Happy New Year to all!

LittleKarlOur editorial staff last evening, New Years Eve, played hooky from our bounden duty to readers of updating this site, and instead streamed a classic: “Smokey and the Bandit” – the Bandit, Snowman, Fred the Basset, the Frog, Beaufort P. Justus, still ranking up there with Butch and Sundance and with Igor and Frawnkensteen for the three greatest shit-kickin’, no-brainer, New Years Eve flicks ever made!

Thanks for coming back and viewing – as in the past 12 years, the site in 2019 will be no cropped-cropped-kfb-bow-tiedifferent – poorly-written and -edited notes about God-knows-what, arriving on your screen with little or no forethought nor schedule – this year with hopefully a bit more reader participation, wherein I’m downplaying the “comments” feature of the site in favor of including my email address below and inviting everything from a short squib about a past column to your submission of a complete new column, that I can post for all to see. Don’ worry about the gramer or speling – I’ll fix that for you. Photos are welcome and encouraged with releases and accreditation, and no downer stuff – this remains an upbeat, non-political place to visit and relax.

On that score, I encourage newer readers to utilize the WordPress “search” function in the box below. Type in a keyword and then click the box and scroll down. You may just find what you’re seeking. If not, email me and I’ll try to help. There are over 420 posts on the site and I don’t know myself what’s posted here! But if it’s somewhere we’ll find it, or maybe just write a new one for all to enjoy.

Now – it’s the kickoff day to a great year, the sun’s out – let’s make a dandy!

KarlBreckenridge490@gmail.com (a new address for column/website traffic; don’t panic, the old live.com address still works. Usually.)

Advertisements

The Lancer Restaurant and its grapes

Lancer

I no sooner post a TBT of the Lancer Restaurant on the Mt. Rose highway, than my buddy ol’ Chuk Thomas gives me the authentic recipe for the famous Lancer grapes, the highlight (or at least one highlight) of their menu.

Both images are c. 1965; the Lancer, which prior to that name was the Mesa, burned on July 30, 1971. Yeah, I know, it’s “Chuck,” but Chuk is an old nickname. Here’s the recipe, somebody lemme know how it came out!LancerGrapes

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

More faded menus…

Liberty Belle

I used to save reader correspondence for a rainy day but am now of the opinion that saving for a sunny day might make as much sense. Our intrepid researcher Carmine Ghia and loyal assistant Persephone have a couple things in the mill for the next few Saturdays, but for this morning, so much good stuff has come in from a number of readers that we’re going with a Liberty Belle Farewelle wrap-up with a few more faded menus. Discarding grammar to make a little more space, we’re off to a few old haunts:

            My RHS buddy Russell Kuchler nominated a few; downtown on Virginia Street we find Tiny’s Waffle Shop, identified in a past column as Ty Cobb the Elder’s favorite after he’d filed his Cobbwebs column. Russ and several readers nominated Miguel’s, in both its locations, and Miguel Ribera’s earlier incarnation The Cove. Russ and others also nominated the Spudnut Shop on West Fourth at Ralston, and agreed with Hannah Satica that the Big Y drive-in in Sparks, at the big Y of Kietzke and B Street should be on the list. Hannah offered Dug’s West Indies in Carson City, and agreed with primo barbershop tenor Lauren House that the Moulin Rouge, on Sierra just north of West First is a definite honoree (Gilbert Vasserot owned the Moulin Rouge, closing it to partner with Joe Patrucco and open Eugene’s on South Virginia.) Lauren also threw Siri’s on East Fourth into the mix, and a few others joined him in reminding me of the Shore Room at the Holiday Hotel.

            In that restaurant-in-a-hotel category – yikes; now this thing has categories!? – we can’t forget the Trocadero Room in the El Cortez, later to be operated by Bill Fong of the New China Club, included in the earlier column. A favorite reader named the Troc but won’t let me use her name. Len Crocker, in his day another legendary sportswriter alongside the above-mentioned Ty Cobb Sr. at the Gazoo and the Nevada State Journal, swears that he saw Chico Marx one night at Johnny’s Open Door on Moana Lane – a joint that brought a lot of “Why-didn’t-you-mention-its” after the last column. And touched off a beef over some knowledgeable-but-daft readers whether Johnny’s was in the present Yen Ching across from Moana ballpark, or in another building that burned, and was replaced by the grocery store that later became Yen Ching. I’m flummoxed to say for sure, but it was quite a popular place. Johnny’s last name was Ross, by the way. Nan Spina sent a photo of Bishop Manogue’s first school bus.Bishop Manogue Bus copy

            Whoop, wrong file.

