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

NOTE ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BLACK BAR BELOW, A CLICK TO

TAKE YOU TO THE NEXT POST IN THIS SERIES…

 

A 1904 meeting in Reno…

artistmeeting

Here we see the publisher, editor and newsroom staff of the Nevada State Journal, all paying rapt attention to renowned photographer Lo Phat, save for the Sunday columnist viewing the society and fashion writer (back row, third from right)

Photo © OldRenoGuy

 

 

Tee it up

golferWhy, with thousands of acres, maybe even hundreds, a new control tower for the Reno-Tahoe International Airport has to wipe out nine holes of a golf course escapes many of us, but rise one will, on Brookside golf course just northeast of the airfield.  The most salient comment to emanate out of this civic mini-brouhaha came from a linkster who knew of another golf course that shares its rough with a control tower already, in complete harmony and the tower’s structure playable as winter rules.

            Longtime Reno resident and dynamite golfer Virginia Thompson writes from out in the 89509 with some interesting background about Brookside.  The little player-friendly course has been popular with local golfers, with an untold number of kids starting their paths to the Masters in Augusta on its level fairways.  It opened in 1967 as the brainchild of some local folks, including the late Jack Mathews and his very-much-alive wife Mary (Duffy), Dr .Jack Brophy, barrister Loyal Robert Hibbs and golf course architect Bob Baldock.  They secured a lease from the City of Reno on land then housing the city dog pound and a duck hunting club (yup – Reno was a bit smaller then). 

            Somebody donated a refrigerator for the snack bar, and they hired a golf pro and another person to maintain the course and work the desk.  The trees lining the course, then and now, have somewhat of a heritage: They were brought to Reno from Winnemucca, where they were in the path of some construction, then transplanted at Brookside and are still flourishing nicely.  The golf course operated privately for about five years, then was transferred to City ownership and has been a popular and profitable asset ever since.

             But – the little course’s days are apparently numbered.  At press time (like that?) I have a call in to Duffy to learn a bit more about Brookside.  Watch this space.

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Recent talk on page 8 about Reno Browne’s Singing Pioneers and Cactus Tom’s “Smokey Joe” Christmas paean smoked out ol’ buddy Jim Henry, who transmits some dope on the 1954 sizzler “Reno, Nevada – the Biggest Little City in the World”.  This chart-buster was recorded on a 12-inch 78 phonograph record (ask a geezer), just as it was written by Edwin T. Church, who doesn’t exactly light up Google on a Web search, and as performed by Hal Southern, who Googles, if that’s a verb, as a buddy of Tex Ritter’s.  Jim sends a photocopy of the RCA Victor record label, and describes the song as kind-of-Sons of the Pioneers except worse, but the record does have the standard number of grooves for a 78 RPM record.  Imagine that: A song with our very own city’s name, move over Abilene, My Kind of Town Chicago, Tijuana Taxi, St. Louis Blues and My Heart in San Francisco.  Maybe we can get it on the radio someday; we’ll warn you ahead of its performance.  The Homefinders thank Jim for this information.  I think.

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 The end of an era: Scolari’s Market on Lakeside Court is closing tomorrow – who’d have ever thunk it?  Many have forgotten that the forerunner of that grocery and social institution had its early roots as a Warehouse Market, in the south end of Moana West where Ben’s Discount Liquor, er, Ben’s Fine Liquors, is located now.  And, for the record, let’s not forget that the structure that Scolari’s is closing was originally built as indoor tennis courts.  Right across the parking lot from the Elegant Wagon, a popular early 1970s watering hole then in the southwest corner of Reno.  That joint and the one at the Golden Road – now the Atlantis – deserve our recognition one of these Saturday mornings as headquarters for sybaritic nocturnal misbehavior in south Reno.

            The standard number of grooves in a 78 RPM phonograph record is, all together: One.  A long one.  Have a good week; thanks for last week off, our days can warm up anytime now, and God bless America.

