April 19 • Fireworks at Mackay Stadium!

…how it began

KF_headshotSchool starts but it’s still summer in my new town of Reno, and Dad wants to go to the stadium at the university by our house on Ralston Street and watch the fireworks! They’re put on every Friday all summer by a night club downtown owned by a guy named Harold, so it’s called “Harold’s Club.” In a few years he’d quit putting that little comma up high between the “d” and the “s” but that wouldn’t happen until 1949.

It’s Friday, so dad and I are walking down University Terrace toward the university. Mom’s staying home with my sister Merilynn, she’s still in a bassinet. We walk past my friend Bill and Margaret Eddleman’s house and then around a big curve. There’s a rock wall on the south side of the street and no sidewalk. Just below that wall the Orr Ditch is flowing full. The wall was built a few years ago as a government project to keep men working after something called the “depression,” when everybody was out of work. I heard that they also built a big lake with an island in the southwest corner of Reno by the old airport that was turned into a golf course. We’re going to go to there someday. I’ll tell you about that when we get there. I’ll write about it.

But tonight is fireworks, and they are free to watch. We walk past Mr. Goodwin’s house, a friend of Dad’s who owns the Kentile floor covering business in Reno. He’s the president of Reno’s banjo band, and there’s about 20 guys out in his front yard playing banjos and we can hear them from around the corner.

We get to Sierra Street and cross it and walk down to Virginia Street. It’s the main highway to a town called Susanville. We keep walking to University Street, the next street, and go through some big granite pillars with dates on them, a gift to the university when every graduating class donated some landmark with their class’ date on it. Then we turn left and go up the hill into the university itself.

There’s a couple of cannon at the top of the hill, and two twin buildings, called Morrill and Stewart Hall. We keep walking up past a big grassy park about as big as a couple blocks downtown. Dad said it’s called the “Quad,” or Quadrangle. Dad says MackayStatuethe Quad copied a design by Thomas Jefferson for the University of Virginia’s campus. All around it are a bunch of old brick buildings where kids go to learn something. There’s a statue of a guy named John Mackay at one end of the Quad, put there by his son Clarence who also paid for the stadium that we’re going to, so they named it after Clarence when it was built in 1908. Then we walk past a building called Lincoln Hall where a lot of guys live.

Mackay1Then we cross a dirt parking lot to the stadium – Mackay Stadium – and go in. It’s all concrete steps like seats on the west side where everybody sits. And there’s no lights, so it’s starting to get pretty dark. Across the stadium is another grandstand for the kids that go to the university to sit on. Behind that, on the left side of the picture, is a “fieldhouse” where all the lockers and showers are for the ballplayers. It’s getting dark and everybody is excited about the fireworks starting to begin.

There’s a loudspeaker system that’s pretty crackly but it works, and a guy in a whiteHarolds Club Buick suit gets out of blue Buick woody station wagon with bull horns across the roof, and he starts talking in the middle of the field. And here my nose is getting long like Pinocchio’s because this is supposed to be 1946 but the Buick is a 1949 so I must be fibbing, but hey, I’m only six years old.

The guy in the white suit and Stetson hat is Mr. Smith himself – Harold – and he welcomes everybody to the fireworks show. Then RoaringCampthey play some music by some guys called the “Sons of the Pioneers” over the loudspeakers and make it pretty plain that he wants everybody to come to Harolds Club soon. Even the kids can go, because he shuts off gaming in the “Roaring Camp,” the name of his western museum, every Saturday morning between ten in the morning and noon, just so us kids can go in the museum. We can’t go other times because there’s people gambling.

OldMackay2The fireworks start soon and they’re really neat. It seems like half the town of Reno and Sparks is there in the stands on both sides of the field. The stadium is pretty full, and it holds almost 2,800 people on the west side seats. A lot of people brought blankets and are sitting on the grass on the football field. And they’re all “ooh”ing and “ahh”ing with the fireworks that go on for about a half-hour. They’ve been going on all summer, and tonight is the last night.

We get a Coke at the stand that some bunch of guys, Dad’s friends, run, the “Lions” or “Tigers” or something like that. I’d get to know them pretty well in years to come, because Dad got involved a year later in the “Friendship Train” collecting stuff to send to a town called Berlin somewhere in Europe that was blockaded by another country and the people were cold and starving. Two brothers named Sewell built a grocery store down the street, and loaned it to Dad and his friends to collect groceries and clothes and stuff. But that’s a year away so I can’t write about it yet. I’ve just got to grow up faster so I can write about the Friendship Train and the Lake Street Fire and some other cool stuff that hasn’t happened yet.

But, tonight’s tonight, 1946; we’re in Mackay Stadium and about to walk back home to Ralston Street.

Come back again, we’ll walk somewhere else!

