A Record column!

BaffertI’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.

RecordNow, 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 kfbreckenridge@live.com

 

 

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Breckenridge 1, Renown 0

cropped-cropped-kfb-bow-tieAn email arrived yesterday from a lady who reads this blog: “Why don’t you write a column about writing columns to get yourself back into the swing?” – a meritorious idea indeed. That email, plus some good words from a friend in Gardnerville, pointed me toward a reunion with the laptop that I was yesterday going to give away.

I tried it – after writing columns for about 40 years, 31 with the Gazoo at the invitation of of Rollan Melton – I find that writing about how it’s done is akin to thinking about driving a car with a clutch – gas off, clutch in, shift the lever, clutch out, gas pedal up – you’ll grind a gear every time if you think about it and don’t just DO it! So I’m going to grind a few gears right now – let’s write a column, best to start by putting your brain out of gear…

For openers, the doctors stole a rule from columnists: “First do no harm.” I’ve been counseled, and occasionally asked, to raise hell about something or someone or some restaurant’s service or some politician’s mindless ramblings (the rule of “no politics” probably contributed to my longevity!). And no; not gonna happen – this column has never been a bully pulpit. Guidance, possibly; but never “avoid this place like the plague” after a bum meal.. I’ve written, “We said ‘Grace’ after our meal” and let the chips fall where they may with readers.

If you’ve seen a name here, it’s after I contacted and gained permission to use that name. I was told that by a San Francisco Chronicle columnist who passed away in 1997 whose name I don’t have permission to use. And occasionally I’m told, “Here’s an item, but don’t use my name…” My response to that has been “OK” if I trust them, “But if I get bounced for it, your name comes out.” And occasionally if it’s iffy enough I just say no, thanks. Not being a true reporter, I can do as I will in that regard.

I should mention in that regard that the Christmas poems, which I’ve done a dozen of with upwards of 140 names in each, that that rule about gaining permission is suspended. If your name rhymes with someone else’s, like “Arrizabalaga” or “Parkenfarker,” I’ll probably roll the dice and use it. I’ve caught hell a few times over names, like the time I mentioned Esther and Lester Westergard and his brother Chester. “Please don’t do that again,” I heard from the whole family. OK.

The most popular columns over the years? One was clearly of Eugene’s restaurant, a link from 1950s Reno to an element of metropolitan style. The 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olynpics. Downtown “Walks.” Old schools and the teachers who taught in them. And of my “Faded Menus” accounts – from Vario’s and the Liberty Belle to Henry’s Corner and Landrum’s and all falling in between. Anything to do with the Mapes Hotel, including accounts of The Misfits movie. Anything to do with Harrah’s Club and Mr. Harrah, now cloaked in a Non-Disclosure Agreement with its late former employees and the few surviving NDA signatories – like yours truly – who still honor the contract 41 years following his passing. I’ll explore that in a column soon.

Some things I jokingly don’t write about (actually I do sometimes!): architects, irrigation ditches, churches and railroads. Many popular architects had their plans “stamped off” by another mentor and don’t show as the architect-of-record. Irrigation ditches’ records exist, sort of, in Italian and thus are hard to research. Church records are kept marginally by Suzy until Suzy dies, and is replaced by Tilly, who didn’t like Suzy in the first place, and changed all the records to match Tilly’s also-marginal recollection and then along comes Breckenridge, uses Tilly’s records and gets fed his column by those who know, or think they know, what really happened. And railroads have sets and subsets of files, most of which vary, and I gave up on them when ace SP historians Richard C. Datin and Dale Darney passed away.

I later added LaVere Redfield to that list, and loved the book about him written by my friend Jack Harpster. Better Jack than I.

An element of journalism I’ve become constantly in awe of, took place during World War II when I was a pre-schooler: the press’ ability to suppress wartime intelligence. Try finding out about the ordnance depot just north of Washoe General Hospital (Renown), or Reno (Stead) Air Force Base, or for that matter even 1960s Rocketdyne north of Reno. No text accounts, if I’m lucky a slim handful of bootlegged pictures. The writers and editors really knew what they were doing back then.