 

© RGJ April something, 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some old air race family photos

(Click here for GAA bowling photos)

Occasionally I get to put my sons on the website. Here’s a couple that they’ll kill me for posting. Son Ron in my pickup in 1974; he was actually banned at Home Pylon for his age so he took up residence in the pickup, note, food, beverage cooler, binoculars, VHF radio on the roof, lawn chair – what else does a man need? Best seat at the races…In the 1983 home pylon crew shot is son Brent on the left, then next right is Dale Tucker (the present flagman); the three to the right have all passed away. And I hope you like yours truly’s Reno 911 cutoffs (hey, they were in vogue in 1983…!) 

rontruck2

air-race-home-pylon-crew

Coming home (c. 2005)

SMFoodKingA new/old face appeared at the Seven Ayem Senior Moment Krispy Crème BS & Kaffeeklatch early this week.  Mike Sommers had returned to Reno for the Reno High all-school reunion next Sunday – his first trip “home” of any duration since leaving for a 35-year teaching career in Garrison Keillor country.  He had already covered more ground and seen more old friends than I see in a year, and his insights into our valley were thought provoking.  Always looking for a column idea, I put his questions in quotation marks and our responses in open text.

            “When did the MGM become the Hilton?”  Right after it quit being Bally’s – come back next year and it’ll be a big condominium [Grand Sierra Resort]. “I saw where they’re tearing down the Sparks Theater this week – we used to go there to meet all the Sparks High chicks – how can they do that?”  Right, like the Majestic and the Granada theaters – no more. “I miss a chili-cheese omelet at Landrum’s.”  Take your car title there for a loan, seven stools to serve you.  “And the Turf Club with the trumpeter on the roof?  Where do you go for pastrami sandwiches?”  The building got trenched.  Try the Coney Island for a great pastrami. (Our trench, or Trench, capitalized occasionally lately, blew Mike’s mind.  [That’s not the half of it; try telling an intelligent person from somewhere else about STAR bonds! We didn’t even go there…] “What’s wrong with train whistles and a car getting pushed sideways a block occasionally?  We grew up with that.”

 “I haven’t heard any Air Guard 101s.  Are they overseas?”  The Guard parked the Bus 109Voodoos for RF-4s in 1976, sent those to the boneyard in Arizona and have herded C-130s around since.  “I came in from Stead and saw a great big jailhouse on, what, Parr Boulevard?  Don’t they still have a jail on the top floor of the police station on East Second Street?”  Nope, we’ve got more bad guys now than we did 40 years ago. Funny how we all remember that penthouse on East Second Street.

The Kietzke roundabout  and Da Del Monte Lane      . 

            “I went to see our ol’buddy [so-and-so] in his law office, out somewhere on the end of Kietzke Lane in a complex I didn’t even know where I was.  Wasn’t the conventional wisdom that attorneys all had to be walking-distance from the court house?”  That happened like Topsy – one day it seems most of the bigger firms had bailed downtown in favor of the newer buildings with decent parking.  “I went by Moana Lane and South Virginia and got lost – no Sierra Pacific building.”  Progress – now they’re out south of DeLucci Lane by Home Depot. And they’re not Sierra Pacific anymore, either.  “There’s a Home Depot that far south?  Nawww…”  That ain’t the half of it – there’s a new one even further out south by Damonte Ranch.  “I meant to ask about that – wasn’t Mimi’s Hideaway on Del Monte Lane?  What happened to that?”  Changed it to “Neil Road”; too much confusion with “Damonte” two off-ramps south.  “Why didn’t the Highway Department just use another name for Damonte from the git-go?”  Welcome back to 2005 Reno, Mike. If you like that, you’ll love Zolezzi Lane now; too bad the Texans building Arrowcreek didn’t. Most of our town, you see, is for sale (we didn’t know about the firehouse yet…)

Where’s the roundhouse?