(By the way, Dad says if I’m going to steal pictures I’d better say where I got them; some of the pictures, of old Mackay Stadium, are from the University’s Special Collections archives. I don’t know where they got them…)

 

 

 

April 9 • School starts! Yippee… 


karlatwhitaker

From the beginning…

This is a big day for me. I’ve lived here on Ralston Street for five weeks and am finally starting school! The school is just down the hill but Mom says I have to take a ride from Mrs. Cook who lives up the street and is coming by the house any minute. We’re going to pick up Cecelia Molini (Pearce) and Marilyn Burkham (Bell) on the way. I had no way of knowing this in 1946, but I’d know Tom Cook, Marilyn and Cecelia for the rest of my life.

The school is huge, kind of a dove-grey building in what grownups call Spanish DotenPostcardMission design. It’s called Mary S. Doten after an old teacher. There’s another three of them almost alike; one over by the fairgrounds called Orvis Ring, another teacher; McKinley Park down by the Truckee River named for the president and Mount Rose a way out of town south on Arlington Avenue. Named for the mountain, I s’pose. They are all about 35 years old now. There’s another elementary school right downtown called Southside, and some out in the boondocks (that’s a new word I just learned!) like Brown and Huffaker and Galena and Franktown. Dad said that there are 18 school districts in Washoe County, Reno is just one of them.

It’s a nice school, I can see that as Mrs. Cook drops us off and cries about something, don’t know what that would be. The front is like a courtyard with wisteria and a fountain bubbling around the flagpole. The teachers get together and plant flowers in the beds. All the rooms have big windows, and there are huge white glass bulbs SchoolLighthanging from the ceiling. There’s a great big “auditorium” with a stage at one end, the room big enough to hold every kid in the school. Which is about 240 kids. Downstairs are rooms for the kindergarten, where we’re going, and a boiler room where Mr. Minetto the janitor lets us put our galoshes in the winter to dry off while we’re in school. Next to that is a lunchroom, big enough for all of us at once with benches and tables. Most of us bring our lunch in metal boxes with Mickey and Donald on them. We have Thermos bottles but they break all the time.

Our teacher is Miss Parker. She’s really cool. There’s two kindergartens, one morning and one afternoon. We do all kinds of neat stuff. Now I’m forgetting what grade I’m in as I write, kindergarten, first with Mrs. Smith and second with Mrs. Angus. I know in all the rooms are these old desks with tops that lift up for our books, a hole in the top for an ink jar, which we don’t use anymore, and a seat that folds up. There’s a bunch of them bolted together so they stay in a line.

Above the blackboard are letters, in some kind of weird cursive shapes that I guess that we’re going to learn. I still print stuff like I am doing now. We do the “Pledge of Allegiance” every morning, and on Fridays we do the Nevada state song. We’re pretty good singers. And we’re learning all kinds of stuff, about Nevada, the other 47 states and some other countries like England and China. Mom always says we have to clean our plates because the people in China are starving. Her logic eludes FireMagnoliamy little brain but we keep eating. We have movies once in a while in the big room upstairs about ranching and farming, and some firemen came by once and let us play on the engine and showed us how to be safe. Some of the students from the university up the street called “fraternity” men came and sang to us. They’re really old guys.

We have “Bank Day” every week. Our teacher puts up a blue sign that says “Tomorrow will be Bank Day,” and turns it over the next day to read “Today is Bank Day” in red. Most of us put in a quarter every week and save quite a bit of money in a school year. Each year a man comes to take our classes’ pictures and we all are supposed to wear our good clothes and stand still on the front steps of the school. Looking back at all those pictures we’d usually see about 30 or 31 people in each class, which was about normal.

We didn’t know anything about it yet, but we’d have peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches with milk from Old Home Dairy or Crescent Creamery each day. I learned later that peanut butter probably killed quite a few of us at our young age but I don’t remember that. And the lead-based paint and the asbestos in the school and the mercury from thermometers that we all rubbed on dimes to make them shiny probably got a lot more. But our classes never seemed to get any smaller so I guess we were just lucky.

school busWe got to know the kids from the farms and dairies and ranches west of Reno. They came in on a bus every morning. There were also a few kids whose dads worked in the hydroelectric power plants west of Reno on the river. A fair number of our classmates’ parents worked on the ranches outside of Reno, and they would live with relatives during the week then go home to their families’ houses for the weekend so we didn’t see them. And there were quite a few kids – usually about ten every year – whose mothers were in Reno for a “divorce” which we didn’t know much about then – they came to school throughout the year and would stay for a while then disappear as fast as they came. I often wondered what happened to them!

