Flicks & Quickies – just some loose text to update the outdated column…

KFB bow tieI’m often too embarrassed to let a dated column stay alive, for example the preceding Thanksgiving dinner column. But, I’m also too lazy to write a new one, as I am this morning. Thus, I go into the laptop’s disc and find one that hasn’t run lately, like this piece that was  mostly updated from a 1997 column and hasn’t been seen since 2002 about some folks, the University’s missing ceremonial mace, a mother’s shamrocks from the Emerald Isle,  old theaters and some darn good trivia. Here it is, unedited, and copyrighted by the RGJ under the hed
Flicks & Quickies:

How in the world would I know that Walter Baring worked at McMahan’s Furniture as a salesman in the very early 1950s if one of someone didn’t call me?  [This following a “why did you leave Walter Baring’s name out?” of McMahan’s on Commercial Row during a downtown text “walk”].   Baring was a dandy, went to Washington in 1956 as our Representative in Congress, our only one in those days as Nevada had only one seat.  “No one likes Baring except for the voters,” was the accepted mantra in Nevada politics – he served us in a long series of two-year Congressional terms until 1972, when he had a cardiac problem only days before the primary election.  And true to form, Baring didn’t hush it up.  He got beat by a relative nobody in the primary by playing off his formidable incumbent’s health problem; the nobody in turn got beat by another nobody in the general election.  Baring could have covered it up, won both elections and remained Representative until today, (notwithstanding the fact that he died in 1976, but as we see in the CNN sound bytes of several dinosaurs every evening – presence of pulse, respiration and temperature are not necessarily requisites of congressional delegates.)  The one-time furniture salesman got a major street named after him in Sparks, and in retrospect, he was a hell of a Nevadan.

            A reader a recent column about downtown Reno took umbrage that I didn’t mention Fenwick’s (art supplies) on Sierra Street just south of the tracks – I pointed that store out in a column last summer but I don’t mind saying it again: Fenwick’s was a wonderful store, and Jerry Fenwick remains today a northern Nevada history buff and the keeper of an extensive bygone day-photograph collection, and who, like historian Neal Cobb, is happy to let the community enjoy the old photos and has arrived in the 21st Century ahead of most of us – computer-wise – and is hard at work digitizing old local photos.

Or, you might like this one – this firsthand from Clayton Phillips during our many “Tuesdays with Clayton” before he passed away: Two popular Reno couples, Virginia and Clayton Phillips, and Nevada and Sessions (Buck) Wheeler, were sitting around a campfire in northern Washoe County many years ago – four late Nevadans who knew our state like the backs of their weathered hands, and loved every acre of it.  They dreamed up an icon that night: a baton, embodying all the elements of our state.  Over time, they found a suitable piece of native mountain mahogany.  Onto it they bonded some Carson City-minted cartwheels, some gold, silver, copper and other ores that Nevada produces; they affixed sprigs of sage and pine and fauna indigenous to our state and a host of other souvenirs embodying Nevada, like chips from some old casinos.

            They presented the mace to the University of Nevada, where annually University Provost Alessandro Dandini, a legend in his own mind, raised it with great aplomb just as Professor Post cued the orchestra to begin Pomp and Circumstance and start the graduates in their processional.  Count Dandini then carried the mace on high as he led the graduating classes onto the Quad for Commencement, as did Rollie Melton in the years to follow.  At Clayton’s memorial service a few years ago, where the featured music was Home Means Nevada, natch, the question was asked several times: Where is the mace now…? 

Next time you’re stop-and-going along Kietzke or Longley Lane, remember that either the guy behind you or the one in front of you, or both, aren’t trying to go north nor south, but in reality to the east or west, but have to get around that great big long airport runway that a young Realtor named Karl Breckenridge (the Elder) wanted to tunnel under when the costs were still minimal.  Ol’ Dad about got a net thrown over him for irresponsible babble like that – how ridiculous!  A tunnel or trench?

            And the moral is that some ideas are wonderful, but become less so as the infrastructure grows and costs skyrocket.  End of trench commentary, no position taken.  [For now]

            On the Saturday nearest St. Paddy’s Day each year we usually run the story of a shamrock – this year we’ll abridge it a bit to give it a rest.  The shamrock in question arrived yearly from Ireland just before March 17th, to be placed on the grave of a young Irish U.S. Air Mail pilot who crashed in 1924, while trying to drop a Blanchfieldwreath at Air Mail mechanic Samuel Gerrit’s funeral service in the cemetery behind the present ATΩ fraternity house. The leaf was mailed until the war years from the Emerald Isle by the pilot’s mother. After a number of years the shamrock quit arriving, but the tradition was resurrected a score of years ago by northwest Reno resident Barbara Rabenstine, who will journey tomorrow [written March 16, 1998 ] to Mountain View Cemetery to place a shamrock on the grave of William Blanchfield [pictured left].  Barbara, a friend and fine lady, has the dubious distinction of being a resident – three years old at the time – in the home that Blanchfield’s DeHavilland mail plane crashed into.  By the luck of the Irish, Barbara, her sister Betty and her family were away from the home at the moment of the crash on that hot August afternoon.