       Washoe_street   “I was out in Sparks, coming back from a mini-city called Wingfield Springs.  That old pit you could see from the freeway is beautiful.”  Hats off to the City of Sparks – they did the Sparks Marina right, as Sparks does most else that they tackle, thank [retired] City Manager Shaun Carey.  “And that beautiful old S.P locomotive shop – can’t they try to save that?”  Whoever they is, they is trying.  Last we heard the City of Sparks and Q&D Construction – you remember our old classmate, Norm Dianda, the “D” of Q&D? – were working on a joint venture with Union Pacific Railroad if everyone can get their plates clean enough to pursue it.  (“Q” was the late Babe Quadrio.) [Dunno about that one in the present economy. Hope springs eternal.}

            “Weinstock’s at Park Lane?”  Refer back to the Sparks, Majestic and Granada theater yak – pretty classy-looking theater on the old Weinstock site [becoming known as seagull gulch].  Yecch.   “Answer Man, on Peckham Lane, best hardware store in Reno.  How can the town do without it?”  Refer to Home Depot and Lowe’s.  “Is that bowling stadium downtown really all a bowling alley?”  You’re kidding, right?”  Nope. And at some times it’s actually full of bowlers, with spare time on their hands.  Think about it. But we don’t know; we can’t roll there. We’re just residents.

            “The diversion dam – waterfall – downtown next to the bridge on Belmont by NoukWingfield Park – that was iconic with Reno for so many years.   But the rapids are neat too.  Did a flood do that to the dam?”  Actually, a computer designed the rapids, Belmont is Arlington and Wingfield Park, formally Belle Isle, is Barbara Bennett Park, but the kayak course and the swimming hole it created by serendipity, probably did more for getting folks downtown than did the Men’s Club.  Our city did good. 

            “The University campus has grown.”  Understatement of the year.  “The Bruce Thompson Federal Courthouse.  Is that Jeff’s dad?”  Yup, our classmates Jeff, Judy and Harold, kids of Bruce and Ellen.  Got his own courthouse.  “That black thing on Liberty Street – Close Encounters of the Third Kind leftover?”  The Nevada Museum of Art.  Beautiful on the inside, Mike – I gave him a guest pass.  Knowing him, he’s used it.  Ditto the Harrah Auto Museum – he’ll go there also.  “The city hall in the old FNB building on First and Virginia?  Naww…”    Yeaaahhh.  Have fun parking your pickup in the high-rise garage next door.

            Time grew short.  Mike’s insight – of that which we saw over three decades whileInez he saw condensed into a week’s touring – gave us a new view of our valley.  We agreed to meet at one joint that had survived the racking and wresting of change, Mama Stempeck’s Halfway Club, for lunch.  And Inez didn’t let us down.

            Have a dandy week; goodnight from New York, Peter, and God bless America.

Peter Jennings passed away August 7, 2005

 

Parabolic vs. ellipsoidal – converting an e-mail into a suppository; either square, hex, or round…

RHS2009

I just ran a column about Reno High School and mentioned its famous dome, which the architect himself, (Monk Ferris), called parabolic in a 1951 newspaper article. A parabola. Then, this arrives in the e-mail this morning, from a friend I’ve known since 1950 at Central Jr. High. I’ve been writing a column for 28 years, but it’s bullshit like this that will bring the curtain down on the whole shebang someday:

Hi Karl,

The “dome” at RHS is not parabolic. It is roughly ellipsoidal – or rather roughly the upper half of an ellipsoid, which is the three-dimensional analog of an ellipse. Both an ellipse and an ellipsoid have two foci, and rays emanating from one focus are reflected to the other focus. This phenomenon is responsible for some “whispering galleries” and “whispering domes”. One of the attractions in the physics lab at CalTech was a small water tank in the shape of the bottom half of an ellipsoid. When it was filled with water, poking a finger into the water at one focus made a little column of water shoot up at the other focus.

 I haven’t set foot in RHS since 1959, but my recollection is that the dome is too shallow to be a true ellipsoid, and therefore incapable of transmitting whispers.

 Eric

click to read the offending column

OK, I GOT THE MESSAGE; I’LL UPDATE THIS SOON! KARL The old mom-and-pop groceries – we get mail…

Washoe_streetONE OF THE JOYS OF BEING A DRIVE-BY COLUMNIST IS READING SOME OF THE MAIL THAT THE COLUMNS PRODUCE, AND AS TIME PERMITS I LIKE TO GET PERMISSION OF THE SENDER AND POST IT – IT’S PRETTY COOL STUFF AND THE READERS HAVE GONE THROUGH A LOT OF WORK TO SEND IT, SO IT DESERVES TO BE SEEN AND ENJOYED! WHAT FOLLOWS ARE A FEW OF THE RESPONSES TO THE RECENT BOMBARDMENT OF GROCERY STORE MEMORIES, WITH A LOT OF INFORMATION THAT I’D OTHERWISE HAVE NO WAY OF LEARNING NOR PUBLISHING. E-MAILS COPY AND PASTE TO WORDPRESS IN A WEIRD WAY I DON’T COMPREHEND, SO IT’S A LITTLE MESSY…PERMISSION TO REPRINT HAS BEEN GAINED FOR ALL