I’ve tried to give some “under the radar” folks their fifteen minutes of fame: Mr. Minetto, who had no first name, our janitor at Mary S. Doten Elementary School.  Dozens of old schoolteachers who will never get a school named for them. Friends. The chef at Harolds Club, no apostrophe, when I was asked by a reader for the recipe for Harolds Club’s famous banana cream pie cake. That one ended backfired on me; I found him through his daughter, who spoke his Italian. “Dad says unless you’re making ten restaurant sheet cakes and need that much of the mix the club bought by the gallon, go buy a Betty Crocker mix – dad says it’s as good as ours ever was.” Honesty is a byword of this column.

Some stories don’t need to be told. I hear twice a year about the guy who shot up a fleabag motel west of town and got dead after ruining a bunch of Rembrandts in the 1970s. “You should do a column about it…!” Or I should write of the (husband, wife, cleaning lady, plumber) who found the two, four, six kids shot dead by the husband, wife, cleaning lady, plumber in the fancy home on Nixon, Dartmouth, Arlington, California, or Gordon Avenue in the late 1950s or early ‘60s. Or the scion of the uranium king and his buddies that had the mother of all fistfights in Wingfield Park and killed a kid, or the doctor who drowned his wife in a fashionable house in northwest Reno in the 1960s. Or a few others that keep coming up. The motel stunt was 1966 and they were Modiglianis from Wilbur May’s ranch, not Rembrandts; there were three children shot by their mother in 1958; no child died in Idlewild Park not Wingfield Park, (but some notable families were involved); I lived half a block from the doctor who broke his wife’s neck, not drowned her, in 1954. I have more info about them all than that in the morgues of the Gazette or the Journal, most written out in column format, but the common thread to all is that some family remains in Reno for each incident (and a dozen others), or in the case of the three children shot by their mother who then died by her  own hand, the home where it happened,  which is in truth on none of those streets I named, is occupied and the occupants don’t need to read about that aspect of their residence.

Those will never see the light of day in the Ol’ Reno Guy column. The Galaxy crash and Pacific Air Lines story appeared only after discussion with surviving family members……..

How long are columns? I always shoot for a thousand words, but usually fudge it up to 1,200 by the time I’m finished (get this: I’m looking at my word counter now and am at 1,171!) Columnists develop a “sixth sense” for space. This one is longer due to its content. How long does it take to write? I might have one written in my head driving between Vallejo and Truckee then sit down and type it. Yes, I did in earlier days my columns on a Brother typewriter, and have to end with a tale from the past, of an old lady reader from San Rafael who would monthly send me a couple pages typed on vellum paper with a relic typewriter with a fabric ribbon. I responded on vellum paper with my Underwood Standard using a fabric ribbon, and she thought I was the greatest thing since night baseball ‘til she passed away in 1999. Her family let me know of that on, you guessed it, vellum paper typed with a fabric ribbon. Still got that letter….

So, there are 1,311 words about the column – I’ll end it with “God bless America” for old time’s sake, and thank my friend Mike Fischer for getting me off my ass to write another column. More will follow – you can thank or blame Mike for that!

 

 

On the mend…..

cropped-cropped-kfb-bow-tieThis site has been in free-fall for a month now, since I opted to have a procedure done on my spine to alleviate a constriction in the spinal column. This contemplates opening up the spine with a carving knife and then taking a Dremel bit and grinding off part of the knots in the spinal column so brainwaves, if any, can travel up and down from my noggin to my feet. Then the whole thing is sewed up with 34 staples, I regain conciousness, and pay the girl on the way out. Fortunately, I’m sedated during the process.

But it hurts. A tip of the hat here to Dr. Perry at SpineNevada, who orchestrated the whole three hours masterfully. I’d send a friend back, which is a sign of huge appreciation.

Now I’m feeling the urge to write something – the six-year-old kid on his bike – stories of Reno and Sparks back in the day – or now a few hilarious anecdotes about hospitals and those who moil in them, and a couple of true stories about HIPAA and its ramifications – the bad guys don’t need to bomb our motherland; we’ll do it to ourselves sooner than later, with privacy.