            Next time you’re riding about up by Whitaker Park, check out that home at 901 Bell Street, the only residence in America built by the U.S. Government, appropriated following a debate that took place on the floor of Congress.  The solons concluded that since a federal airplane wrecked the home, the feds should rebuild it, and so they did.  If you’re in that neighborhood, we’ll point out another home with a story, at 752 West Street, a home designed by Death Valley Scotty’s architect and later the residence of a University of Nevada president.

[Yes, the U.S. Air Mail airport by the present Washoe Golf Course was named Blanchfield Field in his honor, to be officially shortened in years to follow to the more obvious Blanch Field.]

A recent column “killed” the YMCA too early, in the words of Neill (two-ells) West. The boiler blew and the 1911 Delongchamps building was razed by the ensuing fire three years after our 1950 walk, which I meant but wasn’t what the text conveyed.  Neill was an Alpha Tau Omega fraternity pledge in 1952 and was working in the building, where he probably met Les Conklin the Younger, while Les was lifting weights when the building exploded.  (No doubt buffing up for a career selling heavy fur coats a block to the west for 40 years.)  Les questioned the date too, and I thank them both.  (Too many notes – I was researching our walk downtown and the fatal Greyhound building fire at the same time, a fire that did in fact predate 1950 by two years.  And I’m too old for multitasking.)

We’ll throw this out to get the pot boiling a little: Realtor Paul Crooks supplied a 1958 photo of Crooks Bros. Tractor Co. on two-lane Glendale Road, which he reported to be the first building ever built by real estate magnate John Dermody (and I suspect was actually constructed by McKenzie Construction.)  It’s still visible as the core building of mighty Cashman Equipment, your local Cat dealer.

• • • 

And now, to the flicks:

To hear from three favorite correspondents in one week is a thrill, and this week Pauline Carpenter, Neill West [text preceding] and Nevada history heavy-hitter Richard C. Datin all checked in.

            Richard is a gentleman.  A historian and prolific writer, and a nationally regarded authority on Nevada’s railroads, he’s more entitled than most to derail meWigwamCafe for an error, but only pleasantly nudges me that “…the Reno Theater you mentioned last week as being next to the Wigwam cafe, was actually just south of the Overland Hotel on the east side of Center Street.” He’s right, of course; an old photo at the Nevada Historical Society shows the “Nevada” theater, not the “Reno”, next to the Wigwam Café, from 1942 to 1948, when it became the “Crest”.  Mea culpa. 

            About 22 of you all claimed to have the neat clock, the one that we all remember over the fire exit of the Crest with the white hands and blue-neon rim, hanging in your dens.  Several people recalled never, ever sitting under the massive chandelier in the Majestic Theater.  (That chandelier’s featured in  1920s brochure about the Delongchamp’s rejuvenation of the Majestic.)  Several readers mentioned the wide seats – about a seat-and-a-half/three buns) – on the ends of alternating rows in the Tower theater, so that no seat was directly behind another.  Those who would neck in public places, the Pagans, generally grabbed those wide seats first.

             I mentioned that the Granada had no loges in 1950, prompting Pauline Carpenter to scold me for forgetting that the Granada had loges and balcony seating until a 1953 fire trashed the inside of the theater, when it was refurbished with no upper deck.  And I never argue with any lady who was a head Granada usherette during her senior year at Sparks High School (maiden name Pauline Keema).  Nothing escapes you readers…

And then I wrote: Sarah Bernhardt would be hopping mad: The tiny 3,800 square-foot office building in Sparks that Joe Mayer and I eke a living out of has four handicapped parking spaces, with two or three usually in use.  The new art museum on Liberty at Hill Street?  Four handicapped parking spaces.  Go figure…

And that’s the way it was, Spring of 1998. “God bless America” didn’t appear at the end of my columns until the Saturday following 9/11.

The Idlewild Market

Idlewild Market

As the reader may be aware, I’m experimenting more than seriously writing any posts, as I try to move this website into a new era and increase the readership. Therefore, the content is pretty soft and might be for a few more days while I get settled in. Hopefully the Facebook link will generate more readership, which will keep me postin’ for a while!

