CarmineGhiaOK, I’ve been fooling around learning what I can do and what I can’t on this website that does all the work for me, so this column’s presence is about to get put onto my e-mail as a signature to attract a little crowd – as of this writing if you got here it was by accident. I am posting a photo (booking) of my research assistant, who has been with me for many years – his name is Carmine Ghia, which many find curious. They would find Carmine himself to be even more curious, but he’s an excellent researcher, as he has the time, about two-to-five. Photos of more members of my staff will follow, all from the old Blue Place Special days.

Our website RESEARCHER is Carmine Ghia, who matriculated at Julliard Institute in New York City and honed his research craft while with the New England Journal of Medicine. He became a household word in music while backing up, on steel guitar, the many appearances of the great Irish tenor Mary O’Lanza at Lincoln Center and Tanglewood, and later, while under contract to Buster Brown Shoes, adapting Mussorgsky’s Concerto in O Positive to the popular Teddy Bear’s Picnic used on the company’s Saturday morning radio program Big John & Sparky: No School Today!, a radio forerunner of TV’s 60 Minutes

Ghia (whose name appeared in our first Blue Plate Special in 1971) may frequently be found unearthing little-known nor cared-for facts about our valley, at the Nevada Historical Society (where we send particular greetings to senior librarian Mike Maher), the Sparks Heritage Museum, Sundance Bookstore where he goes to borrow information from the works of other local writers, the Reno Gazette-Journal’s morgue, the local fire departments, and just getting on the phone taking chances that someone who answers may know something about something. Often that works. Or, if Carmine’s totally stuck, we just run it on the website and see who disputes the story – that works like a charm (kidding. sort of.)

Idlewild’s buffalo zoo – Jean Myles remembers….

California Building........Added Jan. 9, 2009: On another day I'd probably load this letter into the "Letters" webpage, but old friend Jean Myles writes so well that this amounts to a stand-alone column (hardly Johnny-come-latelys; Jean and Dr. Bob Myles came here to assist in a medical office and have been Nevadans ever since. Jean writes, in a response to a letter from Phyllis Adler that's already in the "Letters" link: 

Dear Karl, I dialed into "Letters" on your website, and had a few good laughs. We are "Johnny-come-latelys," having arrived in the area in 1958, however, I find that we can answer one question. Phyllis Adler asked ... "What happened to the buffalo in Idlewild Park?" The buffalo were purchased by the Frank Russell Turner, a descendant of one of the original Irish families who settled in Sierra Valley and owner of the Turner Ranch at the west side of the valley on Highway 89/49. In the mid-1950s, a friend learned that the Reno Zoo was going to destroy the animals, and let Frank know. Frank was interested and made arrangements to pick up the seven remaining ill-cared-for animals, who became the biggest family pets anyone had ever had in Sierra Valley. The buffalo lived a life of luxury and ease in the lush meadows of the Turner Ranch.

However, buffalo do not like fences of any sort. For years they roamed the valley, not paying much attention to property lines or fences. By the time our family became regular visitors to the Valley, there were only three left. They delighted our children as we often met them on one of Sierra Valley's roads. If they were coming towards us, always three abreast, we stopped and waited until they passed. If they were headed in our same direction, we followed slowly as they ambled along, hoping that they would eventually turn so we could pass. One day, on our way to our cabin above Sierra City, we watched in amazement as the three leaned against the post and barbed wire fence along the highway. When they and the fence toppled over, the buffalo rose, shook themselves off and wandered down the highway. The children were whooping with laughter as we followed them down the road. Occasionally, the buffalo would migrate to another ranch and a phone call would request that Frank come and get his pets. He would agree to pick them up the following morning, if the neighbor would kindly round them up. Horses are skittish around buffalo, and, herding buffalo is has been likened to herding cats ... they don't go where you want them to. They would ultimately be contained in a corral, and Frank would appear early the next morning to find the corral empty ... to the chagrin of the other rancher and to Frank's great amusement. After one or two experiences like this, the ranchers  became very aware and just called to tell him where they were. He would meet them on the road and talk them into the truck.

They loved to ride. When he got to the ranch, he would let the tailgate down and leave them until they decided to get down. If he could not find them, they would eventually find their way home. Their exploits became legendary to Sierra Valley folk, and everyone watched out for them. As age overtook them, they died off one by one. We still find ourselves looking to see them grazing in the meadows as we drive along Highway 49 on our to the cabin. Enjoying your news and views, and reminisces.

