March 18 • Lumberyards and Ironworks!

Go the post that started this all…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday February 19 • The Graham Mansion on Ralston Street

Go to the earliest story in this series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Breck at KFBreckenridge@live.com

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Walking East Fourth Street – 2001

 

F-carI pretty much left this alone from its original publication in the Gazoo. BTW, “Homefinders” was the section of the paper I wrote in, and I formed a Homefinders Club for the readership. And don’t ask me why I used a SF Muni streetcar for a photo – there’s no reason whatsoever…

“You’ve walked all over town in past columns, why don’t the Homefinder readers walk East Fourth Street?”  Or so a few readers wrote.

          It’s mostly because the RG-J recently carried an excellent three-issue overview of East Fourth with more ink and graphics than I could ever hope to squeeze out of the real estate editor.  This piece started as a commentary on old signs, but while riding around with a notepad some quirky thoughts of East Fourth in Reno and B Street – Victorian Way – in Sparks still beckoned to be heard, so we’ll mix up the two themes this morning.

          The two neon signs that most interest me while I’m enjoying an ale or three at Great Basin brewery in Sparks are first, the Pony Express Motel sign at the Prater/Victorian “Y”, a late-1940s product of Pappy Smith’s (Harolds Club) and Young Electric Sign’s imaginations.  I started to write that it was the first “motion” neon sign in town – (the arrows being shot from the Indians’ bows) – but I now spell-check out any superlatives, like first, oldest, highest, etc.  And “railroad” or “architect” for that matter.

          It’s much too big to steal, but the second sign I lust after is more portable, in front of the old Park Motel on Prater Way; the Phillip Morris-type bellboy with the once-waving arm that used to beckon travelers into the “motor lodge.”  It’s a creation that would blow the CC&Rs of the God-forsaken desert to smithereens if I lit it up in my backyard, waving at the architectural committee.  No chance.  Note the other remaining motor hotel signs on East Fourth – the Sandman, with the tires on the prewar sedan that once appeared to revolve.  And the classic neon art style, with no name that I know of attributed to it, on Everybody’s Inn and Alejo’s motels’ signs, and a few others – hopefully they will all be saved, rehabilitated and displayed somewhere as signs of a bygone era, no pun intended.  

          Check out the architecture on East Fourth – the brick patterns in the Alturas Hotel, J.R. Bradley Company, the buildings that flourished in the early postwar period like Siri’s Restaurant, Reno Mattress and some of the retail stores.  Replicating the rococo brickwork style in some of those buildings today would cost a fortune.  And Ernie’s Flying “A” truck stop, we called it then, now signed as RSC Something-or-other: The fluted column-tower signature of Flying “A” stations has long since been all but removed from this garage, but look close and you can easily detect a close resemblance to Landrum’s Café architecture on South Virginia – a very prevalent commercial style of a prewar period.  (Ernie’s was, with McKinnon & Hubbard on West Fourth Street, the forerunner of Boomtown, the Alamo and Sierra Sid’s to old U.S. Highway 40 truckers.)  And, if I’m permitted to editorialize, hats off to my old buddy Steve Scolari, whose family business Ray Heating – now RHP – has been on East Fourth for 70-plus years.  Faced with the need to expand, he turned the main office building facing East Fourth Street into a great-looking little office, yet retained its post-war nuance, then upgraded a half-dozen industrial buildings on the street and railroad land to the south into very serviceable first-class modern shops, preserving the workforce and tax base in the East Fourth corridor.  A gutty move, but a lead that more property owners in areas like East Fourth and South Wells Avenue should follow.  And progressive city management, not hell-bent on plowing two or three hundred million dollars into a hole in the ground, should offer tax incentives for this “infill” redevelopment like other cities do.  End of tirade.

Evidence of a bygone retail presence on East Fourth is Windy Moon Quilts on Morrill Avenue, the only quilt shop in town with a drive-up window.  Why?  ‘Cuz it once was a busy and highly profitable branch of First National Bank, that’s why.  [2016 note: Windy Moon has a second location now, in the old Mary Ann Nichols Elementary School on Pyramid Way.]