The message is, come back and see me in a few days. And don’t pay the ransom, I escaped. signed, Karl Breckenridge AKA Ten-twenty-nineteen-forty-one. The drive-by writer with little spring in his step nor glide in his stride. But that’s coming back also…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Flight of PAL 773

          This  yarn begins in midweek over 55 years ago (May 6, 1964) at the San Francisco airport, where a man, described later by acquaintances and family as debt-ridden and erratic, purchased two life insurance policies with a value of over $160,000 from an airport vending machine, naming his wife as the beneficiary.

          To add relevance to that figure, I’d guess that 80 per cent of the homes in Reno could be bought 50 years ago for under $25,000.  He flew Pacific Air Lines to Reno and knocked around most of the night in the casinos.  And, in the laissez-faire world of the early 1960s, he was able to both purchase a Colt .357 on-the-spot from a downtown Reno hock shop, and to board San Francisco-bound PAL flight #773 in Reno early the next morning, carrying the gun aboard.  [Follow-up correspondence – unconfirmable – speculates that he bought the gun not in Reno, but in his Bay Area home town.  Were that the case we could surmise that he boarded an airliner not once but twice with a gun.]

          PAL 773 was under the hand of Captain Ernest Clark, a 22,000-hour commercial and Army Air Corps pilot with 3,000 of those hours in the Fairchild F-27 in use that day – the plane a twin-turboprop favorite workhorse of short- and medium-range regional carriers.  The flight stopped briefly in Stockton, and passengers who deplaned in Stockton recalled the man seated in the front row, behind the open cockpit door.

            Departing Stockton, the flight was on schedule over the East Bay on a long final approach into San Francisco International Airport when a frantic voice broke over the SFO arrival traffic frequency “PAL seven-seven-three, Skipper’s shot…we’ve been shot…trying to help” – the voice of 6,000-hour co-pilot Raymond Andress.  One account suggested the phrase “…passenger in the cockpit” followed by a gunshot.  Medical examiners would find the pilot and co-pilot shot in the backs of their heads, and all six rounds of the revolver fired.

            Investigators speculated that the F-27, trimmed for landing, would, if left unattended, maintain level flight for a while, and that the hijacker must have exerted considerable pressure on the yolk to start the plane into the near-vertical dive that eyewitnesses on the ground reported seeing.  The plane impacted on a grassy hill near San Ramon, which on that early hour of May 7th of 1964 was just a wide spot in the road in Contra Costa County.

            The incident had worldwide repercussions, inasmuch as it was the first intrusion by an armed passenger into a commercial airliner cockpit.  And the PAL 773 hijacking became even more heinous by the catastrophic loss of life.  Living in San Francisco at the time, I was amazed and amused, but saddened to see my ‘lil ol’ hometown making the news so often for days and weeks – the “Reno hijacking” this and “Gamblers’ Special” that – (which it wasn’t).  The flight originated in Reno with only one Nevadan aboard, with an intervening stop in Stockton and ended in San Ramon, all by a plan premeditated by a San Francisco resident, but around the nation’s newsrooms the unheard-of first-ever hijacking had to be an only-in-sin-city-divorcin’ and gamblin’-Reno occurrence.  The siege of take-me-to-Cuba diversions and D. B. Cooper’s stunt would come in years to follow.  (And none originated in Reno.)

            The fatal flight’s occupant manifest listed 44 souls, inclusive of the pilot and co-pilot, 30-year-old stewardess Marjorie Schafer, the skyjacker (thanks, Herb Caen, for that slang), 39 mostly-Bay Area residents, and …Roger Brander, 34, gnrl. mgr. KBUB-AM radio, Reno, Nev

Endnote: Slain pilot Ernest Clark’s daughter, Julie Clark, who was 15 at the time of the tragedy, went on to buy an ex-Navy T-34 trainer (think Beechcraft Bonanza with tandem seats and a conventional tail) that she flew to numerous international aerobatic championships and demonstrated at the Reno Air Races…

           

 

A snowy February morning…

LittleKarlIt’s a grand day in the neighborhood; snow has been on many folks’ minds, particularly the TV weathercasters who might have probably gone orgasmic had they ever seen heavy snow in Reno. The transition from 2004 to 2005 was noteworthy and pretty well constipated our roads that New Year’s weekend and for a week to follow.