We started getting into music and plays – some of us would “try out” to be a character in some show and get dressed up in some weird costumes sometimes and PumpOrganhave to remember what we were supposed to say. And we had singing, usually at Christmas, which we called “Christmas,” and sang carols to our parents in the big upstairs room. Miss Miller, the fourth-grade teacher, had a pedal organ that you had to pump with your feet to get any music out of. I was too short, but she played it pretty well. We sang a lot.

Anyway, it wasn’t long before we were all walking home, up the hill, through the autumn leaves.

My dad and my uncle John are building me a new bike, out of old bike parts because bikes were hard to get after the war. I’m looking forward to that, and soon I’ll be another year older so I can go more places around Reno and have a bike and be able to write down some more of what I’m seeing. I’ll try to take more pictures too…

Come back once in a while and read some more!

write the six-,  soon-to-be seven-year-old, at kfbreckenridge@live.com

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April 2 • Knockin’ around town on a Saturday

  How it began, click here… 

1941_chevvyI’m writing again, in my best handwriting, trying to practice as I’ll be starting kindergarten next week at Mary S. Doten, just down the Ralston hill from our new Reno house. It’s a Saturday morning; Dad and I are off in the Chevy to handle some of his chores, and I’m tagging along.

We take off on Fourth Street through town to Alameda Street. Across the Truckee to the south is the same street, called Wells Avenue because a rancher named Wells used to drive cattle up the street and across the river to the slaughterhouse a block west of Alameda. My uncle John, who just got out of the service, opened a Flying A service station on the northwest corner, almost next to the slaughterhouse. He has a nifty Harley Davidson motorcycle “tricycle” with a box on the back and his station’s name on the back of the box. My grandmother hates motorcycles and people who ride them. Uncle John promised me a ride on his Harley one time and my mother told him she’d kill him if he did that. Women I’m learning at age six are hard to understand.

There’s a neat little store across Fourth Street, Akert’s Market it’s called. There’s a fun guy in there named Ben, probably in college now, who wants to open a store that sells booze and call it “Ben’s Liquors.” My mom told me not to use the word “booze.” Oh well.

Dad said that the city was going to build a fire station on Morrill Avenue, a couple blocks to the east. It would replace the old fire station almost across the street, called “Reno East” which is a duplicate of the one at the dead-end of California Avenue on Virginia Street. This is a busy area of town, East Fourth Street, with a lot of nice stores, hardware, auto parts, lot of auto stuff and garages. Mr. Blakely, a friend of dad’s since high school, operated Eveleth Lumber kitty-corner from my uncle’s service station. It makes custom cuts of lumber and is in high demand from people building houses needing weird stuff like handrails. It is part of a sawmill up the river toward Truckee.

We got back in the car and left to see my dad’s friend Mr. Menante, another schoolmate. His family owns a shop by the railroad tracks on Virginia Street, that takes the tires off cars and “vulcanizes” new rubber and treads onto them and they put them back on your car, to save buying new tires. Dad said it was a wartime thing. Mr. Menante’s business is called Reno Vulcanizing, pretty original. His plan is to move further north on Virginia Street to his partner Mr. Besso’s family ranch, and build a new Reno Vulcanizing shop on what will become Sixth Street.

Mr. Menante told me how my father shot him with a pistol in their senior year in high school, which cost my dad his appointment to Annapolis, which is a big Navy school back east. Turns out they were in a play and my dad’s character shot Mr. Menante’s character, but the gun misfired and bent my dad’s trigger finger so it wouldn’t straighten and he never got to that Navy school. Mr. Menante was a fun guy.

We got back in the Chevy after dad made arrangements to get the tires fixed, and drove across the railroad tracks to have coffee – ugh – how grownups can drink that stuff is beyond me. Dad parked the Chevy at kind of an angle in front of Tiny’s Waffle Shop south of Commercial Row. We went to see Mr. Southworth in his tobacco shop on Douglas Alley. My grandmother, after my grandfather died in 1906, married Mr. Strausburg who was a stockbroker and owned the little building, his office on the second floor, Southworth’s Tobacco on the street level. Mr. Southworth was a nice guy, had a cigar-store Indian in the window that would piss some people off in years to come. Likely not the Indians. But, this is 1946 and I don’t know anything about that yet. (Three years later Harolds Club would put up a mural with Indians all over it, and more on the roof of the building, but I didn’t know that yet either…)

We went into Tiny’s for coffee, and a bunch of Dad’s friends were in there at a big table. I met Mr. Tripp, who worked for Mr. Smith at Harolds Club across the street. His job was making little plastic name tags for the ladies who worked in Harolds Club, with their first name and hometown. Mr. Tripp, I think his name was Walt, was a nice guy, had a couple of sons my age, and wanted to open his own engraving shop – “Tripp Plastics,” he’d call it. Mr. Smith I understand was going to help him get started.