          We couldn’t tour East Fourth without stopping at the architecturally resplendent Tap ‘n Tavern, where that’s not sawdust on the floor, but last night’s furniture, and then mosey on down Highway 40 to Casale’s Half-way Club for world-class pizza, and if Mama Stempeck ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. What a great lady…

          Many notes remain and readers will kick in a few more, so we’ll probably go back and finish this tour soon.  (I’LL PUT IT ON THIS WEBSITE AFTER HOT AUGUST NIGHTS – kb.) I detected a slight deterrent to development on East Fourth while driving, starting, stopping, backing up, making notes and taking pictures, stopping again: on several occasions local ladies practicing the world’s oldest profession invited themselves into my pickup for a good time, some of whom were probably undercover police.  “Honest, officer, I’m researching a column for the Homefinder.”  (Good story, buddy, tell it to Judge Salcedo.)

  • • •

Giddyup: I’ve mentioned Mt. Rose Sporting Goods liberally in columns about downtown Reno and Park Lane, and thanked Kenny York and his late brother-in-law Sonny Burke for putting half of us through college by giving us jobs.  There probably won’t be more than 10,000 Homefinder readers delighted to know that Kenny will be the Honorary Grand Marshall of the Reno Rodeo this week, lookin’ good on his ol’ cayuse.

          The G-rated story of the Southern Pacific’s call girls in Sparks promised two weeks ago has not been forgotten, stay tuned.  Yes, all 17 of you nit-pickers, the old main fire station was on the southeast corner of Commercial and West Streets, not northwest as I wrote.  I knew better, my Cub Scout Pack 304 went there once. 

          And our friends at Ralston Foods on Greg Street, all 124 of them, are working on 522 Accident-Free days as I write this.  That’s close to 65,000 man-days without an accident.  Hell, I didn’t do that well at Breckenridge Realty, and I was the only employee with the most dangerous machine an electric pencil sharpener.  Good for you all, keep it up.

          Have a good week, Let’s get it on, Mills; ride ‘em cowboy and God Bless America.

 

© Reno Gazette-Journal, 2001

California Avenue, briefly…

Belmont Apartments

California Avenue, so named because it was the road to California, natch; follow it westward to Mayberry and beyond, ‘cross the river and onward up the Truckee’s canyon, and where are you? Well, California, of course – that’s how the early travelers got to the Golden State, beyond My Favorite Muffin, the Truckee River Bar & Grill, and a little past Raley’s, and they were there!!

Well, sort of, anyway. Today we’re just ambling around the street by daylight, but on Thursday night – Dec. 11th – from about five o’clock on you can stroll, shop, have a glass of holiday cheer, wear a top hat and look like a complete idiot if you want to – watch out for the TV cameras though; I got caught in the Blue Plate a couple of years ago (yeah, we have our own restaurant.) [That, the Plate Special, ws the former name of the Ol’ Reno Guy website.] There are supposed to be strolling carolers, and indeed there were, the first year, but the last two years some kind of fire dancers showed up with a few thousand decibels of rap crap music and most strollers strolled off to Buffalo. Or shuffled, can’t remember.

My roots go deep on California Avenue – in 1950 my dad, Karl the Elder, bought what was generally known as the Larsen house at 320 California Avenue – across the street from Roy Hardy’s house. I remember vividly seeing Mr. Hardy’s nurse, a stout woman in traditional white nurse’s apparel with a screwy cap, pushing him out onto the patio of the house – it had a patio then on its lower floor. And there he’d sit, taking in the sun on a Saturday morning. Went over and talked to him a few times, we kids did, to see if we could play ball on his front lawn, which seemed then to be huge. It was cool with him, and we did. He was a nice guy.

