‘Twas in the year of 1955 that the battleship gray and black-and-green high-reach crane trucks – Sierra Pacific Power and Nevada Bell’s respectively – set a spindly 60-foot pole on the north side of B Street in Sparks just across the street from the Sparks Nugget’s brand-new building, set guy wires to keep it vertical, and then lifted a replica of a shiny gold nugget as big as a Chevy Suburban to the top of the pole. On that nugget they set a platform, and finally a canvas tent on the platform, then aimed floodlights up to illuminate it.
The Nugget casino south of B Street was tiny compared to the Nugget of today; no I-80 freeway over the building, just B Street out in front doubling as transcontinental Highway 40. No elephants; this was pre-Bertha. Last Chance Joe had just arrived to keep an eye on the happenings out in front. And pilgrim, did he get an eyeful as Happy Joe Howard, the last of the great pre-war flagpole sitters arrived to begin his ascent to the platform atop the tower on August 4, 1955, where he would stay longer than any flagpole sitter would ever sit. Flagpole-sitting was a rage that died out somewhere in the 1930s, probably for good reason, but the Nugget’s then-owner Dick Graves, already well-along in the process of selling the Nugget to John Ascuaga, was a showman, attuned to every PR stunt in the book.
Howard soon became accustomed to life on top of the highest building in Sparks. He became the darling of the local media and the West Coast scribes when his time on top of the gold nugget started to look like a serious attempt. A month, two months, dragged by, the number on the base of the “flagpole” being changed daily to indicate the number of days he had stayed there. The summer of 1955 arrived and the world was in turmoil, but local notice was paid first to Happy Bill Howard, so high above B Street, drawing crowds of people who would stop on the highway to look in wonder at how he could possibly keep doing it.
Casual visitors could speak to Happy Bill on a phone provided by Nevada Bell, from the base of the tower to his lofty perch. Several times daily a truck from the Nugget arrived to lift a basket of grub – the best fare of the Roundhouse Room or an Awful-Awful burger from the Coffee Shop, maybe an iced pitcher of piçons from the Nugget’s long-gone Basque Bar, the day’s edition of the Reno Evening Gazette, and letters from his fans. He had a radio, no TV. For reasons unknown to anyone, a band of local idiots tried to incinerate Happy Bill by burning down his tower, forgetting that the Sparks Fire Department and Police Department were housed nearby on C Street then. The fire laddies doused the fire and Sparks’ Finest threw the perpetrators into the hoosegow for a few nights.
Time marched on into the dog days of August. The West Coast press still loved it, and afforded the Nugget the ongoing publicity in the Bay Area that Dick Graves had hoped for. Happy Bill’s birthday arrived, with accompanying hoopla and a cake from the Nugget’s bakery, songs from the local media and fans.
And the unexpected occurred – Happy Bill woke up with a hell of a toothache one morning, and the Nugget summoned respected Reno dentist Arnold Johannes to his aid. In a display of humanitarian emergency not one bit concealed from the adoring press, Dr. Johannes was lifted in a Jacob’s Chair-harness with his black bag of drills, pliers, wrenches, laughing gas and an Blue Cross form to Happy Bill’s side, to administer on-the-pole medical aid. I suspect that the rest of the late Dr. Johannes’ career, excitement-wise, was downhill after that procedure…
As the leaves turned to gold on the trees lining the Reserve in Sparks, the evening winds turned wintry. Happy Bill’s reign over the little town was coming to a close, although not for lack of interest – the town and the media continued to embrace his effort, but the simple fact was that his flagpole had no heat, and the night was rapidly approaching during which he’d freeze his celebrated buns off. Leaving on a high note started to become realistic.
In a round of PR embraced by Reno and Sparks and the San Francisco press, by then including Herb Caen and Terrence O’Flaherty, Happy Bill Howard was returned on February 12, 1956 to Mother Earth by the same Nevada Bell snorkel truck that had set him atop the flagpole, 204 days – almost seven months – before.