Mount Rose SchoolBut I’m not going to regale anyone with snow tales, the “How it used to be” stuff so popular – but – I have a few thoughts and memories, augmented by friends remembering snowstorms that make this last series look like a cloudy day – and I’m not sure that I can still even write – I think it’s A-S-D-F etc. on the keyboard but not sure. And I gotta tell ya: My hands will barely write anymore, hands that once hired out to write cursive – remember that? – for invitations and place cards, so I found a “new” IBM Selectric III typewriter, brown like the last one it replaces, with a couple new balls, er, “elements” to go with the ones I already had. It’s about 40 years old, Handwriting2but reconditioned, and Ken Hamilton of Hamilton Business Machins gave me a “lifetime guarantee.” The S.O.B. knows that I’m 77 years old….. Oh, you don’t want cursive? How ’bout a printed letter with serifs? [at right, a library project I worked on]

SelectricBut, on this snowy morning, I hearken back to earlier days. I attended Mary S. Doten Elementary School [above], a twin to Mount Rose School (one spells out Mount for that school, otherwise it’s supposed to be “Mt.” according to old stylebooks but seldom is anymore.) I started Kindergarten there in 1946. Mary S. Doten School will hereafter be known as “Mary S.” our colloquial term for it –now the school district and media would just call it “Doten” robbing its namesake of the honor. But that’s what they do now – don’t give a damn about old stuff.

SeeMary S. was run by a sweet little lady that looked like Mrs. See on the See’s Candy boxes, a delightful lady that could also scare the pants off our six-foot-plus fathers on snowy mornings like this one. Her name was Rita Cannan, note the spelling – and she also has a school named for her, east of I-580 and north of Oddie. And known by some as “Cannan” but not in this column. It’s “Rita Cannan Elementary,” thank you.

Miss Cannan, heavy on the “Miss,” I think but never proved was a product of theWhitakerSchool Bishop Whitaker School for young ladies [right], in the eponymous park across the Ralston Hill from my family’s house at 740 Ralston Street. Many of the older teachers came from that institution, but that’s another column. Miss Cannan is on my morning musings because she had amassed a collection of shovels appropriate for removing snow – one could not buy a “snow shovel” in 1946. Coal scuttles came close, and most Reno homes had one. These shovels were kept under a stairwell outside the principal’s office of the school, and when, as and if a father delivered his child and some of the neighbor kids to school, he knew that Rita Cannan would land on him like a chicken on a June bug and virtually shame him into shoveling a portion of the elementary school’s infrastructure – the sidewalks, the approaches, some stairs – until the entirety of the school was safely passable. This occurred all over Reno and Sparks on snowy mornings. Dads shoveled. By the crack of nine, when classes convened.

I promised this would not be a “This is how it was” column, but I’m compelled to  relate that classes started at 9:00 a.m., rain or shine, in Reno schools (which were a separate district from Sparks, Brown, Huffaker, Glendale, Franktown, and a dozen  other small districts in Washoe County) and had some well-meaning father or mother suggested following a back-breaking accumulation of almost half-a-foot of snow, that Mary S. either delay its start time to 10:00 A.M. or in the alternative have a “digital snow day,” the only digit they would see was Rita Cannan’s index finger pointing at the aggregation of snow shovels under the stairwell, facilitating the fathers’ (or mothers’) efforts to remove the snow. By the crack of nine.

It should be also noted here, parenthetically, that the superintendents of the Reno School District, Roger Corbett comes to mind, didn’t particularly give a rat’s assFinch copy what the parents, teachers, staff, students nor taxpayers of the City of Reno thought about any issues, nor did he host these ungodly “scoping meetings” seeking “transparent”  input about a pending decision until the district went into complete paralysis with a plethora of opinions. He called the shots, period. Same with dress codes, even through David Finch’s days at Reno High – no jeans for the ladies, no advertising on gh boys’ t-shirts, no appeal, no negotiation. Corbett and Finch steered the ship. As did Cannan at Mary S.