Mr. Cobb was in Tiny’s at the big table. He was a sportswriter from Virginia City who worked at the newspaper, over on Center Street. He was also the announcer at the Silver Sox baseball games in Moana Stadium, a long way out of town to the south, and he told me that he’d let me sit in the booth some night during a game. He was a nice guy. I soon met his two sons and daughter, tell you all about them one of these days.

All dad’s friends were nice men. One was funny, his name was Mr. Maffi, and he and his partner Mr. Lyons owned a service station at the end of California Avenue across the street from the Lake Mansion, which I’ll have to study to learn more about and write about it another day. Mr. Maffi came to our house on Ralston Street later today to help dad adjust the furnace in our new house, which originally burned coal but was converted by Mr. Maffi to burn oil. Dad and Mr. Maffi, (and Mr. Sala, our next door neighbor; I’ll write a lot about him in the future), had to leave to get a furnace part and probably some more beer (surely Sierra!), and Mr. Maffi, who had a glass eye, took his eye out and put it on the kitchen table and told my mother, who had a limited sense of humor, “Here, Floie, (for her name was Flo), I’m keeping an eye on my beer.”

Dad and Mr. Sala laughed, but Floie (Flo) fainted, right on the kitchen floor, cold as a mackerel. Mr. Sala went next door to get Mrs. Sala to help out. Floie soon returned to consciousness, and Dad, seeing this, went out the front door with the other guys to Mr. Maffi’s pickup and took off down Ralston Street to get the furnace part. And some beer.

As I recall, they discussed Mr. Maffi and the occurrence further that evening.

I’m worn out from writing; I’ll start school in a week down the hill at Mary S. Doten, and maybe I’ll learn how to write cursive so it will be easier to read. Come back in a week and we’ll stumble off around Reno some more, maybe visit my new school and my new friends, all neighbors, Tom Cook, Cecelia Molini (Pearce), Jimmie Ceander, and Marilyn Burkham. And another new friend that I’m going to introduce next week, Cedric Parkenfarker from up University Terrace. Cedric has the ability to look into the future, which will enable me to write my 1946 memories, but interject what happened in the future, like Marilyn Burkham becoming known as Ma Bell. And I’ll get my Brownie Hawkeye fixed so I can add some pictures again…it’s busted today.

See ya soon…………

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

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March 18 • Lumberyards and Ironworks!

Go the post that started this all…

kf_headshotI’ve grown braver in the past few weeks and discovered that my parents aren’t watching me like a hawk so this fine August 1946 morning I’m going to take a real walk, all the way down the Ralston hill to Fifth Street, buy another Bazooka bubble gum stick at Beetchen’s Cottage Market just east of Ralston and keep going. There’s a neat little brick house across the street from the market, surely a Delongchamps design with his hexagonal turret trademark. I’d learn later that it was owned by Mr. Brown, who with his partner Mr. Milbery fixed electric motors.

I crossed Nevada Street and turned to my right on Chestnut Street. Dad said that if oneBelmontApartments walked to the Truckee River on Chestnut Street, that he’d then be on Belmont Street, until he walked all the way up the hill to California Avenue, then he’d be on Arlington Avenue – same street, three names. And dad knew Belmont Street – he soon took an account for his new office as the manager of the Belmont Apartments on the corner of California Avenue and Belmont [above]. A nice building; the lobby reminded me of the lobby of the Majestic Theater. We’ll walk down there someday.

This is pretty neat! Since I started writing down what I’ve seen on these walks this is the furthest east I’ve been. I’d left the “two-one” section of Reno, and was now in the 1947 Fire ladder“two-two.” Reno’s fire department separated the town into 12 districts, with the “one” being south of the train tracks and the “two” being north. The second number divided the town into six zones, “one” being the furthest west, where I lived, and becoming larger as one went east. I had now passed into the “two” zone – the “two-two.” The fire bell in the belfry of the fire station on Commercial Row would ring two bells, then two more to tell the volunteers where the fire was if it was here. Before they had more sophisticated systems. But no fire today (that’s Reno’s new 1947 aerial truck in the picture…)

Walking down Chestnut, I passed Reno’s only high school. It actually faced West Street, away from me. I passed a row of nice, small wooden houses that would one day be removed to make a playground for the school. And I passed one house that had been turned into Reno High’s music department after it was given to the Reno School District. (I learned in later life that in 1955 the Reno School District would join 16 other Washoe County districts, and nothing would go right since  until complete paralysis set in. Too bad.)

30070 cab forwardApproaching the railroad tracks I passed my new friend Ty Cobb’s house on the east side of the street. His dad worked for the newspaper. I could hear the whistle on a locomotive so I waited for it to cross Chestnut Street. It was a “cab-forward,” sometimes called a “Mallet” which it wasn’t but that name hung on. The last Mallet went through Reno in 1929 but the cab-forwards were still “Malleys” – and boy did it lay a plume of smoke. No one ever talked about that but it really stunk up the town when it went through.

