This column will no longer be maintained – thanks for a good ride!

cropped-kf_headshot.jpgIn the last 24 hours I have been foolish enough to post about some old motels being razed in downtown Reno, and have had to go head-to-head with people. 

Copy the stuff you want using the ‘search’ box at the bottom of the text, as I’ve grown weary of writing and researching for free (yet I pay WordPress for the site; that’s how dumb I am!) and going up against those who would save a downtown that’s already long gone.

Sayonara – it was fun while it lasted! Karl



(this column originally appeared in the RGJ on June 23rd, 2001)

If you came to this site looking for the Wreaths & Shamrocks column, try here

Eugene Jarvis turned a classic old ranch house a fur piece south of Reno into an elegantly appointed restaurant after the end of World War II.  He might have called it “Jarvis’s”, but owing to either caprice or the awkward apostrophe, he elected to go with “Eugene’s”, thus bestowing one of the most instantly identified and enduring names in Reno’s heritage.

Jarvis picked the name, but it took two young men who met in New York at the 1939 World’s Fair and journeyed – separately – to Reno, to get the restaurant underway.  Joe Patrucco was the affable bartender at the Riverside Hotel’s well-known Corner Bar, while Gilbert Vasserot had opened the Moulin Rouge restaurant on Sierra Street.  Their youthful careers were interrupted by a world war, but they rejoined and in 1947 bought the restaurant from Jarvis, retaining the Eugene’s name and assembling a world-class staff that would give Reno a restaurant that would rival the finest in cosmopolitan San Francisco.  (Eugene Jarvis, possibly to create confusion for 50 years to follow, would open a second Eugene’s on a promontory above Lake Tahoe’s Crystal Bay.)

      Gilbert, a Swiss culinary artiste trained in Europe, donned the chef’s toque, a hat he would wear six nights a week for years to follow, while Joe handled the “front” duties – also six nights a week.  And Joe greeted all equally – Eugene’s had the local reputation that a guest was a guest and none were treated better or more quickly than others; that all would receive old world hospitality be they Dennis Day sneaking in for dinner before his show in the Mapes Sky Room, or the local couple taking their daughter out to dinner on her 16th birthday. 

  • • •

The town embraced Eugene’s with civic pride, and eleven years after it opened in Eugene Jarvis’ ranch house, local architect Frank Green was commissioned to design a new restaurant building. 

        Premier local builder Allan Gallaway finished the new restaurant on a spot now near the domes left over from the Century Theater south of the Peppermill, and Gilbert and Joe reopened Eugene’s on May 14th, 1958 (a great photo of Joe and his wife Lucia, and Gilbert with his Lucienne, taken on the steps on opening night, will magically appear on my website soon…) [Lucienne passed away shortly after this column appeared.]   The original ranch house restaurant had been moved a few hundred feet to the west to free up the site for construction.  That structure burned a few years after the new restaurant opened.  And it wasn’t the old James McKay house, as I and many others originally believed; the McKay home was a long block to the south.

What a place the new restaurant was!  A classic bar with a beamed ceiling, leaded glass windows and thickly padded leather banquettes, and a bartender named Cliff Challender who prided himself on committing regular diners’ cocktail preferences to memory (Gilbert points with great pride at his sommelier – wine steward, to some of us – well-remembered by many as Antoine Balducci, who handled the patrons’ wine orders with uncanny knowledge, freeing up the waiters to provide better service.)

        The main room was quiet and open, with rich paneling and more leather – chairs and banquettes – and chandeliers with bulbs hand-painted by Gilbert himself for just the right effect. Pianist Del (few knew his last name was Dellaquadre) could be heard around the room, subtly, but less subtly when somebody would roll in with a party of eight and no reservations.  Del would break into La Vie En Rose, to some a charming love song, but to Joe Patrucco, somewhere out in the room greeting guests, a code to come to the front pronto and deal with a problem.

        One didn’t hear La Vie En Rose too often at Joe and Gilbert’s…

  • • •     

The bill of fare rivaled any fine dinner house in America, garnering Holiday Magazine Five-Star awards year after year when fewer than 75 were conferred in the whole country.  In 1960, Eugene’s hosted the City of Reno’s welcoming luncheon for the International Olympic Committee during the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics.  Business soon came from one interesting market, the airlines. United Air Lines, three words in the 1960s, began with meals for two flights a day to solve a logistical problem and found that the food was so popular on those runs that they eventually selected Eugene’s to prepare meals for twelve flights a day.  Years ago the rumor was that United changed their schedules just to use food from Eugene’s.  Bonanza Airlines also served Eugene’s fare enroute to Las Vegas.  Gil and Joe did take-out judiciously; for a good customer a little under the weather, a Broiled Langoustine Eugene’s or a Filet of Sole Meuniere, with Foigras du Perigord or Zabalione might appear on their sickbed tray.  Or, for Charles Clegg and historian/raconteur Lucius Beebe’s St. Bernard – all three fairly frequent diners — a nice dish of Skippy a la Comstock for the beast.

There’s too much on the menu here to cover in one week.  Soon, we’ll name names: the long-time employees who bought it from Joe and Gilbert in 1961; about photographers Gitta and Jimmie Smith, old-world names like Madalaine Chamot, Annie Creux, Walter Zhand, Rene Jacquemin, Raymond Capitaine, Sergé Nussbaum, Don Richter and Dave Blakely (Richter and Blakely?  Well, not all of them were old-world…) I’ll include some anecdotes from a recent visit with Gilbert Vasserot, some more from the late Joe Patrucco’s daughter Linda, about Eugene’s guests, staff, and great times in a Reno landmark, and finally about Joe and Gilbert’s Continental Lodge.

And now, dessert…

In a recent column, we spoke of what I boldly labeled the finest restaurant that ever graced local nightlife – Eugene’s – and I braced myself for a spate of e-mail pointing out a few other classy places, of which there are many in town.  That argument never arrived (a lot of agreement did, however.)  On the other hand, I heard from all 1,704 people, to listen to them, who had dined in the old house out by the present Peppermill that housed the original Eugene’s on the night owners Joe Patrucco and Gilbert Vasserot closed it in 1958.  And all of the 3,214 first-nighters when the restaurant reopened in the new building across the parking lot on May 14th the same year.  [Sarcasm herein missed by some readers – the new place sat about 130 diners.]  Gitta was there that night and took many photos of the diners, as she did almost every night, trundling off to her studio downtown to process and print them and return before her subjects left for a nightcap at the Riverside.

I promised in that column that in this sequel I’d name names and here we go, with little regard to sequence or grammar:

        It’s hard to think of Eugene’s without thinking of Gil and Joe, then almost automatically of the tall, ethereal waiter-turned-host-turned-owner, who approached Joe Patrucco in 1946, he looking for a job as a waiter, Joe then in the process of buying Eugene’s from Eugene Jarvis.  His name was Walter Zhand (still is) and this “skinny kid,” as Joe described him once in a letter to his daughter, became synonymous with wonderful service and food, first at Eugene’s, then at the Continental Lodge that Joe and Gil opened in 1963 (that’s a column for another Saturday), and later when he built the Galena Forest restaurant on the Mt. Rose Highway.  (Walter, with Raymond Haas and chef Raymond Capitaine, bought Eugene’s in 1971 and operated it into the early 1980s.)  Walter still walks from his home by Virginia Lake, ramrod-straight, still a great guy.