Snow was fun in Reno in 1946, and my buddies from Sparks thought the same thing. We wore mittens and galoshes to school over our shoes (we didn’t know what “Keds” were then – leather shoes were all we had!) Upon arrival at Mary S., many of us went to the boiler room, which Mr. Minetto th custodian unlocked so that we could put our stuff on racks next to the boiler and dry them off. By lunch hour they’d be dry, and Bus 109we went outside to play. And yes, we threw snowballs at each other, at the teachers on playground  duty and at the city buses on Washington Street on the other side of the fence.  And  we bullied – and were bullied by – our classmates, and either toughened up and eventually gave it right back, or are still wimps 75 years later. Our third-grade teacher Jean Conrad could put a snowball into a car’s window if it were doing 60 miles an hour up Washington Street. And did once. (It’s a school zone!) Mrs. Conrad had an arm… I’ve kept in touch with her daughter, Carolyn Darney, the mayor of  Puccinelli Drive in Sparks, for the past 70 years – damn, she’s old!

Anyway, that’s what would be happening this Thursday morning at Mary S.  I’m out oDonHartmanf space, but have to add that after school, 3 o’clock, we’d get our galoshes, mittens, sleds and toboggans and head home. Then the neighbor guys – me, Hank Philcox, [right] HankPhilcoxTommy Weichman, Hugh Barnhill, Don Hartman [left], the Molini brothers John and Willie, Hans Siig and even some of the guurrrrrrrls (yecch) Maggie Eddelman, Mary Eichbush, Trina Ryan, Cecelia Molini, Marilyn Burkham and Ellen Murphy – would shovel the neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways. We never asked nor charged; some neighbors would bring us out a silver dollar or a cup of  cocoa, and some would hide ‘til we were done. But a buck would get us in a movie with a coke to spare, life was good, and the neighbors who hid would lose biggest at Hallowe’en. We had good memories.

And that’s the way is was on a snowy morning, February 21, 1946. Stay tuned if it keeps snowing in Reno, and we’ll learn of the great haylift of 1948 to feed the stranded cattle in Nevada, of our classmates who lived with their families in the Nevada Bell microwave station on top of Peavine Peak and were marooned by the snow and what our class did for them, or of the choo-choo train that got stuck on top of Donner Pass in 1952. Or the memories that you send in…!

karlbreckenridge490@gmail.com

Site under hiatus

While I’m contemplating whether to continue shoveling sh~~ into an incoming tide any further with this endeavor, I urge you to use the “search box” below – type in a keyword and click on the box, then scroll down – you might just find what you are seeking displayed – there are about 360 posts so one of them might be the one…

karlbreckenridge490@gmail.com

 

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Pedaling to more old local hardware stores – with some added dialogue from Don Hartman about old NW Reno

Last weekend I went with Dad to the new Commercial Hardware store on Eastcommhdwlogo Fourth Sreet and wrote about it. I got a little wordy so I cut off the news at 1,100 words and promised to finish it later in the week. Well, here goes:

kb_thingThe topic was hardware stores as they exist this year, 1948. I wrote about Commercial Hardware and Reno Mercantile but there’s a few others that need attention also. So, again I hop on my bike and ride down the Ralston Street hill, going now straight through town down Virginia Street to Builders & Farmers Hardware, and no, Mrs. Angus, there’s no apostrophe in their name. I checked. HA!

That store is in the 1200 block of South Virginia Street, across the street from where Mr. Games opened his new “supermarket” [yeah, it’s an antique mall now]. It’s one of Reno’s best hardware stores on the main floor, but Dad’s friends Mr. Karrasch and Mr. Ackerman let a few of their friends put a model train layout in the basement of the store after WWII. The train layout got bigger and bigger until it now takes up the whole basement and there’s no room for stock. But the train layout is a real humdinger (Dad’s word) and a lot of men come in to see it on the weekends. Some even bring their own train locomotives and railcars. The “scale” of the trains is huge – bigger than our little Lionels and American Flyer trains we have at home. Some say it’s an “O” scale but it’s actually bigger – the track is O guage but the model trains are bigger than O. But if I’m going to write about Builders & Farmers Hardware I need to write about its basement and the trains. (In the same breath I have to mention our neighbor Dr. Stanley Palmer, who was the Dean of Engineering at the University of Nevada who had a huge train in his basement across University Terrace from the Whitaker Park tennis courts. Both basements smelled like electrical ozone when the trains were running!)

