Often, while on my usual relentless quest for some new quotidian facet of bygone life in our valley, an idle conversation can take a subtle turn and lo, a column just begging to be written hits me right between the horns. While I usually try for a little greater depth than the following item affords, sometimes ya just gotta have a little caprice on the keyboard.

            The talk at men’s coffee groups can transcend from informative and cogent, to complete blather, in about seven syllables, and that happened a few years ago at the Continental Lodge, or whatever they call it now, coffee shop.  The intelligent and significant discussion was of the proliferation of bar codes in pricing, and the capability of a merchant to change prices, up or down, by mere keystrokes on a computer. And the follow-on thought was how much easier that was than re-marking everything in the store. So far, that all made sense.

            But then, local historian extraordinaire Red Kittell brought up MONKEYTAIL, and what was slightly frightening was that most at the table knew what monkeytail is. Or was. Once upon a time there was a venerable store in western Nevada named Eagle Thrifty Drug & Market – we know them now as Raley’s. Eagle Thriftys [which was the correct plural spelling that the paper turned into “…ties”] sold everything under the sun, and their basement on the Wells Avenue store [now a Hispanic market] was a hardware/camper/TV and radio/auto mechanic/outdoor furniture freak’s paradise. All of their wares had a price on stick-on labels, with letters below the prices. A few hapless employees divulged to the profane world what those letters stood for, never to be seen ever again (it’s rumored they reside under the produce section on the Eagle Thrifty-turned-Raley’s Peckham Lane store.) In the monkeytail code, the “m” represented “1”; the “o”, “2”; the “n”, “3”, and so forth up to the “l” for zero. We learned over time that if we were looking at a Coleman lantern that was marked $16.99 and the letters under it were “TAE,” that the store had paid Coleman $7.85 wholesale.

            It turned out that many retailers had such a code, and some were dandies; they had to be of 10 letters, none repeating. They started surfacing when bar codes and cash register scanners started ruling the west. Anyway, go out to the garage and find an old broom or a can of paint that came from Eagle Thrifty. Armed with this information, available nowhere else in this newspaper [OK, so I wrote this a while back, like 2001, in the RGJ], you can become privy to what the Gastanaga family that owned the chain made off your transaction these 40 years ago.

Father Bob’s Car, and a 1959 newspaper

ChevGoldenGateJust as 500 Reno and Sparks kids vowed 50 years ago to return to the Tower Theater on the next Saturday morning, with 14 cents and the top of an Old Home Dairy milk bottle as admission, to find out if the swamp creature would really munch on the fair maiden as it was starting to do when the episode came to an end, Homefinders flock to page 8 for little other motivation other than to find out what personalized license plate FRBSKR on the late Monsignor Robert Bowling’s plain-vanilla Chevy Caprice stood for, as promised in a recent column. You read it above: Father Bob’s Kar. Such was the wit of Father Bowling.

You have also read here that columnists who write about architects, churches, banks and railroads should have their heads examined, and I will now add “irrigation ditches” to that list. A literary house of cards built upon ditches just floated downstream due to conflicting information and will be rebuilt.

Therefore, the column for this Saturday morning will be taken from the text in a newspaper I was researching for ditch info, this a Nevada State Journal [precursor of that paper merging with the Reno Evening Gazette] of a day or two before the Fourth of July of 1959. (The hardest part of newspaper-microfilm research is sticking to the topic while ignoring the news of the day!)

On that day Topic A, aside from the Reno Rodeo in progress and Fred MacMurray winning the Silver Spurs award, was the upcoming bond issue for a convention center somewhere in Reno and a site search team headed up by warehouseman Frank Bender, and a beef already going on over room taxes (repetition herein of “imagine that” and “dayja-voo” could become frequent, as some things never seem to change.) [We did eventually build the Centennial Coliseum, now convention center.] Some old friends and column readers were the flag girls for the rodeo, chicks like LeeAnn Zimmerman, Anne-Louise Cantlon, Georgia Teskey, Karry Devincenzi, Susie Wedge and the Wilson twins, Marilyn and Kay. Cindi Codding, later the bride of Sterling the Butler and Joe Murin, same guy, and later not, won a city parks art contest.