I kept walking after the train passed (did I tell you that I pretended to pull the whistle cord when the engineer passed, and he responded with a little yank on the loco’s whistle, and a big grin…? I meant to…) Beyond the tracks, passing Commercial Row, was a neat building on the east side of the street, between Commercial Row and Second Street. I poked my head in one of the big doors to see what it was, and saw sparks flying everywhere and heard a large din. It was Reno Iron Works, where men would cut and weld and fabricate steel into all sorts of things, like fire escapes and porch rails and stairwells and stuff. I learned later that Mr. Ginocchio started it in 1922 with a friend of mine’s dad, Mr. Avansino. Mr. Ginocchio’s daughter, Andrea, was to become my babysitter! She later married a doctor named Pelter and took over the iron works when her father passed away, but this was only 1946 as I write this so I don’t know any of it this morning. They gave me a tour, and I learned that most of the ironworkers lived in Little Italy, where I walked a week ago. There was another steel plant in Reno, owned by Mr. Schwamb, and all the workers there were either German or Italian. We’ll walk out East Fourth Street some day and see if they’ll let me in so I can tell you about it.

lumberyardburnerAnd so it goes – I walked to Second Street and turned back west again to go home. I hit Ralston Street, and turned right to start up the hill. There was a motel being built on the corner, the B-Gay Motel, the sign said. But the neatest thing on Ralston Street in 1946 was the White Pine Lumber yard on the east side of the street, just south of the tracks with a three-story-high wood burner [left]. This is where Mr. Jaksick made “Presto-Logs,” compressed sawdust held together by the pitch from the pine trees, that were clean to handle and burned quite nicely. Three years later when my dad was chairman of the Berlin airlift train campaign that took stuff to Berlin, in Germany I think, when it was blockaded. A PrestoLogphenomenal number of these Presto-Logs were brought by Reno residents to the new Sewell’s Store on Sierra Street and were loaded onto the S.P. train bound for New York City harbor on a Saturday morning, to keep those German people warm. That’s a good story; someday I’ll write about that, but it wouldn’t happen for three more years so I can’t this morning.

But – on a frigid night in January, January 11th, it was in 1952, the Presto-Log storage area picked up a spark, and the stored logs plus the building plus a couple of other buildings at White Pine Lumber went up like a torch in a fire they could see from Truckee (well, not really…) and our town, relying heavily on those logs for heat, had none. Mr. Jaksick had another plant in Alturas, so he started bringing logs from there, but they were a little bit more expensive – five dollars for sixty logs. Two things beg to be told here: My dad at one point picked up a trunkful of Presto-Logs in our 1941 Chevrolet coupe. It was a straight shot up Ralston Street to our home across from Whitaker Park, but the logs were too much for the Chevy’s little “Blue Flame” six-cylinder engine. He damn near fried the clutch, then stopped the car at the bottom of the hill by my friend Marilyn Burkham’s house (“Ma Bell!”) and left me to guard them as he drove off with what the Chevy could handle, then came back and got me and the rest of the logs.

The second thing as I re-read this that I’ll include, is that Mr. Jaksick had a son a little older than I whom many of us know, and it was this younger (late) Sam Jaksick’s dad, Sam Sr., who built the sawmill by the railroad tracks.

Frandsen ApartmentsAnyway, I cross the Lincoln Highway now – West Fourth Street – and start to trudge up the Ralston Street hill for home. I passed the elegant Frandsen Apartments to my right toward downtown Reno. If you want, we could all walk together a half-block east on Fifth Street, to the Cottage Grocery and get some more treats.

See ya back here in a few days – I’m getting into this walking-and-writing groove, don’t know where we’ll go next…

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

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

 Go to how this all began…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah…..

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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February 25 Sunday • Little Italy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday February 19 • The Graham Mansion on Ralston Street

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SigmaNu houseI walked from the little brick market on Ralston Street at Tenth, northward. On the west side of Ralston, the other side of the street from the market, was a beautiful home – huge, much larger than any other homes on Ralston Street. In fact as I walked, the land that the home sat on appeared to be about three normal home lots. I learned later that it was!

Sticking my head through the brick gate and peeking around, I saw walkways everywhere, going in all directions, brick laid in a “parquet” pattern – criss-crossed, with a brick curb along the sidewalks that I guessed were about four feet wide. And it had a few lights mounted on the tops of posts. The yard was HUGE!

At the end of the main sidewalk was a porch, and a big fancy front door. It was wide, and had a lot of little glass panes in it. Over the door a round half-circle as wide as the door, set also in beveled glass. It was called an “applause” door trim. The home was two-story, brick painted white and to the left, which is to say the south, was another entry door. I could see in, and it looked like a big dining room inside. I could also see in the living room a grand, curved staircase and three large, intricate cut-glass chandeliers and a massive fireplace trimmed in marble.