Bill’s work on earth, or in this case above it, was done – his effort was vastly successful in putting the little burg of Sparks, known before by very few in the Bay Area as being a little east of Reno, wherever that was, permanently onto the map. For his efforts he was awarded $6,800 and a sterling silver belt buckle as big as a penny postcard engraved with Thanks from the Sparks Nugget in a very public ceremony. To our knowledge, he never sat flagpoles again. And Sparks, whatever it been before that, was defined as a destination town; Dick Graves departing, a legend named John Ascuaga soon to arrive. .
I thank several readers for inquiring about Happy Bill Howard and inspiring this story, [the late] Fred Davis – the Nugget’s longtime (1958-1972) publicity director, Sparks native Don Stockwell – he of the ironclad memory, the Nevada Historical Society, John Ascuaga, Nugget executive secretary Nancy Trabert for their help with this yarn.
teext © RGJ, a long time ago
photo Bill Howard © JA Nugget/Custom Publishing Group
One may think that the school district is screwed up today, but I’ll tell a tale here about a stroke of genius that was rendered in 1958. I was then a senior at Reno High, taking a class called “Civics” from a teacher who was principally a coach, but the district said that to be a coach one had to teach some creampuff subject as well. He was teaching Civics – the study of government, past and present, right here in the US of A.
A test of some consequence was coming ’round the bend soon, and sensing that we’d be asked to name the cabinet offices of the government, I composed in my mind a mnemonic to bring the answers to the forefront. I shared my mnemonic – “St. Dapical the Tenth” – with classmates, and we all aced that element of our test.
It came to light soon that the four-eyed geek with ears that looked like a NYC taxicab with both doors open in the back of the classroom had facilitated most in the room – boys and girls – to score high on that question. I was called on the carpet for this transgression. “What’s the difference how we remember, so long as we remember?” I asked in my defense. “We’re here to learn, Karl, not play word games with the government,” I was informed.
Oh. I offered a counter to his aberrated reasoning, for which I was dispatched to the vice-principal of discipline, another eight-ball in the system that no real employer would give houseroom to. I’d like to think that calling the Civics teacher a “fumducker” somewhere along the way had nothing to do with this decision.
My father, who spent more time than I did at Reno High in my senior year, was again summoned (he had his own parking place in the circle in front of Reno High). I had to promise to never again screw up a test by sharing a mnemonic like “St. Dapical X” with my friends, and a few other things. And the Civics teacher, as proof of the book “Peter Principle,” postulating that all people rise to the level of their incompetence, would several years later be named the principal of a new high school.
God help the students and staff of that school, and I’ll elucidate “St. Dapical X” at the end of this piece. And I will share one of my father’s more propitious comments, uttered years later – he a man who would take the side of the Devil Incarnate over me in any situation: “Where did the district ever find those two…?”
OK, now let’s go for a more positive person in classroom teaching and management – her name was Roberta Kirchner and when they’re handing out school names, the “Berta Kirchner Elementary School” has a nice ring to it. At the 50-year reunion of the Class of 1959 ten years ago, Mrs. Kirchner was a leader in the informal appellation of our most-favored teachers (John Gonda won for the men teachers). Here’s an example of a class with Mrs. Kirchner:
At the inaugural day of our English class, September 1958 for our senior year 1959, she laid out the curriculum for the ensuing school year: heavy on the classics – “Tale of Two Cities,” “Silas Marner,” “Pride and Prejudice” – more of the same boring stuff we’d endured since junior high. Sensing the moaning and groaning from the assembled Sweathogs, she stopped. For some reason she looked square at me. “Mr. Breckenridge, what would you like to study this year? Mickey and Donald? Batman? Woody?” She left out The Roadrunner and Wile E.
