Dec. 10 – still hoppin’ down the Santa trail…

SlimIt’s cold on Ralston Street up by the park this morning, but no snow in sight (kind of like to see the street with enough snow to bring the town’s kids and sleds and toboggans, but not today…)

I need to make a confession to those watching me write this on binder paper with a Ticonderoga #2 pencil, that I possess an ability to look into the future, assemble tea leaves, and own a Ouija board and a crystal ball. If I didn’t have this secret power, I could never be just a six-year-old kid who just moved to town from Richmond after the war, and tear apart the veil that covers the future to see and view the supernal beauty that lies beyond. (I wish I’d have said that first; actually I stole it from a guy who wrote it a hundred years ago!) But if I couldn’t see into the future for a few years, there wouldn’t be a Christmas story today.

I’ve a whole lot of notes still in my jeans. One’s about the rabbi of the Synagogue across West Street from old Reno High School. He was a pretty cool guy, and for FordPoliceCarmany years he would, on Christmas Day, show up at the new police station on Second Street and tell Reno’s police chief to go home and enjoy his family on Christmas Day. Then he’d wear a chief’s shirt and hat and badge and stuff around the police station and bring candy canes and doughnuts to the other cops who were working their holiday. And he’d get in one of Reno’s old Ford police cars and ride around with the cops, stopping every once in a while to cheer up a downtown guy. This was a tradition in Reno for many years, practiced by a number of rabbis and chiefs. One year a guy actually died of natural causes on Christmas day and the rabbi said, “Oy Vey, now what the hell do I do?” (I don’t know if he said ‘Oy Vey’ but my little friend David Ginsberg told me that.

There was a guy named Red Nibert who was a sign painter, out at the end of Mill Street east of Kietzke Lane (Dad said they were going to pave Kietzke someday and make it four lane!). Red worked hard all year painting signs and trucks and stuff but one day he went to a new restaurant out by what was going to become “Plumb Lane” and cross South Virginia, and he painted a bright red and green sleigh and reindeer and a Santa on the restaurant’s window – I think the restaurant was the one at the end of Wells Avenue. The work caught on, and Red painted a couple more windows that year, I think also the big window on the Coca-cola bottling plant where Center Street came out onto South Virginia. Pretty soon they’d make Center one-way so people would quit killing each other at that intersection with Virginia, Mary and Center. Within a few years Red would paint Christmas scenes on over 40 local windows – he could do the whole restaurant in about 10 minutes and move on.

I should tell you about a new friend of mine named Luther, who came to town withLuther his family from Hawthorne when we were little kids. We worked together at the Reno High cafeteria, but he didn’t do too well there. I was supposed to make the cinnamon rolls with him, but all he ever wanted to make were “hamburgers,” he called them. I don’t know what ever became of him. “Ham”burger. Hell, there was no ham in them! (Mom will be made because I wrote “hell.” Sorry, readers…) A drive-by writer used a photo of him in a Santa hat 50 years later and scared the h…, er, the pants off every kid in Reno who saw the Gazoo that morning.

OrnamentA big deal in town came in 1964, which is really long after I started writing this. A big bank put up a building taller than the Mapes Hotel, and that Christmas to everyone’s surprise, a giant Christmas tree that you could see from all over town, was turned on. It was made with a bunch of lights and wires with light sockets by the bank’s maintenance guys, who put up the “tree” on their own. The flagpole, I read in a drive-by writer’s column a few years later, was 42 feet tall above the building, and placed onto the building with a helicopter. That’s a pretty good story, someday I tell it.

Not to be outdone, Harrah’s new hotel tower, which was taller than the bank building, one Christmas put up a “necklace” of golden lights around the top rail of their building, and a tree on their flagpole like the bank’s. So there were TWO Christmas trees downtown!

Downtown Reno was a pretty scene in the winters; the City put up holiday lights above the Truckee, and played Christmas music on the speakers on downtown telephone poles. The best scene in town was from the Holiday Hotel’s Shore Room when the hotel opened in 1957, looking west up the River with all the lights. The City’s Christmas tree was in Wingfield Park, and every year there would be a lighting celebration with over 2,000 people coming downtown to watch. “Tink” SantaFrostyTinkham, and later my classmate Glenn Little, conducted the local musicians and singers from the University, the high schools (Reno and Manogue!) and the casinos in Christmas carols. A guy named Rocco Youse gave the City his huge statues of Frosty and Santa that used to be in front of his house on Fireside Circle. He was moving to a gated community and wouldn’t need them anymore. My friend John Trent reminded me of that…

Store windows were fun to view, with the storekeepers putting their best into Christmas displays. I’ve written of this before, and always forget, and am then reminded that the little mechanical cobbler in the window of Spina’s shoe repair shop on Sierra Street, always got dressed in Christmas clothes and a Santa hat at Christmas time! (There. I wrote it.)

BudweiserI’m getting pretty tired and Dad says I have to do some work for him around our house. (Mom doesn’t know it, but he bought two tennis rackets from Sears Roebuck’s catalogue store and they’ll be here by Christmas, so we can go play tennis in the courts across the street in Whitaker Park.) So – I promised I’d write about some local Santas in the stores around the town, and I see some stores opening south of town we’d better write about. C’mon back one of these days!!!!

Read the earlier companion post to this

 

 

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Dec 3 – Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

SlimDec. 3 – Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus … by editor Francis P. Church, first published in The New York Sun in 1897.

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?  Virginia O’Hanlon

“Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except that that they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.”

