Pump Station #2

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Earlier this week I activated a page on the dreaded Facebook in hopes of getting a few more people aboard this website, and make it worth my while to maintain. Almost immediately I received several e-mails, like four, asking what the little Mission Revival building I used on the Facebook page was, on the water, below a verdant hillside and with a city rising up in the background. OK, not a part of Reno’s heritage, but here goes:

The knee-jerk answer, the building is the San Francisco Fire Department’s Pump Station #2 – or at least it was for a hundred years, before being turned over to the SF Water Department a year or so ago. It’s easy to see; from Aquatic Park at the foot of Hyde Street, a hoot and a holler from the Buena Vista Saloon and its Irish Coffee – just look to the left at the spit of land forming one side of Fort Mason. Take a walk over; it’s not that far.

Shortly after the Great Earthquake of 1906 it was decreed by the citizenry of San Francisco that never again would the town be gutted by fire following an earthquake, for lack of water to douse the flames with. The pumps, which serve in concert with another station downtown, houses, or one time housed, three boilers at the right side of the building as viewed in this picture (a 30-foot masonry smokestack once graced the southeast corner of the roof, to the viewer’s near left.) The boilers’ steam powered an electric motor through a steam turbine, which motor turned a pump, which could raise sea water to the 10-million gallon Twin Peaks reservoirs, at an elevation of almost 800 feet above the bay level, and pump it at the alarming rate of 10,000 gallons a minute. That sea water could then be dropped by gravity down to smaller reservoirs in Ashbury Heights, the Hippies’ domain in the 1970s, or another reservoir on Nob Hill.

The machinery was incredibly beautiful to view – I was fortunate to get inside the building numerous times prior to the Water Department’s acquisition of it – and the 1909-era massive pumps, generators and boilers, with their dramatic “General Electric” brass nameplates, “Schenectady, NY” –  and switches and valves reminiscent of Captain Nemo’s bridge on Jules Verne’s Nautilus, were a treasure to behold. And most of that remains, I’m told. Sadly, following 911 the building’s SFFD signage and its very existence and function became clouded in the name of homeland security and I haven’t been able to BS my way back inside (yet!) since 2008.

But I saw its machinery operate, several times – elevating water 800 vertical feet takes some incredible power, and the century-old equipment in this building is amply up to that task. The reservoirs are fresh water, feeding hydrants easily spotted by their larger size, three valve outlets and red, black, or blue caps, delineating the reservoir that serves them. But – in the face of a large fire, like that anticipated after the Loma Prieta earthquake, the plant is fired up (modern diesel-powered generators have replaced the three boilers, creating electricity to run the pump.) Fresh water is preferred, due to the absence of galvanic action to screw up the fire trucks’ plumbing, but in an emergency the system kicks in sea water (San Francisco’s two fireboats can also pump sea water into the pump station or other risers along the Embarcadero.)

It’s a little San Francisco treasure that a thousand people walk past every weekend on their way up the path to the right of the pump station visible in the photograph, to a magnificent view over Fort Mason and the Marina. Pity they can’t see the century-old low-tech being tested and operated daily in the little building at the bottom of the hill…

If you’re after the 1950 Thanksgiving flood piece, click here

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Seen at Lotta’s Fountain on Market Street

Fountain

On April 18, 2006 we journeyed to San Francisco to be part of the 100th commemoration of the Great San Francisco earthquake, and in the early hours of that morning, commensurate with the earthquake a hundred years before, this image was taken at Lotta’s Fountain on Market Street which was about the only thing that wasn’t demolished in the ‘quake, and remains the meeting spot for the earthquake survivors, who now number, two. Two people still alive, that were alive that fateful day in 2006.

The real reason for posting this is to see if the site is working better than it was the last time I posted, at which time it wasn’t working for shit, er, worth a damn. If the photo posts and the text reads right, I may go back into business with a website.