A “freeway” down Third Street, along the railroad tracks? Who the Hell thought of that? Let’s put it somewhere else, maybe north of the University campus, screamed the editorial. Walter Baring introduced a bill to compensate homeowners along a downtown “freeway” route. The Reno city dump closed on June 30 – up on the end of what would later be Sutro Street – and Reno, Sparks and Washoe County officials had their heads together on where to put a replacement facility, great timing to address that issue. Roger Brander was named by the city council as coordinator for the upcoming 1960 Olympics – he died in the East Bay as a passenger on the first aircraft hijacking, three years later on a hijacked airplane, a full column about that somewhere in this tome. The Lancer restaurant opened on the bluff across from present Galena High School (it would burn to the ground on July 30, 1971.)</p><p> In our 1959 newspaper we read that Ted Patrick, a fixture at Nevada Bell and father of our classmates Mimi and Nancy, husband of Billie, passes away, too young. Businessman’s lunch at Newt Crumley’s Holiday Hotel this day was seafood and rice – crab legs, shrimp, lobster and scallops in the Shore Room, a buck ninety-five with a beverage. The Governor’s Mansion got a dishwasher and garbage disposal. The 1959 Hot August Nights are only a month away? Get thee by Lee Bros. for a used ‘56 Ford, $845, or a ‘57 Chevy $1,395 (with a heater). Realtor Mat Gibbons has a starter home for sale in Sparks, $12,000 for three bedrooms, a one car garage and asbestos siding (ouch).

A two-bit union agent named Jimmy Hoffa told a congressional committee that he was “no damned angel,” and look where it got him. Romance of Scarlet Gulch, a corny Comstock melodrama – he ties her to the railroad tracks, as the audience gasps – with an all-Reno amateur cast moves to Piper’s Opera House for the summer; for many summers to follow it played at the Liberty Belle in July, at Piper’s in August – great times, music and laughs. The Bud Connell Trio played Vista Gardens, two miles east of Sparks on Hwy. 40, Bud and the Gardens now long gone. Carl Ravazza played at Harolds seventh-floor Fun Room, Jimmy Durante at the Tahoe Cal-Neva, and Ish Kabibble at the new Harrah’s South Shore (before the showroom was built.) First National Bank, with 19 offices statewide, elevates E.H. (Bud) Fitz to VP-Operations and Harold Gorman to First VP, announced by FNB president Eddie Questa. [Ravazza and his bride Marcie would eventually buy a ranch south of town – now Ravazza Road – and became popular folks in the community. Carl gave up singing Vieni Su to become a Realtor, worked with my dad for 22 years, and never sold a house – which was exactly the way he and Sr. wanted it.]

There were 174 motorcycle license plates issued throughout the state, an out-of-town trucker was taken to the Reno city limits and thrown out of town for fighting at Mac’s Club on South Virginia Street, and Nevada’s entry to the Miss Universe Pageant in Long Beach was 5’-7” tall and 36-23-36 back when ladies had measurements in newspapers. Like to meet her today…

The sports page? A great one in the old Journal – the night before this paper ran, the Cleveland Indian’s legendary pitcher Herb Score fanned 14 Kansas City Athletics (that’s right, Kansas City.) There was an article about the start of a third major league, with interest from Montreal, Toronto, Miami and Buffalo. No league divisions then, just Boston alone at 9½ games out in the American League’s cellar, no All-Star Break in 1959, and the Dodgers and Giants tied up for the National League lead, (and yes, both teams by then were on the west coast.) Locally, a bunch of hotshot young golfers were tuning up for the National Chamber of Commerce Junior Tournament, my contemporaries Skosh Bell, Skip Meeks, Harry Massoth and Rudy Semenza, all mentored by popular pro Pete Marich. Cam Solari was the lead caddy. (Just kidding – Cam, my childhood neighbor, was first alternate to the delegation.) Good guys, all.