        Many readers wrote of their favorites: Angelo Buccalari tended the bar in the earlier years; Cliff Challender, of the masterful memory for patrons’ favorite drinks, took over later.  Armand was the wine steward of long standing; Raymond Haas was originally a waiter, becoming the lead wine steward when Antoine Balducci, who took over from Armand, retired.  Sergé Nussbaum, Walter Dixon, René Jacquemin, and Carmen.  Waiter Heinz Sauer’s name came up, as did a chef named Mel, and another named Steve LePochat.  Here’s a surprise: Retired Carson City dentist Tom Horgan, who bussed tables while in school. Ingo and Uwe Nikoley, they were there…

  • • •

The patrons were myriad and far-flung to Reno from around the world: During the Squaw Valley Olympics, Joe and Gilbert hosted Lillian Crosa, the figure skater from Gilbert’s native Switzerland, her coach Annie Creux, and ladies downhill contender Madelaine Chamot.  During the filming of The Misfits, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe and most of the cast made

Eugene’s their home-away-from-home for dinner (a photo in Gilbert’s scrapbook which he so kindly loaned me depicts our own Betty Stoddard in a page near the Misfit cast, and most people I’ve shown the scrapbook to at first see Betty as Marilyn.  Their 1960 resemblance was amazing…)

        It should be noted that the inspiration for this column came from two fronts occurring within a week of each other: the first, the aforementioned Betty Stoddard sitting with Bob Carroll in a Bonanza Inn TV commercial chatting about great old restaurants – the Lancer, Vario’s, Eugene’s, etc.  Almost simultaneously a lady e-mailed me about a restaurant that her father co-owned, out South Virginia by the Peppermill, a long time ago.  Might make a good column.  “Yeah, I’ve heard of it once or twice,” I answered Linda Patrucco Doerr, and I was off and running.

        Gilbert’s book contains dozens of other neat photos, most from Gitta, Reno’s pre-eminent nightlife photographer, a few from Jimmie Smith and a few more from Don Dondero.  One is of Reno mayor Len Harris and his wife, another of Mike Mirabelli, the music man and state treasurer, one of my old friend Dave Ginsburg and his parents, yet another of Eddie Questa, Jordan Crouch, and a few other First National Bank honchos who I can’t recognize.  And one real treasure: How many people remember Reno’s first TV news anchorman?  I picked him out of a shot, when others couldn’t: His name was, and remains, Durward Yasmer, the voice of KZTV. [later KOLO-TV.]

  • • •

Finally, the guys who parked the cars.  There were a few, I’ll name two old fraternity buddies: Don Richter, who prided himself on lurking around the restaurant watching for a party to get ready to leave, then bringing their car to the door as they walked out (he used his free time to dump the ashtrays and wash the windshields, and reportedly later took three years in the insurance business to get his income back up to what he made in tips at Eugene’s.)  A later valet was Dave Blakely, whose late parents Bill and Maryalice were steady diners at the restaurant.

        I’m indebted to many for the background for this yarn; to Gilbert Vasserot, who with Joe Patrucco – who passed away in 1994 – set the standard against which local dining class and elegance will be measured for years to come.  To Joe’s children, Linda Patrucco Doerr and her brother Bob (and Wendy) Patrucco.  And to Josette Jacquemin, Christiane Markwell, Denise Haas Hastings, and Carmen Buccalari Borges, for their reminiscences.

  • • •


The 1960 Winter Olympic column is still receiving considerable interest, but I want to post this from Don. To get to the earlier Olympic column click here…

Well, I’m back home on Ralston Street after my Olympic story. I just got an envelope from one of my neighbors, Don Hartman, who lives up a couple of blocks from me kitty-corner from Maynard’s Market or the Pub ‘n Sub, whatever they call it now. Here’s what he wrote me on binder paper:

DonHartmanHi Karl; You often write of Reno when you were a little boy….great stories.  I am writing this on the Reno site as folks in 2080 might, who were ten or 12 years old in Reno in the early 2000s. In a sense, it is a future look at Reno and I bet some will be true.  If you do decide to post it…you may correct any grammar, spelling, etc….. thanks for letting me borrow that time machine that you mentioned last summer [pictured below], that let you look a little into the future so you could write about stuff that happened after 1946 when you were older than six-years-old. I’m afraid that I cranked it up too far, to the late 2000s, and hope I didn’t bust it. But I walked around Reno like you do after I turned it on, even though I’m a couple years younger than you, and here is what I wrote. You can use it if you want for your friends in Reno. See you at Mary S. Doten school down the hill…Don….

How many remember when the Reno airport was off Plumb Lane?  Fun to watch theSteampunk Clock planes take off.  Now to watch planes, we have to go to the new airport in far north Spanish Springs…….

How many remember when UNR had one campus on Virginia Street? Now there are two… the old, north campus and the new one where the airport once was. I drive by the new campus today and marvel at the veterinary school and law school but still think of the single old UNR campus.

How many recall when UNR north campus had a lake called Manzanita Lake?  We use to go there to catch crawdads…sadly it was filled in years ago to built new dorms.

Do you remember those pools at Idlewild Park?  I took swimming lessons there and was later a lifeguard in 2029 when I was in college…  Too bad they filled those pools in for tennis courts.

How many remember an event called “Hot August Nights”….my Dad use to take us there to see the antique and classic cars.  Too bad it ended in 2045. August is not the same in Reno anymore.

How many remember you could get a breakfast at the Squeeze Inn in NW Reno (the place is now a real estate office).  A family of four could eat a wonderful breakfast there for under $50 with tip……, lucky to find a breakfast anywhere in Reno for a family for under $200.

How many of you recall the Reno Arch?  As a kid, I use to love to look at those lights.  I understand today, the arch is located at the new UNR South campus.

I remember how fun it was to pile into the family car and Mom would take us to Meadowood Mall to shop and eat at the food court.  Now we have driverless cars and the mall itself is gone…..Google regional offices today.  I sure miss it when Mom and Dad drove us around Reno back in the 2000s.  Kids today in Reno have no clue how cars were in the good old days in Reno and Sparks..

How many of you remember when the area from th former Stead Airbase to Cold Springs was nothing but sagebrush and a few ranches?  My Grandpa use to take us there to target practice when I was a kid.  I was shocked when I drove out to that area recently. Nothing but homes! A blanket of homes called Peavine Highlands from Stead to Cold Springs. I understand when the new Red Rock Parkway is completed, there will be five thousand more homes built in the area. Please give me back the good old days in Reno in the early 200s!

How many can remember old downtown Reno?  It was so run-down.  My grandpa would take me there on the River Walk and the homeless scared me.  Luckily, they renovated the area and it’s now condos and office buildings.

Do you remember how cheap groceries were?  My Mom would shop at a place called Safeway (now gone)….she could buy a week’s worth of groceries for the family for $150 – $160….now it would cost $850 a week and a drone will deliver groceries.  It was so fun to go to Safeway in Reno and ride in the cart as Mom pushed me around the store.

How many of you remember John Ascuaga’s Nugget before it became the “Nevada Biltmore,” and the Grand Sierra before it became condos on one wing and the “Sierra Hampton Hotel” on the other wing?  I think they were going to demolish the Nugget about 15 years ago and it lay dormant and run-down for many years. So glad the building is still there even though it is no longer the Nugget.  I remember both when I was a kid. Great places back in the day. My late Grandpa told me when I was 10, that he used to order a giant burger at the Nugget many, many years ago when he was in college.. …forgot the name of the burger… I recall kind of an odd name for a burger; I might even say an Awful name…

It used to be so fun to ride the bus down Virginia Street or the bus to the airport off Plumb Lane.  Today, we have to take light rail especially if we want to go to the airport.  I miss the old buses in Reno especially those blue ones UNR use to have back in the day.