The Sweathogs chuckled. Knowing that once your feet are off the ground it doesn’t matter how high they hang you, I said, “How ’bout some writers that are more modern? The best poet in the land died two weeks ago, why not him? Jack London lived in Glen Ellen and John Steinbeck still lives in Monterey – both two hundred miles from here – how ’bout them? Jane Austen could bore anybody. How ’bout Rudyard Kipling? Every kid in this class oughta have to recite ‘If’ to get out of here…”
“OK, Mr. Breckenridge, I’ll make you a deal: If you can come back in this room Monday (I think this was on a Friday) and recite one of the guy who just died’s poems, I’ll think about it!”
Rats – how did I get in this boat, I thought. For the next 72 hours, I ate, lived and slept with one poem going through my head. I holed up in my bedroom and read it over and over. At school Monday morning I was a Zombie – the poem going through my head endlessly
And Berta played me like a Stradavarius during class when it finally came. No mention of my poem was uttered – she just let me twist in the wind, waiting. With five minutes left in the hour-long class, she said, “Oh, Mr. Breckenridge, do you have a poem for us?”
I stood, looked at the floor, then the ceiling. I began to speak: “A bunch of the boys were whooping it up at the Malemute Saloon; the kid that handles the music bos was playing a jagtime tune…” – the words of the late poet Robert Service and his “Shooting of Dan McGrew” – six minutes of torture.
But it worked; Berta started the next class with the announcement that “We’re abandoning the ‘gasbags’ as Mr. Breckenridge called them last week, for some poets and writers a bit more contemporary ..”
“Gasbags”? I said that…? Well it must have worked. We had a wonderful year, then went our separate ways. Berta retired and took over the ladies golf program and newsletter at Hidden Valley, doing a Yeoman’s job with the administration and burning up the links. Even wrote a book: Twisted Pinon Golf Club – The Red Tees. She passed away in 2008 – a great lady, a friend and a teacher’s teacher.
Oh, almost forgot: St. Dapical the Tenth: ST = State, Treasury. DAP = Defense, Attorney General, Postmaster General. I = Interior. CAL = Commerce, Agriculture, Labor. X = Health, Education and Welfare. If I ever take such a test again, I’ll have to account for Homeland Security!
Snapshot of Berta, courtesy Paul Kirchner
I’m re-posting this by request for a good friend and longtime reader; it appeared in the Gazoo April 17, 2017 © RGJ
The casual reader may recall that a week ago I sent out a plea for some info about a popular Reno lady named Nikki. This was in response to a reader’s query about a lady so named who made the grandest ravioli in the land for dinner parties and gatherings.
My plea was answered by a childhood friend, with coöperation from another old friend and veteran reader, Jackie Manoukian. The info about Nikki, two “k”s, came from another Niki, one “k”, Niki Schraub. She fleshed out the story of Nikki the ravioli lady.
Niki writes, “Nicoletta (Nikki) Pistone was my grandmother…her kitchen was about 6′ x 6′ and she was able to produce tons of gourmet food for special occasions here in Reno, (including her fantastic ravioli). I felt so fortunate that she was in my life…unfortunately, she took her gourmet cooking for granted…kept her two granddaughters [Niki and Dale] out of the kitchen…she was the reason I got even a halfway decent education …but I never learned to cook….”
“I only remember my grandmother, Nicoletta, living next door to us on Stewart Street. Oh, also, my fraternal grandmother was Maude Pennell Record and she did live up near sorority row on Sierra Street…..” And that Sierra Street reference validates my fuzzy memory of last week that upper Sierra Street played a role in this mystery.
Now, a new door opens; one that I’ve wanted to journey through for many years, usually while driving along East Fourth Street. The key word here is “Record,” and the journey starts with a popular Reno couple – Niki and Dale’s parents – Ann and Dick Record, who passed away in 1984 and 1986, respectively. Dick was the owner of Record Supply Company, which supplied not phonograph records as I once read somewhere, but in fact plumbing and building supplies. I would speculate that darn few homes and buildings in Reno and Sparks built in the latter half of the 20th century didn’t have a part or piece that started at Record Supply. And Dick and Ann gave back mightily to the community.
