color to each house to know a little bit about it. I’m too little to go to the El Patio but any place whose motto is “Swing and Sweat with Tony Pa-chett” has to be a joint I’ll go to when I grow up.

The Pecetti pair of homes are on Wonder Street near my friends’ house on the top of the hill which, looking in my crystal ball, would become Baileywick’s burger joint in the years to come, and even deeper in the ball I see the Silver Peak Brewery in that old house. I pedal over that way but get held up by a V&T train on the tracks on Holcomb Street. That train will only run for one more year…

Not too far away is another house open next weekend, at 619 Sinclair Street. That’s a neat Reno neighborhood now in 1949 as I write this. I wrote you one time about the four Reno elementary schools – the 1911 “Four Sisters” or as Walter Van Tilburg Clark wrote in that new book of his,  the “Spanish Quartette,” but there is one elementary school in Reno ten years older than those four, “Southside School,” on Liberty and Center Streets. This Southside neighborhood is the nicest in Reno now, and the open house on Sinclair was built a year or so before Southside School. Dad and Mom know Dr. Hilts, the veterinarian who lives there now. It’s a nice house, more of a mini-apartment as this tour kicks off.

Two of the homes on the tour this weekend are in southwest Reno – the one at 1118 Nixon Avenue arguably the most attractive, at least to this nine-year-old following a bike ride across town. It’s got some beautiful trees and is in a neighborhood that’s developing nicely. The HRPS group’s handout is a beauty to read, even for a nine-year-old, and is typical of the monumental amount of research put into the tours, with the original owners’ names, architects, contractors, and quirky stuff like the fact that this home was once, briefly, a high-end school teaching dancing, French and singing, a virtual boarding school. Also in the handout is the account of burglars raiding a refrigerator in a garage, and another telling of a blonde Norwegian “Viking of the Air” who apparently turned down more than most men got in 1932.

Truly, a Reno classic house. And unbeknownst to anyone in 1932, a house that will be a half-block from mine 80-some years later.

A strong element of the tours is the knowledge and the training of the HRPS volunteers, who walk visitors through each accessible area of the homes (some areas of some homes may not be open, owing to privacy concerns or inaccessibility in conformance with ADA and safety standards). Those docent volunteers participate in many hours of preparation and are afforded the benefit and knowledge assembled following an incredible amount of research by a lady who I don’t believe was born as I write this in 1949. Her name is Debbie Hinman. And those 130-or-so volunteers are organized by a three-year-old named Linda Patrucco Doerr, a task the equivalent of herding cats. Carol Coleman is the boss of the whole shebang. There are a lot of yet-unborn or youthful people and parts to this puzzle in 1949. I, at age nine, will be stationed on the patio of the final house to be included in this tour, at 1300 Humboldt Street.

It’s a vintage Hancock & Hancock home, (we all know of the second Hancock, Melville D. who built some of the finest homes in southwest Reno in the latter half of the 20th century.) This home was designed and built by the earlier Hancock, Mel’s dad Homer, in 1940. The program calls him “Charles,” his first name, for which the writer of the program would be shot. He liked “Homer,” with his two brothers Heber and Hiram.

And that’s the kind of little-known stuff you’ll pick up next Saturday. Did I mention that local antique cars – the age of each home – will be parked in the homes’ driveways? I meant to…

Mom will be roaming around somewhere; come see me at 1300 Humboldt. My blue Schwinn will be on the sidewalk.

Tickets for this all-day show are available at Sundance Books & Music, Moana Nursery, Marcy’s Gallery and Gifts, Labels Consignment Bowteek, St. Ives Florist and Rail City Garden Center.

Ranting here is occasionally permitted: Clean up the memories, let others enjoy…!

RenoCooksFrom time to time or when the spirit moves me, whichever comes first, you will read here not an account of bygone days or friends, nor of old schools or streets or the cars that motored down them, or that insipid little six-year-old squirt on his Schwinn pedalling all over town scribing how it used to be, but the opinion of the scribe who posts this column, the scrivener who labors long nights in the lonely writer’s garret while others are out cavorting about the village. This is one of those posts…

Permit me to bring an old friend into the text, whose name is Tora Bengochea  [pictured below]. Tora emailed me a couple of months ago, with an offer of some stuff I’ll elaborate on shortly. Having her permission I’ll post an early email from her, to get all the readers into the mood:

ToraI greatly enjoyed your article about the Liberty Belle.  We ate there frequently and our daughter was fascinated by the “Ladies of the Night” pictures in the women’s restroom; hence, we would have to visit the bathroom two to three times before, during and after dinner when she was little.  She’d stand in front of them and stare in awe at them.  Cracked me up!  I’ll send the wine bottle salt & pepper shakers with a happy heart to you.  
“The Nevada Bengochea family originated from four brothers who immigrated to the Winnemucca area in the early 1900’s.  So, whomever you knew is more than likely related.  Tim and I were at the University of Nevada from 1965 to 1968, He was activated in the National Guard to “rescue the Pueblo” from the North Koreans and I continued attending.  I taught at Traner Middle School; when he returned he became a cashier and later comptroller at the Primadonna Casino.  Seems so long ago/yesterday…”