It was during that period of time that another fine old home was being moved by Rom Bevelaqua, from the lot next east to Roy Hardy’s house. It was a beaut, reminiscent of the Levy Mansion, now Sundance Books & Music, just down the street that’s still on the corner of Sierra (then Granite), but a bit smaller. It was taken out Plumas Street to a site near Mountain View Drive across from the present tennis courts. Pharmacist Bill Ramos, a nice guy from El Salvador who had operated a drug store downtown, had bought the site, with the help of a few doctors (who would later occupy the building to the east, facing on Hill Street). Ramos Drug opened in 1951 and was a fixture in Reno – prescription drugs, sundries, and the greatest soda fountain in town (yikes, now I’ll hear about a few dozen more favorites and have to write about them also!) That Ramos building is now the Cheese Board). Oh, yeah; Deux Gros Nes was upstairs for many years – that freestyle happenin’ joint occupied the space that Bill Ramos originally built as his own living quarters, and there he lived for a number of years (he later moved to Hidden Valley, and has now passed away.) Another stalwart, Powell’s Drug, is now a bar.

My dad built a building at 320 California Avenue, with three units (316, 318 and 320) and opened it in 1951 [it now houses the Postal Depot]. It was designed and built by contractor Clifford Blabon, who designed and built many homes in southwest Reno, my favorite at 864 Marsh Avenue, built for gambler Bernie Einstoss and his family. One of the nicest homes in Reno, to this day, if you can abide the Marsh Avenue traffic. The Larsen home remained behind the little office building, used as a contract bridge studio and later a decorator’s office until the late 1970s. Across the alley to the west was and remains a very luxurious six-unit apartment house for its time, originally called the Jamison Apartments and built by the contractor (Jamison)) that built the First Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science) church on the Truckee, now known as the Lear Theater.

Next up the street west is My Favorite Muffin, in the former California Avenue Market building (note that name; there was a California Market downtown before WWII, on Virginia on a site that’s now the Eldorado.) The California Avenue Market was a dandy, and catered to the landed gentry clients in the Newlands Manor and mansion row on the bluff to the west. Their service was heavily by delivery – I have a photo of my dad delivering groceries on the grocery’s bike, with a huge basket on the handlebars. George Minor started the grocery; many readers of this column in its print versions recall Charlie Bradley, Minor’s butcher who took the market over in the 1950s. And the more I write of California Avenue the more it is starting to dawn on me that I wrote about the street a couple of times, years ago, and they’re in my book in the Walkin’ California Avenue segment. (And while I’m at it, I may as well attach another column, that about the Levy Mansion at California and Sierra.)

On the southwest corner of California Avenue and Lander you’ll see, on your Christmas Stroll next Thursday evening, a handsome brick building that’s had a number of uses – originally it served as Otto Linnecke’s Reno Business College. I wrote once that the building was originally a military structure, e.g. a two-story office, barracks, whatever, and that I’m pretty sure of. I also wrote that it was moved to the present site from Sierra Army Depot on East Second Street – see a column I wrote in print earlier this year – or less-possibly from Stead AFB. That I was pretty sure of, but defied research. After writing that I heard from numerous experts, who are a never-growing number, that it came alternatively from Stead, from Virginia City, from Dayton, and a few other sites, some not generally associated with the military. Frankly, I don’t know for sure where it came from, but Rom Bevelaqua told me it was moved in. Good enough for me. Following its use as a business college, it became the studio for KOLO radio, when The Sound of the Sierra moved from its mezzanine location in the El Cortez. KOLO was there for quite a time, and the building has had a number of users since KOLO vacated it. Its owners have always done an admirable job of maintaining it

 Across the street to the north side take note of the St. James Infirmary. Now that new watering hole has an interesting past – it was originally built by Otto Linnecke as a printing plant for his business college in the two-story brick building across the street, mentioned in the graf above. In the beginning Otto used it only for his own, business college-related stuff, but started taking in work to fill in slack time until it eventually rose to be one of the top offset printeries in Reno, catering to the public. It remained in business as such until relatively recently. [2006]

Your voices spoke last week, following the “tour” of “Midtown Reno,” from California Avenue south to Mt. Rose Street: “Karl, your column’s too damn long…”  OK – we’ll cut it off at this point, and reserve the right to go back to California Avenue on some week in the future.

