March 24 • Dad’s new office in Sparks

Go to the first tale in this adventure

 

_BandstandWell, we’ve been here in Reno for a couple weeks; school will be starting soon down the hill at Mary S. Doten. Dad got a job as a real estate man working for an agent named Charles H. Skipper, whose office is in Sparks, a little town just east of Reno. Dad said he thinks it will grow pretty fast with a guy named George Probasco, building houses that the guys getting out of the service will be buying.

Dad took me out to Sparks this Saturday morning. We went out the Lincoln Highway, past a lot of old pre-war businesses and some “auto courts” that I’ll tell you all about one of these times when I’m writing again. But this morning I start our walk at his office, in a little tiny house on A Street. The main drag through Sparks is the Lincoln Highway, but in Sparks it’s called “B Street.” Skipper’s office is on “A Street,” south of the highway and on the south side of a pretty little park called the “Reserve” by the Union Pacific Railroad when they moved to Sparks in 1903. It was reserved for a park for employees of the railroad, and had sat there for 40 years, grassy with nice walkways, early light fixtures and a small eight-sided “Queen Anne” bandbox on the east end of the Reserve  (pictured above). It started at about 12th Street which in time to come would be a casino called the Nugget, and went from there east a long ways, toward what I’d learn in 1955 would be a bunch of great big tanks to hold oil and gas and stuff, starting about 4th Street. Getting myself adjusted, I figured out that 8th Street would become known as “Pyramid Way” because it went to Pyramid Lake.

SP Sparks roundhouseThe railroad’s property was fenced, on a line which started south of dad’s new office on A Street. There were a couple of gates, the big one that most of the employees used was at the foot of 8th Street, Pyramid Way. Just beyond that gate was the railroad’s “roundhouse,” a big building to turn locomotives with. I didn’t know it that morning but in a few years it would be torn down and its bricks used all over Reno and Sparks. There was another big building to the east of the roundhouse, where the railroad worked on its locomotives. During the war, which was just ended, a wing was added to the east of that brick building. There were big locomotives everywhere, with silver fronts and their smokestacks in the back, which was different than what I saw in El Cerrito when we lived there. And you could hear (and smell!) them from blocks away from the railyard.

 I met Mr. Shelly that morning with dad. He was a neat guy who owned a hardware store a little ways up Pyramid Way by the airport. He knew all about the railroads, and told me that there was over 30 miles of side tracks in the Sparks railroad yard. The ground had been built up in 1903  before the railroad laid all that track, with dirt that had been brought in from a little place west of Reno by a street that would later be called Stoker. But this was 1946, so I didn’t know that street’s name then. He told me that when the railroad opened their railyard they brought in over 1,000 tons of coal and made a big pile of it to use in their engines

The engines were built for the snow sheds west of town, with the engineers’ seats in the front and air pumped into the cab, to keep the smoke out when they were in the tunnels on the big mountain west of Reno. Boy, I can’t wait to go up and see those snow sheds and tunnels! I’ll write about it here when I do! The railroad bought a lot of those locomotives. Mr. Shelly told me that at one time over a hundred of them were built by Baldwin Locomotive in Philadelphia and towed to Sparks. He gave dad and I a ride in his pickup to the far end of the railyard, where we went over 14 sets of tracks, I counted ‘em, on Stanford Way to cross the yard. The street was named for Mr. Stanford, one of the railroad’s owners. And it was later closed to cars. One day in the mid-1950s they would start building those tanks, but we didn’t know that then.

FiremanSparks was a fun town to walk around in while dad worked selling houses. I’d go often with him on Saturdays. The Reserve got a lot of use with kids like me during the day and in the evening they’d have band concerts and dances in the little bandbox. There was a library across B Street that took good care of kids. On a sad note I remember a procession one morning with firemen marching slowly alongside Sparks Fire Department’s pumper truck. All its hoses were removed and a casket with a flag over it was in the hose bay. Dad said it was for the Sparks fire chief, who died fighting a fire in Reno at the Greyhound bus station on Lake Street. That was August 1948, and I think everybody in Sparks and many from Reno were on the lawn at the Reserve. That really stuck in my mind for a long time. There’s a memorial statue now for fallen firemen on Pyramid Way.

There were some nice stores on the north side of B Street. One all us kids liked was theAdams Sparks Bootery, where you could stand on a gadget and see your feet and all the bones and stuff inside your shoes, in a weird green color that looked right through your shoes! Another neat store was a friend of dad’s, Mr. Adams, who was the official watch repair guy for the railroad. He took care of all the railroaders, who had to own a certain kind of watch, and have it inspected each year. He had a big board full of pocket watches that he’d loan to the engineers and conductors while their own watch was being tested. I got lucky and got to have one  of those old “loaners” in later life.  

 Well, dad’s calling me now across the park so I’m going to go. We’ll meet again soon – there’s a lot more places to walk in Reno and school will be starting soon and I’ll be off to kindergarten! Maybe I’ll be a better writer then, come back and we’ll see……

 Contact the six-year old at kfbreckenridge@live.com

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March 13 Monday •  down West Street to St. Mary’s Hospital we go

 Go to how this all began…

KarlatWhitakerWell, we survived our first dinner out at the El Tavern Motel’s coffee shop, might have to fall back in there one of these nights. There’s still some daylight this summer night but I know I’ll get my butt warmed if I take off on another exploration. Dad was putting the Chevy into the old wooden garage behind our house at 740 Ralston – that used to be a carriage house and still had some old horse tack in it. I could hear some people hitting a tennis ball in the courts across Ralston Street in Whitaker Park.