And that’s the way it was on the eve of the 1959 Fourth of July – a rather impromptu collection of notes for a Saturday morning. Have a good weekend and a safe short week ahead – let’s see some flags flying this Friday, and God bless America.

• • •


The Wells Avenue Trench


On a bright afternoon soon after World War II, two playmates whose names are Eddie Pine and Jim Miller left the brand-new Veterans Memorial School on Vassar and Locust to walk to their homes, across South Wells Avenue from each other on the corner of Claremont Street.  Crossing Wells was difficult, even then, because the new underpass connecting Wells to Highway 40 – East Fourth Street – made it easy for a lot of cars to use the street to get to southern Reno.  It would be easier for Eddie and Jim, and the hordes of other kids that lived on the east and west side of South Wells, to get together if they had a tunnel between their houses.

            So Jim and Eddie began to dig, in Jim’s front yard.  They spent an afternoon digging, moving not a great deal of earth with only the one shovel that they had, taking turns.  But they made a small dent in the task.  The tunnel was underway.

            Jim’s dad, Walter, came home from his job managing the downtown Sprouse-Reitz department store, and assessed the new hole in his front yard.  The boys explained their endeavor and then dove for cover, expecting the worst.

            “You boys need another shovel?  Maybe a pickaxe?” Walter offered.  The boys concurred that more equipment would be good.  While they were digging the following afternoon, Walter came home and brought them another couple of shovels and picks.

            The dig continued; a few more of the Wells Avenue Gang – now comfortable that they weren’t going to wind up in the soup for digging up the Millers’ yard – joined in.  Walter brought a few more shovels.

            The hole grew – two, then three feet deep, from the size of a card table to a four-by-eight blanket.  A rope ladder was fashioned to get down into the pit.  Still more kids showed up each day to help, bringing their own shovels.

            As the hole reached five feet in depth, a bucket-brigade type of excavation system was devised.  Walter brought some buckets.  Kids were making a pilgrimage from Veterans School to Wells Avenue.  Grownups were starting to stop by and watch.  Even the girls in the student body were chipping in; digging, hoisting the buckets, barrowing the dirt to the growing tailing pile alongside the Millers’ home.  The hole was approaching eight feet deep, now getting a little soggy during the day, easing the afternoon’s dig.

            Walter came home one day and noted that the hole was close to the requisite depth, and soon the direction of the excavation would turn toward the sidewalk, then under the street to Eddie’s yard.  The neighborhood excitement was almost overwhelming, and the whole education structure at Veterans Memorial was going to pot while this project moved ahead.

            But, Walter said, could you guys just level the floor of the hole a little bit in this direction for a few feet before starting toward the street and the Pines’ house?  And so they did.

The time was approaching to start the stope under the street.  They perfected the floor of their cavern, by now over eight feet deep, the work product of scores of their classmates.  And all the while, the neighbors to the site and the teachers at Veterans Memorial, acutely aware of the excavation, scratched their heads in wonderment about what was going on on the corner of South Wells Avenue and Claremont Street, and why wasn’t Walter Miller coming unglued?

            Eddie and Jim decided that the hole was deep enough.  The tunnel would begin.

• • •

Virtually the entire student body of Veterans Memorial School marched from the school on the afternoon that the hole would start becoming a tunnel, picks and shovels over their shoulders, boys, girls – researcher Ghia was unable to confirm that they were whistling “Hi ho, Hi ho…” but it could have happened that way – this yarn is basically founded on fact.

            They approached Jim’s house, ready to go to work and turn the bore toward Eddie’s yard.  Then they looked down into their excavation.

            Resting on the floor of the pit was a tank – a brand-new, black furnace oil tank, about four feet around, and five feet long.   It’s probably still there.

• • •

The kids got a good laugh out of it, for they all knew deep down that a tunnel was out of the question, but didn’t know how to call off the project.  And we’re told that Walter made it right for the whole neighborhood.  He’s since passed away, but is remembered as a pretty good guy by the Wells Avenue Gang…

God bless those who dug, Walter, and America.