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Sparks’ retired fire chief Don Young writes, 

“Karl, enjoyed your story on Sparks grocery stores. I worked for Kellison’s Market in 1949 or 50. I stocked groceries and delivered them in Milt Kellison’s new Ford pickup while he was flying a P-51 in the Korean theater. The manager was Elton Williams who went to Old Orchard later. The meat cutter was Marvin Edwards who later had his own meat market in Reno.”

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My old post-war northwest Reno neighbor Pat Randall checks in:

“I enjoy reading your columns regarding Reno’s history when it was smaller than it is now. I remember many of the markets in your most recent offering. I hope you will include Quilici’s in your next column. As I recall , it was located on the southwest corner of Washington and 7th Streets and three blocks from where I grew up. There was a butcher shop in the rear and out front was a manually operated gas pump. The gas was pumped into a calibrated glass container on top and then gravity fed into the car’s gas tank. My brother worked the pump and worked the hose one summer in 1947 or ’48. The building was old even then and the wood floors creaked when walked on.  I moved from Reno in 1955 so I doubt that the place still exists; but I would like to visit it again thru your writing.  Thank you for your work.”

I told Pat that Quilici’s was included in the second column, which was submitted but not yet published. She responded with an account of our old neighborhood: 
“I lived at 1025 University Terrace, just west of Canal St. We moved there in Oct. 1941.  University Terrace was unpaved west of Vine St. and ours was the last house on it. The street ended at our house. Keystone was called Peavine Road and it was also dirt and it dead ended at 6th St. next to my grandmother’s house. When WWll ended construction of houses in the area resumed and now my old house appears to be in midtown. My family name is Randall and most of us were born in St. Mary’s. I knew a guy named Cal Dorothy who lived near the top of Ralston hill across from Whitaker Park His mother ran a beauty parlor there at one time’
What about the market? Will it be part of your next article?”
I assured her that Quilici’s was in the mill. And the beauty shop t the top of the Ralston Street hill that she mentioned? Here’s my response:
“The guy at the top of Ralston Street’s mother was named Shermerhorn and my dad bought that house (740) in 1946 right after the war. He turned her old beauty parlor room on the front of the house into his office (real estate and insurance). We lived there until 1948 when my dad bought the house at the end of University Terrace at the corner of Peavine Row, which was still dirt. (Its address was 1095). On Christmas Eve of 1949 we moved from that house to the top of the Peavine hill to the southwest corner of Sunnyside Drive and Peavine Row, the only house west of Peavine (I think the street was paved then to the top of the hill.)”
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Here’s a note from Fred Messman, whom I know from a speech I made at a service club in Sparks a year ago. Fred writes:
“My first job was as a bag boy at the Food Mart across from Deer Park on Prater Way in Sparks, started in 1962 while I was still in high school (Reno). I worked at that store, owned by Tom Kelleher until he sold it to Ron Gardner who called it Food King. (He ultimately opened another store on the corner of Wells Ave and Ryland, now a liquor store I think)
While I was working at the Food Mart on Prater a huge new store opened across the street to the east called “Safeway”, today it is PEP Boys auto parts.
I transferred to the new Food Mart they had on Kietzkie and Vassar which later sold to Washoe Markets who eventually consolidated and closed it running their last Washoe Market at 1251 South Virginia (now an antique store). I left for Vietnam in 1966 and when I returned Bob and John Games immediately hired me back where I eventually became assistant manager and then manager for that store until just before it closed. Our phone orders were a high priority and I made many trips delivering groceries in the early to mid 1970’s.
I have many great memories about the bakery and meat market at Washoe Market, truly a customer friendly and family store where we would order any item for you if we didn’t stock it. The butchers were celebrities behind the counter.
I eventually used my GI Bill to get a degree in wildlife management and became a game warden captain with the Nevada Dept of Wildlife and retired in 2009 after 28 years.
Please feel free to use any of the information above, edit it as you see fit.
I have been reading your articles for a long time, keep up the great work
Also, I have charge and payment receipts from my grandmother somewhere in the closet, did a cursory check and didn’t find them, from Akert’s and a couple other corner grocery stores, they lived on Keystone and I remember as a child walking to the store to pick up the day’s food, then they were able to buy a first-class Westinghouse electric refrigerator and a new wringer washing machine (early 1950’s).”
Didn’t have to edit a thing, Fred!