Record Supply had an entrance on a little stub street running south off East Fourth Street, more of a railroad easement than a street. Years ago I could never find its appellation “East Street” in any records, but rather the name of the easement that ran northward from East Fourth Street by the bygone Orvis Ring Elementary School to and past the University of Nevada. The street south of Fourth Street became known, rightly or colloquially, as “Record Street.” That name got hammered into use, complete with street signs so marked. And thereafter became the name of the railroad right-of-way weaving up to the campus. The street may now be a named city street.
I’ve always been a bit miffed that the Record family, for all they did for this town, is now frequently remembered in conjunction with the “Record Street homeless center.” The northern tip of “Record Street” became the site of the once-Record Street Café, now Bibo’s, a trendy little building built like a Mack truck that was in a past incarnation the shop for Geister Hardwood Flooring, and originally the locomotive maintenance shop of the NCO and later Western Pacific Railway. But seeing the name of the family on that pleasant little café somewhat assuaged my disappointment in hearing the name only in conjunction with its more southerly use.
Targeting now the readership more of my increasing vintage, I’ll thank Niki for contacting me. I remember her only vaguely, but recall her as being as attractive as her younger raven-haired sister Dale. Dale was one of the mature senior girls who put the pep in the step and glide in the stride of a bunch of gawky freshman boys entering Reno High School, making the high school experience somewhat palatable. (I include in this bevy of beauties our teacher Miss Menu, in her rookie year of teaching English!) “Miss Menu” now hails as “Joanne Kimball,” and stays in touch with the column, always grammatically perfectly. Dale Record-Johnstone, we regret, passed away in 2014; her daughter Shelby Lively resides in Reno. Niki Schraub’s son Richard also resides in Reno.
Switching gears now but still writing of popular teachers, I’m pleased to report that our teacher and later administrator John Gonda, who like Miss Menu was another teacher we had in their rookie year (1951 for John) was named earlier in the week to the Sparks High School Athletic Hall of Fame. I thank John’s son Jeff – born when John taught us at Central Jr. High – for bringing this to my attention!
It’s been a tough week for the classmates of Mr. Gonda’s class of 1951. Here we say, thanks for reading; so long, Ma Bell, and God bless America.
contact Breck at email@example.com
Our editorial staff last evening, New Years Eve, played hooky from our bounden duty to readers of updating this site, and instead streamed a classic: “Smokey and the Bandit” – the Bandit, Snowman, Fred the Basset, the Frog, Beaufort P. Justus, still ranking up there with Butch and Sundance and with Igor and Frawnkensteen for the three greatest shit-kickin’, no-brainer, New Years Eve flicks ever made!
Thanks for coming back and viewing – as in the past 12 years, the site in 2019 will be no different – poorly-written and -edited notes about God-knows-what, arriving on your screen with little or no forethought nor schedule – this year with hopefully a bit more reader participation, wherein I’m downplaying the “comments” feature of the site in favor of including my email address below and inviting everything from a short squib about a past column to your submission of a complete new column, that I can post for all to see. Don’ worry about the gramer or speling – I’ll fix that for you. Photos are welcome and encouraged with releases and accreditation, and no downer stuff – this remains an upbeat, non-political place to visit and relax.
On that score, I encourage newer readers to utilize the WordPress “search” function in the box below. Type in a keyword and then click the box and scroll down. You may just find what you’re seeking. If not, email me and I’ll try to help. There are over 420 posts on the site and I don’t know myself what’s posted here! But if it’s somewhere we’ll find it, or maybe just write a new one for all to enjoy.
Now – it’s the kickoff day to a great year, the sun’s out – let’s make a dandy!
KarlBreckenridge490@gmail.com (a new address for column/website traffic; don’t panic, the old live.com address still works. Usually.)
This eve following Christmas I’m pleased to welcome old friend Debbie Hinman to the website, demonstrating one of her many skills, e.g. writing a column. Debbie is the editor of the Historical Reno Preservation Society’s Footprints newsletter, and one of the better researchers and writers in our valley – some can write, others can research but a person that can do both is rare indeed.