Have a good week; tell a friend about this site and come back occasionally during the week as I can see it’s not all going to get updated in one swell foop on one night a week. Enjoy the California Avenue Stroll and God bless America!

© Reno Gazette-Journal Dec. 2006

 

 

_Banquete_tiffany

Enter a large man with a wooden mallet who hits me right between the horns with a guttural incantation: “Finish – the – Plumb – and – South Virginia – intersection – yarn…”

            Why didn’t I think of that???

            OK – I made some notes at the Nevada Historical Society, which will henceforth be known as the “NHS” on this web, get used to it, from Sanborn Maps, City Directories and some old friends’ recollections. We’re downtown and heading south along two-lane South Virginia Street, Plumb Lane is brand-new but we don’t think it had a stop signal in its first incarnation. Wells Avenue comes in from the east, a service station on both corners, with a couple of fast-food joints on the corners. Some of the coolest rock-work in the valley is on our right at the El Borracho Lounge and the El Dorado Motel – still there, next time you drive by, take a look and imagine what it would cost to replicate that today.

            Al Vario, a popular fixture in the downtown late-night scene and a good guy all around, had just opened his “Vario’s” fine restaurant – one of Reno’s premium high-end night spots for dining, dancing and cocktails. I’ve mentioned it in columns past as being on a par with two others, Eugene’s, a little further to the south by the present Peppermill, and the Bundox at East First and Lake Streets. Al Vario sold his restaurant, after a great career of entertaining two generations of locals (and moved to Arizona); following a couple of intervening operators, it became “Bricks,” which remains to this day as one of Reno’s premier restaurants – you can count them on one hand… “Bricks,” by the way, is correct with no possessive apostrophe – the place is named for the extensive use of brick in the original Frank Green design.

            South of Vario’s/Bricks, hang on, you’ll love this: a golf driving range. It was called the Tom Thumb Driving Range, and had the best snack bar in Reno, most agree. (Jack Pine remembers the “pickle burger” they served, with a pickle inside the patty, invisible.) And, your next ball popped up from underground, automatically, after you drove. Cool. The driving range, where you hit from Virginia Street west to Lakeside Drive, was the brainchild of Al Vario and contractor Bob Helms, who was starting to rule the roost in the highway construction business. And maybe a couple other guys. The ultimate plan was to use the site for a hotel/casino on a grand scale. That never happened; in later years that massive lot was subdivided into office parcels visible today from the street. Interestingly, the streets were named for Lincoln and Mercury automobile models.

            And why was that, you say? Glad you asked: Sometime soon after 1960 and the Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, the owners of Eugene’s restaurant (e-mail me for a copy of that old column) whose names were Joe Patrucco and Gilbert Vasserot, envisioned a great new motel, on the northwest corner of brand-new Plumb Lane and South Virginia Street. They were both émigrés from Europe, and chose “Continental” for the name of their new venture. It was designed after the lines of the Holiday Lodge (now bygone) on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco – a south-seas look, very enduring, still one of the prettiest motels in Reno today. It had a fine restaurant mimicking their Eugene’s, a lounge that jumped (the Central Park), a gift store, a beauty shop, and remains a hub of Reno today. Why not rejuvenate the storied Central Park Lounge – parking shortage probably. In its heyday street parking was generous. No longer.

            And that “Continental” name explains the nearby street names…

Still driving south, we encounter a corner, sort of, at what will become “Plumb Lane” extended, but in the years close to 1960 about all we’ll see are used car lots on three corners, on the corner where the Continental will soon be built are now Pontiacs from still-downtown Winkel Motors, and kitty-corner from that on the future Park Lane corner, the embryonic Lee Bros. Leasing and Sales. At the present IHOP location was Whitey’s Union 76, a place where a guy comes out and puts gas in your car, washes your windshield, checks your oil (under the hood, it’s called) and airs your tires. Quite a concept. In a year or two, Security Bank of Nevada – later Security National Bank – Art Johnson at the helm, would open in the present B of A branch.