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And I’m reminded by the daughter of my favorite third-grade teacher, who was Mrs. Conrad in 1949 at Mary S. Doten Elementary, whose daughter’s name is Carolyn Darney. Carolyn phones, because Carolyn will buy a computer and start e-mailing when pigs fly, that Brickie Hansen’s sister (Brickie owned Hansen’s Market, mentioned in the column) became the wife of Reno mayor Tank Smith. Where else would you get information like that, I ask???
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Next up, a Reno High guy named Rich Steurer:
“Hi Karl. I was reading with interest your column on old grocery stores
> the last 2 weeks and wondered why you didn’t mention the two I worked at
> as a student at Reno High.
> My dad worked downtown in the 50’s & 60’s, and was good friends with the
> butcher at Washoe Market. He asked my dad if I was interested in a part
> time job at the Washoe Market on 4th and Vine Streets cleaning up the
> butcher shop after school, which I was and worked there for a year or
> so. I then found a temporary job working odd jobs for friend of my
> dad’s which paid a little more than the $1 an hour. When that job ended
> the Washoe Market on So Virginia and Pueblo hired me there, again at $1
> hour. That saw me thru High School. Remember when they had sawdust all
> over the floors? Anyway, thanks for the memories, Rich.”
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Lynda Morris chimes in – Lynda is the daughter-in-law of the late Betty Morris, whom I mentioned in a column about schools two weeks ago (Betty was the popular Kindergarten teacher at Jessie Beck Elementary School, saddled with my two sons, among several thousand others. She was immensely popular, and I once nominated her (unsuccessfully) to have a new school named for her. Lynda writes,
“We certainly enjoy reading your column. The recent article, “What Goes Into an (Alma Mater’s) Name?” was especially interesting to me and my husband, Guy Morris. Guy’s mom, Betty Morris, was my much beloved mother-in-law, and we have always hoped that a school would be named after her. Guy and I both taught in the Washoe County School District for over 31 years, and yet we do not know the procedure for the naming of new schools. If you have any information or know how we can spearhead a movement to get a school named after Betty, we would appreciate that information. Guy worked as a school counselor at several middle schools in the district, retiring from Traner Middle School. I taught at Orvis Ring for one year, moved to Vaughn Middle School for five years, and then retired from Reno High School after 26 years as the head librarian. Two of our sons graduated from Reno High and we also find it annoying to see Huskie spelled Husky. Thank you for clarifying that in your article. Guy and I have only the best memories of growing up in Reno, attending local schools, and graduating from the University of Nevada where we were active in ATΩ and Kappa Alpha Theta.
“In your November 1, 2015 article about grocery stores, I saw the market listed that my father, Leonard R. Carpenter, owned in the 1950’s. (He came from Las Vegas on a football scholarship to attend UNR in the late 30’s) The Reno Public Market was a venture for him after he stepped down as the U.S. Marshal for the State of Nevada. He continued his employment with the U.S. Marshal’s Office as a deputy, but desired other employment and hoped it would be a family business for his dad and my mom to carry on. Although that did not work out, I have fond memories of the time I spent in that market during my childhood and especially when it flooded during the 50’s. Ironically, my brother-in-law is Bert Pincolini whose family owned Pinky’s. I believe much of the enjoyment we receive from reading your column comes from realizing how connected we are to this community. Thank you for your historical research and interesting writing and yes, God bless America!”
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Here now, Nancy Mull. Nancy refers to a Washoe Market on Wells Avenue that I’m trying to find. Thanks, Nancy!
Hi Karl,
I’ve been enjoying reading and reminiscing about the old little grocery stores in Reno.  My mother worked for Mr. Churchill at his store so it was a kick to see it mentioned.  As I recall, the store was narrow and had a wooden floor.  Very old-fashioned.  Fresh produce. 
She also worked at the California Market on North Virginia Street.  It was on the west side, close-ish to 4th Street, right downtown.  Southworth’s was a short distance south.  There was a butcher shop in the back and I may be wrong, but I think it was run or owned by a Jolly of Butcher Boy fame.  This was in the 50’s when a kid could wander around downtown safely.  We lived on West St. across from Central Junior High (maybe it was Reno High then), next door to the Jewish synagogue. 
Another grocery store she worked in was the Washoe Market on Wells Avenue. 
What a cool stroll down memory lane.  Thanks!
Nancy Mull
Here’s Nancy’s placement of the Washoe Market:
The Eagle Thrifty grocery store was across the street from the store where my mother worked.  It was in the building across the alley from what is now Lucke’s Saloon.
 