Washoe County School Nicknames

See copyOur [late, July of 2003] classmate Tom Jensen (RHS ‘59) won the Silver Pen award a while back for his letter to the editor of the Gazoo, regarding the naming of two new Washoe County schools. I’ve opined in columns past that that honor should be limited to a person who received at least one paycheck from the Reno, Sparks, Galena, Glendale, Nachez, Gerlach, Steamboat, or later the Washoe County District. After talking to Tom, I have changed my position. I realize now that some weight should be given to a foreseeable nickname of any named school’s team mascot, worst-case example: the Echo Loder Odor-Eaters.

We could easily have been stuck with the Wooster Roosters, the Greenbrae Packers, or the Glenn Hare Cottontails. The Gerlach Holmes are elementary, Watson, as are the E. Otis (Vaughn) Elevators, the Donner (Springs) Partiers, or the Roy Gomm Bommbers, (opposed by Gomm’s Moms’ Club.) Or the Lemmon (Valley) Drops, the Lincoln (Park) Logs, the little Brown Jugs and the Lois Allen Wrenches.

We could have encountered the Alice Maxwell Smarts playing the Darrell C. Swope Dopes until they were all (Katherine) Dunn in; fortunately Swope inherited its “Panther” mascot from old Central Jr. High first. I was in the first Central student body, the one that chose that mascot. Our late classmate Margaret Eddleman (RHS ’57) designed the Panther-head logo that’s still in use at Swope even today. Then there’s our coach Bud Beasley; surely the students at the elementary school honoring him might have been called the Beasley Batsmen, for Bud at 92 years young still booms [boomed] out Casey at the Bat the way sportswriter E. L. Thayer meant it to be delivered: Strrrriiiike Twoooo!!

Pity that some of our favorite teachers and principals don’t have a school named after them (yet!). David Finch’s inevitable school’s feathered mascot is obvious, (at least to everybody but the late Finch, a legend albeit a man not long on humor. Read the chapter.) But how ‘bout the (Betty) Morris Chairs, a team to play against the Libby Booths? Betty was the dynamic kindergarten teacher for a score of years at Jessie Beck Elementary School, whose first principal was Jim Puryear, who was my nomination for a new school name in the last naming go-around. Central’s vice-principal Chester Green deserves a school, surely to be the Green Hornets, as does Central’s first principal – doesn’t this school board realize that we could have a playoff between the Chauncy (Burger) Kings and Robert (Dairy) McQueens? Seriously, Morris, Finch, King and Green deserve their own schools. And Puryear. And Gonda and Benson and Muth. And more.

But returning to the business at hand, if you don’t like those fast foods above, how about a (Ted) Hunsburger (Elementary) with fries but not French, or a Big (Effie Mona) Mack? Or the great elementary school team, the Anderson Split Peas? From southeast Reno, the (Edward L.) Pine Nuts, Potatoes (Robert) O’Brien from Stead or a slam-dunk nomination, the (Glenn) Duncan Donuts. The late Nevada historian/author/RHS teacher Effie Mona Mack never got a school name, by the way. Should have… Pet peeve of Reno High alums: It’s Huskie, not Husky; sportswriters and spellcheckers take note.

Galena High beat out Agnes Risley Elementary for the Risley Grizzlies. But Galena is a school that could easily merge with another school, as could Mount Rose Bullis Elementary, Florence Hunter Drake Lake, and Ga-Lena Juniper, whose mascot could be the Juniper Berries if the late Peavine elementary schoolmarm Bernice Berry doesn’t get her own school named after her. Bea was a dear lady, a family friend for 50 years, who passed away just months after her 100th birthday last September. Rose Bullis is the reliable archivist for the school district – if Rose doesn’t know about it, it hasn’t happened yet. And Rosie don’ know ‘bout this column…

A few notes are left over, of our late favorites Marvin Picollo, P.E.teacher Ed Van Gorder, and Nancy Gomes. They got their names on schools – Van Gorder Elementary’s mascots should probably be the SweatSox. Everyone remembers Marv Picollo as a fine administrator, and those of us who had him as an RHS English teacher recall that he could also ski our butts off come the weekend. This column started in fun but I now realize that there are scores of dedicated educators – many who don’t have schools named after them – who deserve some RHS alumni attention, like our late contemporaries Neil Fockler, Becky Rose and Kenny Vaughan, who left us, too young.