Happy New Year ...  Jean Myles [A sad footnote to a great story: Dr. Bob passed away in June, 2014….a good friend to all of us - KB] 4


A friend writes of Joe Conforte…


I have friends who write excellent missives, and this is one such friend and one such missive. I’m running it as-received a day or two ago, with my thanks!

When we first moved to Reno, we purchased a small Westfield Village house on Westfield Ave, as it turned out right across the street from Joe Conforte’s “R & R” house for the girls who worked at Mustang.   We were very new to the Reno area, and very quickly found Reno a very interesting place to live.   Several other physicians lived in “the Village” or had purchased their first Reno house there.  We became friends with the Rosenauer and Guisto families, who also lived there.  Many Saturdays we would have “chowder and marching society” meetings at one house or another, sharing meals and family fun. And, we became friends with “the girls,” although they did not join in neighborhood gatherings.  

Conforte often stayed at the house, as he did during the court hearings.  When all the hullabaloo was going on, Bill Raggio, who lived around the corner on the corner of Robin and California Streets, drove to work down Westfield Ave every morning.  One morning I was in the front yard with the children as Raggio drove by.  He waved and called out,  “Has he left yet?”  We thought it was rather funny, because Conforte usually left early, beating Raggio to the court house.  That day he had not left early.  When he did leave, moments after Raggio drove past, he smiled, waved and called out a cheerful, “Good Morning,” as he followed Bill down the street.  It was an interesting neighborhood.

The girls were quiet neighbors, keeping much to themselves.  There was one funny incident when their cat went up a tree in front of the house.  Firemen came, the neighborhood gathered, and, to the delight of one and all, especially the children, got the cat down.  As one of the firemen started to place the small cat in one of the girl’s arms, the cat jumped down and went right up the tree again.  We were all laughing, and the firemen allowed as how the cat could get down by itself this time.  “When it gets hungry, it will come down.”  Sure enough, it did.  
Bob came home one day, with a fifty-dollar bill in hand and laughingly told me the story of two new patients, a couple who had come in to his office for general check-ups that afternoon both dressed in jeans and well worn cowboy boots.  Bob did complete exams on both of them, including drawing blood for certain studies.  (Docs did that then!)  When it came time, the man asked what his fee was.  Looking at them and their clothes, Bob said, “Well, lets make it fifty dollars for the two of you.”  At that point, the man proceeded to pull out a wallet full of hundred-dollar bills, handed Bob a bill and said, “Sorry, Doc, this is the smallest I have.  Hope you have change.”   Bob had to go across the hall to Drs. Greer and Lanning’s office to get change.  When he handed the man his change, the patient commented, “I know you are young, but I sure hope you are as good as you seem to be.  This is a real bargain.”  The couple became good patients, coming in regularly every year for their check-ups, and often laughed about that first visit.  Margo Frye, Greer and Lanning’s secretary/receptionist/jane of all trades, teased Bob unmercifully after he told her about the two patients.  
That year we were invited to go out to Margo’s home, an old stone building on a large acreage on the Old Geiger Grade Road, to cut a Christmas Tree.  We cut our trees there for several years, until Margo retired and moved from the wonderful building.  Families would gather one Saturday before Christmas, each bringing treats of some sort.  Margo had hot chocolate for the children, and hot buttered rum for the adults after they cut their trees.  There was always enough for everyone who arrived at the house, happily displaying a special Holiday tree on the tops of their cars, hungry and cold after trekking around the steep hills.  Margo’s mother lived there with them, a delightful old lady.  “Mom” went missing one day when no one was with her, and was found some time later in a steep sandy ravine where she had fallen.  (I know that it was one night, possibly two.)  She kept talking about the big kitty that had slept with her at night.  Curious, the sheriff’s officers returned to the spot and found very large mountain lion tracks all around where she had been found.  Without the “big kitty” that kept her warm at night, Margo’s mom would most certainly have died of exposure.  She was dehydrated, and I think that she had a sprained ankle, but she was otherwise unhurt.   I would say that that happened somewhere in the early 1960s, probably before 1966.  There was quite a write-up in the paper. 
By-the-by, on your walk down Virginia Street, wasn’t Grey Reid’s just between 5th and 6th on the west side of the street?  
Jean, when we were walking last weekend, Gray Reid Wright was still on West First and Sierra – we’ll visit it in a column some morning soon…Karl
Love your articles.  Keep them coming.  ‘Til later