More e-mails may be added, if such arrive, if I get permission to use, and if they don’t rip me too badly for omitting a market. Which I did – sorry, it’s a space thing. 

a friend asked about Stead AFB – here you are…

Here’s how quickly seven ill-chosen words can germinate into a whole column: Walking Virginia Street in a recent column set in 1950, I alluded to “…the recently-renamed Stead Air Force Base”.  This elicited several inquiries, all reducible to either “Recinchombrenamed from what?” or “We’re new here; tell us about Stead.”

            Let’s start at the beginning: The facility was commissioned in 1942 as the Reno Army Airport, renamed as Reno Air Force Base in 1948 (when most former Army airbases were ceded to the U.S. Air Force), and finally to Stead Air Force Base in 1951.  The Defense Department, in 1949, adopted a policy to name military facilities more after notable people, less after geographic references.

             Accordingly, Reno Air Force Base was renamed, not for Spanish Springs rancher/air race co-founder Bill Stead, as many of you thought; rather, for his brother Croston Stead, who crashed on takeoff into the desert on December 16th, 1948 in an Air Guard Mustang, not too long after the Nevada Air National Guard was commissioned at Reno Air Force Base in April of 1948, flying P-51s.  (Croston’s older brother Bill Stead, a hot-stick, high-time World War II fighter ace, died in an air race in Florida in 1965, flying a midget racer.  Go figure…).  The third Stead brother is Sparks developer L. David Kiley. 

The base’s mission over the years was basic aviation training, later rotary-wing training (OK: helicopters), and airport fire suppression – recall the Kaman-built fire-choppers (“Huskies”) with the weird twin “eggbeater” rotors that frequently flew over downtown.  There were a few uncontrolled auxiliary airports – patch a better word – around our valley, which were associated with Reno AFB in the early years.  I lived in the most northwest corner of Reno in the late 1940s and often hiked to a now-long-gone unnamed satellite Reno AFB strip that was between the present Keystone Avenue and McQueen High School.  Two youngish cadets in a Beech D-18 trainer with Army tail markings gave three of us kids a spin around Peavine Peak in a 20-minute ride neither our parents nor the flight-line officer at Reno AFB ever needed to hear about.  Some things are better left that way for fifty years or so.  Another Reno AFB satellite strip parallels Highway 70 at Beckwourth, in use to this day as the Nervino Airstrip.  (The bygone Sparks Airport strip northeast of Pyramid Way and Green Brae – the 1950s spelling – in Sparks was not a Reno AFB satellite.)

            Stead AFB conducted desert and mountain survival training, for pilots of all branches of the military, other nations, and even for the early astronauts.  Later there was a “SAGE” facility, an acronym for Semi-Automatic-Ground-Environment, or whatever paranoids do all day in a great big ugly four-story building with no windows, something to do with global air defense.                      