 How many recall, that Reno was so safe to raise kids? I used to walk or ride my bike sometimes two blocks away in the 2000s. Not sure if kids could do that today in Reno.

How many remember the old Reno High School?  How many attended Reno High?  I loved that old brick building at Booth and Foster Drive. The new RHS is nice, but I miss the seeing the old one when we’d drive by with my Dad. My Dad even took us there to watch high school football.

Do you remember when your parents could drive you to Lake Tahoe for the day?.  Sure a pain today as there use to be so much traffic to Tahoe, they started toll roads.  My Dad would be so upset.

How many recall that Aces Stadium that once was in downtown Reno?  How many went there as a kid?.  My Dad took us to games at that downtown stadium.  If you went to Aces games, do you remember when your Dad could buy a hot dog and drink for you for only $9.00?  Last time I took my grandson to the new Aces stadium located near Verdi, it cost $35.00 for a dog and drink. I miss Reno of the 2000’s.

I recall it only cost me $9.00 for a child to go to the movies in the 2000s.  Heck, I took my granddaughter to the movies the other day and it cost $30 just for her….and, damn, popcorn at the Reno theaters with butter cost eight dollars in the good old days.  Lucky my granddaughter did not ask for popcorn as today it is $40 for small buttered popcorn.

I use to love to watch the mail carrier come to my house on Ralston Street.  So cool to wait for my new video games to arrive in the mail or a letter from grandma who did not know how to use a computer. Can’t understand why there are no more post offices in Reno like the good old days.

In the 2000s we had computers, but Dad loved to read a large, flimsy magazine-type thing called a “newspaper.”  I can barely remember what they looked like when delivered to my house on Silver Crown. Drive.

How many remember a place called Wild River or Wild Island (I forgot the name). It was a wonderful place in Sparks where my Mom took us for birthday parties.  You could swim there and slide there and even drive bumper cars. I think it was torn down sometime around 2035 to make way for a large warehouse. I sure miss that place.

Remember when Reno was a fairly small city back in the 2000s?  I loved the old Reno back then. I heard Reno and Sparks now have close to a million residents. 

How many recall that big whale near the river?  I thought it was a real whale. As a kid, I thought it was cool.. My Dad said the whale was a waste of money. I think that whale now is at the new Reno airport in Spanish Springs.

It was such fun when, if I were a good boy, my Mom would take me to a place off McCarran called “McDonald’s.”  I will never forget the thing for kids called Happy Meals.  The toy meant so much to me.  I think the last McDonald’s in Reno was torn down years ago. 

Bring back the good old days in Reno!!.



Karl….The real reason I wrote all this essay  was NOT  to look into the future, NOT to be cute or silly….I actually wrote this piece to show that…..MEMORIES ARE ALL RELATIVE…………… ! 

And, in response to Don, Karl writes….Don.. as you know I welcome and encourage guest columns. This one of yours was wonderful, ran almost with no editing, and I hope will be the first of many you send up from Sacramento! Keep the time machine and crank out another column ASAP. See you on the deck of the Pub ‘n Sub when it warms up!!


Let The Games Begin!…the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics – (Three columns combined, a long read)…


squawvalleytowerofnationsWritten February 7, 2002 (©RGJ) rewritten, combined and updated February 8, 2018

Some readers may have watched NBC’s Olympic Opening Ceremony coverage from Salt Lake City last night [2002].

            CBS carried an earlier opening a little differently 42 years ago [2018: 58 years] at Squaw Valley.  I quote from the official VIII Winter Games’ brochure, published – writer unattributed – prior to the opening ceremony:  “…A fanfare of trumpets, crisp against the mountain snow…2,000 doves of peace flutter skyward…and all eyes are on Little Papoose Peak as Andrea Mead Lawrence bears the Olympic torch down the hill on the final leg of its journey from Norway.

            “She passes the torch to a speed skater who circles the speed skating oval once, then holds the flame aloft and lights the Olympic torch…the Olympic prayer is preceded by chimes high in the mountains… the 2,645 voices and a band of 1,285 pieces render an impressive God of our Fathers.”

            A nice prediction, but the real drama preceded the event.  What the writer didn’t foresee was that there was no snow at all until a day before the Games’ opening on February 18th, 1960.   Fallback plans were being made to use Slide Mountain for the downhill events.  Then on the 17th it snowed – boy, did it ever.  It was cloudy and still snowing an hour before the Opening Ceremony.  And windy and bitter cold – the musicians’ trumpet valves and trombone slides froze.  The 2,000 doves, caged in two flatbed trucks brought by Walt Disney Productions (who staged the opening ceremony) chirped “no way” and stayed perched, waiting for the trucks to haul them back to balmy Anaheim.

Then – and I kid you not: As the chorus started to sing through the gloom, the clouds parted and a brilliant sun – which we hadn’t seen for three days – glowed above Little Papoose then eventually lit up the valley as Mead Lawrence (pictured right) Andreadescended the slope with the torch.  She did hand it off to the skater, who took it around the track.  (One glitch: As he lit the flame, it flared as high as the nearby pine trees, scared the hell out of him and he fell off the tower.  That’s show biz…)

            The program writer mentioned chimes and the chorus, maybe not knowing of the yodelers and the Alpenhorns – a half-dozen of these ungodly loud instruments, surely the Swiss’ revenge to the Scots’ bagpipes, waited high above the valley and began at once to play (you don’t hear an Alpenhorn – you feel it under your boots!)  The sky by then was fully bright and blue, the pine trees green, the new-fallen snow pure white.  The five Olympic rings hung above Blythe Arena, framing the Tower of Nations and the burning cauldron (a replica of this peristyle had been built in Newt Crumley’s Holiday Hotel – now the Siena – parking lot.)

            From a valley bereft of snow two days before, to a breath-taking winter scene, filled with that ethereal, incredible Alpine sound.  River and plain, and mighty peak – and who could stand unawed?  As the summits blazed, I stood unfazed at the foot of the throne of God…”

            I wish I had written that, but poet Robert Service beat me to it by about a hundred years in his Spell of the Yukon.  And this Disney fellow was good, breaking that sunshine through like he did.  But his doves never did leave their cages. 

A note to readers, added Feb. 2018: You will note there are few graphics in this text – I didn’t take many pictures, and the few I can find I sold and thus are copyright-protected, which I will respect even after 58 years! Sorry…..

• • •

The Games were underway in Squaw Valley and the eyes of the world were upon us.  Bill Harrah had opened up a brand new casino at Lake Tahoe’s south end, and Red Skelton inaugurated the South Shore Room just before midnight on New Years Eve of 1959 and continued into the newyear.  (Liberace and Marlene Dietrich would play the room during the Olympics.)  Lee Frankovich had renamed the Riverside Hotel’s showroom the Olympic Room; the Will Mastin Trio with a new fellow named Sammy Davis Jr. would head up the Mapes Sky Room.  A leggy local fashion model named Bobbie Bender wrote a segment in a ski magazine about appropriate dress for snow, and another fashion article told of the new ski-pant style called “Bogners,” described by someone (Herb Caen?) as an ankle-length bikini and eponymous with German Alpine ski racer Willi Bogner, Jr.’s father.  A guy named Don Dondero was taking a lot of pictures for the world press, of racers Penny Pitou, Heidi Biebl, Betsy Snite and Joan Hannah.  Knowing Don, he’s still got the negatives, and weirder yet, he can still locate ‘em.  [Don passed away, but his family can still locate them…]

            (Before proceeding, I should thank my friend Don Stockwell of Sparks for Olympic plateloaning me a box of Olympic memorabilia, which enabled a lot of honest research on this piece.)  It develops that Olympic hype is not new.  Be advised that Absorbine was the Official Liniment of the VIII Winter Olympics, while Listerine, the Official Mouthwash, kept Carol Heiss and Toni Sailer from buffalo breath on the high Sierra mornings.  (An older person can tell you of those Olympic idols.)  The Renault Dauphine, sold at Retzloff Motors on South Wells Avenue, was the Official Car of the Olympic Games.  Skater/commentator Dick Button had hair.  And he was already annoying.  The Bavarian Inn was on Fulton Alley downtown and catered to the Nordic oom-pah crowd.    Double rooms were 12 bucks at the Holiday Hotel, no vacancy though.  Long-forgotten facts: The cross-country and biathlon events were held at Lake Tahoe’s McKinney Creek.  And, there was no bobsled or luge in these VIII Olympics.