I wondered who lived here. It looked like a place where a huge family could live, or could be an office. I roamed around like I had good sense, peeking in the windows of this newfound treasure in my new neighborhood. A lady’s voice – not a strong voice, but a pleasant one – said “Hi, little boy! Are you lost?”

Turning around I saw a lady who appeared to be older, like my grandmother. Nicely dressed and spry, she walked up to me and said, “My name is Luddy. Would you like to see my house?” Wow. Would I ever.

I was a’scared because my parents had told me as I wandered around my new neighborhood, never to go into anybody’s house, nor get into a car. But I thought, “What could go wrong here…?” I told Luddy my name was Karl and that my family had just moved in down the street, across from Whitaker Park. I got a tour of the house, and a couple cookies. And I met Luddy’s friend, named Hilda, a lady with a slight accent that I hadn’t heard before.

I didn’t know any of it in 1946, but in later life I’d learn much about Luddy, Hilda and the home at 1075 Ralston Street.

Luddy was born in 1865, which fascinated me in later life when my State of Nevada turned 150 years old: I had met a person who was born in Baltimore a year after we became a state, and was alive during the Civil War! Wow….! Her name was Ludovica Dimon. Her family had sailing ships, lots of them, the Dimon Navigation Company, sailing them with cargo and building them. In fact they owned the fastest clipper ship on the sea, the Sea Witch, which held the record hauling tea; and probably dope from Hong Kong to New York City harbor. A record that stands until today. Luddy was a real gay blade and believed that money was made round to roll, and married early, a jeweler and wasn’t married long. Then in the 20th century she married a doctor named John Graham. They didn’t live together very long but they had a lot of fun, living in Boston on the Social Register and sailing their yacht. They parted, but remained married until Dr. Graham passed away in 1919. Luddy moved west, and traveled a lot. She befriended Ragnhild Tonneson, a Swedish lady whom she met on a cruise from Europe on the steamship S. S. Majestic in 1924. They would remain friends for life.

Luddy and Hilda built a house in Palm Springs, a grand place that she later sold to Liberace as a young man. She liked Reno and had her lawyers find these three lots, tore down the houses on them and built a magnificent new home in 1927, the one that I was in. Did I mention that she married her chauffer who was a hell of a lot younger than she was, but that didn’t last long.

I found this all out in later years, but in the years shortly following the war I was always welcomed onto the grounds of the magnificent home. And I made myself welcome, because she always had some treats for me and the neighborhood boys and girls that I’d bring along. She was quite close to the University of Nevada, just a few blocks away down 11th Street, and made her home, and the park-like front yard available to the U for group parties and meetings. She did the same for some Reno clubs; the 20th Century Club for one. The home was always alive with people coming and going.

But, Luddy and Hilda wanted a smaller home, and had their lawyers buy three more lots on Bell Street, straight west across the alley behind the “Graham Mansion.” It’s also brick, now painted a darker brown, but it too is a neat house. The original home that she built on Ralston Street was sold when the Bell Street house was completed, to the Werner family, who had originally owned some of the lots it was built upon. They intended to turn it into an apartment house, but never got it together, and wound up renting it out as the “Jack & Jill Nursery” for a few years, until they sold it to Sigma Nu fraternity in 1951. It remained a fraternity house from then until a few months ago, when the Sigma Nu national fraternity terminated the Reno chapter.

“Aunt Luddy,” as her nephew in Philadelphia, whom I’ve spoken with a few times, called her, passed away in Reno at St. Mary’s Hospital in June of 1952. The University of Nevada, and many Reno residents, lost a great friend, who had over time become a Nevadan. And I knew her. That still fascinates me…

Her ashes were taken to Brooklyn for inurnment. Ragnhild Tonneson was well taken care of for the remainder of her life, and passed away in 1969 in Reno, at 85 years of age.

And that’s the story of my walk up to the corner of 11th and Ralston Streets in 1946. Now, I’m late to get home to 740 Ralston, but I’ve heard about this neighborhood called “Little Italy,” that the Graham Mansion abuts. I think I’ll just wander a block to the west and get home down Bell and Washington Streets, and see just why it’s called Little Italy.

C’mon back later in the week and we can walk it together!

Contact Breck at KFBreckenridge@live.com

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February 12 Sunday • Upper Ralston Street

pubnsubI had grown tired of hanging around in my own front yard on that sunny summer morning in 1946, and wanted to cross University Terrace to see the mysteries that lie beyond. But the instructions were clear: Don’t go beyond the corner ‘til we say it’s OK. Parents, even for a six-year old, were a pain in the ass.