I was going to wrap this up by throwing in the (Mamie) Towles – a boxing expression, and pointing out that it’s a (Rita) Cannan – a premium brand of towel – but I won’t ensnare these two fine old principals who both had elementary schools named after them with that sort of hi-jinx. (Miss Cannan was normally a warm lady – a Mrs. See’s Candy-box look-alike – but I can still feel her icy stare when she cracked the whip at Mary S. Doten in 1948.) This ain’t over yet – stay tuned.

• • •

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Let it snow, 1948

30072 snowplow

Officials of the Washoe County School District today placed an order for a steam-operated plow to assist in keeping the schools open when snow levels in Reno exceed the allowable two inches, measured from the pavement to the surface of the accumulated snow. There has been some consternation in the District since 1956, when there were nine school districts in Washoe County and those in the snow-prone areas (Franktown, Brown, Huffaker, Galena, Verdi) would routinely close if snow threatened safety, while other districts (Reno, Sparks, Natchez, Glendale) remained open and in business. (There was no Incline Village nor Stead.)

Old-timers remember several winters in Reno when the snow exceeded the tops of fire hydrants and the fire department implored folks to put a broomstick marking the hydrant so they could be located if necessary,  when closure of school was considered, but only a very few times that the interior schools actually closed for a day. This reporter recalls his father, alongside other fathers, shoveling the steps of Mary S. Doten School on West Fifth at Washington Street, as conscripted by Rita Cannan, large-and-in-charge as principal of that school, whom one didn’t trifle with. One just shoveled.

There was a bus, at least one, maybe a couple down south we didn’t know about. The bus to Mary S. Doten (and Reno High, at West Fourth and Chestnut) came in from Verdi and points west with the ranch kids, and the many children of the Sierra Pacific Power Company employees who lived and operated the power stations on the Truckee channel west of town. The driver of that bus was known for being a one-armed bus driver, not a situation one encounters often. And it was a stick-shift, at that.

But we got to school, I from Ralston Street, others from further away. But we got to school, or else, and Rita Cannan didn’t particularly give a rat’s-ass how we got there, but she would feel terribly hurt if we didn’t show up. When we arrived, we stopped first in the boiler room next to the kindergarten room to drop off our galoshes, hats and gloves, and somehow kept them straight, 200 pairs (We were in the first public-school Kindergarten in Reno, for prior to that it was, before WWII, the Babcock private Kindergarten at West Fifth and West Street, and during the war, subsidized by the War Department so moms with kids and husbands off to war could get out and commit some war effort.) Long story, another column someday.

This column is what happens when a writer gets cooped up with little to do on a snowy day with little else to do and gets a little buggy on a laptop. And somewhere up there I think I wrote Chestnut Street, which we now know as Arlington Avenue (the other day I spoke to a friend of the Belmont Street bridge, and she looked askance.) Or awry. Or bewildered. Arlington, when my dad was shoveling snow under the watchful eye of Rita Cannan, was Arlington from the golf course north to California Avenue, Belmont from California to West First, and Chestnut from there to the north end up by the Orr Ditch.

Anyway, the snowplow is ordered (you can see the Nugget in the background of the photo), and henceforth, there will be no more snow days at schools, and teachers and students alike will be expected to have their fannies on deck at eight bells in the schoolrooms in the interior of town, as we did in the old days (don’t you love that expression? Hey, I left out the part about getting the cows in Whitaker Park across from my house milked before I left to school…)

All for now…

A turkey lays an egg


The non-sensical piece that follows has run innumerable times, usually proximate to Thanksgiving, in the Gazoo when I wrote those columns, on my website when I had it years ago, and a couple times in the SF Chronicle when I sent it in (I didn’t really write it; I merely stole it from someone who told it in a joke and turned it into a news story.) It may be true, or not. The photo is a vintage British airliner, a Comet made by the forerunners of the Airbus consortium. A friend asked me over the weekend, are we going to read that stupid turkey story again? Yes you are; here it is. Maybe the next post will be of some substance. Or not. Happy Thanksgiving to All!