OK that’s one hardware store I wanted to write about, now I’ll pedal my way over to another store near the Food King Market and across Wells Avenue from the new post office on the corner of Ryland and Wells.  It was Bogart Brothers Sunday Hardware at 215 South Wells.  Originally, a small building and then later, they built a much larger building more to the west. Carl Bogart and his brother Larry ran the place.  It was a great store because it had its own parking lot and a lot of men liked it for that reason. Carl was very friendly but Larry was a crab, so I tried to deal with Carl. Carl became the mayor of the City of Reno in the early 1970s. Larry, who cares? (I’ll probably have to scratch that out. I was going to remark about Tawnee Bogart, the drop-dead gorgeous rage of our first-grade class but I KNOW I’d have to scrub that inclusion.)

Bogart Bros., as their sign read, was typical of so many small hardware stores after the war. There wasn’t a great selection of stuff – stuff was pretty much one size, or one color, and if that’s what you needed, the part you bought there would almost always fit. A duplex outlet cover would always fit. But there was a trend forming, to bring out items with a choice of material, or color, or size. The day was coming when there might be two, or four kinds of  duplex outlets, or light switches with a paddle or a mercury action, or a nut with SAE or Whitworth or metric sizes and hardware store owners had to carry them all to be competitive. I found this out when my friend got a bicycle made in England and our wrenches didn’t fit. It was hard on small merchants. But I’m only seven; what do I know?

Onward I rode this morning, to another popular hardware store. This was a long ride for I had to go all the way to Sparks and way out 8th Street, which I hear the City of Sparks is going to rename “Pyramid Way,” because that’s where it goes and everybody calls it that anyway. This hardware store only opened a few years ago during WWII. A guy named Carl Shelly, who I would know until he passed away many years later, was a heck of a historian about Sparks and the railroad, and was one of the Washoe County Commissioners who was instrumental in gaining federal funding for Virginia Lake, back when there were only three commissioners. Carl opened his hardware store in an old balloon-roof hangar on the Green Brae airfield. This was a busy little airfield, when there were quite a few airfields in the area, like the one they called “Vista” down by Kleppe’s pond and the Hillside airstrip up by where someday they’d build a school and call it Clayton.

But it’s 1948; I’m only seven and don’t know anything about Clayton Middle School yet.

Carl Shelly carried almost everything it took to open a house and set  up housekeeping, and was the go-to hardware store when Dad’s friend Mr. Probasco was building houses like crazy at the east end of Sparks. And Mat Gibbons, who changed her name from Matilda because no one would buy a house from a lady, was selling Probasco homes like hotcakes to returning veterans under the G.I. Bill.

Carl Shelly was a good man. He and his friend Tom Swart, who also grew up in Sparks, were instrumental in getting the Nevada Historical Society going again after the war, and in forming the Sparks Heritage Museum. Someone ought to write about them someday.  (! OK)

I’m going to fast forward (that’s a funny expression; what the hell is a “fast forward” in 1948? Why did I even write that? And why did I write “hell”? Mom will be really mad when she sees that) to 1963, which is far beyond what the six-year-old-kid ever wrote about, because I want to include a couple really nice men in this compendium (pretty big word for a seven-year-old, huh?) of hardware stores.

Their names are Gene Parvin and Bill Spiersch. They opened a hardware store in Keystone Square when the whole town was seemingly moving toward Reno’s northwest. They held sway there for many years and were wonderful merchants and friends, and even did some residential landscape design and installation. They opened a branch location briefly in the Village Shopping Center by Reno High School, but scaled it back. Their store was P&S Hardware, a dandy. Gene died in an auto wreck in the Sonoma Wine Country; Bill is still very much with us and still a wonderful friend to many.