34thStreetOK, back to reality now, from 1897 to 1948 – I’m hangin’ out around town, with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, whatever a sugar plum is. We’re already planning Christmas dinner with the Salas from next door on Ralston Street, with that cute little red-headed daughter, her baby brother Mike and my sister Marilynn who’s now hell-on-wheels all over the house.

SleighRideDad got us a Christmas tree from the Lions Club downtown, brought it home on the roof of the Dodge and got pitch all over the car. We’re putting it up this afternoon later. He got six boxes of lights from Nevada Machinery & Electric downtown; he said that it’s taken a few Christmases after WWII to get any Christmas decorations and lights and stuff. We’re putting up a tree in our classroom at Mary S. Doten School – I hear tell that a day is coming when we can’t even say the word “Christmas” at school but this is 1948.

lightboxThere are only three weeks left until Christmas; we get out of school for a couple of weeks before and after the day, through New Year’s Day. We’re all making Christmas cards for our classmates. I’m lucky because my neighbor Margaret Eddleman is a pretty cool artist and she’s helping me. A bunch of guys from a “fraternity” up the street got in trouble for putting a red nose they made out of a tennis ball on one of the buffalo out at Idlewild Park and took it downtown saying it was “Rudolph,” or some such name, and the thing got loose in a bar on Sierra Street and nobody could catch it! (Who was “Rudolph,” anyway…?)

We like to go to the downtown library in the State Building downtown, and next PeterWolfweekend some musicians are coming and a man named Darrell Cain is going to read a poem called “Peter and the Wolf” by some guy named Sirgay Prokophife or something like that he wrote before the war, and the musicians are going to play their weird horns – trumpets, piccolos, oboes, saxophones and such – each instrument representing a character in the story. It’s supposed to be pretty cool. They did it last year also kind of a Christmas tradition that I hope hangs around. A friend of mine named Gene Aimone who lives around the corner from us on Nevada Street is reading the part of Peter. My friend named Lauren House gets to play his French horn, which I think is the duck in the story but I’m not sure. It’s a neat morning; no grownups allowed!

CookingI wrote a letter to Santa Claus, but I haven’t heard LionelTrainback yet. Mom said he isn’t very good at answering his mail. I asked him for an electric train but I’m still pretty little for that. The little red-haired Sala girl next door wants an oven and some cooking stuff so she can cook like her mother Chetty does. Girls – yeecch – never understand them….

Dad brought home a couple boxes of records from his friend Mr. Saviers’ store on Second Street. There are about eight records in each box; each one has one song on it. The neatest one is by a guy named “Bing” Crosby – that’s a funny name – how would you like to go BingChristmasthrough life with a name like Bing. But he’s a pretty good singer. Dad got a record player when we moved up to Reno. It’s pretty big and noisy but you can put about 12 records on it and it will play for two or three hours. He got one of some group from a “Tabernacle” that’s pretty heavy singing. The “Men of Renown” singing group goes downtown every night from now to Christmas and sings carols while people shop on Virginia Street and at Gray WhiteChristmasReid’s. Dad’s friend Mr. Battaglia organized that group. My friend Billy Crouch’s mother organized a group of four ladies who also sing around town. I heard that a famous group came to the New Gym at the KingstonTrioUniversity of Nevada, and a local drive-by newspaper columnist called them “Fred Waring and the Blenders” and not one soul, including the genius editor, knew that  their actual name was the “Pennsylvanians.” But that was 50 years after today so I can’t really write about it yet. But they were good singers.

The evening newspaper the “Reno Evening Gazette” is running a contest for outdoor decorating for Christmas, with categories (pretty big word for a six-year-old, huh!?) for businesses downtown, for private homes and one for kids-only decorating. Last year Reno people weren’t happy because a kid from Sparks named SantaFrostyBobby Warren won it for decorating his parents’ home on B Street at 4th Street. (I want to learn to write someday, but stuff like “4th Street” in Sparks, but “Fourth Street” in Reno is already making me crazy.) Nobody is using any light bulbs yet. The first outdoor lighting anybody in Reno remembers was done in the mid-1950s by the president of the power company, Mr. Fletcher, on a home on Skyline Drive just before the street ended at Moana Lane. It was just a simple five-pointed star. My playmates Jon and Linda Madsen live there now. But that comes much later.

MormonChristmasI’ve got a lot more notes for stuff to write about – Santas at the 20th Century Club and the YMCA downtown and the Elks Club on Sierra, and a lot of other stuff, but this is getting pretty long so I’m going to “post” it, whatever that means. Come back in about a week or so and I’ll write more about early Christmases in Reno and Sparks. See ya, KB

 

 This yarn is continued here

 

November 16 – a walk downtown with Dad

karlatwhitakerI’m off with Dad this Saturday morning to run some errands downtown. It’s a nice fall day, and since every store in Reno is within walking distance we drove the Dodge down Ralston hill to the Lincoln Highway, hung a left to Sierra Street, and found a parking place in front of the fish market in the Travelers Hotel building just south of Commercial Row. We got stopped for a couple minutes when a train was heading up the hill to Truckee and its smoke is still swirling around the street when we park. Dad says that the steam locomotives are only going to be around for a couple more years, and we’re already starting to see some of the newfangled “Diesel electric” locomotives on the shorter trains.