This is a test. That’s all…

How far we came in a ’64 Studebaker

Wagonaire

While reading on the web of the newest Jeep wagon I was flat slapped like a gut-shot cougar by an automobile writer’s prose: “…A bruiser car. Everything about the new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, with its pugnacious nose, its monster 20-inch wheels with massive P295/45 tires, its snarling 470-horse V8 engine, shouts that here is a big, bad bully of a wagon…

“…This one, with the 6.4-liter V8 ripped from the dragstrip headlines, is meant to say something. It’s aggressive, it has that deep exhaust rumble…” – and then the writer goes on (and on) to compare it with a double-jack, water-back drink in a bar, leaving some doubt about where he drinks or why he goes to a bar in the first place. One steers this beast from the “cockpit,” by the way. God save us…

“…Stomp on the gas pedal on a freeway on ramp (after the requisite check in the rear view mirror) and those 470 horses will emerge loudly from those exhaust tips and ramp you swiftly up the ramp – the car’s zero-to-60 times are regularly under five seconds and it’s said to have a 160 mph top end…”  Somewhere about here I sensed that he might be getting orgasmic at his keyboard and I was tempted to click off this site before it was X-rated. This writer does get close to his cars. He did mention that this particular Jeep, er, Snarling Bruiser was approaching $70,000, which for me would be too much for a Jeep if had twin GE J-47 turbojet engines, a wet bar and a Barca-Lounger seat behind the wheel.

My thoughts returned to the Wagoneer of old, that sprung forth in the early 1960s while I was driving a Jeep “Station Wagon,” a two-door, four-passenger box with a tailgate that was probably the best all-round Jeep that Willys, and later Kaiser, ever built. My neighbor got a “Wagonaire.” A Studebaker. A good-looking car, or wagon. It ought to be; it was designed by Brooks Stevens, the American industrial designer who gave the world a design for some kitchen appliances, the full-dress Harley, dolled-up luxury passenger railcars, the Excalibur automobile (which looks a lot like a pre-war Mercedes, but that’s OK), and last but not least, the Wienermobile. With a sliding back roof the Wagonaire could haul a refrigerator home from Montgomery Wards or a tree from Arlington Nursery, if need be. With a Studebaker engine. Built in Canada. And Kaiser picked up on it, Studebaker exited the auto business after a hundred years of cars, trucks, Army Weasels, Navy Ducks (like the ones on Fisherman’s Wharf) and every other configuration of weird vehicle known to man.

Kaiser called it the Wagoneer. It was built from parts from every automotive body, brake, engine, transmission, electronics, hubcap and rear-view mirror company in the Detroit Yellow Pages, not unlike the seven blind men building the elephant. And it sold like hotcakes, some say more in the northern Nevada area than anywhere in the world. And with such dubious reliability that owners would put “lunching” on placards on their windshields if they pulled off the road to picnic, knowing that other Wagoneer owners would think that they’d surely broken down.

And they kept selling, constantly being improved and made increasingly luxurious. The last one rolled off the assembly line in 1991. 

Not a bad run, at that – from a 6-cylinder Wagonaire in 1964 to the last V-8 Wagoneer in 1991, to the Grand Cherokee of today with massive 20-inch wheels and a snarling 470 horsepower that’ll knock your, well, you know, right into your watch-pocket if it gets away from you on the on-ramp.

How is it in the snow? Or hauling home a tree from Arlington Gardens, like the Wagonaire of old? We don’t know. But it’s fast. And this guy can sure as hell write.

Lou LaBonte’s – the best-kept secret in Auburn

Labonte entranceLabonte Sign

I may be wrong – Reno folks may go to Lou LaBonte’s in droves, and I just don’t hear from them.

But we stopped there for dinner tonight on the way back from Sacramento – a quick day trip – and it was wonderful! Good food, service, great old photographs on the walls of the days when the road in front of the building was the Lincoln Highway – Highway 40 (now it’s a frontage road; Ikeda’s is a short block to the east, on the same side of the freeway). I’d bet – I may lose but I’d do it anyway – that the fireplace was crafted by the Indians from Stewart Indian School in Carson City. Can’t say enough good about it, but give it a whirl, breakfast, lunch or dinner…it’ll bring back a lot of memories, for many of us back to the days before Interstate 80 crossed the Sierra