And that said, yrs. Truly will revert to age seven and pedal on back up the hill to 740 Ralston Street. My neighbor friends Don Hartman or Hank Philcox are waiting to see where we’ll ride next; c’mon back in a week or two – the days grow longer and we can all take off on another adventure!

write the six-year-old-kid at kfbreckenridge@live.com

ADDED AFTER PUBLICATION:

Don Hartman writes

“Hi Karl……Wanted to get your memory going:…………

1) Do you remember when 9th and 10th,  crossing Ralston, were dirt roads?  How about Nevada St. from U. Terrace up to 11th…..dirt.  The alley between Ralston and Bell St., dirt.  Of course, even  in 2019, the alley between Nevada  and Ralston still dirt.  Do you recall when 9th (dirt) went all the way across Nevada St. through the cemetery behind the ATΩ house , and connecting with the paved Street. east….no dead end.?

And Karl responded, Yes; Don, your recollection is much clearer than mine but all the assertions look to be on target then and now… and one home on Nevada Street was owned by the architect of Death Valley Scotty’s resort in Death Valley. And Reno streets are spelled out through Tenth Street, and use Cardinal numbers above that.

2)  OK….how about  this: Do you recall at road construction sites in the 1940s – early ’50s, had round, black, steel pots about the size and shape of a small  volleyball with a flattened bottom so to stay upright in the street? The pots were filled with oil or kerosene  and the top of the pot lit so a flame would warn motorists to be careful of the road work area  at night?  We had great fun, once, kicking a pot over on Nevada Street at a road construction site and watching the  flaming oil flow onto the dirt street!!

And Karl responded, read my post about the Donner Ridge fire above Truckee in 1960. whan the smoke from the fire was so intense and the power was out that airplanes couldn’t land, and a couple hundred of those pots were lined up on either side of the approach to the north-to-south runway one-six, to provide landing pilots a ground reference/

In all your RGJ writings, I never saw you mention the above.  Of course, I have not read all your wonderful 73,684  RGJ articles of memories of good old Reno’s long gone days, either..  

And it’s only 72, 199 columns thus far! said Karl

Your Ralston Buddy,  Don Hartman”

Thanks, Don!

 

The six-year-old kid visits Commercial Hardware!

LittleKarlO boyoboyoboy – I get to go this morning with our neighbor Mr. Sala and Dad to Dad’s old classmate Mr. Horgan’s new hardware store on East Fourth Street – it’s 1948 and the store’s only a year old. We’re going because Dad and Mr. Sala like to barbecue meat and they need one of those new-fangled gadgets for the backyard where they can start a fire in it then put food on the grate over the fire. And have a couple cold Tahoe beers while they’re at it…

 So into the back seat of the ’41 Chevy I go and they pile in the front seats. Mr. Horgan’s store is east of town a few blocks; his father started the first one in 1904 and named it for the street it was on – Commercial Row. There were two hardware stores on Commercial Row – the other was Reno Mercantile a block east of Commercial Hardware in an old building with a creaky floor that was built as a Masonic hall. Dad said that it should have been torn town a long time ago – thought it might be the oldest building in Reno and I think he was serious!

 But this morning we’re off on East Fourth – what a great new building it is – it has new lights that the Nevada State Journal wrote an article about – they’re called “fluorescent” lights – long skinny tubes that glow and light up the room – no bulbs hanging down. More stores should get them. The new Commercial Hardware is huge and has all kinds of stuff – it’s hard to imagine that a hardware store could be much bigger.

 The new store’s location was picked in line with the old Commercial Hardware and Reno Merc stores – close to the train tracks. Commercial Row was named that because of Reno’s early dependence on the commerce of the Comstock, and the V&T came to Reno daily from the mines in Virginia City. And the agriculture of Carson Valley relied on railroads. That’s why so many stores that relied on mining and livestock were on Commercial Row, like Cannan’s Drug, with all the veterinarian drugs for animals. And mining supplies, like carbide for the miners’ lamps. Neat stuff – get it wet and it makes acetylene gas for the miners’ head lamps. Or flush it down a toilet if you want to move the porcelain commode across the restroom of a service station. But I’m only six years old, so don’t know about that. Yet.