So – I waited ‘til the next morning to take off on another adventure – I invited the little red-haired girl from next door but she was only three years old, so she begged off. Didn’t want to hang with a six-year old. Too old. I walked east, along University Terrace. Old houses abounded – the divorcée residence I mentioned earlier – the Mount Rose Arms – was the first house on the corner. A long block away was West Street – a street beyond Nevada Street which I could see toward downtown but didn’t come north of the Orr Ditch, which was just along University Terrace. My classmates Bill and Margaret Eddleman lived at that street’s dead end.

Along University Terrace was an old house – a fraternity house for the Lambda Chi Alpha guys. A new one would be built by a Lambda Chi alum named Rodney Boudwin in a few years. Then a big beautiful brick house with some letters “ATΩ” out in front – never did learn what that meant.

 On West Street was a big two-story house that I’d learn soon belonged to the parents Twaddleof two life-long friends of mine – Gene and Ed Aimone. Ed grew up and owned the “Norfolk” gift store in the 1970s in the old Twaddle mansion  on the northeast corner of Ralston and Fifth Street (seen right). Of course this was 1946 so I didn’t know it now. We’ll walk by that on the way home later. Down the hill were two houses that in later life I’d read of, but never in any form that was for sure – one house on West Street supposedly belonged, according to some grown-up books, to the man who built Scotty’s Castle, Walter Scott, in 1922. The other house, next door to Scott’s, per these books, belonged to the University of Nevada, a couple blocks to the east, and was used as the President’s Residence. But I’d also learn in a few years that the president of the UN_PrexyHouseUniversity had a house near the southeast corner of the Quad, built in 1900 and in use until 1956 (seen left). When the Aggie building was built by Mr. Fleischmann. So I don’t know. I think that house was used for guests of the U. Of course, that story, as the Scott story, may be couched in bullshit. I would learn much of that in later life while researching history. Lots of that. I should mention what I didn’t know in 1946, was that West Street would be cut off by a “freeway,” whatever that is, in about 30 years and then the street would be just a short dead-end street.

 So, I walked east some more, to Sierra Street, where cars still went in both directions. On the west side of Sierra Street were more houses with those strange letters out in front, all in a row next to each other: ΠΒΦ, ΚΑΘ, and ΔΔΔ – Pi Beta Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Delta Delta Delta. Down the street a full block was another, ΓΦΒ – GammaRLThome Phi Beta. These were places a bunch of girls lived – (yecch!). I continued my walk down Sierra Street, beyond where the “freeway” would later pass. One interesting building across Seventh Street from the Gamma Phi sorority house was the Reno Little Theater. My mom wanted to go there and see a play sometime. It was in a nice little brick building, that was built initially as the Dania House, for I learned that there were a lot of Danish people in Reno, mostly in the dairy business. My dad’s friend Mr. Loomis’ grandfather, Mr. Frandsen, gave it to the Danish people for a clubhouse. Mr. Loomis’ mother gave the money for the Christian Science Church, which would later be called the Lear Theater. Mr. Loomis, by the way, was an amateur photographer; he took the picture of me posted above in Whitaker Park with the Eickbush mansion in the background

 There wasn’t much to see looking down Sierra Street except for a whole lot of apartment houses, so I walked west on Sixth Street to West Street again. There was a really pretty little building on that corner, looked a lot like Vikingsholm Castle at Lake Tahoe, I think it had the same architect, Faville & Bliss out of San Francisco. It was Babcockcalled the Babcock Memorial Kindergarten, built 46 years ago in 1900. It was a private kindergarten that operated up until WWII, which was ended only a year ago. Kids went to kindergarten after that in the five public schools, paid for by the War Department to get mothers out of their houses to work, and I would start kindergarten in about three weeks at Mary S. Doten Elementary School, the first kindergarten class to go to public kindergarten in Reno! Pretty neat – we’ll talk about that someday. The Babcock Building, by the way, was thereafter used for public meetings and stuff until 1955, when it became the first office for the new Washoe County School District. But, of course, I didn’t know any of this on this morning’s walk, because it’s still only 1946.

 I’m coming up now, on Sixth Street, to St. Mary’s Hospital. On the south side of the StMarysOriginalstreet are two buildings; one a school, St. Mary’s of the Mountains, which was a school for girls (yecch!) like Bishop Whitaker School across the street from my house. It later (1908) became Nurses’ Hospital, since the world didn’t need another girls’ school after the University moved in from Elko. Next to that pretty old building was the convent, a dormitory for the Dominican Order sisters who worked at the hospital. And, of course, across Sixth Street to the north, the tiny St. Mary’s Hospital. Then, along Elm Street, a short walk to Ralston Street. We’ll stop in the Ralston Market at the bottom of the hill for a Bazooka bubble gum stick, I think I have a nickel in my pocket for one. Then, up the hill, to home.

 I’m enjoying these little walks, to get to know my new neighborhood! Only too soon, I’ll be off down the hill to my first day in kindergarten. Come back toward the end of the week; I hear there’s a good party called “St. Patrick’s Day” coming up, and since my grandmother and her family were from Ireland, maybe I’ll be invited.BazookaGum

Yeah…..

 contact the six-year old at kfbreckenridge@live.com

 

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March 5 • the El Tavern – our first dinner out in Reno!

 

Go the first installment in this series

eltavern2Well, we’ve been in Reno for five days now and have been pretty much camping at 740 Ralston Street. It’s time for a square meal, maybe the first since we left El Cerrito a week ago!

Dad heard of a place out the Lincoln Highway, actually not too far beyond Vine Street, which is about the last street west on West Fourth Street. Beyond that on the road, are a dozen motels, among the nicest in Reno, all built before WWII. But, there aren’t many places for a family to go for a dinner out, anywhere in Reno in 1946. So we’ll give this one a try; it’s called the El Tavern Motel, but it’s also a truck stop, also one of the few in Reno or Sparks.