It’s easy to park on most of the streets downtown, because they “diagonal park,” SP_locoDad calls it, and just drive right up to the curb. Across Sierra Street the cars are going north toward the tracks, but there’s the same parking deal. The Traveler is one of the six or eight hotels that cater to the Basque sheepherders that moved to Reno before WWII. The hotels let them stay part of the year when they’re not out with the sheep, and take care of their mail and money. A lot of them don’t speak English yet so the hotelkeepers do some business for them. Our next-door neighbor Mr. Sala, the cute little red-head’s dad, is Basque. He works across the street at Brown-Milbery, a company that makes big motors for the mines.

Dad and I walk south on Sierra toward Second Street. He says we’ve got to go into the Pizorno family’s Dainty Cake Shop on the way back to get a cake Mom wants for her “bridge” party. Dad called it a “Hen” party and she got real mad. But I don’t think Dad cared. The Pizorno’s son Larry is my buddy. He lives down on Winter Street by the river and is nuttier than hell. Whoops. I can’t write that word. We stop at the light on Second Street, by J. C. Penney’s. It’s got a neat system for handling money – if somebody buys a pair of shoes or a sport coat, the clerk puts their $20 bill into a little can and drops it into a chute where compressed air takes it to the only cash register in the building. A few minutes later the can pops out of the tube with the change in it. Saves having cash all over the store!

Some of the sidewalks we’re on have a nifty feature: There’s a pattern of little round circles, each about two inches around, that reach in rows for quite a ways, like little round checkerboards. The circles are actually heavy glass, and let light into the basements of the buildings. And we’ve seen a couple sidewalk freight elevators open up – two big plates in the sidewalk that rise to let an elevator come to street level from the basement to load merchandise onto and take back down to the basements. Dad said to take a good look at them, because they wouldn’t be around much longer – the sidewalk lights or the elevators. And Mrs. Conrad, my teacher, would make me rewrite that last sentence: “the sidewalk lights NOR the elevators.” Grownups can be really picky about the way kids talk…

We cross Second Street and look into the windows of Sears Roebuck. Dad doesn’t know I know it, but down in their basement is a toy store that carries Red Ryder BB guns. One of these days I’m going to get one of those. Across the street Is the Emporium of Music, about the only musical instrument store in town. A BB gun from one side of the street, a kid-size banjo on the other – can life get any better? (Unless I can swing a J. C. Higgins bicycle with a speedometer from Monkey Wards, but that’s a reach – they’re almost $25!)

BoolsButlerWe walk past Bools & Butler, where all the real cowboys – “buckaroos” in northern Nevada – buy their tack. Then past the Sierra Bar, where Dad pokes his head in to see if any of his buddies are there. It’s got a real neat big ‘ol shelf behind the bar, with all the bottles in it and mirrors and stuff. I don’t know yet, BelleBackbarit’s only 1948 but I think that “back bar,” Dad called it, would wind up ‘way out on South Virginia Street at a bar called the Liberty Belle, when the State of Nevada turned 100 years old. But I don’t know anything about that now….

Past Montgomery Ward we walk – it’s got a cool sporting goods store in the basement with “J. C. Higgins” bikes and baseball mitts and stuff. And the “Five and dime” – National Dollar Store, a loft in the rear, huge stairwell, and squeaky floors like all good sundry stores should have. Someday it will be filled with western wear by Parker’s, but this is still pre-1950. Then to the corner, and Dad’s friends the Ginsburg family’s Home Furniture.

We’re on the corner now, Sierra and First Street, the Federal Outfitters across First Street on the corner. Dad’s buddy Jim Slingerland is building his insurance office to the west. Neither Dad nor I knew it this fine November Saturday morning in 1948, but nine years later a gas explosion would take out most of what we’re looking at right now, and Mr. Slingerland would be, er, sitting on the commode in that building and be blown clear off of it! Pretty funny, huh?

Actually, that gas explosion would burn every building between us and the Truckee River, and months later it would be determined that the gas came from a joint in Sierra Street when gas was hooked up to be taken south of the Truckee, with that BIAjoint being bum and slowly leaking for almost ten years. Across the intersection kitty-corner is Gray Reid Wright, which Dad calls the best department store in Reno. The Elks Home is next to it to the south to the Truckee; when that building was built it had a half-block courtyard with walkways and shade trees, a little park that went all the way to First Street. The Elks sold that half-block to Gray Reids so they could build a new store and move off the northwest corner of First and Virginia Street. But that was before WWII.

We’re going to cross Sierra Street now. I just read that Sierra Street, beyond the Truckee River Bridge to the south, is called Granite Street, but would soon be changed to South Sierra Street. But still have traffic going in both directions, north and south. And the Riverside Hotel, across the river, was going to tear down a bunch of old crappy buildings along Island Avenue and build a new section with a swimming pool on the Truckee! Prett neat. And I’ll catch hell the dickens for writing “crappy” but can’t think of a better word. We walk past the Sierra Bar, where Dad pokes his head in to see if any of his buddies are there. It’s got a real neat big ‘ol shelf behind the bar, with all the bottles in it and mirrors and stuff. I don’t know yet, it’s only 1948 but I think that “back bar,” Dad called it, would wind up ‘way out on South Virginia Street at a bar called the Liberty Belle, when the State of Nevada turned 100 years old. But I don’t know anything about that now….

Looking up Sierra Street on the east side I can see the Moulin Rouge dinner house, which Mr. Vasserot owned and just joined Mr. Patrucco, who was the bartender in the Riverside Corner Bar, and the two of them bought a restaurant a ways south of town called “Eugene’s.” Gilbert and Joe, their names were. Dad was going to the Riverside quite a bit, and to the Mapes Hotel after it opened a year ago, to start a new club for businessmen in Reno called the “Prospectors” – he took a lot of time on that project.