The Lancer came in a couple times from anonymous phone callers (leave your name and a number if you call; I’ll never use it without your permission.) And, the Lancer, which burned on July 30, 1971, was originally the Mesa, as several reported. Janet Blakely Horen, from faraway Washington state, recalls her grandmother Anna Frandsen Loomis taking all her grandkids to John Petrinovich’s Grand Café downtown for Sunday dinners, French lamb chops the specialty. I’ve mentioned Mrs. Loomis as a favorite lady from my childhood and as the lady who endowed the Christian Science Church and hired Paul Revere Williams to design it. I took Jan to the Mapes Coffee Shop for a milkshake while in high school but she didn’t mention that night in her e-mail. How soon they forget…

Several folks mentioned a few more places, and I pulled out some old menus to refresh my memory: Ray’s, between Reno and Sparks; owner Ray Saake named the restaurant’s Gay-Nor Room for his kids, my contemporaries Gaye and Norman. A buck-and-a-quarter for a Club House san. Cool. How ‘bout the Rice Bowl on Glendale in Sparks? It brought a half-dozen contacts, and at $2.35 for dinner for six I’m not surprised.   Mimi’s Hideaway, later the Truckee River Yacht Club on South Virginia Street, where Kenny Etter and I met faithfully to study for our real estate exams. The Central Park Lounge, Cork Proctor at the mike, in the Continental Lodge.

The Homefinder Faded Menu list goes on; I wish I could use more names of nominators, and I thank you all. And, thanks to the many who sent the recipe for Lerude’s Wigwam Apple Pie. It’s on the saving-for-a-sunny day topic list, and I can’t run it soon enough.



We say goodbye this morning to a pair of readers, old friends all. Helene Aldaz was once the only girls’ counselor in the only public high school in Reno, but her influence and great personality transcended to Reno High’s boys and girls alike. “Peach” and her husband Eddie, an insurance man who passed away four decades ago, became original residents of Westfield Village and never moved out – my dad sold them their house for about eight grand – and now I’m going to stick my neck ‘way out and say that when she passed away a fortnight ago she was the last original homeowner in Westfield.

            Dale Darney left us a week ago today. Dale was a wonderful family guy and one of a trio of honest, serious historians of local railroads, the S.P,, Carson and Colorado, and his long suit, the Virginia & Truckee. He spent countless hours pulling together data from the California and Nevada Railroad Historical Societies and libraries, and the Bancroft Library at the University of California. He was of invaluable help to me, and to other scribes, and we send the readers’ best to Lynn and his family.

            FountainWe journey next Tuesday to stand at o-dark-thirty near Lotta’s Fountain on Market Street in San Francisco, wherefrom Enrico Caruso serenaded the survivors of the San Francisco Earthquake, one hundred years ago that morning. And we’ll cable an account of the centennial proceedings for next week’s page 10. Until then, have a good week and God bless America.

April 10, 2006

© RGJ 2006

A hometown Duncan Hines and faded menus…

 

Eugene'sLast Saturday’s elegiac paean to the Liberty Belle, as predicted, provoked a near-unprecedented stream of memories, running the gamut from hilarious to poignant.  All are saved; nothing goes to waste in the ol’ writer’s garret and they’ll be trotted out soon – when I can get them all into one pile.  Er, file.

            There arrived among these contacts some peripheral restaurant notes not associated with our Belle Farewelle specifically, in these cases memories of other favorite now-bygone restaurants, or their signature dishes.  I’m reminded of two 2001 back-to-back columns – merged into one in my earlier “Mapes” book – about Eugene’s restaurant, a Reno classic that closed two decades before.  Following those columns I was accused by not one but three, which approaches all, readers of writing-for-food, which is to say, “Write something nice about a restaurant and then pick up a free dinner in return.”  These readers were probably unclear on the concept that for a columnist to realize a freebie meal out of any joint, which I’ve never done in 24 years, it’s mandatory that the joint be open for business at the time of publishing the compliment.  These three readers have since moved on to the RGJ’s Contract Bridge or the fascinating “Patents” column that appears in the main news section,, both of which use large-print and single-syllable words, just for them.