Here’s a picture I took today of the new “Idlewild Market,” on the spit of land between Westfield Avenue and Foster Drive, facing Booth Street. It was most recently a bank, Citibank as I recall, but that has been closed for a couple of years. Now, it’s apparently destined to becoming a market, which is interesting as there’s a 7-Eleven right across the street. But who knows? I know not of grocery demographics.

In my youth at Reno High the little corner, and at this time ‘way before Foster Drive crossed Booth to become the south terminus of Keystone Avenue, was a series of pre-fast-food places, like Foster’s Freeze and the Fat Boy, look that up on your political correctness index.

This column will try to keep you posted as to its progress in getting open…stay tuned!

FAirview, ELgin and FIreside

PayPhoneThis website is blessed with a cadre of readers with a nexus of two endearing qualities: They use the mother tongue, which I hope is still English, with great aptitude, and secondly they have a copious recall of things as they once were in this burg, which is the foundation that keeps this effort going. Periodically they take pen in hand and shoot me an e-mail that exceeds the best stuff I’m working on in any given week. In days of old I’d play with their words and flip them around to make my own column out of them. Now in my old age I’ve decided to hell with all that charade – now, a couple times a year, I just get their permission (usually), cut-and-paste their e-mail into 12-point Times New Roman, pad it up to 900 words, add God bless America to the end and push the WordPress Publish button.

This morning’s bare-faced plagiarism arrived from my childhood buddy David Chism, whose family has lived here for over a hundred years and gave us The City of Trembling Leaves and Neapolitan ice cream, the latter by accident. David writes:

“Just a thought about a possible topic. Two weeks ago a maintenance type for ATT came by and removed the phone from the phone booth that had been outside the Chism Trailer Park office since 1927. He explained that his crew maintained as many as 6,500 payphones in the Reno area just a few years ago. Our payphone, he said, was one of only 30 left and soon there would be none, and he was being forced to retire along with the phones. The cause is the advent of the cell phone and the fact that it costs ATT about $37.00 a month to maintain a payphone, an amount that the average pay phone hasn’t produced for many years.

“I have many memories of pay phones as I’m sure you do; I remember the one on the landing of the stairs in the Majestic Theater that had the ear piece and cost a nickel. Anyway payphones are no longer; even the airport is considering kiosks where laptops can be plugged in and a courtesy phone be installed for local calls only.”

Good words, David, and thought provoking – a pay phone in continuous use for 80 years (maybe a local record?). A month ago it impacted me in the lobby of the Continental Lodge, or whatever they call it now, when I went to the payphone booth to use a phone book then make a call on my cell phone. The phones, and thus the phone books, were gonzo. Few of us miss the phones now, but those missing books really create a void.

I got a kick out of recalling the pay phone in the Majestic Theater. That classic old theater on the SW corner of Center and East First had one of those old phones with the mouthpiece sticking out of the phone and an earpiece on the end of a fabric cord. And yakking with some guys about David’s e-mail, I was reminded by a few of them that the similar pay phone at the Tower Theater, a block away, returned your nickel if you said “Ready!!” to a parent to catch a ride home during a rainstorm, then slammed the earpiece onto its hanger quickly enough. (Hey, that nickel would buy a roll of chocolate Neccos.)

Maybe now’s the time for a little phone trivia from past columns. According to John Townley’s Tough Little Town on the Truckee, Reno got its first phone in 1879, with Sparks following in 1904. One went into our firehouse in 1908, the year the first phone line was completed across America. The original company, Sunset Bell, a brainchild of Frank Bell who was a shirt-tail relative of Alexander G.’s, became a Pacific Bell unit in 1913. The dial phone originated in 1929. Some of the numbers we found valuable were “POPCORN” for Information, which was then free, and would later become “411” (there’s a cool blue license plate in Reno, W411, that belonged to a local corporate director of information; a great insider gimmick to older residents.) In 1956 they tried a local “116” as a precursor to 911. We could also dial 1-1-9-1 then hang up, which would make the phone ring. This feature was designed so folks on a party line could call each other, but was also handy for rattling your little sister’s cage into thinking that someone might actually be calling her for a date.

Now and then an old phone number sneaks into the column – a few weeks ago I printed a Justice of the Peace’s 1948 four-digit home phone number – and those inclusions prompt inquiries about digits and prefixes. My own 1945 childhood number, 5865 became 2-5865 in 1951; in 1960 it became (FAirview) FA2-5865 and in 1964, 322-5865 and stayed such ‘til 2004. Neighboring offices became ELgin (Sparks), GRanite (Carson City), LIberty (Lake Tahoe) and FIreside (Stead AFB and the North Valleys.) One final bit of trivia: How many of your parents had a phone number that matched their car’s license plate, like John and Chetty Sala’s W5016? Quite a few, I’d imagine.