Y’know what? I’ve spent more time than I thought I would writing all this down, and I don’t even have any pictures back (I dropped the film from my Brownie Hawkeye off at Nevada Photo Service when we got back to the car) so I’m going to leave this project for another day to finish, as Mom’s calling us for dinner and then I want to listen to The Shadow on KOH radio before bed, so please come back in a few days. I’ve still got a lot of notes so we’ll finish our walk on Sierra Street!

photo credit: who knows??

November 5 – Selling houses after WWII

KitCarsonHotelWell, we got through Nevada Day and Hallowe’en so I’ll write a little more. I should mention here that some grownups got on my case because they couldn’t find some of the stuff I’ve written in the past, so I’ll make it easy. Below these writings on the last sheet of paper I print ‘a writer’s vignette’ and if you ‘click’ on that, whatever that means in 1947, all my older stuff will come up together and you can just scroll around, find something you want to read if there’s anything like that here, and enjoy. There’s also a ‘search box’ on the bottom of my binder paper and if you write something you want to read about in the search box and ‘click’ on it, all the similar stuff may open in the binder.

Grownups have asked me why last Super Bowl Sunday when I started writing, or for that matter a decade ago when I ‘posted’ all these stories, why I didn’t do a better job of cataloguing and indexing my ramblings. The simple answer is that I’m only six years old and didn’t know any better, plus I didn’t expect it to last very long anyway. If you’re looking for something I’ve written about in the Gazoo or here or any other site email me and I’ll see if I can find anything to help you. Email, whatever that is, is kfbreckenridge@live.com  .

Anyhow, this morning I’m writing about the job that Dad got when he got back to Reno after WWII, working for Charles Skipper as a real estate man. (He worked in a shipyard in Richmond, where I spent the first five years of my life.) Now I’m six, going to Mary S. Doten School and live on Ralston Street across from Whitaker Park.

Dad takes me on Saturday mornings to what his friends call the ‘multiple listing QneQservice.’ They meet at a little diner on South Virginia and Stewart Street, and trade descriptions of the new houses that they’ve ‘listed’ this past week. The number of bedrooms, whether it has a sewer or a septic tank, two bathrooms on some of the bigger ones but not too many houses in Reno or Sparks have more than one bathroom . They put whether the houses have coal or oil heat, and a few of the newer ones in Sparks with gas heat from the gas retort at East Sixth and Alameda Street (in a few years they’d change that to ‘North Wells Avenue.’) The men told each other how to show the house, where the key was hidden, and what furniture or automobiles went with the home. A lot of houses were sold ‘furnished’ and cars frequently were part of the sale. They’d write down what ‘escrow company’ the owners wanted to use. And who owned the house – in 1946 most homes were owned by ‘John Doe et ux’, for the wives’ names were seldom on the homes’ titles (nor the loans!)

PolaroidDad bought a brand-new camera for his real estate work, called a ‘Polaroid’ that would make a picture of a house for his friends. One of their problem was making enough copies of the information, because there were probably 25 real estate men in town and a good typewriter would only make about six or seven carbon copies, so they had to type these ‘listings’ two or three times. Dad’s new Polaroid camera was stolen in 1948, but the guy who stole it wasn’t too smart and hocked it in San Francisco. His problem was that there were so few Polaroid cameras in existence this one stood out to the cops in San Francisco so they caught the thief and Dad got his camera back.

I made a lot of friends at these ‘multiple listing’ meetings, the children of the real estate men – John and Jimmy Gibbons’ mom was a real estate lady, one of the few inJimGibbons Reno or Sparks, and had to change her name from Matilda to Mat Gibbons so people wouldn’t know that they were calling a woman broker. I got Jimmy’s picture in here somewhere.  In the same token Marilyn Harvout, who drove here big sedan by Braille, used ‘Merlyn’ on her signs. My dad’s number was 9195. In NewUnderwoodabout 60 more years I’d give that old phone to my friend Emerson Marcus. Emerson sent me a picture of that phone taken in 2017 with an old typewriter I got in a hock shop in Oakland. (Emerson, of course, wouldn’t even be born for about 50 more years!)

Another little friend was Dee Garrett, whose dad Bill Garrett was a real estate man. \And one of Dad’s best buddies Gene LaTourette had a son John. We all used to play together while our fathers met at the Q-ne-Q, on the front lawn of the Kit Carson Hotel across Virginia Street, which I understand later became the parking lot for a hotel called the Ponderosa, and even later a strip shopping center. (The Kit Carson Hotel is pictured above)

This might be more than anyone wants to read about the real estate business, but unless somebody objects too much I’ll write on another day about all the lady real estate agents in Reno and Sparks getting together in the ‘Trocadero Room’ of a new hotel downtown called the El Cortez, the tallest hotel in Nevada right now. They ElCortezgathered to learn how to survive in the real estate business and get along with men like George Probasco, Wes Weichman, the Novelly brothers and the Ramsay brothers who were building the new houses, and the banks and savings and loans where people got their money to buy the houses. Right now it’s hard for a woman to stay in the real estate business so a trainload of ladies came up to Reno to meet and show them how to get along. I’ll ignore what Dad said about that, or what Mom said about Dad. In a few years they’d name their group the ‘Womens Coucil of Realtors.’ But not now yet.