~ ~ ~

Early in the maturation of jet airliners, British aircraft engineers, addressing the dilemma of strengthening pilots’ windscreens against bird-strikes at low altitude, think a Canadian honker vs. a FedEx Airbus getting together over Peckham Lane after takeoff. They knew the United States had much experience with this matter and contacted some Southern California aeronautical engineers, who supplied plans for a rudimentary catapult that hurled a standard, store-bought turkey at a test windshield at a calculated velocity for analysis.

            The British guys fashioned a catapult, and soon after sent the Yanks photos of a test cockpit with the windshield shattered, the pilot’s headrest in smithereens, a gaping hole in the bulkhead behind the pilot’s head and the flight engineer’s console behind that bulkhead totally demolished. Other photos depicted another huge hole aft of the console in the next bulkhead separating it from the crew lavatory, which was also trashed.

            A few weeks later, the Brits received a telegram from the Americans: “Next time, thaw the turkey.”


If you’re after the Thanksgiving flood story, click here

I just knew this would happen…


Two of my lifelong friends brought out a book a few years ago. Their names are Jerry Fenwick and Neal Cobb, and together they are to Reno what the Bettman Archives are to the US of A and Matthew Brady was to the Civil War – the two of them have this city on celluloid, cold.

The book was a tremendous success, photos of today contrasted against the same scenes going back in time, for comparison. Big, clear photos. I knew the book would be a winner, and that it would just encourage them. And it was, and it did. Now they’re doing a second book. And they’ve asked me to write another Foreword for the new book, as I wrote for the original. And I said I would.

I nicknamed them the “Grumpy Old Men.” Their opinions differed from time-to-time over the archival photos’ placement within the book, the description of the newer views, the dates that the older views were taken on film (many taken by their parents, who were all in the art and photo business in Reno before and shortly after WWII.) They differed on the occupants of buildings depicted within the book, on east vs. west, on 1909 vs. 1910, on whether the pizza on our work nights would be pepperoni, salami, garbage, pineapple, anchovy or just plain. On whether it would be Reno Now and Then, or Then and Now, and a sky blue cover or a dove grey cover. They differed on who would get top billing, Cobb vs. Fenwick, Oscar vs. Felix, on whether we’d listen to Benny Goodman, the New Christy Minstrels, Broadway, the SF Giants, jazz, Mario Lanza or the Chipmunks as the book was being crafted. They were indeed the Grumpy Old Men, and I swore that if I ever, ever got mixed up with them again, individually or collectively, jointly or severally, that I would have my head examined.

I’m getting used to my new brick home down here on the Truckee; the people who work here are friendly enough and let me wander the grounds at will, babbling aimlessly. They have allowed me my old favorite IBM Selectric III and some paper, and I am once again crafting a Foreword for the Grumpy Old Men’s second book, while they differ on the title, Reno Now and Then II comes to mind but I wouldn’t bet on it.

But it will be a hell of a book, mark my words, with wonderful old scenes of our picturesque town, some never seen publicly before, many with a running dialogue of little known, and often fun facts and anecdotes about our beloved hamlet, the Tough Little Town on the Truckee; The City of Trembling Leaves. (I can tell I’m getting very near to scribing a Foreword; I’m already plagiarizing John Townley and Walter Van Tilburg Clark!)

Publication date: The first. (The first chance they get.) But right now if I were loose in Reno I’d hold off on my Christmas shopping to ensure that my friend(s) will get a heck of a good book under their Christmas tree(s). Watch this space; the Ol’ Reno Guy will keep you posted.

If they let me keep my Selectric…

When life hands you a lemon…,


This is a columnatic outgrowth, if that’s a word, of our post about our friend Larry Horning-from-Corning, (April 20th), who ran roughshod over the 7-Up distributing network in Northern Nevada for several decades, and who had the temerity to impugn my skills at the Good Old Days Club, but all that has absolutely nothing to do with this Friday post.