We piled into the Chevy, a 1941 coupe that had a back seat; many coupes like this just had a flat deck behind the front seats, they called them “business coupes” and they were pretty much the norm. We rolled down the Ralston Street hill, a stop sign at West Fifth Street, then to West Fourth Street – the Lincoln Highway. Dad did a right turn and1941_chevvy we were off. There were no stoplights in Reno, as we had in El Cerrito and Richmond. The only one I remember on Fourth Street was hung on a wire that crossed Fourth and Virginia Streets – the busiest corner in northern Nevada for 20 years after the war. But we just rolled on westward. Dinner sounded good.

I could make several pages of  notes about the trip but I’ll save that for another visit – right now we just passed Vine Street and are beyond Reno’s city limits – a big ice plant, for many homes in Reno still had iceboxes. A brick factory. Motel after motel on the right, north side of the two-lane highway. In the distance on either side of the road, a large number of trucks, big highway jobs with trailers. All stopped. Their drivers are having dinner in the El Tavern Motel’s coffee-shop, a trucker’s favorite. The motel was a typical Reno motel, U-shaped with small units along the inside of the “U” and an office/coffee shop in the center area.

oldtruck2It turned out that my father knew, or knew of, the owner of the coffee shop that was in that motel’s office. His name was Bill Parker, a friendly guy. I learned that he was a hard-rock miner in central Nevada during the years before WWII, his youth, and with the war effort he was able to keep his job as an “essential war effort worker” during the war. He had mined ore, as most youthful miners had done, while he was still working. Most of the ore that he had unearthed was gold and silver, and I hope you’ll remember that for a while. Gold, and silver.

We enjoyed our dinner at the El Tavern, in a typical coffee shop booth with my sister, now only a few months old, in a bassinet on the seat bench. It was the first time we had had a square meal since we got to town, a week ago! My mom was tired, hadn’t shopped nor unpacked the kitchen utensils and dishes. This place had a nice menu, with stuff for kids like me.

Our waitress was a nice older lady, probably 50 or so, and why I’d remember her name 70 years later I don’t know, but it was Mrs. Dietz. She was the only waitress I can remember. The place had all the stuff that a coffee shop is supposed to have, with a juke box and Chism Ice Cream signs in many places and  big bright clock. One was really neat: It was a “Model Dairy” sign made out of glass tubing that lit up, “Open” when the coffee shop was open. First time I ever saw a “neon” sign. We’ll walk some more places in the days and weeks to come and see some more of these neon signs.

oldtruckThe truckers – probably about a dozen of them – hung out in the west end of the coffee shop and were pretty nice guys (in later visits to the El Tavern, of which there were many, I got to go up into the cabs of a few trucks!) Their trucks weren’t much by the standards of what trucking would become in the next 70 years, but they were big and tough and smelly and noisy. A trucker showed me the transmission levers – only one on the Chevrolet of my dad’s, but two levers on the big trucks – Marmons, Whites, Diamond Ts – one main one and one “Brownie” – for the Browning secondary transmission. I don’t remember a real sleeper unit, ‘cuz most of these were driven by one guy. But there sure were a lot of them out in front on the highway.

Going out for dinner was a real treat in 1946. We went to the El Tavern. We went out South Virginia Street about halfway out of town, to the “Q-ne-Q” which was a real honest stainless-steel diner a block south of Dick Dimond Dodge, where my dad soon bought a Dodge sedan that I’ll tell you about some night. Dimond Dodge was about at the end of California Avenue where another friend of my dad’s, Mr. Maffi, had a Signal Oil service station where we bought gas. His partner was Mr. Lyons.

There weren’t a lot of “family” restaurants in Reno after the war, plenty of nightclubs downtown we’ll visit here someday, Tony’s El Patio Ballroom where all of our parents went once a month. The families often went to the Toscano Hotel’s restaurant, on Lake Street between Second and Commercial Row, where the grownups would take one little private room and the kids got another, separate. A couple times I got to have dinner with that little red-headed girl I’ve mentioned before. Dad in the months to come would go down Second Street a few blocks by the Presto-Log factory and meet his friend Brickie Hansen at his family’s grocery store. Someday I’ll tell you about “Brickie’s”! And, there was a nice place in Sparks, a few miles east of Reno. It was a Chinese place – the Chinese Pagoda. I learned later in life that all the best Chinese restaurants on the west coast, and maybe everywhere, were in towns where there was a lot of railroading going on 50 years before I was born!

Much left to write about, downtown, restaurants, automobiles – come back in a few days or a week and we can all wander somewhere else in Reno in 1946.

 contact the six-year old at kfbreckenridge@live.com

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February 25 Sunday • Little Italy!

Go to the first post in this yarn

p1000328Boyoboyoboy – am I ever in the soup. Here I am, six years old, escaped from my parents and standing on the corner of West 11th Street and Ralston. With mocha on my face from the cookie that Mrs. Graham gave me in the big white house on the corner! I was supposed to be home a half hour ago – at my age I don’t even own a wristwatch yet. But I know I’m in the doghouse. What else is new…

I heard Dr. David, our neighbor next to our new house on Ralston Street, talk about “Little Italy” – a colony of Italian people who all lived north of University Terrace. So, I’m this close, I’m in trouble anyway, so I might as well walk back home along one of those streets – Washington or Bell Street. I started walking west on 11th Street.

These little houses were interesting – not part of the Italian neighborhood, really, but the western edge of another subdivision – called Academy Heights, or Academy Manor. That’s because the homes were mostly owned by professors at the university to the east. Like Dr. David who lived next door to us. The homes were small, with very ornate brickwork set in a parquet pattern – a word I didn’t know in 1946 while I was walking. Many had steep roofs with round turrets, and some had rounded tops on their entry doors, like “Hobbit” doors in the fairy tales.