Speaking of Dad, he says I’m going to get my tiny ass in a sling, whatever that means, for not telling people where I’m stealing these pictures for this journal. Most of the photos you see are from the Nevada Historical Society, the one of the Kit Carson Hotel is supposedly from the University of Nevada Special Collections, although it’s been on calendars and documents for many  years. The painting of the Q-ne-Q is by Hilda (Hildegard) Herz, of the Herz Jewelers family, who was quite an accomplished artist in her day. I’ve written about her before, and am proud to include her art in this column.

And that pretty much wears me out for now. Soon I’ll write of the ladies with the furSuffragettes coats, feather boas and hatchets gathering at the Troc to show the men who’s boss! Come back and read that, or whatever comes to my mind next….

 

 

October 15 – our trip to Napa in 1949

Napa

How all this began….

Well, I haven’t written for a while, been pretty busy at Mary S. Doten School, but we have a weekend free so we’re hopping in the car to go see Grandma in Petaluma. Petaluma’s a little farm town right next to Napa and we’ll go through Napa to get there. Mom was born in Petaluma; her mother – my Grandma – came with a whole bunch of sisters and brothers from Ireland to be school teachers in the Valley of the Moon, but a few moved from Asti to Petaluma and Napa so I have relatives all over Sonoma County!

I should tell you that Dad just came home with a new car, a 1948 Dodge sedan, gray. He keeps leaving the back-up light turned on and killed the battery a couple times. Our neighbor John Sala gave it a “jump.” We’re loading up the new Dodge to go to DodgeGrandma’s in Petaluma. My little sister Marilynn is old enough now to ride in a car seat hung over the front seat of the car. It will take about seven or eight hours to get to Petaluma; one of these mornings I’ll write about the Giant Orange and the stuff along Highway 40.

We’re off now – and I’ll fast forward the trip, took over seven hours this time, we stopped along the way a couple of times. When we StornettasDairygot to Stornetta’s Dairy on the Napa Highway we knew we were close! (I heard that the dairy would be lost to a fire [pictured left] many years later, and it was as popular with the residents as were the California Missions and the wineries…) I wish I could write you more about that big fire, but this is 1949 and it wouldn’t happen for many more years so I don’t know anything about it.

We pass through Napa after turning off the old picturesque Highway 12. Napa is a tiny little town, like so many along our way. It’s got one main street and everything on the street caters to agricultural stuff – a John Deere dealer with big green and yellow tractors sitting outside. Boot and clothing stores, hand tools. Many signs are in another language, Dad says Spanish but Mom, who grew up 12 miles away, said they leaned toward the Portuguese language, as the town of Napa was heavily-Portuguese occupied. She said her hometown, Petaluma, was mostly Italian and Irish. There were many other little towns along the way between a place on the main highway called the Nut Tree that opened in 1920, and Petaluma to the north toward the Redwood Highway – Highway 101.

JohnDeereWe got through Napa and saw many grapevines along the way – acres of wooden frames with the vines hanging from them. There were big propellers every once in a while, and a lot of little pots. Dad says the pots burned kerosene and the big fans blew the heat over the vines to keep them from freezing. We went into Petaluma by a beautiful old brick building that looked like the Southern Pacific engine house in Sparks next to the roundhouse that was being torn down. The big building was the bag mill, where the bags for the crops and grain that supported all these little towns, were woven. The building was a real beauty.

Petaluma is a nice little town, much like Napa, with almost no one except for the full-time residents living there. Petalumans raised chickens and was known as the egg-capital of the west coast. McNear’s Mill processed the grain from all over the valley, and shipped it every morning aboard the Steamer Gold, from the end of the Petaluma River. Napans raised grapes, mostly for dining but also finding their way into the wine industry. People had been drinking wine for years but I guess never put much interest into grapes and wine – wine was red, and blush. A smattering (like that word? I’m not supposed to use it according to my teachers…) of men from San Francisco and Europe were starting to take more interest in grapes and wine, and were slowly moving to Napa. There were already some beautiful old buildings there operated by the few “vintners,” a hoity-toity word for grape growers. But I don’t recall wine as being that big a deal. But they sure had some pretty buildings and ranches – it would be a shame if a fire ever came along and burned them – they’ve been there since before WWI, some of them.

And I should write you that one of the big industries was making kegs – wooden barrels – out of oak wood for the wine to age in. This industry was really taking off! One guy even had an orchard for cork trees, because corks were necessary for bottling wine and most of them in 1949 came from Portugal. Hence, the Portuguese influence in Napa.

And speaking of wine, when we arrived in Petaluma, Dad sat on the front porch of Grandma’s house on Harris Street, which was an old railroad house that was moved across town and my mother came home from the hospital to it in 1916. Grandma joined Dad on the porch with a bottle of red wine that Dad picked up down Western Street at Volpi’s, and they laughed and giggled as usual while Mom freshened up.

Later that night, we loaded up in the Dodge, and with my great-aunts Isabel and Marge and Iola and uncle Vic and Earl and a few other relatives, in a couple other cars, and we all took off for dinner at the Green Mill Inn, which was a pretty popular roadhouse in Cotati. We went through Sebastopol, Calistoga and a few other old towns, all with some beautiful homes and businesses dating back to the turn of the century, and even to California’s statehood. Sonoma, for sure; Rutherford – we passed through them all.