The column, rich in the history of Reno and Idlewild Park, belongs in Footprints but she elected to let me have it for the Ol’ Reno Guy. I asked her for her photograph but she declined, so I dug up an old one I had of her addressing a joint meeting of the Nevada Historical Society and the State of Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. While there are several other people in the photo, I’ll just say that it was a warm, sultry afternoon and Debbie came dressed for the occasion so I needn’t ID her in the shot.
Debbie writes now, the first of what I hope will be the first column of many in the future!
While historical research is for the most part very intriguing and well, just plain fun, there is always that chance that you will discover something you never wanted to know. This happened to me recently at the Nevada Historical Society library.
I was scrolling through microfilm, engrossed in a story about testing amphibious jeeps at Virginia Lake, when my eye caught a fuzzy photo of a couple of jocular-looking fellows armed with rifles hamming for the camera. And what was that in the background? I zoomed in to try and get a better look. There appeared to be two buffalo standing behind them, in some sort of enclosure. Then I noted a reference to Reno’s Idlewild Park. Now several years ago, I did a bit of research on Idlewild for a Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation project. I had heard there was a zoo at the park in the early days and fascinated, I began collecting articles on the various animals contained there.
As background, the zoo began in the very early days of Idlewild Park, circa 1924. The first residents were birds and the initial plan was to include only “non-meat eaters.” By December of that year, the bird population included four large bald eagles and a desert raven. But the donation of a wildcat kitten and a fox by a local trapper began to change the face of the zoo. By September of 1925, there were also elk, antelope, deer and—buffalo. In 1927 there were enough buffalo at the park that Mayor Roberts negotiated a trade with the Sacramento Zoo: one buffalo calf for two monkeys, two swans, three raccoons (raccoons, really? All they had to do was check the storm drains in the Old Southwest) and an assortment of other birds. At any rate, by early 1931, the zoo population had soared to 167 assorted creatures.
The denizens of the zoo were always fodder for appealing newspaper stories and the buffalo were no exception. A very heartfelt obituary for Chief Shaggy Buffalo was printed in 1925. “Chief Shaggy,” whose real name was Bos Bison, was apparently a children’s favorite. Park officials believed he was poisoned but had yet to identify the assassin. The obituary stated that Chief Shaggy, who left a widow and two sons, Nickel, 5, and Jitney, 6 months, would be sorely missed. Saddened, I continued following the buffalo throughout the years, finding a second obituary for “Old King,” who at fifteen and fifteen hundred pounds, passed on to the Great Beyond in 1936. I was more philosophical about this passing; King after all had a long, cushy life being fed and watered in attractive surroundings, adored by his local fans.
Reverting to the 1945 photo of the armed men and buffalo that caught my attention, I read the caption and was properly horrified. True, these men were not actually shooting at the buffalo (which in a penned area in a park would be a true fish-in-a-barrel situation), but the buffalo were slated to be slaughtered for — a barbecue hosted by the Lions Club, likely attended by the very same children who visited them regularly at the zoo! They didn’t go peacefully, however. Reported the Reno Evening Gazette: “Vigorously displaying his resentment at losing two of his herd, the 1800-pound bull at the park felled one of the ‘hunters,’ Paul Mathews, and the park employee escaped only by crawling to a water hole in the corral. Pitchforks, lassoes and considerable footwork on the part of the wranglers were required before two 800-pound heifer calves were finally loaded in a truck for their last ride to the Nevada Packing Company.” A suggestion was made to include the troublemaking herd leader in the barbecue but it was argued that his meat would be too tough.
True, the barbecue was for a good cause, to thank locals for buying war bonds and perhaps the buffalo herd needed to be thinned for space considerations, but barbecuing and feasting on zoo animals just outside their former sanctuary still sticks in my craw. I’m just glad Chief Shaggy and King didn’t live to see that day.