            Footnote: I used just one time “catercorner,” correct for “kitty-corner,” and “International House of Pancakes,” also only one time, and learned that Americans like their slang. In this column it’s IHOP and kitty-corner. And a few non-words you won’t find in Websters.

            A Motel 6 will soon appear on the southwest corner, that cardinal number indicative of the cost of a night’s lodging, which sounds a lot more rhythmic than “Motel 83” which is what a Motel 6 cost me in San Mateo recently. On that corner, where, by the way, one could parallel park on South Virginia Street in front of the coffee shop, was a “Sambo’s” which sort-of started to be a part of the Continental across the street but negotiations broke down. It was a gathering spot for half the town, as were its sister locations on Keystone and West Fourth (now gone), and on B Street in Sparks (Jack’s). Sambo’s name was actually taken from the founders, whose names were Sam and Baureguard or some such thing, but was interpreted by some with another connotation, and the Sambo’s reign ended in Reno and nationally. There was at least a few years ago, the first one in the town of my birth, Santa Barbara. (And I’ll hear that it had nothing to do with the name, just bad business. Dunno.) Anyway, now, it’s a Chinese joint.

            Which takes us one joint south, that one specializing in sushi, which some people actually ingest. That building, we all know, was the home of Waldren Oldsmobile following Frank Waldren’s move of your grandfather’s car dealership from downtown – one of the earlier GM migrations to the burbs. The mini-shopping center lying to the west along Hillcrest Drive was the dealership’s mechanic and body shops.

            Across South Virginia in the pre-Park Lane days, we can’t forget the Key Animal Hospital, Dr. Joe Key, still kickin’, a great guy and lifelong friend, and further to the south, the storied Doll House, and that wasn’t Barbee and Ken shakin’ their booties in the wee hours of school nights.

            I’ve some other notes, and readers will probably send in a few more – and I’ve got some photographs stuck somewhere in the great beyond of cyberspace, which seems to be my milieu lately – so our trek around Plumb and South Virginia probably will roll on again. Somebody will probably want to know about the Old Orchard Trailer Park – I’ll meet you right here.

            Have a good week, and God bless America!

 

© RGJ Feb. 2006

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Walkin’ downtown

Misfits

In an unguarded moment a few months ago I mentioned that if I ever bound these thoughts into a book I’d probably title it You’re going to do what to the Mapes? A better title might be something as boring as Strolling Downtown Reno, for it is those strolling columns that seem to draw the most reader response. [And that I love to write.] Following a few downtown strolls some notes, questions, and recollections piled up so off we go, the Saturday morning movie at the Tower Theater is just letting out; John Wayne and Richard Widmark beat the bad guys again and The Thing didn’t catch us so we’ll walk around downtown some more.

            Most of the questions that arose were of the “where was the…?” category and while neither I nor my research assistant Carmine Ghia laid awake any nights over them, we can respond to a few: The Club Frisco – don’t call it that around Herb Caen – was in the Harrah block of North Virginia Street. Walton’s Town & Country Décor was on North Sierra, no known connection to the funeral home of the same name. That brings to mind the new office complex being built south of Del Monte Lane called Mountain View, a name that some out-of-town developer may come to regret. I for one already have too many friends residing in Mountain View, and they don’t keep office hours. Someone asked about the Red River Lumber Company; look out East Fourth Street in the 300 block, but call ahead to be safe that it’s open. Martin’s Cash Grocery was at East Fourth and Evans, and yeah, yeah, yeah, a good column might be of old mom-and-pop grocery stores – I hear that all the time and you’re right. Before families had 23 cubic foot refrigerators a trip to a corner grocery – not a supermarket – was de rigueur once every couple of days, and I’m cataloguing nearly 60 corner grocery stores in 1950s Reno and Sparks.