And we’d do it many times again in the years to follow – Dad and Grandma on themost happy fella porch with a jug of red, Mom freshening up, all the old ladies sitting around Aunt Kate’s Bosendorfer upright piano that had come ‘Round the Horn from Galway, all singing the old songs they’d learned as children. Or, they’d have more red, all together, and commandeer the Green Mill Inn’s piano and sing of the Emerald Isle. Good times, in the Sonoma Valley. Possibly the prettiest part of California, I’d probably get an argument to that from Santa Barbarans, where I was born ten years before. In 1955 Frank Loesser would even write a Broadway musical about it, “The Most Happy Fella” (in the whole Napa Valley..)!

fireNapaBut beautiful country, old buildings, tree-canopied streets, some picturesque old rock wineries and quaint downtowns – Napa, Sonoma, Petaluma, Calistoga, Sebastopol, Stornetta’s Dairy, the bag mill, McNear’s grain elevator – I hoped that nothing would ever come along to alter it…..

C’mon back in a while, we’ll ride Highway 40 or walk the Truckee’s banks – I never know ‘til I start writing

POSTSCRIPT: I WAS REMINDED THAT MY “LITTLE SISTER MARILYNN” REFERRED TO AS “NOW OLD ENOUGH TO RIDE IN THE CAR SEAT,” RETURNED TO NAPA AFTER COLLEGE AND, WITH HUSBAND ERIC, TAUGHT IN THE NAPA COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT FOR OVER 30 YEARS!

Napa schoolhouse photo credit AP

Photo Stornetta’s Dairy courtesy Joe Fazio

September 24 • Vine Street

karlatwhitaker…how this yarn began

Well, we went to the football game yesterday at the University of Nevada, and Nevada won the game, playing a team from the Chico State University. We’ve walked from our house on Ralston by Whitaker Park a couple times now – Nevada has won a couple of home games already this year. Dad says it’s because they’re in a good conference where all the teams are about even.

Today is Sunday and I’ve talked Mom out of going to church down where Ralston Street dead-ends into the Truckee River. Dad’s childhood buddy Bud Loomis’ mother was pretty much the founder of that church, and her family owned the land that it sits on. I’m getting on my new bike and riding down Vine Street because Grandma Gladys gave me a silver dollar. I’m going to get an ice cream cone at the Hale’s Drug store down on the Lincoln Highway.

Vine Street is about the last street west in Reno, with just a bunch of fields on the other side. Mr. Weichman and Mr. Probasco are starting to build some homes along Eighth Street, which most people now call University Terrace. And Mr. Novelly is also building on some new streets that he named after himself, Novelly Street and Raymond Drive. So I ride west along Whitaker Park and down the steep hill west of Washington Street. At the bottom of the hill is Vine Street, which goes south to the Truckee and north to a big ranch owned by Dr. Raphael Herman. He came up from Los Angeles and named Rafael it for himself.

I ride toward the Truckee River, where there are mostly just houses where some of my friends live like Bob Broili and the Burr kids and Dr. Reno’s kids. He’s not from here but came here after he graduated from the doctor school. His wife’s name was Rhoda – she was a good friend of my mom’s and was really mad at me when I said that her last name was Hogg before she married Dr. Reno. I paid for that until mom died in 2004. But it was worth it.

I should have mentioned that at the bottom of the Washington Street hill there wasglobe_gas_pump a service station and a little market called the Quality Market, but everybody called it “Quilici’s.” It had a gas pump outside that the men pumped by hand until they could see the level of gas on a big round glass dome. When they got it up to the number of gallons they wanted to buy, they would call Mr. Quilici and he’d come out and see for himself how much gas was in the dome, and they’d pay him. Then the men would put the hose into their cars, open the valve and let the gasoline drain into the cars. It was fun to watch. My mom didn’t shop there because she didn’t speak much Italian and that’s about all anybody spoke in that store (most of the patrons came down the hill from Little Italy).

The other market that I rode past on Vine Street was at the corner of Sixth Street. It was a hot little after-school place for the kids who went to Mary S. Doten elementary school like me or the older kids who went to Reno High a little further east on Fifth Street. It was called the Santa Claus Market because it was the only market that stayed open on Christmas Day! It was made of river rock and painted silver. I wish Dad or somebody had taken a picture of it but I never found one.

Pedaling now further south on Vine Street, I get to Hale’s Drug Store in a brick building on the northwest corner of West Fourth – the Lincoln Highway. Dad’s friend Mr. Locke opened that Hale’s Drug in a little two-story building that was owned by Chester and Lincoln Piazzo who had a sporting goods store downtown where they charged all the kids about double what Mr. York and Mr. Burke charged for a jock strap at Mt. Rose Sporting goods or Reno Sporting Goods on Plaza and Virginia, but that’s where the schools made us buy our stuff.

Hale’s had one of the most popular lunch counters in Reno. In a couple years Dad’s friend Mr. Ramos would move his drug store from downtown across from Dad’s office on California Avenue, but right now this was THE place to go. I ordered my ice-cream cone. And got a lot of change back for the silver dollar (Dad calls them “Cartwheels”) that Grandma Gladys gave me.

SP_locoI walked down the short block to the train tracks, and sat on the curb. Sure enough, an SP train came in with one of those new-fangled “diesel-electric” locomotives pulling it.  I read later in a guy’s weekly newspaper column that the last steam engine in scheduled service went through Reno in October of 1949, so I was lucky to remember seeing (and hearing!) them.