Thanks, Debbie – send reader comments or recollections to firstname.lastname@example.org , and include your permission to publish them!
Meeting photograph Jerry Felesina family photo
At rest in my lonely writer’s garret on a halcyon midsummer day, the Giants at home in their SF yard and coming on the tube soon; a quart of iced tea on my side table, my weekly “Geriatric Nocturnal Abstinence” advice column filed. What could go wrong with that?
My phone rings. I foolishly answer it. That’s what could go wrong with that.
On the west end of the line is my ol’ childhood buddy Jerry Lenzora, a favorite classmate of mine from Reno High’s vaunted Class of 1959 and one of the funniest guys in our class. He’s a retired outdoor advertising guru, residing for these many years in Ripon, California, a hoot-and-a-holler out of Manteca; a small farming town of ten or twelve thousand souls with a Western Auto store and a bookmobile that comes in from the Stanislaus County Library twice a week.
Jerry is all a-twitter. “I’ve a Hot August Nights human interest story for you that will knock your socks off.”
THAT’S what could go wrong. I tried telling Lenzora that I no longer write. I’m old, feeble, and my mind can no longer form sentences. I told him the local paper where I moiled once a week for 29 years no longer publishes me, and their readership has gone through the roof since I quit and they’re doing just fine. I strengthened the story by telling him that I’m under an order from the Ninth Circuit Court and thus can’t write anything to be published west of Denver, Colorado. But he kept jabbering. I told him that I had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in both wrists, ankles and one knee. I told him that I’ve written about Hot August Nights until I was blue in the face, that it’s all been written.
I told him the dog stole my laptop (I liked that one). I told him, no, no. No more writing. Call Mike Sion. Call Guy Clifton. Call Erin Breen. But he kept talking. My protests were falling on deaf ears.
THAT’S what could go wrong.
So I listened to his fanciful tale, replete with classic cars and the guys who fix them, pretty girls, a local couple who own a day-care and a garden shop, a newlywed couple, a weirdo V-8 engine that GM once built, of one of the most dreaded diseases in the land, and other stuff pertaining, sort of, to the proposed writing assignment. Beaten down, I acceded to give it a go.
Getting into my Hot August Nights writing mode, as all readers should do prior to reading about it, let’s do the checklist: The family car air conditioning set to “440,” four windows down doing 40 MPH, check. At least two round trips on Virginia Street from Liberty Street northward turning left into Sewell’s parking lot and return to get into the mood, check. Chicks in hip-huggers, guys in 501s, what the hell were “poodle skirts” anyway and who ever had fuzzy dice hanging from their rear view mirrors? Check. Bud Buley, the Reno motorcycle cop we loved to hate, on his Harley in the vicinity. Check. And our tube-set car radios tuned to XEAK, the Mighty 690 AM with the Wolfman [left] spinning stax of wax and Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys. Check. We’re ready, let’s cruise. Or in my case, let’s write something. The Giants can wait, the iced tea will turn to Kirkland Margarita writing fluid in due course, and the sooner I get Lenzora tamed down the sooner peace will return to the Lonely Writer’s Garret.
We’ll start at the beginning, if such it is, by dropping the name of Sparks native Linda (née Franchi) and her husband Pawl Hollis [seen at right]; Linda the owner of Magic Tree Day Care and Pawl the owner of Rail City Nursery, and yes, the host of the radio show on KOH on Saturday mornings (the 1950s’ Big John & Sparky on KOH it’s not, but it’s pleasant anyway…)
We’re admittedly having a bit of fun with this story, but here the text inevitably reins in: In 2000 Linda’s sister Anita (Follett) succumbed to ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In an effort to perpetuate her sister’s memory Linda endowed the annual use of her cousin Jerry Lenzora’s HAN rod as an auction prize. Newlyweds Patrick and Jené Hickey [seen at left visiting the Grand Canyon] bid on it at an ALS Society dinner earlier this year, and won the ride.