What is of consequence here is a corporate blunder, a major goof on the part of no less than the Seven-Up Company’s head shed in wherever, where somebody, no doubt a graveyard shift worker with his mind on some Baywatch babe or another diversion poles apart from the safe watch over the 7-Up bottling racks. He let this goof go unnoticed for most of his shift – labels inverted from their cargo.

And lo! 7,400 cases, if I may start a sentence with a Cardinal number, were bottled, cased, and put onto trucks in the shipping bay with a goodly number to be sent by rail hither and thither to the far corners of the land, or maybe not to thither at that.

But what do we do now? We have 7,400 cases of product with the name inverted on the labels, to form what appears to be a “dnL” as the name of the product. Do we admit that we screwed up in the bottling plant? What would Coca Cola and Hires and the other bottlers say: “7-Up can’t keep their products straight!!!”

Well, when the dipshit in the bottling line puts the labels on backwards, they did what any mega-corporate, national bellwether of doing-it-right would do: THEY INVENTED A NEW PRODUCT! This, in 2002, they added some lemon-lime, caffeinated it, gave it a greenish color unlike clear 7-Up, and did a few other things, mostly legal, to differentiate it from the plain ol’ 7-Up. For all the world to see, from the capitals of Europe to the backwaters of third-world countries; from Saturday afternoon football games on TV to fine ladies sipping something at the Kentucky Derby, move over Mint Juleps, the cognoscenti are swilling “dnL!” a new drink from 7-Up!

Photographed here, in an exclusive shot taken in the parking lot of the Black Bear Diner, where gentlemen of a certain age meet daily and if no rumor is heard by 9:00 a.m., one is then started, is seen a cooler with the “dnL” trademark upon it, and please note this is not a label placed upside down, for to keep the ruse alive, you can see that 7-Up made sure that the copyright registration “®” mark was appended in the inverted position barely, yet visible, below and to the right of the accidental “L”.

We of the Ol’ Reno Guy editorial staff will meet you all, for a “Seven-Crown-Royal and dnL,” the new highball of choice for the 21st Century! dnL – that’s where it’s at! And in closing, don’t forget the giraffe, who walked into the bar and said, “The highballs are on me…!

Have a good weekend…..




Fun with surreys, gigs, bass fiddles and John Phillip Sousa!

music man

Several days ago a reader took me to task for insinuating that Dave (Buck) Wheat, who too few knew as the brilliant bass fiddle player for the Kingston Trio, wrote the letters attributed to him in my piece (April 14th). Actually, it didn’t seem to bother that reader that the letters were primarily bullcrap, manufactured as a vehicle to tell a few stories about pre-1960 Reno and those who lived in it. The greater concern was my chronology for the production and maturation of the Kingston Trio. I knew damn well that the whole thing was haywire, but, in the pattern of Mark Twain, I’m seldom prone to let a good story get screwed up by the facts. Fact is, most of the column beside what the reader complained about was also sheer baloney.

Curiously, I had a couple other projects going this week; in both, I determined some facts that America has come to love and embrace, are about as off-base as my letters from Buck Wheat that never existed. But this reader seems to leave Meredith Willson and Oscar Hammerstein alone, for works that the whole world has come to love and enjoy: respectively, their Broadway shows The Music Man, and Oklahoma!

Professor Harold Hill, in The Music Man, incants, “…And you’ll feel something akin to the electric thrill I once enjoyed when Gilmore, Liberati, Pat Conway, The Great Creatore, W.C. Handy and John Philip Sousa all came to town on the very same historic day.”

Patrick Gilmore was probably dead when most of the others led their bands, Giuseppe Liberati lived a continent away,  Pat Conway – well, maybe he was in River City, but it’d be a stretch timewise, The Great Creatore like Liberati was hell-and-gone away from River City for most of his career. W.C. Handy, now he was a little younger, a black musician of great renown but mostly for jazz, and John Phillip Sousa – of him, we needn’t write a great deal. The father of the American March – Stars and Stripes Forever!