There’s one more street beyond Vine to the west, called Keystone, but it’s a short little street that only goes from the south side of the SP tracks down to the Truckee River, where it dead-ends into Riverside Drive by McKinley Park School. There’s been talk of extending it north of the tracks to connect with Peavine Row, but Dad says that’s about ten years away. Right now the only businesses west of Vine are Mr. Caton’s Reno Press Brick factory and Keystone Fuel, and the Union Ice plant. Bob & Ray’s Chevron station is across from Hale’s Drug. In a few years the Piazzo brothers will build Plaza Shopping Center on the northeast corner of Fourth Street and Vine, and Mr. Parker will build the Gold ‘n Silver restaurant on the southeast corner. To the east and west of Vine Street are mostly auto courts, which they’re starting to call “motels,” and some of the nicest apartment houses in Reno.

So, it’s a happenin’ little corner. But I’d better walk back to Hale’s Drug Store and start the ride up the hill to home – it’s Sunday, so we’re going to the Toscano Hotel downtown on Lake Street with the next-door-neighbors, the Salas! Their little red-haired daughter Michelle is a hot little number. They just had a newborn son, named him “Mike.”

C’mon back in a week or two and well ride from 740 Ralston to somewhere else!!!

 

It’s the Real Thing

Coke truckNary a codger my age, nor a codgerette, if that spell-checks, didn’t lurk around the high south window of the handsome brick building at Center Street’s intersection with South Virginia, watching the parade of green-hued clear bottles down the conveyor line.  They marched like sparkling soldiers in lockstep from west to east, our left to our right, being squirted four-at-a-time full of Coca-Cola, to then disappear from view just as another machine capped them – poetry in motion.

            But, the precision parade of these African kola nut-shaped little vessels wasn’t what we gathered there for.  Periodically one bottle would get screwed up in the cadence and take down the three soldiers adjoining it and the whole parade would come to a halt.  And that, readers, made our wait worthwhile, for the white-coated old bottler minding the parade would pull those bottles from the line, glance out the window at us – outwardly feigning great disdain for our barefaced supplication – and give a gruff nod to the door on Center Street.  Inwardly we knew he was grinning wide at the opportunity to give us a free bottle of Coke and hie us on our way.

            And – we’d look at the bottom of bottle to see what city it was originally bottled in – any kids’ worthwhile Coke bottle collection had a number of bottles with big east coast cities’ imprints on them, having migrated west along the Lincoln Highway.

shoshoneplant            That big sunlit south window, with the gleaming stainless steel conveyor and piping – the bottles changing from glistening clarity to jet black as they were filled – was a focal point of any drive around Reno until the plant moved out onto Vassar Street in 1972.  And, in the convoluted logic that frequently drives this column I’ll mention here that what triggered all this is that the subsequent occupant of the bottling plant, Restaurant Equipment and Supply – RESCO, if you will – just vacated the building, to move out to the old McMahan’s Furniture on East Plumb Lane.

            Les and Stanley Farr bought two businesses in 1924 – the Shoshone Soda Works and Diamond Springs Drinking Water Supply Company.  They built a brick building in 1927 on South Virginia Street for the soda operation, hand-bottling a number of regional brands of carbonated beverages. Les’ son Curtis became the sales manager.  In William D. Rowley’s book “Reno: Hub of the Washoe County” a Mean Joegreat old picture by Lauren Wood appears, depicting the original Shoshone building, looking kind of lonely ‘way out on South Virginia Street – but recognizable as part of the existing structure.  In 1930, long before Coke Taught The World To Sing and Mean Joe Greene tossed the kid his Steeler football jersey in one of most popular TV commercials ever made, Coca-Cola franchised the Farrs to bottle Coca-Cola in the northern Nevada market.  They sold the Diamond Springs water operation to another company in 1944.

            They added on to that old building in 1939, and again in 1941, the latter addition incorporating the showcased bottling line on the south wall.  That high window in later years was bricked over, its silhouette still discernable.  (There was a little more room on the corner in those days with a little wedge-shaped park; Center Street, then two-way would later become one-way north and a turn lane took out part of the sidewalk.)

            The Farrs, to their credit, maintained their building beautifully – landscaping, the stainless-and-glass gallery to the south, and on the Virginia Street parking lot a fleet of immaculately maintained yellow-and white, with red trim, cab-over-engine – (OK, ladies: flat-fronted) – delivery trucks with racks for the wooden bottle containers, hauling Coke from Susanville to Lake Tahoe.  (How’d you like to have one of those delivery trucks restored in time for Hot August Nights – what a showstopper that would be on a cruise.)

            Research – ahh, that ugly word – brought a few tickles.  The Farrs, coöperating to  plug the local debut of “Grapes of Wrath” at the Granada (where admission, according to an ad in a March, 1940 edition of the Nevada State Journal, was 10 cents or 25 cents, regular or loge) offered a free Coke with admission.  Henry Fonda and a Coke, what a deal.

            Leslie Farr passed away in 1977, four years after his son Curtis’ death in 1974.  They created a beautiful building for our local landscape, putting a great deal more pizzazz into it than the minimum necessary to do their job.  Those ol’ bricks have served RESCO well for over 30 years, and we wish that company 30 more good years on East Plumb Lane.

            And – the old bottling plant remains a highly visible building with a lot of potential.*  Hopefully some user will come along to rescue and  restore it, maybe even un-bricking some of the windows to light up a slick little mini-mall or the lobby of a community theater…

           *Postscript: In 2017, we call it Junkee’s!