After a few moments of walking I had arrived at Washington Street, which in 1946 was approaching the west end of Reno. I turned to the left – downhill to the south – and found myself in that magic neighborhood – Little Italy. I took some pictures of the homes with my Brownie Hawkeye so I’ll add them to this story. One is a two-story apartment house that came later, from barracks that were down by Washoe Hospital during WWII. We’ll talk more of those on another day.

p1000329One feature that struck me immediately was the neatness and design of the yards, not something that a six-year old discerns immediately, but I couldn’t help noticing on this warm August afternoon the orderly fashion of the vegetable gardens, home-after-home, a great pride in them. I’d learn in later years that the Italians were fiercely competitive in almost everything they did, and these gardens were so maintained. As were the fruit trees, row upon row of trees in the commodious backyards. The front yards were well-maintained also, lawn, in a day when lawn was popular, even if small areas. Home after home of immaculate yards. And few square feet of land not being used for some sort of food production.

I nodded at some of the residents as I walked by – all seeming to be interested in this “new kid on the block,” which I was. “Where do you live?” they’d ask. “Who are your parents?” “What school will you go to?” I soon realized that they had kids my age. And I met a few – Bobby Ginocchio remained my friend through life. His folks lived in Little Italy; his grandfather the owner of Reno Iron Works, a prevalent industry for the immigrant Italians. Many men in Little Italy worked in the iron fabricating plant on Chestnut Street, down at the bottom of the Ralston hill (in later years it would be called Arlington Avenue.)

As I met kids my age, I noted that their parents and grandparents in the homes all spoke Italian when addressing each other, but when any kids were around – me or even their own children – they spoke English. I learned that all would severely chastise each other should a child be exposed to Italian. (But I also learned that most of them became fluent in it, and would understand Italian the rest of their lives.)

p1000327They enjoyed their wine. In days and week to come, I’d see them enjoying a glass of wine, with dinner when they invited my parents over for dinner, and almost every night. Most had a grape press in their back yards, and it was legal for them to bottle up to 40 gallons a year for their own consumption. I’m told that a few bottles, which they’d save from the restaurants when they emptied, would be refilled and find their way back down the hill to the local restaurants – Siri’s, the Toscano, Colombo’s and others.

On several occasions in the years following World War II I was invited to come to the grape arrival event, held in the freight barn behind the Railway Exress building on Lake Street. (I’d learn in later years that that building would become the site of the “Mens Club,” where men could go and pay to see ladies parade around in skimpy clothes. Why would grownups want to do that? I asked myself…)

Grapes, you see, would arrive in boxcars, loaded in on the boxcars’ floors and stacked to the ceilings – from grape growers in the Napa area of California (my mother and grandmother and a half-dozen great-aunts and – uncles settled there when the emigrated from Ireland.) The bundles of grapes would be off-loaded onto the freight-barn’s floor, and the Italians would arrive to buy them. It was an afternoon of boisterous, often violent, activity punctuated by men hollering at each other in Italian, tossing grape bunches around from one to the other and eventually paying the merchant who was running the whole shebang. They’s pack their grapes – usually enough or more than enough to fill a pickup bed level with the trucks’ sides, and trundle them off up the Washington Street hill. And they weren’t all alone – there were other Italian neighborhoods in Reno, off East Fourth Street behind the old ball park, and in the vicinity of Washoe General Hospital on Mill Street. But the northwest Reno guys would chug up the hill and put their booty into the basements of their homes to keep cool until it could be pressed and bottled.

And I might note that in those days there was no cabernet, merlot, pinot Grigot, chardonnay or all that silly stuff – wine was red, or white which was really blush with a little of the red grape inevitably sticking to the press.

But Little Italy was the home of most wine that was consumed in Reno. And, much of p1000330the best fruit and vegetables from those immaculate gardens. In a safe neighborhood – it’s been said that the only time that the Italians locked their homes was during the zucchini harvesting season, so that no one would come home to find that a neighbor had come in and left some zucchini behind for them.

Little Italy was a fun neighborhood, populated by good people with good children my age, and the fun they enjoyed on warm summer nights, or on Columbus Day, which was a virtual national holiday in America back then, was a wonderful experience. Patriotism to their newfound country – for many in the neighborhood in 1946, were new to our shores.

I learned much as a new kid on that block. I’ve heard that tonight my dad is taking the family out for its first restaurant dinner in our new town, to some place called the “El Tavern” coffee shop out on West Fourth Street. C’mon back in a few days and we’ll examine the bill of fare…

contact the six-year old at kfbreckenridge@live.com

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the Sparks Southern Pacific engine shop addition

From the dark reaches of our choo-choo file we find an old photograph taken inside the addition to the Southern Pacific locomotive repair shops, still standing just west of the tank farm in Sparks. This wartime steel addition to the old brick loco shop is here seen inside, the windows are those seen from the freeway.

 

sp_shopThe lettering on the picture indicates “lifting first locomotive in new erecting shop – Sparks, Nev. – Feb. 9, 1944”  Loco 4046 was brought in from the turntable serving the roundhouse near the south dead end of present Pyramid Way. Separated from its tender, it was backed through the old brick loco shop and into this new building, where it was lifted clear of its axles, wheels and cylinders, for a complete tear-down and service.

Here’s a link to an old story about what work was done in the loco shops in Sparks. You may have already read it. It opens in a new window.

Below is a pre-1944 aerial view of the Sparks S.P. roundhouse looking northeast to southwest, note B Street/Victorian Way diagonally to the lower right, 8th Street/Pyramid Way just to the right of the uppermost white building on B Street. The locomotive shops sans the later 1944 addition are seen to the east/left of the roundhouse and turntable. The Sparks Nugget is now located near the grove of trees to the upper right corner of the picture. The Pacific Fruit Express icehouse  is seen to the upper left in the photo. Both photos © Southern Pacific Railroad, pleasesp-sparks-roundhouse

Let’s go bowling….