But wait, a discouraging word (cue an ominous diminished chord riff on our piano): Jerry Lenzora turns the starter on the ride which has been nominated as the prime mover for the Hickeys’ 2018 Hot August Nights honeymoon cruising, and black smoke blows six ways from sundown. In a controlled panic, Jerry hauls what’s left of the little red Bel Air into Sam’s shop. Sam has a last name but it’s not finding its way into this text, because Sam is one of the diminishing fraternity of gearheads who make Hot August Nights possible, in fact without the Sams there may not be a Hot August Nights in coming years. I talked to Sam – he’s a fun guy. The Sams know the old hemis, the small-block Chevies, the Ford mills, what cools them, how their Hurst shifters and Holley and Carter carbs work and what keeps the vintage iron rolling. But, mostly-retired they sometimes don’t get quite fully signed up with the powers-that-be and they work a lot for cash, so Sam is henceforth known as Sam.
Sam checks out what’s left of Jerry’s Chevy and renders the opinion that the Chev’s 350 cubic-inch engine is, in a word, toast. Jerry, crushed, relates to Sam that the little coupe was destined to be a ride for a couple of newlyweds next month, an honor they had won as the successful bidders in an ALS Society auction, and what will I tell them?
Sam, no stranger to what makes car-guys think, says don’t tell them anything. We’ll make it roll. Jerry foresees a “new” rebuilt 350 going in, costing upwards of four or five large, and a nail-biter to be done in time for the HAN cruise. But Sam is ‘way ahead of him. He finds a 305-cube V-8 Chevy block, yes, 305; an off-breed that GM built mostly for vans and smaller GM cars like Pontiac’s and Oldsmobile’s compacts. “Let’s get these kids cruisin’,” said Sam with a merry twinkle in his eye.
He called our friend Jerry a week later, pointed to the Chevy in the garage bay, and said “Check it out.” The 305 looked like it had been under the hood forever with all the chromed bells and whistles. “Crank it,” said Sam. Jerry turned it over and it barked to life like a 427 – a deep, throaty rumble, which after all is why we like big bores and hemis – the mellow exhaust sound. “Here’s your bill,” Sam said.
Jerry looked at it and a moment later picked himself off the garage’s concrete floor. It was well-under a grand. Jerry, steeled for a five-grand hit, was out the door for a sixth of that.
“Tell those kids to have some fun!” said Sam as Jerry drove off in the Chevy, a glisten in his eye and Sam thus joining the honor roll of Good Guys for this 2018 ALS ride. In one sense, without his beneficence and celerity, the Hickeys’ newlywed cruise might not be happening in early August.
And, much the same can be said of Pawl and Linda Hollis who sponsor the cruise for a great cause, for a hideous malady that claimed my cousin’s life and the dad of one of my best friends. Certainly we note Patrick and Jené Hickey’s contribution, and that of my ol’ pal Jerry Lenzora, who went above and beyond to keep the little coupe rolling along this year.
So – during Hot August Nights, if you see a handsome young couple in a red-and-white 1956 Bel Air being squired around with an old guy at the wheel, that’s how their cruise came to be – give ‘em all a high-five!
Photos of the Bel Air © Shannon Kuhn and Jamie Eisinga from Birch & Blossom photography. Photo of Jerry Lenzora, who knows…?
A popular lass in my childhood, who was graduated from Reno High a year after I (1960 for her) and whose name was Rosemary Haenel, now Rosemary Haenel Voyles, sent along a summer greeting that’s kind of cool and I asked her if I could put it on the web. Here it is, with a little narrative in her own voice!
A Four-Year-Old Named Rosemarie at Virginia Lake in 1946 with Mother in the Dark Jacket and Mrs. August Brinkby in the Light Coat
“Hi Karl! I dragged my photo out and thought you might like it. This view shows no buildings toward the future Peppermill, looking southeast. My family spent a lot of time feeding the ducks healthy bread in those days at Virginia Lake. The Brinkbys lived two doors down the street on Hill Street toward Liberty St. Frieda was from somewhere in Germany and August from Denmark.