A long day in Ol’ Sac for Ol’ Reno Guy

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Quick trip to the capital city of the Golden State to do a little business, eat a little seafood at Joe’s Crab Shack, (ok, a bit loud but if a joint ain’t loud anymore no one goes there!)
But – the high point of the day, a visit inside the double-decker Megabus while it was stopped in Ol’ Sac – the greatest thing since night baseball – rates as low as a buck, from Sparks’ Victorian Lane bus place to 4th and Townsend Streets – think AT&T Park vicinity – in San Francisco – from there take the 30-Stockton bus to almost anywhere in the City. Or from SF to Sparks. Twice a day. (I didn’t ride it to Sacramento; I just went aboard for a few minutes)
Go on their website and check it out; it’s on our bucket list for 2013 – AFTER the America’s Cup racers vacate the City…

http://us.megabus.com/about-us.aspx

 

More about Mt. Rose, from an earlier post

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In an April 10 post I included a photo of the last vestiges of snow on Mt. Rose take during my stroll around Virginia Lake, and alert reader Gordon Zimmerman chided me that the scene wasn't really Mt. Rose, which was correct – it was in truth north of Mt. Rose. And a couple e-mails rolled in, about the peak's name origin, which has always been kicked around by local historians. So, we turned Carmine Ghia and our research staff loose on the situation and learned of, or at least reinforced some of that which we probably knew and forgot a long time ago about the 10,772-foot landmark. We also sent staff photographer Lo Phat out this Saturday morning to get another shot of Mt. Rose from Virginia Lake. The snow fields of Mt. Rose are barely seen in this view, with Slide Mountain to the left/south.

Regarding the “Rose” name, take your pick: One version, the one I always heard and grew up with, was that Hank Monk – the incomparable! The most daring – the most reckless of drivers; and the luckiest. The oddest, the drollest of all the whimsical characters who made Western staging famous the world over* – in other words, a  stage coach driver of some note who drove between the Carson Valley and Placerville, saw the image of his daughter Rose in the mountain to the north.

If you don’t like that story, here’s’ another: The name might have come from early 1800s settler Jacob  H. Rose, who built a lumber mill near Franktown. Or, another possibility is that it might have been for Rose Hickman, a friend of  Washoe City newspaper editor H.S. Ham. For these past two names I offer attribution to the U.S. Forest Service information on the web. And what moved newspaper editor H. S. Ham to name a mountain for this Hickman lass is a tempting inspiration for a song or a column, akin to the folk song Darcy Farrow – having a mountain named for oneself is no mean feat, and thank God it’s not Mt. Hickman…

Carmine further learned the more northern peak of Mt. Rose was named for Dr. James E. Church (Church Peak), a University of Nevada professor and hydrologist born in 1895, who perfected the snow-water content sampling device still in use today. Dr. Church passed away just months after we graduated from Reno High in 1959, and many of us were so fortunate as to have met him in our Physics class taught by John Marean at Reno High School. He held the distinction of being the first white man to have summited the peak which would later be named for him, while conducting his snow experiments in the 1920s. And many of us have visited the shelter that he constructed over a period of years at the very summit of Mt. Rose, following a robust but enjoyable hike up to the peak from Sheep Meadows on the Mt. Rose highway. And I mention parenthetically that political correctness guidelines in use today, largely ignored by the Ol’ Reno Reader, would indicate that it was “…the first European to have summited…”. But we have a tale to tell, our way.

So there you have it – a bit more about Mt. Rose and its name. And to the south of Mt. Rose, to the left in the photograph, is Slide Mountain, a thousand feet lower in altitude. Many remember the Memorial Day slide of 1983 when the southeast face of Slide Mountain – in actuality a man-made lake, known as Price Lake, man-made as a hydroelectric plant reservoir – let loose a 15-foot wall of water that inundated Washoe Valley below and to the east, blocking Highway 395. And let’s all bear in mind that the two neighboring mountains are in the Cascade range, not the Sierra, which we’ll never convince the travel and ski writing press so we won’t even keep trying.

Stay tuned for a future update of the wiles and charm of Miss Rose Hickman, for whom Mt. Rose may or may not have been named.

*Idah Strobridge, The Land of the Purple Shadow