Luce & Son of Reno, the liquor wholesaler to the local establishments for many decades, pushed the Tahoe Toddy, the official drink of the 1960 Winter Olympics.  I have the recipe and I’ll include it here next week.  I owe it to readers to test it first before endorsing it.

MaddenThe Twilight Zone: Leaving the 1960 Olympics just for a moment – I write this an hour after the 2002 Super Bowl broadcast, where John Madden bid Pat Summerall into a happy retirement.  One of the resources in the Stockwells’ Olympic memorabilia box is a January 4th, 1960 Sports Illustrated, its lead story an account of the famous Colts-Giants football game, the game where a young Giant place kicker named Pat Summerall kicked three field goals…

They’re having no more fun in Park City and Salt Lake City right now than we had working up at Squaw Valley so we’ll probably go back to Squaw Valley next weekend.  I’m on a roll.

Have a good week, and God Bless America.


• • •

The View from KT-22, 1960

President George W. Bush’s invitation to the children of the world to convene in Salt Lake City, extended in that magical Olympic opening telecast last Friday night on NBC, must have put readers in the mood to reminisce about the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics.  The e-mails and phone calls with your recollections following last Saturday’s piece were welcome and wonderful.

            A favorite Squaw Valley moment came from a favorite Reno High sweetie of mine, a comely lass named Sherry (Cannon) Butler, now a Southern California denizen who picks this column up off the internet.  Sherry, using her considerable feminine wiles, scored a ticket for the semifinal hockey match, the U.S.A. versus the U.S.S.R.  Remember now, relations between these two superpowers were plumbing new depths in 1960 and the whole hockey match was seen as a metaphor of world politics, but that wasn’t what Sherry remembered most:  It was the slightly disoriented inebriate seated next to her who spent the entire match rooting for “Stanford”.   Apparently the Russians’ jerseys looked a little like the Cardinal.  At least to Sherry’s bleacher mate.  Many of you remembered that contest, on the closing day of the Games – a real thriller – and the final score, 9-4, (the U.S.A. won.)  That score remained on the scoreboard at Blythe Arena until the arena collapsed in 1983, a “maintenance accident” that should have landed Squaw’s management in the hoosegow.  Did a Russian skater die in that match?  One of you resurrected that rumor that flourished for a decade following the Games.  Their goalie got slammed into the wall with a crash you could hear on top of KT-22, and many thought he died.  Don’t know myself, but if he was alive, he was damn sure counting birdies on his stretcher ride out of the arena.

            And just who was Andrea Mead Lawrence, the skier who carried the torch down Little Papoose?  Sorry, I should have fleshed that in for the younger readers: Lawrence won the Slalom and Giant Slalom at the Oslo games in 1952 and was the 27-year old darling of the American skiing scene in 1960.  One anonymous caller corrected me, rudely, that it was Tenley Albright who skied the torch down the hill.  Not likely; Albright was the ladies figure skating Gold medalist in the 1956 Games at Cortina (Italy).  Maybe this caller is a Stanford alum.

jumperThe reigning jumper during many prior Winter Olympics was the Finn Juhani Karkinen, a star jumper in the Oslo and Cortina (1952 and 1956) Games.  USA’s Gene Kotlarek, who won the Gold in Squaw and Innsbruck (1964) jumping wore classic, as in baggy, Nordic-style ski apparel and hit the 80-meter jump like a herd of turtles with his arms out in front of him, his knickers rattling in his own 50 mile-an-hour breeze.  Imagine his surprise, (and jump hill steward/judge Jerry Wetzel’s), when the Japanese jumpers hit the inrun wearing new skin-tight Spandex flight suits, their hands at their waists.  And they glided like silent birds…  Not enough good can be said about Wetzel, the late Reno ski-store co-owner (with partner Hal Codding).  And, as some old 1960 newspapers remind me, the local employees of Nevada Bell, then a local company, donated their time generously, and Bell made time available to them. They basically ran the communications for the Olympics, with fewportable radios back then that I recall. One volunteer who has to be included, although I haven’t permission to use his name, was a college guy from the Midwest who came to Squaw as the operator of the brand-new Zamboni.  He lovingly tended the ice rink and speed skating oval and now lives in Lakeridge.  Truly, the hero of every American male (a Zamboni’s a guy thing.)  I should probably do a stand-alone column about Squaw Olympic volunteers.  Virtually the whole town of Reno and certainly the University of Nevada came to a standstill, providing labor to the Games.  White Stag ski wear donated the officials’ nylon parkas with the Games’ logo, probably a thousand of them, color-coded by work assignment (Nordic, Alpine, gatekeepers, communications, Ski Patrol, judges – things were pretty well organized.)  I recently dug my red (Press) parka out, and pulled a “Sparks Nugget – Two Fine Restaurants” matchbook from a pocket.  I’m donating it to John.

I mentioned “Bogners” last week – a reader pointed out that the namesake for these ski-pants (Willi Bogner) competed in the Squaw Olympics (Downhill, 8th place).  Another reader reminds us that Vuarnet sunglasses got their name from the gold medalist in Downhill (Jean).  Several of your recollections were of the Indian snow-dances in the valley – the Shoshone tribe sending a team of their best dancers.  They did well – it snowed beyond belief for twenty-four hours preceding the opening.  And the valley “parking lot” – many remembered that fiasco: Sawdust was mixed with snow and compacted, to make a solid, non-slip surface to park on.  Worked great for the Games’ chilly first week, then it warmed up and thawed the second week, and, well, there’s probably a couple of heavy DeSotos and Packards still out in that valley somewhere.  Yikes, what a mess!

Last week we promised to reveal the Tahoe Toddy, the Official Warmer of the Olympic Games, according to Esquire magazine, March 1960 edition.  Here goes: garnish a glass with lemon twist, pour in four ounces of very hot water, add a level tablespoon of batter.  (That’s batter, not butter.)  Batter up: 4 teaspoons brown sugar; 2 teaspoons butter (that’s butter, not batter.)  2 dashes of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch of allspice, and 2 teaspoons Bols Orange Curacao.  Serves four.  (Oh, and did I mention one ounce of Early Times per drink.)  Have three and the butter and batter won’t matter.

VasserotOf course, as we learned in a column last summer, it would be easier go to Eugene’s restaurant on the way home from Squaw Valley, where bartender Cliff Challender could make us a Toddy from memory.  And, we might see Eugene’s owner Gilbert Vasserot (right) entertaining the athletes from his native Switzerland, notably favored skater Madaleine Chamot. (Eugene’s hosted the prestigious International Olympic Committee at a luncheon prior to the games, a feather in Reno’s cap.) 