OK, here’s the gist of what Tora’s original email contained. She, like many of us, is cleaning her house of “stuff” – stuff it’s taken a lifetime to accumulate, stuff we can remember the night we purloined it out of a restaurant or won in a raffle or foundLancers in a hockshop in Seaside, Oregon and couldn’t do without. She wrote, I have a set of Lancer salt and pepper shakers, a 1968 Verdi commemorative cookbook, and the grail sought by many young housewives several – awright – five decades ago: “Reno Also Cooks” – Washoe Medical Center Womens League’s highly Verdicollectible cookbook – highly desired not necessarily for the recipes but by the daughters of the then-young women who entered their recipes in the book (and a few men, also). One of the most popular columns I once ran was a selection of those recipes, right here, I’ll put a link to it at the end of today’s Labor Day rant. And another link to my “Tombola Days” site. If I can find them.

Tora asked, “Can you find a good home for these things? They’re my treasures, and don’t belong in a garage sale or Goodwill store…?” Uhh, yeah, Tora, I think I can do that…

So she sent them to me from her home in Oregon.

I have found homes for the treasures. A lady friend of mine who grew up in Verdi has the Verdi cookbook, and a waiting list of friends who want to see it. The Lancer shakers are with a youngish friend of mine, the son of my contemporary at the Sigma Nu frat house, who now entertains often in his home (with his bride, I should add!) and dozens of his friends will see them in the coming year, and conversations will ensue. And the Washoe Med cookbook? A tough call, but it went to a lady who has an abundance of daughters and whose mother entered a recipe in the book 40 years ago, so the little book is assured of being around and enjoyed ’til perpetuity.

OK, now let the rant begin: We all have “stuff” that we’ve accumulated. In yakking this column-topic up with some friends, all agree that most of our children wouldn’t give house room to most of the “treasures” we cherish. In my own writer’s garret I look up from the paper in my Underwood standard at a cast-pewter bear from my grandmother’s house in Petaluma, Calif., that came ’round the Horn in the 19th Century from Ireland; I see a dozen cameras of all age and stripe and description – movie, still, box, better 35mm. film cameras that no one wants now; a mahogany model of a PBM Navy airplane that no one remembers; a Deitz lantern I brought home from New England on a family motor trip in 1952, and a brass spittoon embossed with an Indian chief tobacco brand that I stole from a bar downtown when I was in college, when I could still write “Indian” and spittoons hadn’t become “cuspidors” in polite society yet.

These will all go in the dumpster upon my demise, but somewhere there’s a person who wants a pewter bear from the Berne, Switzerland zoo, there’s one of the hundred men who flew a PBM in WWII, packed a Bell & Howell camera before digital cams existed or a bachelor like me who’s a bachelor because he reveres his spittoon and lantern. Somewhere, but where…? ) I gave one of my Underwood standards to Lt. Emerson Marcus, a remarkable young guy who’s the PIO for the Nevada National Guard and in my opinion if not selected as a future governor of Nevada or an Air Force four-star, someone’s missing the boat. Plus, his mommy’s cute…

So, I write today: Look around your house. Focus on one of your favorite gadgets. Cherish the memory. Then, try to picture it lying alongside a pewter bear or a spittoon in a 14-yard dumpster, because that’s where it will wind up if you and I meet our Maker around the same time frame. As I said, our kids don’t want it. Mine have my whole garret – a whole lifetime – to  deal with, and don’t want my treasures. But – somewhere, someone is itching to get that trinket of yours, and that PBM airplane of mine. Let’s make it easy for all. Look back upon the happy times that gadget has brought you, then say, “How can I be assured that it will find a home as good as the one I gave it?” Give it some thought. The Nevada Historical Society can’t find what they have now. I was offered eight old phone book cover artwork paintings, framed, that came from a friend’s dad’s office. The NHS turned them down. I found them a good, public home, where they’ll be seen and enjoyed by many, for years to come with the artists’ names affixed to them. The City of Reno, while we have a whale in our Believe Park, a Lear Theater falling down around itself, unmanned and empty fire stations and pretty murals gracing vacant buildings, does not have a museum. All wide spots in the Nevada roads have a museum. Sparks has a great museum. But don’t plan on your stuff going to the Reno Museum, ‘cuz we can’t get one together. Hell, this lonely writer’s garret is the beginning of a museum, only one of many inadvertent ones in Reno. But I’m divesting, not collecting. Anybody want a PBM bomber or a Dietz lantern?

A hat-tip here to Tora Bengochea. She did what we all should be doing. I know it tore Tim and her up to wrap up those cookbooks, and the Lancer tableware. But, many are already enjoying them, as they once did.

Who’s next?

Here’s some pages from the Washoe Med cookbook

Tombola Day’s! Washoe Med’s annual picnic