JunkeeFacia

text © RGJ 2006

Junkee’s facia photo courtesy Junkee’s website 

 

 

September 1  • Labor Day!

BaffertHow all this began…

 

Boyoboy – it’s been a busy summer with a lot going on, now the whole family is off in the ’41 Chevy for the Elks’ annual picnic at a place at nearby Lake Tahoe called Fourth Creek. It’s almost by the bottom of the Mt. Rose Road, by a beach across from a place where Hyatt hotel will be built 50 years later. Today in 1948 there’s nothing for many miles in either direction – west to the state line and “Crystal Bay,” or east all the way down to where Highway 50 hits the lake. Nothing.

The picnic is fun with swimming and lots of food. The lake is really pretty. We go 1941_chevvyhome toward dinner time down the little two-lane road that will close when the first snow hits at Thanksgiving, and be closed all winter. It’s hard to believe on this sunny afternoon that a rainstorm would occur in a few years so quick that a couple would drown when their car was swept off the highway on the other side of the mountain, by the Boy Scout campground in Galena. Flash flood. Scary.

School will be starting for me next Tuesday – all the schools start the Tuesday after Labor Day every year. Last weekend Dad went to Mary S. Doten School down the hill from our house with a whole bunch of other dads for a work day. The school’s principal Rita Cannan ran that show, what a tyrant she could be, a little tiny woman telling all these big guys how to rake and stuff. And she really got on them when they crossed Fifth Street to Beetschen’s Cottage Grocery and got a load of Sierra Beer. Wowee, what a ruckus. But, it was being played out all over town, with dads helping get the five elementary schools, B. D. Billinghurst way out on Plumas Street and Northside, in the middle of downtown Reno. And Reno High School, over a couple blocks from our house on Fifth and West Street ready for us next week.

Mr. Minetto, the janitor at Mary S. Doten always had the shiniest hardwood floors of any of the Spanish Quartette schools every year. I’ll never smell floor wax again without thinking of him!

Our family went to the last fireworks show at Mackay Stadium last Friday night. I think we hit most of the Friday night fireworks this summer put on by Harold’s Club. I’m told that in another year a friend of Dad’s named Tom Wilson who writes Harold’s Club’s ads would get rid of the apostrophe in their name forever. I think that’s what that little comma is called anyway. We also walked over to the final Reno Municipal Band night at the Quadrangle at the University. The band was at the “Quad” all August; in July it’s at the park in Virginia Lake, which only opened about eight years ago. It’s a fun show.  Mr. Tinkham, “Tink” Dad calls him, always plays John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars & Stripes Forever” march at the end, and leads all the kids on a march around the Quad. I heard, but don’t know now ‘cuz I’m only a little guy, that my classmate Glenn Little would take over the band in the 1980s and lead all the kids around Wingfield Park. But I don’t know that yet. Oh, and there was always watermelon at the Quad and the park for us! Pretty cool…

And I might add that starting on Tuesday if you’re at the University and not in your senior year, you better not walk on the Quad or you’ll be “laked” – thrown into Manzanita Lake. The first time you’ll walk on the Quad is to get your diploma at graduation!

Reno was in the national news over Labor Day weekend because there was a “strike” by the restaurant workers downtown on Labor Day, when none of them came to work on this busy weekend. The men who live in Reno weren’t about to put up “with that crap,” as Mr. Sala called it in the newspaper, so a bunch of businessmen – and some of our mothers – went to the restaurants and worked, cooked, cleaned tables, brought food to the tourists, and made the people from out-of-town comfortable. That might be the last time I ever knew my dad to cook anything. And it all worked. The restaurant workers came back to work in September and life went on. And after Dad cooked they said Grace after dinner.

HOGReno also made the news when the motorcycle club from Sacramento and Oakland came back to town. A whole bunch of guys – “Badass Dudes” Dad called them and Mom really hollered at him for using that word – all converged (pretty big word for a kid, huh!) at the park in Wingfield with their black leather jackets with stuff on the back, no helmets and with sleeping bags and set up housekeeping. They all rode Harley Davidson motorcycles. Many of them were leftovers from the Army after the war ended a few years ago. They made a lot of noise with their motorcycles’ motors, and swore and drank and scared everybody. But what was funny for us kids was that all they really wanted to do was have fun. We rode our bicycles to the park and they were pretty good guys (they didn’t smell too good!) but they showed us how their motorcycles worked and were pretty fun. The police came and screamed and shouted and raised hell but really should have just left them alone. They came back for four or five years, and camped in the park. Someday I’ll write about the Gypsies who came to Idlewild, same thing – just leave them alone and all would be fine, but no, we just couldn’t do that… (And Mom said that I can’t write “hell” anymore as long as I live at 740 Ralston Street.) Mom was counting nickles, dimes, and quarters on the kitchen table when she suddenly got very angry and started shouting and crying for no reason. Dad said to me, “She’s going through the change.”

Anyway the summer is coming to an end. The Reno Recreation Department hires mostly college kids, and a few high school kids, to run the park programs like across Ralston Street from my house at Whitaker Park, the tennis program with Mr. Fairman and free tennis lessons at Wingfield, and the Reno swimming pool in Idlewild and Deer Park in Sparks. With all the kids starting at the schools and the University, there’s no one left to work so they’re all closing!

Been a good summer had a lot  of fun, learning to write better. Come back once in a while maybe I’ll write another story about Reno after the war. Lots left to write about. See ya….

 

 

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

 

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….