Down the street, a neat old truck had stopped, its burly driver throwing a chunk of wood behind one of the back tires. He was wearing an apron made of leather, and it was well-worn. In his hand was a gadget that I soon learned was an ice-tong, to span the width of the blocks of ice in the truck, behind a piece of leather hanging in the doorway to keep the truck cool. While I didn’t know it at the time, the truck had no refrigeration unit of its own, but was cooled by its load of ice, coming from Union Ice Company down along the Lincoln Highway west of the brick plant.

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“Who are you?” he asked me in a gruff voice. “I live here, since yesterday,” I responded, pointing at my house. My sister’s bassinet was visible through the front window. “Oh, Mrs. Shermerhorn’s house,” he said. “She was my customer ‘til she bought a new refrigerator last month.” I saw that thing in our kitchen, a big round condenser on top of it. “This is for the Sala family,” he nodded toward the ice block now over his shoulder. “About half the homes up in this neighborhood have bought refrigerators.” He told me that his employer, Union Ice, went into the business of selling them to their customers. He walked away toward the Salas’ house, just below the alley east of Ralston Street.

“OK, you can go up the street and poke around, if you want,” my dad said. I learned later that my mother had got mad at him for letting me loose, but also learned that that would go on all my life. I crossed the street. And started looking for the kids that owned the bikes on the porch of the boarding house. I had asked my folks for a bike but following the end of the war steel was in short supply, and most bicycles had been built before WWII with no new ones yet available. I’ll tell the reader about my new bike later. No kids were in sight so I walked over and looked at the bikes. They were pretty cool.

There were a lot of old houses up that hill, small, but with big strong-looking trees and well-kept gardens – “manicured” is a term I’d learn in later years. The houses were all ornate with a lot of bric-a-brac on their walls and rooflines. I saw some adults talking, in a language I didn’t understand. It would not take long to learn that the language was “Italian,” from a country called “Italy” which was a long way somewhere across an ocean. This was my first introduction to my new neighborhood – the neighborhood north of University Terrace was nick-named “Little Italy,” because of all the immigrants who lived there – on Ralston Street where I was walking, and the two streets to the west – Bell Street and Washington Street. And I encountered some kids my age – friendly sorts – who walked with me, and we talked. One of their parents – their mother – walked out of her house, speaking in that strange language to someone unseen inside the home. Then she turned to her daughter, alongside me, who I’d know for life. And the mother spoke to the daughter in a language I understood well. It was English. I learned then a lesson that would stay with me the whole time we lived on Ralston Street: The parents, many who had emigrated from Italy, spoke Italian to each other, but English to their kids my age. Always. I’ll speak much of Little Italy in time to come.

We walked north up Ralston Street, my newfound friends and I. At Ninth Street, kitty-9andralstoncorner on the northwest corner was a brick home, a little one at that, that was one of the few homes ever paid for and built by the federal government in Washington D. C., wherever that was. It seems that on August 24, 1921, a little over 20 years ago that morning, a plane owned by the U.S. Air Mail service, which flew out of an airport near the present golf course in Reno, crashed into the house that was on that corner and burned it to the ground. The pilot died. A few neighbor kids damn near got killed in the downed power lines. Somebody pulled the handle on the fire alarm box on the corner near my house, but it did little good (there was no fire station up the street in 1946.) And the government built the house that’s now on that corner.

We’ll walk a little further – another block north – in this episode of my memoirs. A block beyond the rebuilt house on Ninth Street, on the corner on my side of Ralston Street, was a grocery market – “Maynard’s.” It was a little brick building built just prior to WWII. In 1946  I had no way of knowing that it would become a branch office of the Sigma Nu house across the street (of course, I had no knowledge that Sigma Nu would locate across Ralston Street in 1951).

In a day or two we’ll meet, as I did c. 1947, Ludovica Graham, the lady who built that lovely mansion at Eleventh Street. I would soon learn that in the years leading up to WWII and for quite a few years thereafter, that there was just a whole lot of grocery stores in Reno and Sparks. Few neighbors had refrigerators with any capacity and people had to shop every couple of days. Just within our home on the Ralston Street hill there were a half-dozen stores. This one at Tenth Street, another, the “Hilltop Market” at Ralston and Eleventh, the Ralston Market at the bottom of the hill. Quilici’s Market was at Seventh and Washington, diagonally across Whitaker Park, and the Cottage Grocery, a bigger store with a butcher shop that the other groceries didn’t have, was on Fifth Street. Lotsa groceries, lotsa Fleer’s and Bazooka bubble gum that we’d buy with the money we made taking bottles back and redeeming the deposit!

Space is limited now; when next we meet we’ll walk one more block north to a big white brick home, and meet the heiress who built it. (As I did; she told us little boys and girls that we could always play in the front yard. And we did!)