            The Elk Hotel? On Commercial Row by the Arch Drug, and it had nothing to do with the Elks’ Home by the river. (Across Virginia Street was the Stag Inn, a good corner for the antlered.)   “What was the Huskie Haven you mentioned in a Center Street walk column?” ‘Twas a social, after-school club for Reno’s only (public) high school (can you tell that I tangled with Manogue’s alumni over a “Reno’s only high school” reference a few months back?) Huskie Haven was former fire station on the corner of Center and Ryland, great pool tables, darts, study areas – a good place to hang out. It closed as a school district-sanctioned facility in 1955 when the Reno School District became the Washoe County School District, but continued on an unofficial basis, hosting dances most Friday nights at the California Building or State Building, and ice skating at Idlewild’s ponds during weeknights in conjunction with Parks & Rec. Life was good. And the Huskies welcomed the Sparks and Manogue kids. Primarily their women.

            The Western Milk Depot, you asked? East Fourth near Evans, getting the milk cans off the Western Pacific Railroad cars arriving from Sierra Valley every day. When the excellent Washoe (Period) restaurant opened in the old Glory Hole recently, a reader wrote, “wasn’t there a Washoe Restaurant in Reno years ago?” Sure was – on Commercial Row. A radio station on Stevenson Street?   KOH, on the west side of the street, torn down when the topic of another reader question, the Greyhound bus depot was built. Harrah’s wanted the downtown bus station site next to the Santa Fe hotel, primarily so the intervening alley could be abandoned and their properties joined. They acquired the half-block between West First, Second, Stevenson and the alley, then designed and built a bus station then exchanged it for Western Greyhound Lines’ terminal on Lake Street, (which curiously was never razed). That transaction was not without public rancor, for a few narrow-minded souls didn’t really want a bus station by a beautiful park and the river, knowing as they did that some discerning bus riders feel that there’s nothing more satisfying than fine wine and a snooze in a park after a long bus ride. Harrah’s prevailed. Imagine that. And closing out Stevenson Street, the early YWCA was on the northeast corner of Stevenson and West First.

            The original name of early Reno’s premier law firm? Try Hoyt, Norcross, Thatcher, Woodburn & Henley, and why do you ask me questions like that? I’m a street guy, not a name guy. Researching this, Carmine also found an ancient reference to the firm of McCarren & Wedge, proving that we’ve been misspelling Senator Pat McCarran’s name for over half a century now. McMahan’s Furniture was downtown, as a reader recalled, on Commercial Row well into the 1960s. [Somewhere in this book we learn that later-congressman Walter Baring sold finer parlor furniture there.] No one asked, but Whitehouse Clothiers, Jacobs (clothes) and yikes! – a hock shop were also on early Commercial Row. Soon we’ll gather at the all-new Shoofly Saloon near the location of the old Nevada Turf Club.

            Harry’s Business Machines – a sure Great Homefinder Longest-Running Business candidate if I ever get back on that kick – was and is on West Street, just north of the tracks. (Following a couple of GHLRB columns, I was accused of selling out accolades for goods and services, like I need fuel oil from Washoe Keystone for my gas furnace or Peerless Cleaners to press either of my Oxford shirts.) Harry’s owner Gordon Foote is a friend and a frequent contributor.   [GHLRB = Great Homefinder Longest-Running Businesses. Not one of my brighter ideas, in retrospect.]

            Closing notes: The old Temple Emmanuel? I’ll mention it again: on the east side of West Street across from old Reno High/later Central Jr. High School. I can’t resist including that Kay Fujii’s Nevada Nursery was on the south side of North Street, and the Western Pacific tracks ran along the west side of East Street. (East Street, never a dedicated street, actually the NCO/Western Pacific railroad right-of-way, mysteriously became known as Record Street relatively recently.)

       You read this first in the Gazoo: Greg Street was named for Greg McKenzie (true) and Picabo Street (possibly). Have a good week; go buy a house, and God bless America.

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© Karl Breckenridge 2004 from “You’re Doing WHAT to the Mapes?” and the Reno Gazette-Journal