[at left] Rollan Melton and Snoshu Thompson doing an old soft shu
I promised Dr. Lynnae Hornbarger [right] that I’d post the roster of eminent Doctors of Sheep Dip, and here they are…a few more were added in the past couple years; their names are posted following this list:
When last we met, I described meeting a friend who gave us a predawn ride from the SF Marina to Market Street, for the 100-year anniversary of the Great San Francisco Earthquake – the morning was April 18, 2006. What I didn’t really develop was the participation and organization of the San Francisco Fire Department. The event was basically rooted in the fire services of San Francisco and more outlying communities.
Don Young, who I’ve profiled in a 2016 RGJ column, is a retired chief of the Sparks Fire Department – a man with his wife Maddy that you should know. Soon I’ll dig out the column I wrote about him, and figure out how to convert it from Gazoo-print to WordPress. Watch for that. But right now, Don writes, in response to the piece her of a couple of days ago: “The Sparks Fire Department changed the rules in 1964 to honor the State of Nevada Centennial and the firemen were authorized to sport facial hair and wear uniforms like you have on. [in the photo with Linda at Lotta’s Fountain on Market Street]. My wife and others made the shirts out of heavy red flannel and we also wore jeans as a work uniform. Thanks, Don”
And we thank you Don, known by his license plate as “XSFD” – ex-Sparks Fire Department. You’ll read more of him soon, right here. His official department portrait seen above right was taken by SFD’s Jeff Spicer. Pretty cool.
Also in the column of a couple days ago, I mentioned the 1908 photograph of Reno and Sparks, taken from an airship, better described as a kite, by the Lawrence Airship Company out of Chicago. I won’t waste space here; you can read more of it in the preceding post. But – I did allude to 17 prints of it being discovered downtown, and my ownership of one of the originals.
The backstory there is, that in 1957 there was a major explosion and fire in downtown Reno (I’ll put a link to it at the end of this post). In its aftermath, some workers in the A. Carlisle Company, on the west side of Sierra Street just north of Home Furniture on the First Street corner, were mopping up after the fire. They pulled a large ozalid-process machine for making blueprints and about as big as a big deep freeze, away from a wall and voila! They found behind the printer, 17 original prints of the photo, in pristine condition. My dad scored one of them; it’s hanging to this day in a relative’s law office. There were only 17 known until recent technology and the expiration of a copyright allowed them to be copied – and copied in better detail than the originals. So – there’s more than 17 around town now. Lawrence’s brochures and records indicate a price of $18 per copy, a pretty penny in 1908.
OK, still writing of fire department stuff vis-à-vis San Francisco and the earthquake, let’s pay proper attention to the American LaFrance Company, who in 2006 had been supplying America, through its several incarnations, with fire trucks. San Francisco was a prime customer and LaFrance took it upon themselves to make a statement of gratitude. They sold the City 16 new “triple” engines, but put a little extra into them before they were delivered starting in February of 2006. The engines were painted a “retro” color, darker red and almost a purplish-brown, to emulate the color engines the City used before WWII. But the piece-de-resistance was the gold-leaf treatment – I don’t know whether the engines are more striking by day with the sun dancing off the heavy gold-leaf that covered the engines and station numbers and SFFD ownership, or maybe they were more so at night, with other light sources lighting up the gold. Top that with heavy silver plating on the bumpers, trim and the big bells on the front bumpers with the LaFrance eagle atop them, and those are 16 pretty trucks. They remain in service, immaculately-maintained these 12 years later, and are still head-turners when cruising around the Streets of San Francisco.
Now, we’ll put the SFFD out of service for a while, but return to a tale of a local guy, a Sparks Railroader who ran the Sparks Fire Department. If you’d like to read the post that preceded and inspired this go here and it will open in another window, or if you’d like to know more about one of Reno’s major downtown fires in 1957, click here.
See ya in a week or two; I’m going to get the six-year-old kid off his butt and writing about old Reno!