BowlingShirtI walked into the Nevada Historical Society earlier this week in my vermillion shirt with the black short sleeves, Sascha the Hamm’s Beer bear embroidered on one pocket, “Walker & Melarkey’s Flying A” across the back and the shirt-tail hanging out. NHS head librarian Mike Maher looked up.

            “Writing about bowling next Sunday are we, Karl?” he asked, laconically. I replied in the affirmative and descended into the abyss of the microfilm grotto.

For the king of old bowling alleys, we’ll focus on the YMCA, then located in downtown Reno on East First Street between Virginia and Center. The earliest reference I could find about bowling in Reno was in a March 1909 Nevada State Journal, and not in the sports section but the society page – bowling was fast becoming an acceptable diversion for young ladies, nationally and here in our valley. “Clubs,” which I surmise we now call “leagues”, were forming in town. And Thursday evenings were now reserved for ladies at the Y, which was open for bowling every night but Sunday.

Print references are scarce for quite a number of years following 1909; the Downtown Bowl at 130 North Center Street pops up in a few sports pages’ references to tournaments. But, in the April 19, 1937 Reno Evening Gazette, pay dirt: We read of the phenomenal new “Reno Recreation Palace” ballyhooed on South Virginia at Ryland. I was unfamiliar with that stately pleasure dome, and opened a Sanborn map expecting to see eight or 10 city blocks devoted to civic revelry. But I found only a bowling alley we knew as the Reno Bowl, which adjoined a theater we knew as the Tower Theater. A movie theater in the same building as a bowling alley is a specious use of space, sound-wise – many of us recall a dashing and tuxedoed Errol Flynn sweeping a gowned Maureen O’Hara off her Guccis on the Lido deck of a luxury liner; violins soaring, the full moon on high dancing on the liner’s wake as the palm-lined island faded into the background on the Tower’s silver screen.

Contemporaneously as Errol planted a major lip-lock on Maureen, a bowling ball on the other side of the paper-thin wall crashed into the pins to complete a turkey as the inebriated keglers in the Reno Bowl bellowed and whooped and high-fived each other. Romance may not be dead, but at the Tower Theater it was frequently in ICU.

Electric Pinsetters? Ye gods; what’s next…

 On downtown Sparks’ B Street/Lincoln Highway/Highway 40 (and now Victorian Avenue) from Home Furniture’s new Sparks store – now Rail City Casino – and next door to the Elbow Room, where that wasn’t sawdust on the floor but last night’s furniture, came a new, post-war bowling alley. The Sparks Bowlarium opened on Jan. 18, 1949 with eight, count ‘em, eight lanes; in 1958 the building would be enlarged and the lanes doubled to 16. It then had a real twist: automatic electric pinsetters – the kid resetting pins in the “pit,” working two or three lanes and ducking inbound bowling balls for all his life – would soon be but a memory. (It should be mentioned somewhere that the alleys then, as today, had cocktail lounges, food service, and at most, child care and dancing.)

 A long way out on South Virginia, almost to the end of Reno at Moana Lane (before Moana even existed east of South Virginia) Reno got its first post-war bowling alley. The Town & Country (now High Sierra Lanes) was opened in April of 1958. I’m stumped as to its original lane count; it is clear in both the Gazette and the Journal that at least some of that alley’s original lanes were taken from the Downtown Bowl on Center Street between First and Second Streets, which closed that year. (I mentioned in a column a while back that that building downtown was taken over by Harrah’s for office space.)

Back to Sparks now, just off 8th Street – now Pyramid Way – to the newish Greenbrae Center – another new alley opens in August of 1960. The Greenbrae Lanes featured 24 lanes. And my Sparks readers are probably wondering if I could possibly deign to mention “Greenbrae Lanes” without also scribing “Driftwood Lounge” in the same sentence. That would be a travesty I won’t commit – the walls of the adjacent and fabled Driftwood could probably tell more tales than all the cocktail lounges in Reno or Sparks put together. The alley closed, but the lounge is still open for business [2016-?], and we’ll give the Archueleta family a plug here and our thanks for the decades that they operated it.

Keystone Avenue was finally cut through northward from the railroad tracks and the Starlight Bowl opened on West Sixth Street near Keystone on Dec. 10, 1961. It’s been a winner ever since; when it opened with 32 lanes it was the biggest alley in Nevada. Sterling Village Lanes, toward the north end of Valley Road near old Bishop Manogue High School, opened on July 10, 1964; it closed in the 1980s and now houses a small market. The big Kahuna of local public alleys is now within the Grand Sierra Resort; before it opened in 1978 as the MGM Grand its 50 lanes were shipped to Reno and installed temporarily at the Coliseum (OK, the Convention Center) for a summer-long national tournament, then were relocated to the brand-new MGM following that tournament.

Another big bowling alley opened in Reno in 1994 but inasmuch as they won’t let me bowl there I can’t reliably write about it. But, on this morning of the Sabbath, know that the family that prays together, stays together; the family that bowls together, splits. Have a good week, and God bless America!

A postscript that arrived after publication: “My friend Tom Case reminded us that at the end of a night of bowling, a tennis ball slit halfway around its circumference would quietly roll out of the pit toward the bowlers. The unspoken etiquette was to put a few pictures of dead presidents into the ball as a gratuity, then return it back down the gutter to the pinsetter.”

And a post-postscript: My editor-in-chief Linda Patrucco told me that her mother, an inveterate bowler didn’t fool around with a tennis ball, she just rolled a silver dollar the length of the gutter to the grateful pinsetter

©  Reno Gazette-Journal  May 14, 2008

 

Walking East Fourth Street – 2001

 

F-carI pretty much left this alone from its original publication in the Gazoo. BTW, “Homefinders” was the section of the paper I wrote in, and I formed a Homefinders Club for the readership. And don’t ask me why I used a SF Muni streetcar for a photo – there’s no reason whatsoever…

“You’ve walked all over town in past columns, why don’t the Homefinder readers walk East Fourth Street?”  Or so a few readers wrote.