Wrapping up Squaw Valley

            Stop the presses!  An email and a phone call arrive into our lonely writer’s garret in the God-forsaken desert, regarding our visits to Squaw Valley during the 1960 Winter Olympics.  One’s from an old friend, the other from an Incline Village resident who called me a male chauvinist for the way I worded a passage.  Imagine that.

            What offended her was that I identified by name the 27-year old darling of the 1960s slopes, Andrea Mead Lawrence, the twice-Gold medallist skier who brought the torch down the hill during the Olympic opening ceremony, but then I left the male speed skater that Mead Lawrence handed the torch off to to remain in obscurity.

            Frankly, I skipped over a whole bunch of people in that description of the opening ceremony, including Vice-President Richard Milhous Nixon, who declared the Games open, and Karl Malden, who recited the Olympic prayer.  But the skater?  He fell into relative obscurity, and only after uncharacteristic and tedious research can I offer that his name was Kenneth Henry, which should make Henry’s mother and the Incline Village reader happy.

            Karl Malden???

• • •

The phone call came from my old buddy Buddy Sorensen, who helped me with a couple of names: Gene Kotlarek  and Juhe Karkinen.  I’m glad he called, because it prompted me to write what many of us know: When local skiers gather in the warming hut to speak of the golden days of 1950s-skiing, Buddy’s name comes up prominently with Dick Buek, Jack Bosta, Jon Madsen, Dick Dorworth, the late Harry EricsonEricson (right) , Lynette Gotchy, Linda Smith Crossett, Rusty Crook and a bunch of other guys, as a Far West Ski Association official and coach, Nordic Director, sometime Falcon coach and a mentor to a hundred local skiers that went on to regional and national prominence.  Our area and our sport are indebted to all of them.

            Another name and anecdote that came up in the past few weeks was that of George Kerr, known by many as Harolds Club’s photographer/host, when mighty Harolds and Harrah’s ruled Reno.  George clicked thousands of golf tournament and celebrity photographs, many going ‘round the world on wire services, and was known as a linguist:

            Just prior to the Games, he was asked to be available as an interpreter.  “You speak several languages, don’t you?” George was asked.  “Actually, I speak only two: the King’s English, and Nevadan.”

            In truth, George could say “Say Cheese” in seven languages, not counting the King’s Nevadan after a Tahoe Toddy at Eugene’s.  He did Yeoman duty during the Games.

• • •

WeaselA week ago I wrote of my red Olympic parka, the color assigned to the Press whereupon a friend accused me of posturing as a hotshot.  In truth, I was a grunt, working with seven other University of Nevada grunts who could ski, backpack, snowshoe, yodel and a few less upstanding qualities, and we were assigned “Weasels” (seen at left) – open Jeep-sized tracked vehicles built by Studebaker, loaned to the Olympics by the marines at Pickel Meadows Winter Training Center.  We ran all over the valley, typical cargo being endless paperwork, clipboards full of race results, times, schedules, a dead Longines timing clock, an urn of coffee destined for a CBS camera crew at the jump tower, somebody’s glove that was left in a limousine, a pair of snowshoes, three reels of communication cable, box lunches for the slalom timers and a very important person needing to be somewhere else (a very important person being almost anyone in Squaw Valley beside us.)  We mentioned earlier that CBS carried the Games, but in 1960 only 15 to 30 minutes each day – taped – in reality not even videotape, but movie film with sound on a different recorder, the big tanks of film and huge batteries somewhere in the back of the Weasels, to be processed in the Bay Area and aired that night. 

            I’m waxing (skier-term) sentimentally toward the close of the 1960 and 2002 Games, with an observation about how things have changed in 42 years [and now in 2018, 58 years!], as we watch on NBC tonight – a production not filmed, but digitized, sent not to Sacramento by courier for processing, but to a satellite for instant broadcast.  The clocks, timing, and standings are instantaneous, not delayed hours by the lag between the start house and the finish line and virtual longhand computation.  A tiny camera gives us a real-time pilot’s view from a bobsleigh (the sleigh built from materials developed by NASA).  Ice dancing and the half-pipe.  How the sport, and the way we view it, has changed in 42 years…

• • •

They were wonderful weeks in our towns’ heritage, and we wish the children of the world now convening at Park City the fun, success and memories that we continue to enjoy.

text © RGJ and Karl Breckenridge; ski jumper photo from handout; license plate issued to Ed Pine, Sr., photo courtesy Jack Pine; Andrea Mead Lawrence, photo © Getty Images; Tower of Nations & Olympic Flame © California State Parks – State of California; Harry Ericson and Gilbert Vasserot, from KB

Feb. 4, 2018 – one year today!

 BaffertHow this began a year ago..

Well, it’s been a year since I got bored waiting for a ball game to come on to Dad’s Philco radio and started writing about what was going on in Reno and around our house at 740 Ralston Street across from Whitaker Park. Now it’s the same thing, but this year it’s a Sylvania radio Dad bought from his friend Mr. Saviers at his store on West Second Street and West Street. Mom said he should wait for “television” to come to Reno but Dad said that would be a couple more years so he bought the Sylvania. The game starts in three hours, between the “Patriots” and the “Eagles,” which I can’t even find in my almanac now.

A lot has happened in the past year; and more has not happened also. There’s some stories I’d like to tell, but since I was only six when I started that “column” and it was only 1946, a lot of stuff hadn’t happened yet and I tried to stay in the time frame. I realized that would just drive me crazy so I started fudging the year up to like 1950. Now, it’s a year later and I’m going to be even less limited by the year – I’ve stories to tell you. We have moved now; to Sunnyside Drive, at one of the most northwest corners of Reno, with only a few homes to the west or the north. My new neighbors are Henry Philcox, Hugh Barnhill, the Foley sisters, Tommy Weichman and some new kids whose dad just bought a lot from my dad on Irving Circle, named by my dad for his uncle Irving. There’s six kids in that family, all close to my age; they’re moving in from Loyalton and their parents Ken and Helen Metzker own a big lumber mill west of Reno. But Henry’s my closest neighbor, and friend.

Not only do we have a new house on the southwest corner of Sunnyside and Peavine, we have a new car – Dad sold another lot on Irving Circle to Mr. Winkel, 1950Catalinawho owns a Pontiac dealership downtown next to the Tower Theater (I’ll have to write about that soon!) It’s a  yellow-and-brown  “hardtop convertible” 1950 Pontiac “Catalina” – the first one, and it looks like a convertible, inside and out, but has a regular roof but no window pillars. It has a lighted hood ornament, in the shape of an Indian, and I suppose that Lees1some year I’ll write that and someone will say “what’s a hood ornament?” and some editor will say “You can’t type ‘Indian’.” My sister’s little playmate Pam Lee sent a picture once of her dad’s drive-in on West Fourth Street, and I think that’s mom’s Catalina in the picture. I blew the picture up real big but still can’t see the plate, but can tell is has four numbers so it could be “3090” (Nevada added the county initial in 1954; I still have “W3090” on my Honda. Yes, with the “59” expiration year!

So I’ll write about a lighted whatever on the hood of the car in the shape of an indigenous person. Maybe I won’t write at all… By the way, what’s a “Honda”?

My Aunt Isabel in Petaluma, (California, where Mom is from) gave me a used Sears1950Sears Typewriter Roebuck typewriter for Christmas because she knows I like to write (someday if I can find my story, and I think I can, I’ll tell you about throwing Aunt Mittie off the Fourth Street Bridge in Petaluma under the props of the Steamer Gold. It was an exciting day for Petaluma).