The Cardinals come to San Francisco

Vatican Pope

This scene, captured last Friday by Ol’ Reno Guy staff photographer Lo Phat outside the Coventry Motor Lodge on Lombard Street, catches the mood of five Cardinals who were denied a room by the Christian Scientist desk clerk as they head for the 30-Stockton Muni bus to seek other lodging.

“They said at the motel when we made reservations in February that they knew the Cardinals were coming to town,” lamented their leader, Enzo Maserati. “Holy Cow,” he added with some authority.

Unfortunately, the desk clerk did know it but there was some confusion; the St. Louis Cardinals came and did indeed clean the Giants’ clock, 3-of-4 in the Giants’ home opener.

Not a great weekend to be a Cardinal in Baghdad-by-the-Bay…

The Ground Cow moos again!

Ground Cow copy
Off to Old Sacramento this weekend, and should have stopped and taken a photo of a sight we noted in Penryn, just a hoot-and-a-holler west of Auburn. As all readers of this site recall, the old Ground Cow we remember from Auburn moved to Penryn ca. 1962, as the Ground Cow. In years to come, it would become about three different restaurants with three different names, all of them lousy.
Now, the once-Penryn Ground Cow is re-named the Ground Cow (hell, this could have happened a year ago and I didn’t notice it. But I don’t think so.) One would hope it is as good as the old one was in Auburn, and when it first moved to Penryn these 50 years ago.
A bit more background: I researched the place once and if I ever wrote a column I can’t find it now. The original Ground Cow, I learned, was in Oakland, opening a second location in Auburn sometime after WWII. And yes, there was a third location in Reno, that one up in the northwest near where Keystone Avenue – then known as Peavine – crossed West Seventh Street – a site that became a casualty of the I-80 freeway construction.

Remember the Circle RB?

Reno Browne

Out West Fourth Street before Stoker Drive was even cut through there was a great restaurant called the Circle RB. I’m working on a story about it in the midst of fighting a computer glitch, and facing a trip out of town Saturday/Sunday.

But in keeping with the thought-a-day commitment, here’s a lady you’ll remember, the blushing bride of Lash Larue, eponymous with the Circle RB Restaurant (now Micasa Two). Which invites the question, where was Micasa (one)?

Much more to follow on this score; the restaurant and the motel to the west, and John Robb Clarke, the attorney and father of RB. There she is on the graphic above.

And Micasa was on the southeast corner of Mill and Terminal, if you’ve read this far. Back in the day when one could park diagonally on Mill or Telegraph. More will follow about all this in days to come…

A companion to the food truck craze, and a revision


Tom Young at Great Basin Brewing recently won Sparks City Council approval for a new service on Victorian Way – look forward to it in the warmer days, be prepared to do your share of pedaling…!

Hey, it’s April Fool’s Day. Yet, it’s still not a bad idea

Added April 2nd: OK, now: April Fool’s over. And a dear ol’ reader, which is all I have are ol’, not all dear, reminded me that the old column, read by old people, uses the old name, “B Street.” That’s all well-and-good, but I’m learning that too many people don’t know where B Street is (Victorian, to them), and the sadder fact is, that some who once knew “B” have forgotten that also. So for all of them, come to our meeting tonight at Boulevard Pizza Parlor, on 17th Street. (Rock Boulevard’s old name, and no, we’re not meeting, but the Masons had a pizza night last Tuesday at the Boulevard and it’s a great joint!)

Possibly not as great as Tom Young’s rolling brew pub. But good pizza nevertheless.

A 1960 Chrysler 300 and a website you’ll enjoy


I’ll never understand the World Wide Web – several years ago I posted a long tale of old Reno car dealerships and how they morphed around the valley. Later, I took the site down and it went to neverland somewhere never to be seen again.

This morning I get an e-mail from a friend in Texas, with THAT website, now under a different URL (web address). It still exists! The car above (a 1960) is one once owned by Andy Drumm, who many readers will remember as the predominant state highway contractor from Fallon (Silver State Construction) who could get anywhere in the State of Nevada in about three hours in his series of Chrysler 300s, all black with a white trunk lid. Those was cars, boys and girls, a fur cry from Chrysler’s wussy 300s of today – these were the muscle cars of yesteryear, when men were men and ships were wood, and sheep were scared. I thank my friend for the website; here’s the address, click on and enjoy a trip back in time in Reno


And if you see a black 300 in your mirror, get the hell out of his way! (Bill Harrah had a fleet of them also, for his execs – a half dozen, I’d guess, in the early 1960s) The car you see in the photo is one of Drumm’s cars that now belongs to my friend, now hauling-tail in the Lone Star State.