          It’s mostly because the RG-J recently carried an excellent three-issue overview of East Fourth with more ink and graphics than I could ever hope to squeeze out of the real estate editor.  This piece started as a commentary on old signs, but while riding around with a notepad some quirky thoughts of East Fourth in Reno and B Street – Victorian Way – in Sparks still beckoned to be heard, so we’ll mix up the two themes this morning.

          The two neon signs that most interest me while I’m enjoying an ale or three at Great Basin brewery in Sparks are first, the Pony Express Motel sign at the Prater/Victorian “Y”, a late-1940s product of Pappy Smith’s (Harolds Club) and Young Electric Sign’s imaginations.  I started to write that it was the first “motion” neon sign in town – (the arrows being shot from the Indians’ bows) – but I now spell-check out any superlatives, like first, oldest, highest, etc.  And “railroad” or “architect” for that matter.

          It’s much too big to steal, but the second sign I lust after is more portable, in front of the old Park Motel on Prater Way; the Phillip Morris-type bellboy with the once-waving arm that used to beckon travelers into the “motor lodge.”  It’s a creation that would blow the CC&Rs of the God-forsaken desert to smithereens if I lit it up in my backyard, waving at the architectural committee.  No chance.  Note the other remaining motor hotel signs on East Fourth – the Sandman, with the tires on the prewar sedan that once appeared to revolve.  And the classic neon art style, with no name that I know of attributed to it, on Everybody’s Inn and Alejo’s motels’ signs, and a few others – hopefully they will all be saved, rehabilitated and displayed somewhere as signs of a bygone era, no pun intended.  

          Check out the architecture on East Fourth – the brick patterns in the Alturas Hotel, J.R. Bradley Company, the buildings that flourished in the early postwar period like Siri’s Restaurant, Reno Mattress and some of the retail stores.  Replicating the rococo brickwork style in some of those buildings today would cost a fortune.  And Ernie’s Flying “A” truck stop, we called it then, now signed as RSC Something-or-other: The fluted column-tower signature of Flying “A” stations has long since been all but removed from this garage, but look close and you can easily detect a close resemblance to Landrum’s Café architecture on South Virginia – a very prevalent commercial style of a prewar period.  (Ernie’s was, with McKinnon & Hubbard on West Fourth Street, the forerunner of Boomtown, the Alamo and Sierra Sid’s to old U.S. Highway 40 truckers.)  And, if I’m permitted to editorialize, hats off to my old buddy Steve Scolari, whose family business Ray Heating – now RHP – has been on East Fourth for 70-plus years.  Faced with the need to expand, he turned the main office building facing East Fourth Street into a great-looking little office, yet retained its post-war nuance, then upgraded a half-dozen industrial buildings on the street and railroad land to the south into very serviceable first-class modern shops, preserving the workforce and tax base in the East Fourth corridor.  A gutty move, but a lead that more property owners in areas like East Fourth and South Wells Avenue should follow.  And progressive city management, not hell-bent on plowing two or three hundred million dollars into a hole in the ground, should offer tax incentives for this “infill” redevelopment like other cities do.  End of tirade.

Evidence of a bygone retail presence on East Fourth is Windy Moon Quilts on Morrill Avenue, the only quilt shop in town with a drive-up window.  Why?  ‘Cuz it once was a busy and highly profitable branch of First National Bank, that’s why.  [2016 note: Windy Moon has a second location now, in the old Mary Ann Nichols Elementary School on Pyramid Way.]

          We couldn’t tour East Fourth without stopping at the architecturally resplendent Tap ‘n Tavern, where that’s not sawdust on the floor, but last night’s furniture, and then mosey on down Highway 40 to Casale’s Half-way Club for world-class pizza, and if Mama Stempeck ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. What a great lady…

          Many notes remain and readers will kick in a few more, so we’ll probably go back and finish this tour soon.  (I’LL PUT IT ON THIS WEBSITE AFTER HOT AUGUST NIGHTS – kb.) I detected a slight deterrent to development on East Fourth while driving, starting, stopping, backing up, making notes and taking pictures, stopping again: on several occasions local ladies practicing the world’s oldest profession invited themselves into my pickup for a good time, some of whom were probably undercover police.  “Honest, officer, I’m researching a column for the Homefinder.”  (Good story, buddy, tell it to Judge Salcedo.)

  • • •

Giddyup: I’ve mentioned Mt. Rose Sporting Goods liberally in columns about downtown Reno and Park Lane, and thanked Kenny York and his late brother-in-law Sonny Burke for putting half of us through college by giving us jobs.  There probably won’t be more than 10,000 Homefinder readers delighted to know that Kenny will be the Honorary Grand Marshall of the Reno Rodeo this week, lookin’ good on his ol’ cayuse.

          The G-rated story of the Southern Pacific’s call girls in Sparks promised two weeks ago has not been forgotten, stay tuned.  Yes, all 17 of you nit-pickers, the old main fire station was on the southeast corner of Commercial and West Streets, not northwest as I wrote.  I knew better, my Cub Scout Pack 304 went there once. 

          And our friends at Ralston Foods on Greg Street, all 124 of them, are working on 522 Accident-Free days as I write this.  That’s close to 65,000 man-days without an accident.  Hell, I didn’t do that well at Breckenridge Realty, and I was the only employee with the most dangerous machine an electric pencil sharpener.  Good for you all, keep it up.

          Have a good week, Let’s get it on, Mills; ride ‘em cowboy and God Bless America.