My sister Marilynn and I didn’t like Mittie…nobody did, so far as that goes…

I’ve been contacted by readers about stories I ought to write. And some I will, others I know of also but since there’s family or feelings still around I stay away from them. As I did in later life. I know all about the man who drowned his wife in the bathtub; it happened two doors away from me. But it’s not a good memory to bring up. And yes, the two boys my age who drowned in the Truckee in 1952. We knew them both, they were brothers, lived a block from us on Seventh Street. They were pulled out of the water by a friend of my dad’s, Dick Rowley, and the other by a man named Bob Williams, who would later shoot up a courtroom in Nov. 1960 before he gave his wife half his business in a divorce. Dad said he should have given it to her… And I’ve been asked about the 14-year-old boy who drowned in Virginia Lake in 1952, June. By the Cochran Ditch outlet on the west side. Yes. True. But no story here

Yeah, there’s lots of stories. I sometimes wish, and probably will all my life that a few other guys would start writing stuff down too before it’s all forgotten!


Back to work. Pardon the outburst.

I met two of my little playmates Debbie Hinman and Karalea Clough yesterday at an old federal office building on Wells Avenue, that later became a place called Posie Butterfield’s and even later, Rapscallion. (But I don’t know about any of that in 1950 yet. And the moniker “Rapscallion” is probably like the Indian on the hood RapsPatioornament or the man with the eastern European surname from Marin County who once told me that I couldn’t write “Paddy Wagon” in a Sunday column because it was upsetting to the Irish. I’m mostly Irish and responded that I didn’t give a shit what he thought. Boyoboy, will Mom be mad that I wrote that! And the Gazoo editor didn’t like it much more. Some day I’ll tell about the “Gazoo”.)

Anyway, back to the point, if there is one, Karalea is a librarian/researcher at the Nevada Historical Society in the basement of the State Building downtown, and Debbie was a switchboard operator with all those cords and plugs in the Reno Telephone building on the river, but recently went to work for Washoe General Hospital in their foundation department. Not bras and girdles, she reassured me, but twisting tails and scaring up $$$$$$$ to run the place with.

Debbie is a leader in Historic Reno Preservation Society, and is working on a “walk,” where she meets a bunch of people somewhere and walks around with them pointing out buildings and who lived there and stuff like that. She’s doing a new one next summer in the Country Club Addition of Reno, you know, almost out of town across from the Washoe Golf Course east to Virginia Lake. It got its name from the country club that was open briefly in 1935 until some rude gambler, possibly the owner, burned it down. Someday, but not yet, there would be tennis courts and an old folks’ home there. But not yet.

RumbleSeatSo, Karalea is going to drive (she has a car and a driver’s license!) and Debbie is going to sit in front next to her and take notes while I’m going to sit in the back seat and describe the neighborhood. The Reno Bus Lines run right down Watt Street; maybe they could pick up the people on the tour! Then we’re going back to that federal office on Wells Avenue for more milk and cookies andBus 109 treats.

I hope her car doesn’t have a rumble seat. THERE’S another word like hood ornament!

This is getting out of hand – it’s too easy to write now that I have my typewriter. Come back and see me occasionally, or come by the federal building on Wells for a sarsaparilla!


Jan. 29, 2018 – the Hancock mansion by Virginia Lake


Well, when I rode my bike from Ralston Street to California Avenue last week and watched the men pull the mansion down Plumas Street to make way for Mr. Ramos’ drug store, which would later become the Cheese Board, I kind of screwed up. The house wasn’t going to Virginia Lake, that was another one. I knew I was in trouble when I rode out again last weekend with my Brownie Hawkeye camera to take some pictures for you. There was no way they could get that big house down any of the hills at Country Club Drive or Mountain View, and it was too big to take along Lakeside Drive. So they left it at the southwest corner of Mt. Rose and Plumas Streets. My little buddies Dee Garrett and Rosie Voyles wrote me, and said it was haunted. (And it’s not the recording studio-turned-law office that’s on that corner now.)


                          photo 2301 Lakeside Drive © Karl Breckenridge 1975

So, I have to admit that – but – since we’re out by Virginia Lake anyway I’ll tell you about another house that was built eight years ago, in 1941. It was finished the same year that Virginia Lake first filled to its rim. I stopped at the house at the corner of Audubon and Lakeside Drive, at the bottom of the hill down Country Club Drive. There was a nice man standing by this big house, and I got talking to him.

It turns out that his name was Luke Hancock. He was pretty rich, Dad said, and had formed the Hancock Oil Company and sold it years ago to the Pure Oil Company. He came to Reno before World War II and spent some time at the Country Club on Plumas Street before it burned. He told me that he stood on a barren bluff overlooking a big hole in the ground a mile around watching WPS crews planting trees by the dirt road ringing what would soon be Virginia Lake. 

He had planned to move to the Holmby Hills of Los Angeles County, but immediately came to like Reno more. He had his architect in San Francisco change the house he was going to build in LA, to suit this site. Although his five children were mostly out of the house in 1940, he built this big six-thousand square-foot house anyway.

Luke invited me in to see his house. Even though I was only eight, a lot of things stuck out in my mind – a mansion with a grand staircase winding up to three huge bedrooms. (The little oval Arabesque window in the master bath fascinated all those who strolled around the lake until the home was totally remodeled in the early 1980s.) It had a big kitchen on the west side of the house with an adjoining “butler’s pantry” with all the dishes and stuff. Those rooms opened up to a breakfast room with a curved wall on the south end of the house. From there, was a huge dining room. And the walls of both rooms had what he called “fresco” art. He said that he had hired an artist to come from France to do the fresco walls – a dark woodgrain with some hanging plants in the dining room, and a bright scene of a bayou in Louisiana from a photo he had taken, of a shadowy bayou with sunlight radiating through Magnolia trees with Spanish moss hanging from them. The artist came to America in 1940 and did this house and a few others in Los Angeles for an architect named Paul Revere Williams.  Pretty cool.

The living room had a big window that looked out over Virginia Lake, where the trees were now five or six years old and looked pretty nice. It was a large room with an egg-and-dart coving around the ceiling and what Luke called “parkay” hardwood floors. I looked the word up later last night and it’s parquet but that doesn’t look right. A big front door opened to the front porch, and a driveway that went from the bottom of the hill to the front, around the side of the house and out to the street. I asked Luke why the peephole in the door was so low; he told me that it’s because he and Mrs. Hancock were both quite short, and they designed the house with the peephole, the basins and the counters and the clothes hanging rods in the closets, all low so they could use the easier.

We went down to the basement, which was a real treat – the big southeast room was just a fun room with all kinds of stuff in it, but what was really neat was the collection of dolls – Mrs. Hancock collected dolls and had over a hundred dolls from all over the world, from Europe and China also, and had a lady seamstress almost full-time to make clothes for the dolls, which were from a foot to three-feet tall. The room would have been pretty weird to be in at night! (I learned later that when Mrs. Hancock passed away, and she outlived Luke, that a collector would buy her dolls for almost a million dollars. Some of them were pretty rare…)

We went up two flights of stairs to the bedrooms – three rooms, all good sized bedrooms each with its own bathroom and tub and shower. There was a sitting room up there too, and two rooms had private balconies out over the lake.