            One interesting occurrence that some old-timers may remember was when the Pentagon, in a convincing effort to demonstrate the massive economic impact the airbase had on our community, paid Stead troops one payday in crisp two-dollar bills.  Those bills circulated around for years, many emanating from the Grotto Bar at Fourth and Virginia Streets, the Stead airmen’s hangout.  And apropos of probably nothing, I can report that yours truly drove a big bright-yellow, flat-front 66-passenger Cornbinder school bus to the enlisted men’s housing area at Stead, and that Ty Cobb Jr., son of the late RG-J columnist, drove a like bus to the Stead officers’ housing unit.  Between the two of us we delivered every single high school student who lived from the Reno city limits north past Stead and all the way to Bordertown, to Reno High School – the town’s only high school until Wooster was built 1961.  [And I caught Nancy Howell Spina and Tony Clark’s ire with that: “What was Manogue High, sliced bread?!”  Sorry…].  Believe it or don’t, only 132 kids, excluding truants, lived north of town in the early 1960s, and we drove them 36 miles a day for three school years, and never harmed a hair on their heads nor creased a fender.  Damn, we were good.       

            The Defense Department began phasing out Stead AFB in 1963 – actually selling off some of the original 20,000 acres as early as 1958 – and it was finally fully decommissioned by 1966 and acquired by the City of Reno.  The renamed Reno-Stead Airport once hosted all airline passenger flights into and out of Reno while our downtown airport, at that time hung with the unpopular name of Reno-Cannon Airport, was closed for a major runway resurfacing.  For five weeks the PSA pilots in their DC-9s raced the AirCal Boeing 737 guys around the Reno National Air Race’s 8-mile unlimited-class course pylons at Stead on their way to final approach for runway two-four.

            Just kidding…

  • • •

The Famous Flaming Swan Dive at Lawton’s, 1931

 Swan_DiveFollowing several weeks of inclusion in my columns of some bygone swimming holes in Reno, the time is upon us to speak of some events which brought short-lived fame to a couple of Reno youths, at one of the local plunges that we studied, the one at Lawton’s Resort west of Reno.

          Our source for this narrative is unimpeachable, and he will be identified at the conclusion of this tale. The story he told follows now, and we here turn back the calendar to 1931. In that year, two years following the Great Depression, my father, Karl the Elder, was graduated from Reno High School. He then, and together with his close friend of equal age who grew up in Tonopah and whose name was Jack Douglass, sought employment here in Reno.     They were successful in securing positions as busboys at the popular Lawton’s, who served high-end dinners around poolside during summer evenings.

          Jack and Karl worked diligently during those warm summer nights attending to the tables and the swells who patronized Lawton’s restaurant. And, my source reports, that as youthful busboys will do on warm summer nights with soft live music in the background and being called upon to bus cocktail glasses as well as dinner plates and silver, drained the last sip out of the glasses until as the evening hours grew later, they remained albeit quite functional at their task yet were, in a word, pleasantly toasted.

          All the while they were working, on Friday and Saturday evenings from early June on, they looked over their shoulders at the magnificent diving tower adjacent to the poolside deck where the dinner tables were placed. A beautiful edifice it was, Mission Revival style, with diving platforms set one meter, three meters, and ten meters – almost 40 feet, above the still water in the pool. Karl – Dad – was a recreational diver of some note, known to be quite adept off the boards of Reno and the rocks surrounding nearby Lake Tahoe. They worked, bussed, sipped, and looked at that tower. All during June and July of 1931.

          Early in August, according to my source, they showed up to work in their crisp white shirts and duck trousers, but with a bag containing something in hand. They bussed and sipped and their courage grew with each departing party of diners who hadn’t quite finished their cocktails. During a lull in their duties, they adjudged the time to be perspicacious. They scrambled to the top of the stairs, to the vaunted 10-meter tower. Karl – Dad – whipped off his shirt, shoes and white ducks, down to a bathing suit that he was already wearing. Jack pulled from the brown paper bag a glass bottle of – white gas. A product that we’d call kerosene today. A gallon of white gas. My God, what were they doing?

          Jack raised the bottle and as if it had been rehearsed, he dumped a gallon of white gas on Karl, from the shoulders down. And as the last drop of the liquid emptied from the bottle, he took a wooden match and struck it to several places on his friend, who immediately caught fire and emitting an unearthly jungle scream, dove from the platform in what the source described as a perfect swan dive, to the pool below garnering the surprise and admiration of the many diners poolside, who scarcely believed what they had witnessed.