 

© Reno Gazette-Journal, 2001

A TALE OF FOUR SISTERS

July 2016: Something unknown to me – maybe a HRPS walking tour – stirred up a couple reader questions about the Four Sisters , aka the Spanish Quartette, thank you Walter Van Tilburg Clark for that appellation (City of Trembling Leaves). I told both to go to my website, and both responded that they couldn’t find it. Thought I’d posted the story but I guess not. So here it is, from a 2003 Gazoo column:mt_rose_pic_web

                McKinley Park School, on Riverside between Keystone and Vine Streets, was one of the original “Four Sisters” built between 1910 and 1912, which operated over a seven-decade span.  It’s a strong likelihood that native Homefinders who were in elementary school even as late as 1970 attended one of the “Sisters.”  Their fifth option was Southside School, built in 1903 – the next elementary school built after the “Four Sisters” was Veterans’ Memorial, built in 1946.

                In 1909, Reno School District #10’s Superintendent B. D. Billinghurst negotiated $100,000 to build two of the finest schools in the West Coast, by his description “…modern and sanitary, eight classrooms and a large assembly room on one floor.  A domestic science room for the girls, and a manual arts training room for the boys, are placed in the basement.  The assembly hall is 40 feet wide and 80 feet long, including a stage on one end, lighted by electricity, with two sets of scenery.  A mechanical fan system of heating and cooling is provided.”

                Thus the McKinley Park and Orvis Ring Schools were built (Orvis Ring on the corner of East Seventh and Evans Avenue), and beauties they were – California mission-style, the rooms grouped around three sides of central courtyards, a fountain with a flagpole in the center.  But Dr. Billinghurst wasn’t through yet; a year later he bargained for another $250,000 for two more similar grade schools and a high school.  With these funds Mary S. Doten and Mount Rose Schools, (Washington and West Fifth Streets and Lander and LaRue Streets, respectively), were completed in 1911.  For the record, Libby Booth was the first principal at Orvis Ring and Echo Loder the first at Mary S. Doten, Mary’s middle name was Stoddard, Libby Booth was the last surviving charter member of the 20th Century Club when she died in 1953, and Arlington Avenue was named for the first superintendent of the Reno School District – now where else do you get trivia like that for four bits on a Saturday morning?  A junior high named for Superintendent Billinghurst would be built a block from Mount Rose School in 1930, on land donated by George Wingfield.

                So, we have the “Four Sisters” – known also as the “Spanish Quartette”, attribution for either name unknown.  You’ll note a subtle difference between the two surviving schools: The earlier McKinley Park, like Orvis Ring, had a simpler structure over the main entrance and the intake flues for the cooling system were exposed, while the later Mount Rose, the twin to Mary S. Doten, demolished in 1971, has the massive Moorish domes framing the entrance.  Mount Rose to most people is more visibly pleasing – owing partially to the baby-poop wall and God-awful roof “tile” colors on McKinley Park that won an architect an award (all four schools were originally dove gray.)  At Mary S. Doten School in the 1940s, principal Rita Cannan would banish us to these turrets, up a flight of stairs that was more like a ladder, to a place of penance to reflect upon our misdeeds, little realizing that it was a grand place for a third-grader to just zone out and watch the world go by.  We never let on…  And, the domes were prescient of the new (1912) Reno High School’s design, by local architect George Ferris – (who also designed the Spanish Quartette) – basically a three-story version of the four elementary schools.  That school was on the Sundowner’s present site.

                The modern advances in the schools documented by Superintendent Billinghurst in the 1909 Nevada State Journal really worked – the auditorium stage “lit with real electric lamps” and the “central air system, with thermostats in each room.”  Mary S. Doten was a hell of a lot more comfortable than our later schools, including the present Reno High School which lacked air conditioning in the 1950s, ever were in late spring or early fall.  And Mary S. Doten was aesthetically nice to attend – big windows, high coved ceilings with huge round suspended glass light fixtures, rich woodwork and brass hardware, and hardwood floors one could only dream of having installed today.  Flowering ornamentals and wisteria in the courtyard, water bubbling in the fountain during warm weather, the school names in mosaic tile over the main entry door and a boiler the size of a railroad tank car in the basement warm enough to dry 300 pairs of soggy galoshes on a wintry day.

                Mary S. Doten closed in 1971 and was demolished soon after closing (a gleaming brass fire extinguisher from her lunchroom mysteriously appeared as a lamp in my office a month or so later.)  Orvis Ring was demolished three years later.  McKinley Park became the headquarters for some City of Reno rec and arts programs.  Mount Rose, through the mega-efforts of some parents and neighbors – notably Ted and Sue Schroeder, for two – was modernized and reopened in 1977, and remains an active school in the district.

                While traveling back in time for this column in 1996 and refreshing my memories, I visited Mount Rose School and looked at the courtyard in full autumn foliage (the fountain’s gone), through the ornate railings to the manicured lawn and mature trees lining Lander Street, and was reminded that Mount Rose School remains today a timeless gem in the school district’s tiara.

• •

I scribe this a day short of 9/11/03, and note that it was two years ago that I added the closing line of our column.  I’ve been asked how long I plan to close with it.  My response?  Quite a while.

                Have a good week, Let’s Roll, and God bless America.

© Reno Gazette Journal, 1996, 2003; Karl Breckenridge 2005

The “Kietzke” name

KietzkePlat

My old buddy Mike Riley asked what the Kietzke name alludes to on the street; here’s a ditch map showing some old property ownerships in Reno. The major street of course is S. Virginia; the Nevada Stock Farm almost dead-center in the picture was on the s/e corner of S. Virginia and Airport Road (Gentry Way). The Kietzke ranch may be found just above the “19” section number and went to the east to Hubbard Field (Reno airport). Its east boundary line forms the alignment for the present Kietzke Lane. 