 Commercial Hardware’s new location also benefited from the railroad; in its case the Western Pacific Railway, that connects with the Mighty SP down by Louis’ Basque Corner. The WP served the Sierra Valley, and every morning it brings milk, livestock and produce in to Reno and points beyon, and has a lot of industry along its right-of-way. It now keeps its locomotives in an area between Evans Avenue and the University of Nevada, where my crystal ball says will someday be the Fleischmann Agriculture Building. And its locomotive repair shop will someday be a coffee house on Record Street. But I don’t know that yet; it’s only 1948 now.

The railroads’ influence…

 One of our teachers, Mr. Leimback, told us about how Reno was built around the railroads, keeping the industrial and food-oriented businesses like Commercial Hardware and Nevada Livestock close to the railroad tracks. He was a neat guy. Like most of our post-WWII male teachers, he had earned the right to teach in the big schools, like Reno and Sparks, by teaching in some cow-county (that’s Dad’s word, not mine!) school. The State Education Board had that rule, so most of our men teachers knew our state pretty well – the mining and the ranching.

 David Finch

In years to come we’d meet David Finch, who was the no-nonsense principal of Reno High School and put that school on the national map after taking over its reins after it opened on Booth Street in 1951. Mr. Finch, who wouldn’t let us sing “There is nothing like a dame” in our senior assembly in 1959, came to town from Stanford University, (where he was on the  Indians’ boxing squad) through the little silver mining town of Rochester, a hoot-and-a-holler east of Reno by Lovelock. Looking back we’re glad he wound up in Reno. Even although we had to change our song to “…a girl.” (Which we did for the final rehearsal, but in the actual performance our underclassmen and parents heard it just as Hammerstein wrote it: “…like a dame.”  We sailors paid for that stunt… Mr. Finch, in retrospect, was probably one of the best education administrators to ever hit Reno.

We got our “barbecue” gadget that morning, which wasn’t easy in 1948 – it would be five more years before they really became available. I read once that some guy working for the “Weber Steel Company” that made round steel buoys, cut one in half, took it home and put a grate on it and the Weber buoy company thereafter became Weber Grills. Don’t know if that’s true, but I learned early the words of Mark Twain, not to let the truth interfere with a good story. And that’s a good story!

 So, we’ve toured Commercial Hardware and Reno Merc with its squeaky floors and bats and birds zinging around the store, and walls that creaked whenever a million-pound SP cab-forward steam locomotive passed across Commercial Row. Then. And it didn’t get any better.

Too long!

 And as usual, I’ve used up ‘way too many words, 1,019 on my page-counter on my yellow lined tablet that I’m writing this on after Dad and Mr. Sala and I returned to our homes on Ralston Street across from Whitaker Park. And I’ve no pictures that aren’t protected by that picky-picky “copyright” thing that I’ve been warned about.  So – I’ve several other early hardware stores in Reno, and of course Carl Shelly’s on Green Brae Avenue in the Rail City, Greenbrae two words then, had opened during WWII and I want to have some space to say something nice about Carl Shelly, whose influence on Sparks’ history, with his friend Tom Swart’s, would endure for 40 more years. So to keep this from getting too long, I’m going to wrap it up and get back to the other hardware stores in a separate column in three or four days. Now, the Great Gildersleeve is on KWRN radio so that’s where I’m going. Meet you right back here midweek.

 And I’ll point out a milestone that we’ve all reached together: The Six-Year-Old Kid has been pedaling his Schwinn around the village, splitting participles and using run-on sentences since his first column, a no-brainer was written out of boredom during the Super Bowl game of 2017. Two years later, he’s still six years old; he’s grown up once in a while so he can ride his bike with his buddy Henry Philcox, but usually returns to 740 Ralston Street. He thanks you for riding with him…!

kfbreckenridge@live.com  – lemme know if I have permission to post your comments!

A comment about David Finch: “Hi Karl, I was so glad to see mention of David Finch.  Senior year, I was in his Human Relations class.  We had to write an essay every week.  It was the best class I took until graduate school in Anthropology 15 years later, and the skills he helped us develop were the best preparation I could have had.

“When I was working for Sen. Howard Cannon in 1962-63, I sent him a thank you note and received a very nice reply.  I put both letters in the Reno High School Museum.
‘Hugs to you, [AWAITING HER PERMISSION TO USE NAME]’