The coolest room in the house was the library, which was on the main floor. Luke had a lot of pictures, and books, and maps, and many of them on display. A huge fireplace comparable in Reno only to the fireplace in the adjacent living room.  Beveled- glass, beam trusses resting on ornamental iron corbels to the cathedral ceiling. The walls were rich, brown wood like walnut or oak, with a lot of brass fixtures and lamps and a ladder on wheels to roll around and reach books on the upper shelves. Luke reached around a cabinet and got a crank, a long handle with a loop on one end. He said, “Watch this!” and hooked the crank around a concealed hook on one of the top bookshelves. He turned the crank, and the glass ceiling, which was kind of a green cut-glass with flowers and stuff in it, started to open. First an open hole in the center, then opening further like the iris in your eye, opening larger with each turn, until finally the sun started to beam into the room through the roof. Pretty neat. And I can write that he and Mrs. Hancock passed away and the house sat for a long time, until only this seven-year-old kid even knew it was there! No lie – I showed in the early 1970s this sunroof, to a couple of grownups, who didn’t know anything about  it. But this is 1949 and I don’t know anything about that now either.

Luke and I went out into the yard, into a garden house with a whole lot of stuff stored in it. He touched a button, just for a second, but it was long enough to start a generator that he had in the little shed. It was built by Koehler, now Kohler, and ran on propane. It had enough power to light the minimum of lights in the house, to operate the elevator (which would be dismantled I 1974), to run a couple refrigerators and the bomb-shelter which was built in 1952.

Having made friends with Luke, I returned to the house several times until he passed away. In 1952 he converted one of the three bays in the garage to a bomb-shelter, during the height of the Cold War. It had several beds, a water supply tank that was constantly being re-circulated to keep it fresh, a forced-air filtration system, a propane heat source, basins and a tiny shower and lots of books and stuff to read. He stocked it with food, which still had the labels of Washoe Market and Sewell’s Market on them. And a classic Zenith Transoceanic long/short wave/AM battery-or-AC radio – state of the radio art in 1951 and for many years to follow.  The door was double – one looking for all the world like a jail-door with bars, the other a heavy, metal airtight door. Luke said they built this way because when the Russian bombers were enroute, the jail door would be closed to keep panic-struck neighbors from crowding into your shelter and eating all your goodies, but would allow the concussion from an atomic blast to blow over the shelter and not collapse it. After the blast had occurred, the air-tight door would then be closed to keep the death rays out.

Hey, I’m seven years old. It all makes sense to me….

Anyway, that was my meeting with Luke B. Hancock at his Mediterranean-villa home at the southwest corner of Virginia Lake – the home and the lake each in its infancy (pretty neat writing for a seven-year-old, huh?!) I went back many times until it sold out of the family (they had five children!) in 1974. It sold, by the way for $205,000…

And I got in a lot of trouble for taking the aerial picture with my Brownie Hawkeye and awakening half of 89509 as I buzzed over too low on a Sunday morning. I say this because it’s copyrighted, I suppose, but this 2018 internet posting is the first time it’s ever been published so if you steal it, give  attribution, please (the year is 1975).

So that’s my bike ride for today; it’s a long haul back to 740 Ralston Street but come back later and we’ll have another adventure!!!


Jan. 21, 2018 – Ridin’ the ol’ Schwinn around the village ~ clearing the Ramos Drug site in 1951


BaffertWell, we’re coming up on the first anniversary of me writing down about my adventures from 740 Ralston Street – I started on Super Bowl Sunday in 2017 and here it is almost a year later; I’m seven years old now, a year older and wiser; my little sister Marilynn is out of the bassinet into the playpen. The little red-haired girl still lives next door, now she has a baby brother who will grow up to be a dentist. Dad has his own office now, away from A Street in Sparks to 119 East Liberty Street, across the street from Southside School.

The war’s been over for over a year now, a lot of my friends’ dads are coming home, the merchants’ shelves are starting to get stuff on them, and the Army’s vehicle repair center behind Washoe County Hospital is being dismantled. Quonset huts are going all over town, we have one at Mary S. Doten and there’s a barracks at the corner of Tenth and Ralston Street a couple blocks from my house, by my buddy Don Hartman’s house.

housemovingI’m riding my bike further away from the house than I’m supposed to, all the way down to California Avenue where dad is going to build a new office, I’ll write about that someday. But today, and it’s actually 1951, there’s a lot of activity on California Avenue where Humboldt Street comes in, by Powell’s Drug Store that the Lee family built for their car-leasing company upstairs. A crew of men has pulled away all the foundation and rubble under an old white two-story house, pretty fancy place at that. The men are from the Bevilaqua family, who moves houses all over Reno. Dad says it’s not unusual for someone to sell the lot where a house is, and take the house to a new place in town or Sparks.

LevyMansionThe old house they’ve got up on timbers now was a Reno mansion, which looks a lot like Mrs. Levy’s house down the street at Granite Street, which would later become a bookstore named Sundance or something, but I don’t know about that yet. Anyway this big house is up on blocks and the Bevilaquas are putting wheels under the timbers. I heard a guy say that tomorrow they’re going to tow the house out by that new lake south of town, Virginia Lake. Boyoboy, I’m going to get skinned tonight but I’m coming back down tomorrow and watch them move it if I haven’t been grounded.

Aha! I told Mom I was at the Christian Science Reading Room on First Street all Truck6x6afternoon, so I’m a free kid still. Down the hill I go to the river, to the new Chestnut Street bridge and across the Truckee, up the hill on Belmont to California Avenue. Then down toward town where all the men are back. A great big truck is sitting pointing down Humboldt Street, with an iron towbar hooked to the house. They’re getting ready to move the house!

I learned that the place is being moved because a pharmacist named Mr. Ramos, who has a drug store at Second and Virginia Streets downtown, is building a new drug store on the site of the house. He’s going to live upstairs in the drug store. The land next door to the east, to Hill Street, was going to be leased to Texaco for a service station operated by a friend of dad’s named Jess Brooks. His daughter Patsy is a real looker but I’m too young to look. (That, however, will pass.)

They start up the big truck. Both of Reno’s motorcycle cops are on the street and there’s a bunch of guys from the power company and Bell Teleephone on the roof of the house with poles. They will ride on the house while it goes out Plumas Street, and lift the power and phone lines to allow the house to pass under (the brick chimney has been taken off the house). They’ve moved some of the wires and trimmed some trees back, and planked up Plumas Street where the house will pass over the Cochran Ditch. The house is heavy and might collapse the street.

The ugly old truck starts to pull against the drawbar, and make a huge racket and motor_copspumps black smoke from its two exhaust pipes. It shakes and the tires on the two back axles slip a little bit but the truck keeps pulling. All of a sudden the house moves and starts to rise where the wheels under it hit the little uphill grade from the basement, to California Avenue. It keeps pulling, roaring and smoking and eventually all the tires are on the pavement and the truck starts to turn to the left, toward Plumas Street. The motor cops stop the traffic. All the movers and the people who work in the offices cheer, even Mr. Hardy, in the big house next door across the alley, is watching from his front porch of what we now call the Hardy House. And Mom is really going to be mad at me for writing “cops!”

But what else is new. The truck and the house reach Plumas Street and it becomes clear how much the house being moved looks like the Levy Mansion. Granite Street doesn’t line up with Plumas yet. In fact it wouldn’t even be called “Sierra Street” south of the river for a few more years. The truck swung wide to the left then started a right turn, to go south on Plumas. The men on the roof lifted wires and walked to the “back” of the house, holding the wire and letting it fall behind the house as it moved. They were pretty good at it, as there were a lot of houses being moved around Reno and Sparks. But not as big as this one.

SpeedGraphicI rode my bike along behind it. A few other guys rode along too, and a photographer from the Nevada State Journal with one of those big black Press Graphic cameras. There would be a picture of it in that paper in the morning.