 

 

 

 

Coming home (c. 2005)

SMFoodKingA new/old face appeared at the Seven Ayem Senior Moment Krispy Crème BS & Kaffeeklatch early this week.  Mike Sommers had returned to Reno for the Reno High all-school reunion next Sunday – his first trip “home” of any duration since leaving for a 35-year teaching career in Garrison Keillor country.  He had already covered more ground and seen more old friends than I see in a year, and his insights into our valley were thought provoking.  Always looking for a column idea, I put his questions in quotation marks and our responses in open text.

            “When did the MGM become the Hilton?”  Right after it quit being Bally’s – come back next year and it’ll be a big condominium [Grand Sierra Resort]. “I saw where they’re tearing down the Sparks Theater this week – we used to go there to meet all the Sparks High chicks – how can they do that?”  Right, like the Majestic and the Granada theaters – no more. “I miss a chili-cheese omelet at Landrum’s.”  Take your car title there for a loan, seven stools to serve you.  “And the Turf Club with the trumpeter on the roof?  Where do you go for pastrami sandwiches?”  The building got trenched.  Try the Coney Island for a great pastrami. (Our trench, or Trench, capitalized occasionally lately, blew Mike’s mind.  [That’s not the half of it; try telling an intelligent person from somewhere else about STAR bonds! We didn’t even go there…] “What’s wrong with train whistles and a car getting pushed sideways a block occasionally?  We grew up with that.”

 “I haven’t heard any Air Guard 101s.  Are they overseas?”  The Guard parked the Bus 109Voodoos for RF-4s in 1976, sent those to the boneyard in Arizona and have herded C-130s around since.  “I came in from Stead and saw a great big jailhouse on, what, Parr Boulevard?  Don’t they still have a jail on the top floor of the police station on East Second Street?”  Nope, we’ve got more bad guys now than we did 40 years ago. Funny how we all remember that penthouse on East Second Street.

The Kietzke roundabout  and Da Del Monte Lane      . 

            “I went to see our ol’buddy [so-and-so] in his law office, out somewhere on the end of Kietzke Lane in a complex I didn’t even know where I was.  Wasn’t the conventional wisdom that attorneys all had to be walking-distance from the court house?”  That happened like Topsy – one day it seems most of the bigger firms had bailed downtown in favor of the newer buildings with decent parking.  “I went by Moana Lane and South Virginia and got lost – no Sierra Pacific building.”  Progress – now they’re out south of DeLucci Lane by Home Depot. And they’re not Sierra Pacific anymore, either.  “There’s a Home Depot that far south?  Nawww…”  That ain’t the half of it – there’s a new one even further out south by Damonte Ranch.  “I meant to ask about that – wasn’t Mimi’s Hideaway on Del Monte Lane?  What happened to that?”  Changed it to “Neil Road”; too much confusion with “Damonte” two off-ramps south.  “Why didn’t the Highway Department just use another name for Damonte from the git-go?”  Welcome back to 2005 Reno, Mike. If you like that, you’ll love Zolezzi Lane now; too bad the Texans building Arrowcreek didn’t. Most of our town, you see, is for sale (we didn’t know about the firehouse yet…)

Where’s the roundhouse?

       Washoe_street   “I was out in Sparks, coming back from a mini-city called Wingfield Springs.  That old pit you could see from the freeway is beautiful.”  Hats off to the City of Sparks – they did the Sparks Marina right, as Sparks does most else that they tackle, thank [retired] City Manager Shaun Carey.  “And that beautiful old S.P locomotive shop – can’t they try to save that?”  Whoever they is, they is trying.  Last we heard the City of Sparks and Q&D Construction – you remember our old classmate, Norm Dianda, the “D” of Q&D? – were working on a joint venture with Union Pacific Railroad if everyone can get their plates clean enough to pursue it.  (“Q” was the late Babe Quadrio.) [Dunno about that one in the present economy. Hope springs eternal.}

            “Weinstock’s at Park Lane?”  Refer back to the Sparks, Majestic and Granada theater yak – pretty classy-looking theater on the old Weinstock site [becoming known as seagull gulch].  Yecch.   “Answer Man, on Peckham Lane, best hardware store in Reno.  How can the town do without it?”  Refer to Home Depot and Lowe’s.  “Is that bowling stadium downtown really all a bowling alley?”  You’re kidding, right?”  Nope. And at some times it’s actually full of bowlers, with spare time on their hands.  Think about it. But we don’t know; we can’t roll there. We’re just residents.

            “The diversion dam – waterfall – downtown next to the bridge on Belmont by NoukWingfield Park – that was iconic with Reno for so many years.   But the rapids are neat too.  Did a flood do that to the dam?”  Actually, a computer designed the rapids, Belmont is Arlington and Wingfield Park, formally Belle Isle, is Barbara Bennett Park, but the kayak course and the swimming hole it created by serendipity, probably did more for getting folks downtown than did the Men’s Club.  Our city did good. 

            “The University campus has grown.”  Understatement of the year.  “The Bruce Thompson Federal Courthouse.  Is that Jeff’s dad?”  Yup, our classmates Jeff, Judy and Harold, kids of Bruce and Ellen.  Got his own courthouse.  “That black thing on Liberty Street – Close Encounters of the Third Kind leftover?”  The Nevada Museum of Art.  Beautiful on the inside, Mike – I gave him a guest pass.  Knowing him, he’s used it.  Ditto the Harrah Auto Museum – he’ll go there also.  “The city hall in the old FNB building on First and Virginia?  Naww…”    Yeaaahhh.  Have fun parking your pickup in the high-rise garage next door.

            Time grew short.  Mike’s insight – of that which we saw over three decades whileInez he saw condensed into a week’s touring – gave us a new view of our valley.  We agreed to meet at one joint that had survived the racking and wresting of change, Mama Stempeck’s Halfway Club, for lunch.  And Inez didn’t let us down.

            Have a dandy week; goodnight from New York, Peter, and God bless America.

Peter Jennings passed away August 7, 2005