          Jack was already back at his labor before his absence had been noticed, and in the confusion and adulation, Karl, who had employed the confusion to leave the pool and return to his clothing, which Jack had scurried down 10 meters of stairs to place by the tower’s access door.

          And the buzz started around Reno – did you see the flaming swan dive last night at Lawton’s?, the fine folks all bandied around the town.

          That was on a Friday night, early in August as my source told me. Saturday night would be no different. All at dinner,LawtonsTower the diners, the wait staff (who had only guessed what might have happened, it all took place so fast then returned to normal so quickly), the others around the pool, were all atwitter about the flaming swan dive.

          And just when all poolside least expected it, for no one foresaw it happening again, the night sky was rent by a Tarzan-like howl and all looked to the sky to see a human form falling in a perfect layout swan dive, arms outstretched, legs ending in pointed arches, the shape of all of it masked in a blueish-orange flame that disappeared smoothly into the still body of water.

          Yikes! It happened again, and as it was the night before, no one saw Jack exit the tower’s access door, nor Karl rise to the water’s surface, climb out, duck into the tower and return in his crisp white uniform.

          Now the town was really buzzing. Two nights in a row. Would it happen again next week? “Let’s go out and have dinner, and see,” quite a few said.

          And it did happen again, according to my source, who looking back I’m not sure that he wasn’t party to this hijinks.

          The following Friday, which might have been the second weekend in August, and then Saturday, the flaming specter would come flying out of the high platform in mid-evening. And, speculated the source, witnesses were one-by-one starting to catch on – two busboys would disappear, one would beat the other one back to their duties a half-minute ahead of the other, one looked like his hair was still damp – little signals that this was unraveling.

          Speculation was also rife that the Laughton family who owned the resort (and finally grew tired of correcting all who spelled it Lawton’s and acceded to the popular spelling) were on the horns of a dilemma. The flaming mystery death-diver, the justification of death unclear, as no one had died, was good for business and making Laughton’s, or Lawton’s, a household word in the valley and causing diners to flock the two miles out the Lincoln Highway to see it happen. However the down-side remained among the grownups that if these shenanigans continued unabated, with the assumption that they were being conducted by youthful busboys (who of course denied any involvement), that a diner was going to get conked on the head by a falling busboy or that a busboy was going to wind up alive and medium-well.

          As all good things must, the Famous Flying Flaming Death-Dive came to its end, on what most remember as the third weekend of its world premiere, most say a Saturday (I cited one source to be named soon, but as I was still a bit incredulous about it I spoke to others of his vintage and they substantially confirmed that it was mostly true, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, so to speak.) The consensus was, or is, that the management of Lawton’s raised hell with all possible divers on a Friday night but not quite enough, and the Flaming Swan Dive again occurred to the great applause of the diners. Alas on Saturday, good sense overtook the raising hell and threatening, and someone simply locked the door to the tower, effectively bringing down the curtain on this chapter of early entertainment in Reno, improving the quality of table-bussing at Lawton’s, and preserving the local supply of white gas. And I would presume that Karl the Elder and Jack covertly raised a toast to each other with a couple of leftover cocktails.

          My source for this information I’ll now reveal, was a classmate of my dad’s, who most of us knew and thought the world of, Ralph Menante, yes, the Goodyear tire guy. My dad, Karl the Elder, died in 1971, curiously in a swimming pool, not of self-immolation but rather by high-voltage. Ralph lived on for many years, and recalled this tale to me in the years to follow. I followed up with others who knew him, and yup, it’s (mostly) true. Dad and Jack Douglass (and my uncle John) shipped out a couple years later as oilers on an American President Lines steamer and from accounts of that trip one wonders how we still have an embassy in their ports of call, China, the Phillipines, Guam and the Hawai’ian Islands. Jack would later be regarded as one of the more popular and successful men in the gaming community, with ownership interests in the Comstock and Cal-Neva. He mentions my dad liberally in his book Tap Dancing on Ice, published in 1997 by the University of Nevada Oral History Program.

          And that’s the way it was, two miles west of Reno, in 1931.

© Karl Breckenridge 2015