We traveled south on Plumas Street, and passed slowly by Billinghurst Junior High School. In a couple of months the new Reno High School would open at the bottom of the California Avenue hill and a lot of kids will go there. We passed by my friends Ty and Bill Cobb’s house at Martin Street, across from Billinghurst.

We got to Mt. Rose Street, beyond the planks over the Cochran Ditch where all the men were worried about the weight, but the planks held. Mt. Rose was the south city limits of Reno and there wasn’t much beyond there – just a few houses. Somebody said that Plumb Lane, with a “b” on the end of Plumb because it wasn’t named after a Plum but a family, was going to be extended eastward from Arlington to South Virginia, and then all the way to Hubbard Field, our airport.

HA! I thought. I may not live long enough to see Plumb Lane go all the way to Hubbard Field!

It’s getting close to my bedtime and I know Mom and Dad are going to make me turnSlim the light off, so I’m going to quit writing tonight. Within the next week I’ll tell you about getting the house all the way out Plumas Street where it was going to be placed, and we’ll poke around Virginia Lake a little – it’s a fun place.

So – I’ll leave you here – the house has been moved as far as Plumas and Mt. Rose Street and it will stay there all night. Come back in a while and we’ll pedal back to watch them put the house in it’s new home by Virginia Lake!

See ya…


Beech D18Boyoboyoboy – I thought I’d seen Dad mad when Hank Philcox and I floated the Orr Ditch under Ralston Street in our inner tubes, but that’s nothin’ like he was when he found out about my little ride to the airport west of town – wowee! He grounded me the day after Christmas and I haven’t been able to leave my room since ‘cept for meals. (At left, a Beechcraft D-18. All the planes and trucks in this letter I’m writing were tied down at the airport we rode our bikes to)

It all started when I heard that there was an airport west of town, off Seventh Street that was paved out to Peavine Row, which I guess would later be called Keystone Street. Then it was just a dirt road from there all the way to a little town called Verdi. I can see right now that I’m going to have to use that crystal ball and ouija board I wrote about in September that looks into the future to write about this screw-up that got my little six-year-old ass in a sling (my Uncle John said that once and Mom got real mad.)

Anyway, we rode our bikes out Seventh  Street to Peavine Row where there would be a Raley’sOldHangar Market one day, then kept riding and riding and riding, on the dirt road. And riding. We finally came over a little hill, the other side of the old graveyard by the Highland Ditch, and could see a windsock sticking up above an old hangar.

There was a whole little airport there, probably really just an airstrip. A tired hangar with some oil company’s name on it (Hancock Oil?) Dad said later when he was talking to me again that before WWII oil companies would build a hangar at an airport to get Windsockthem to sell their aviation gasoline. And this is not the old hangar that’s on the street above the old highway 40; that one came from Reno airport when they widened Terminal Way. There was an air strip, paved but pretty rough-looking with a lot of cracks in it and a faded white line down the middle. Landing toward the west it would probably be designated as runway two-six or –seven. All the buildings and stuff were at the east end which heading would be runway eight, or nine.

A building sat at the east end of the runway, looked like a GI building and I learned later that it was brought in from Reno Army Airbase north of Reno. And from my SproulBarrackscrystal ball, I can tell that it’s still there (at right), now turned into a house along with a whole bunch of other houses, doesn’t look like the Sproul houses around it. It’s at the northwest corner of two streets, Apollo and Attridge. It’s just west of a school that would be called Clayton Middle School, but this is before 1950 so I don’t know about that yet.

This was really cool! There were a whole bunch of airplanes on the tarmac next to the runway, many with engines or parts missing. As we rode our bikes up and put the kickstands down to get off, a plane was landing toward the east. It stopped by where we were and a guy got out. He was wearing a set of green coveralls, which I learned later was a flight suit. He waved at us.

BT13We went over and he started talking to us. He was a pilot from back east somewhere that had been sent to Reno Airbase to practice flying. (At the left is the picture of a BT-1 “Boston,” similar to the T-6s and SNJ trainers.) He said that a lot of guys would take a plane like this and practice landings at this airport, at one up by Pyramid Lake called Sky Ranch, and one further away up at Beckworth towards Portola. It was called Nirvino Field or something like that. He said there was a field in Sparks called GreenBrae, and another south of the SP railyard called Vista, but the Army pilots couldn’t practice on those because they were pretty busy. (The Nugget’s Dick Graves in later years kept his Navion at Vista Airport.)

Our new pilot-friend’s airplane was also a “Navion.” It was built by North American Navionas an Army trainer. It had one engine and a “clamshell” canopy over the four seats (pictured right). He pointed at another older plane across the field that was built by Ryan as a trainer, a PT-19. Pretty-well shot; it didn’t RanPT19look like it could fly.(pictured left).

He asked us if we wanted to sit in the plane, and showed us how to climb up onto the wing and into the cockpit. I sat in the front, right seat and my friend sat behind the pilot’s seat on the left side. Our pilot friend climbed into the front seat next to me.

OldGasTruck“Wanna see how it starts?” he asked, and turned some switches. The prop at the front of the plane started turning, and after a couple turns the plane shook, smoke blew over the windshield and the engine was running. He closed the bubble over us and it got a little quieter. “Wanna take a ride?” We thought about it for about a tenth of a second and answered, “Yeah!” He showed us how to buckle up, then firewalled the throttle on the dashboard in front of me, and we taxied onto the runway. There was no wind raising the windsock, so we headed west on the runway and pretty quick we were airborne and he tucked the gear in.


“Where do you live?” he asked. I told him the street, Ralston. “How can I find it?” I told him at the top of my lungs that it was almost at the west edge of Reno, across from a square-block park. He cranked the plane around and we headed for Reno. “There’s the park!” I told him, that I lived one house down from the street at the north side of the park (University Terrace). He went down to treetop level, over the tennis courts at Whitaker Park so low I could see cars and people looking up half-terrified. We went over 740 Ralston Street and I could see my dad’s Chevy in the driveway, must have been lunchtime. We turned left over the University and headed back toward the airport. The pilot pointed at the gas gauge, said he was low.

AirportTugJust what I needed to hear. I can read it now: “Six years old, found in the wreckage of the plane not far from where Bill Blanchfield crashed his U. S. Air Mail deHavilland biplane in 1924 into 901 Ralston Street. Both of them cut down in the prime of life.”  I could see the airstrip coming up in front of us. He lowered the landing gear, flew beyond the field, 180’ed and landed to the east. He braked to a stop and raised the canopy. I was still grinning.

We climbed out of the plane, down the steps and onto the ground. He waved a “thumbs-up,” gunned the engine and turned a 180 to head down the runway. In a few hundred feet, he lifted it off the ground, turned back and made a low pass over us, wagging his wings.

We waved back. We had taken our first plane ride! Problem was, we couldn’t ever tell anyone, especially Dad.

Fathers are scary people. We pedaled home; I was relieved to see the Chevy gone from our driveway. But, when Dad (“Senior,” as many called him, as I was “Junior”) came home that night he asked me if I did anything interesting today. “Oh, we rode out to that airport west of town; did you know there was a airport west of town?” I asked. He knew.

Senior went to his grave in 1971. I will never know how he knew about that purloined plane ride, nor what he knew; all I know is that my ass has been grass for the past two weeks.

(Yet, I’d do it all over again!!!)Thumbs up






With thanks to Matt Bromley, we’re able to add an old (1950) Reno map showing the location of “Skyline Airfield,” not “Hillside” as I wrote – more will follow about this as time permits. Thanks, Matt…