But – did they ever  all come to town together, as Professor Harold Hill suggests, on that same historic day? Ta-ta-daaaah…I think not.


But – did anybody bother Meredith Willson? Nooooo…  Did they nominate him for two Oscars for his misconceptions? Yup. Did he get a star on Hollywood Boulevard? Yup. Do I get that after a slight mis-step with my Buck Wheat tale? Noooooooooo…

          Now, let’s talk about Oscar Hammerstein, just one song, Surrey with the Fringe on Top. That one. Did he write about a surrey, with a fringe on top, with four, count ‘em, four, wheels. That’s how many wheels surreys have. Yup. And don’t the lyrics mention, “You will set behind a team of snow white horses, in the slickest gig you ever see!”? Yup.

          And what’s a “gig?” It’s a horse-drawn carriage with two wheels. Count ‘em: two. A “brouette,” an Irishman might say. Or might not. But does anybody bug Oscar Hammerstein? Noooooooooo…  Does he get Oscars, Grammies, Platinum records, a place in the pinnacle of American entertainment (which he richly deserves)?Yup.

          Life ain’t fair. One little column, one slight goof, intentional at that, and my career is doomed.

          See you tomorrow, right here on the Ol’ Reno Guy. Maybe I’ll tell you about the night I played banjo for the Limeliters at Blyth Arena in Squaw Valley…

          That ought to get somebody worked up!


The Wreck of the Ol’ 97


The inherent peril in promising the world that you will post something, every day, come hell, high water, sleet, rain, power outage, abduction, waking up with weasels tearing at your flesh, death by fang, cliff, claw, sudden wealth, pestilence, hooch or hot lead, is, that sometimes the bar for the quality of the post can be lowered, or in today’s case, tanked, just to get a post posted daily. Today, Saturday, is such a day, and this is such a post.

We see here a vista that I’m not sure of, somewhere between a Sheep Dip stunt and a Laugh-In segment, a hot Olds 4-4-2 with two drivers and three groupie babes. The guys are Tim Burke holding the helmet, and Larry Horning, who presumably needs no helmet. Larry – Horning-from-Corning – or close to Corning (N.Y.) anyway, came to town in the 1960s to ensure that diners, tavern denizens, picnickers, residents, all the denizens of the valley, would have 7-Up on their tables, bartops, checkout counters and picnic baskets everywhere on this side of the Sierra, and he did a pretty good job of it ’til he retired as a top–exec, no-bull, all-business type, which he remains in retirement. He has also rendered some beautiful music from a great pair of pipes, for Masterworks Chorale and a few  other groups and monthly at the Good Old Days club. The guy can sing, no question about it; he could have gone to the Big Apple instead of Reno, and moved ol’ Blue Eyes aside in the hearts of American lasses in the early 1960s.

(The ladies occupying and glamming up the Olds are, and this is true, are the Barq girls, Barq being a root-beer drink that we see little of in the West who loaned these ladies to whoever took the picture. We’re told.)

Horning would have us believe that this is a publicity stunt conjured up by 7-Up, but as trained professionals, we find this to be a load of horse-hockey and that he and Burke, and the Barq girls had probably in truth stolen the Olds from Waldren Olds’ lot and the NASCAR suits from John Tyson, in some failed attempt to pad their burgeoning expense accounts at the bottling company.

And that’s the story the Ol’ Reno Guy is going with. This has almost nothing to do with the post itself, but it might be known by all that the stalwart members of the Good Old Days club, not prone to hi-jinx, were witness to Mr. Horning relating an anecdote of dubious veracity yesterday at their meeting at the Tamarack, that anecdote bearing upon some shortcomings in the Ol’ Reno Reader’s intelligence, work-ethic, and shoddy use of the English language, speling and grammer.

It is logical to believe that Mr. Horning, having brought himself into the crosshairs of this civic offering of commentary, will from time-to-time again be featured in this website with further accounts of his adventures about our hamlet.

Actually, he told a pretty good joke. And really, he’s a great singer, and a good friend!)