Until midweek…

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A reader inquired about a “stone house” across from Whitaker Park. I drove up to the park on Ralston Street, and the closest I could find to a stone house is the once-Hilltop Market on the northeast corner of Eleventh and Ralston – here’s a photo…:

hilltop1

February 9 Thursday • Whitaker Park

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karlatwhitakerI continued my exploration of our family’s new digs on Ralston Street. The parental rules of the exploration were that I was not to cross University Terrace, one house away from ours, and not below the Mighty Orr ditch, which at that time was open throughout its length, passing under Ralston Street after wending its way from the west, forming the southern boundary of Whitaker Park (in later years, corresponding to the construction of a freeway south of it, it would be covered).

So, up the hill I walked to the corner, kitty-corner across the intersection was the Eichbush home, and within the home a pretty girl with jet-black hair, named Mary, two years older than I. In the other direction, to the east on University Terrace, was a house with a couple kids I’d soon meet and know throughout our lives – their names were Margaret and Bill Eddleman – Margaret, a friend of Mary’s, was also two years older than I, and brother Bill three years’ Margaret’s senior. We’ll learn more about them in the pages to follow. And I probably better snap a picture of the Eichbush home for this journal. [I went up to the house with my Brownie Hawkeye today 2/11 but it’s so overgrown it wasn’t worth taking a picture…sorry]

The Eichbush home was a beauty, and would remain so for at least the next sixty years, one of Reno’s unsung treasures. On the northeast corner of that intersection was a boarding house, with a rudimentary kitchen and restaurant. It was in some respects similar to other boarding houses in the Ralston/Washington/Bell street corridor surrounding Whitaker Park. I would learn in later years that these houses – each with a half-dozen private rooms, more or less, and a common area for dining and guests, sprung up as Reno grew, sharing a commonality of being close to St. Mary’s hospital, down the street four blocks. The homes were generally known as “birthing hospitals,” where by prearrangement ladies could go to have a baby delivered – (grammatically, to be delivered of their baby, but that rule fell into disuse) – where there was a midwife present, nurses and a doctor on call, with many more only a few blocks away at St Mary’s. A remarkable number of people born between 1900 and WWII were born in such hospitals. And we learned more about St. Mary’s creation, which I’ll get around to writing of in a day or two, if not today.

The boarding house across University Terrace had been such a hospital, and as most of the other boarding hospitals did, it fell into disuse during WWII, when there were fewer babies being born in Reno, and, as the hospital started to grow, and opened a maternity ward of its own. There were therefore many empty birthing hospitals in the neighborhood.

I listened intently while my new friend, Dr. David from next door, spun a tale of the neighborhood. Almost beyond my ken to comprehend, he spoke of a law governing divorces that had gone into law in the years before the war. A requirement of the law was that a person seeking a divorce had to live in Nevada for a while before going to court. The increasing vacancy in birthing hospitals and the increasing need for lodging were a marriage made in heaven, no pun intended for the divorce element of this, but simply stated, there opened up a whole lot of private rooms around Whitaker Park and St. Mary’s hospital.

In the weeks to come, I’d start school at the bottom of the Ralston hill, but we’ll get to that later. For now, I’ll flesh in the birthing hospital-conversion-to-boarding houses aspect of this rambling:

Bear in mind, that what popped the whole issue up was that boarding house across University Terrace – the Mount Rose Arms guest house, I think it was called, “Mount” spelled out, which it generally isn’t save for Mount Rose School. There were a couple of kid-sized bikes around the little two-story wood building. I didn’t have a bike. I probably ought to get to know those kids. Not that I’d learned to ride a bike yet…

The thought that will emanate from all this babbling about divorcée-boarding houses is that there lived in the vicinity, quite a few children; those children the kids whose mothers were in Reno for a divorce. I hadn’t started school yet, but came to know that we’d meet those children in school and they would become our friends. Sometimes they’d stay in Reno, but more often than not when the court action was complete, these classmates would disappear as quickly as they joined us. Too bad – we’d made some good friends. This went on throughout our four grades plus kindergarten at Mary S. Doten School. And, yakking with friends in later years, seemed to be more prevalent around St. Mary’s hospital, as that was the magnet for the birthing hospitals that enabled the boarding houses.

This is quite a new neighborhood for me – there’s a big home up the street, whose owner I’ll meet in the next few days. It would later become a fraternity house; of course I don’t know anything about that this morning. And a couple of little grocery stores, lots of professors walking to the University living around here. And that little red-haired girl from next door is out in the yard again. At the next time we write down a few recollections, we’ll walk northward from Whitaker Park, by house where the plane had crashed 24 years before, by the two barracks that hadn’t been moved to that corner yet, and about the Pub ‘n Sub restaurant that was still the Ralston Market as this is written. Come back in a few days; I’ll meet you right here.. 

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