Feedback about my Sunday RGJ column

A new sheriff in town at the Ol’ Reno Reader HQ

NoukText Writter

Taking the reins of the Ol’ Reno Guy in early April at the recommendation of many faithful readers, EXECUTIVE EDITOR Throckmorton (“Text”) Writter frees the artistic genius of website owner Slim Dickens to soar on a day-to-day basis, while handling the down-to-earth challenges of paying royalties to staff writers and dealing with spoiled artists’ and contributors’ attorneys and agents, libel / slander / defamation-of-character litigation, abuse of copyright and plagiarism issues and staff-originated sexual harassment by senior editors and and unfair labor relations discussions

Writter’s associate Masters Degree in Animal Husbandry by correspondence from the University of Southern North Dakota positions him as absolutely, uniquely and totally inept at determining the “look” of the Ol’ Reno Guy, which like no other website in the 21st Century is created with only one column and relies on limited graphics, no changes in ink color (“ink” a term used in early-20th Century journalism), on a background scrounged, er, captured from other, more successful and creative websites, which are almost any of them.

Text recognizes that web browsers have a long way to go until Dickens can comprehend use of two fonts to make stuff on an amateur webpage more interesting and readable – this web’s Bookman Antigua is going to look pretty much like Times New Roman and Arabic as you read it on your browser. He does little for grammar or spelling, as Dickens creates his own language as he moves along, often in English. Attribution, which is to say from whom some passage was stolen, or who took a photograph, or who first published a fact, is important to Writter and he tries to incorporate it into the site. And by the same token, he refers those who steal from our website to our legal affairs director, pictured above right>


Meet our staff: Photographer Lo Phat

LoPhat2Our Ol’ Reno Guy PHOTOGRAPHER Lo Phat is a photojournalist of the Far Eastern culture blessed with the unique facility of being able to peek through keyholes with both eyes at once, a capability that rocketed him to the pinnacle of Hong Kong private eyes. He was befriended by Ol’ Reno Guy’s Slim Dickens, then on assignment in nearby Macau, and disguised as Chinese hookers, were riding in a rickshaw and Dickens’ cheomsung’s hem became entangled in the spokes and was torn off, his identity then revealed. He, with Phat, fled to the Pearl River and were swept out to sea, to be rescued days later by a tramp steamer and deposited in the SF waterfront, where they took the 30-Stockton bus to the Marina and Izzy’s, met Karl Breckenridge, and were both hired on the spot.

Phat has been the eyes of the Ol’ Reno Guy ever since. While he prefers his 4-by-5 Speed Graphic the highly advanced technology of the Ol’ Reno Guy site dictates a digital camera to take the photos you see in the website. He also stea, er, adapts graphics appearing on the internet, scans graphics that come into our spacious headquarters from readers, and Photoshops pictures sent in by our burgeoning reader base. If you have a photo that should appear here, Phat’s the one to send it to; send it as a jpeg to , and be sure to let him know who “owns” the photo and any Phacts about it.

Meeting our staff, continued…


Our PUBLISHER, Slim Dickens, the seventh and illegitimate son of Charles Dickens, was born in 1941 in Santa Barbara and taken to Reno after WWII by Gypsies.  He was educated at Harvard and the Sorbonne, and is fluent in four languages, none save for English now still in use anywhere in the world. A journalism major while at the University of Nevada, he wrote for the New York Times under the direction of the Sulzberg family and was associated with several wire services, attached to troops of the French Le Légion étrangère in the North African theaters of El Alamein and Tobruk, where he is pictured in a steamy village bistro with the Underwood Standard that accompanied him through Africa and his hasty departure from Dien Bien Phu in 1957

A student of clothing design, he is pictured with a scarf embodied in the dust cover of his third book Hat in the Cat, a 1946 commercial failure that writer Theodore Geisel revised some years later to Cat in the Hat, and now remains in print worldwide. Dickens, an eternal optimist but slow to deliver, plans his annual re-birth of the Blue Plate Special in 2013, this time as the Ol’ Reno Guy, embodying the time-honored BS that has made it a marginally-accepted local alternative to drawn-out NFL coaches’ challenges, excitable weathermen, school district news in printed in Spanish, optimism for the local college football team and the incisive restaurant reviews of new joints with hipster names and no parking by clever writers new to the local marketplace