            Ergo, I will not receive a free meal in exchange for a gratuitous mention from Della’s Coach and Horses. Nor from the Big Hat, at the southwest corner of Moana and South Virginia when that intersection was the south end of Reno (and no, it wasn’t called the White Hat; I’ve been taken down that path before.)  Ahh, the Jubilee, at the north end of the grade starting up Washoe hill heading for Carson City, or Hagel’s Villa – known by a host of names but mostly Hagel’s –  in Washoe City, east side of 395 just north of Winters Ranch.  Great suburban dining when parties were more prone to get out of town a mile or ten for a cocktail.  Within that category and I’m surprised no one nailed it this week, was the Christmas Tree – now politically correctly-but-stupidly renamed to “Tannenbaum” by new out-of-town owners here now to help us local-yokels out, gastronomically speaking. [It’s now a banquet affair with BYO food.] They have asked me for a plug, but won’t get it.

Chop Suey on a Cowboy tabletop   

The Chinese Pagoda got a few votes, down on the north side of B Street in Sparks at what I’ll wildly guess was 4th Street.  It later moved to Stoker Drive and into the former Circle RB restaurant, named of course for Reno Browne, where the Pagoda served Chop Suey on Formica tables still with the Circle RB wagon wheel and branding iron pattern.  True international dining.  Or try the Toscano, on Lake Street for a Sunday family dinner – many were the nights three or four families’ kids went in one private booth for their minestrone soup while our folks had a little red wine in another.  Or one could go next door to Columbo’s for Reno’s first pizza, Ralph Festina and his charming wife in the kitchen. [And I heard about the “charming…”] By the way, that Colombo’s was indeed downtown on Lake Street, not the one later on the river (Truckee River Lane) nor the even later one that’s now a Black Bear Diner.

The coffee groups sound off, gastronomically

Signature dishes?  The Seven Ayem Senior Moment Krispy Kreme & BS Kaffeeklatch, led by Red Kittell, started a list and George Twaddle took it to his Lions Club where it was lengthened.  Kittell, a City of Reno Historical Resources Committee member, thinks these should all be added to Reno’s heritage by a City Council fiat:

            The Lancer’s spinach salad (I kind of like Ascuaga’s)…any pastries from PollyAnna’s…Woolworth’s (downtown) grilled cheese with a milkshake…morning coffee at the Eagle Thrifty lunch counter (someone will probably ring in with coffee at Grey Reid’s Bird Cage)…how ‘bout escargot at the Mapes Coach Room?

            Now then, from the Wigwam, Second at Sierra, hot apple pie with the brandy sauce, which at this writing 473 readers have confided in the past that they ALONE have Les Lerude’s recipe for, but none will share…shrimp scampi at Eugene’s (my vote would be for any of their desserts)…illegally imported abalone at Bill Fong’s New China Club (see reference to the Toscano above – same place, became Fong’s a decade later)…a Wolf burger at the Jot Travis Student Union on the university campus, remembered by all as a burger with a fried egg on the top…Festina’s Pizza, refer to the Columbo reference above; Ralph Festina left Columbo’s to open his own parlor. And took his wife along (she later drowned in Virginia Lake).

            A toss-up between local Sierra and Tahoe Beer, built by Reno Brewing Company on East Fourth at Morrill Avenue…Chism Ice Cream, anywhere…Steak Diane at the old 19th Hole, capped with a Coffee Diablo expertly mixed by barmeister Jeff Courson.  We’ll skip the tale of the local attorney who fried his Rolex trying to mimic Jeff’s expertise with flaming brandy.  But we’ll include that Jeff stayed his post alongside Geno Oliver at the Liberty Belle until a week ago yesterday as you read this.  Great guys.

            Space dwindles: Minestrone soup and antipasto at Ric Panelli’s Spaughi’s…a martini at the Glory Hole…got to include a chili cheese omelette at Landrum’s on South Virginia…Shakey’s munch-a-bunch-all-you-can-eat-pizza-and-wings, if the Wolf Burger at the Jot couldn’t get your cholesterol into quadruple digits, and finally, or probably not finally, but sadly, a drum roll please: prime rib at the Liberty Belle.

            And we ain’t done yet…

  • • •

A nice tribute: Waiting in Victorian Way traffic behind Sparks Fire Department’s new red “triple” engine earlier this week, I noticed its placard on the hose bay “Keep Back 343 Feet”.  Pulling alongside the cab, I asked the fireman by the window, “What’s with 343 feet?”

            “That’s one foot for every firefighter that died in 9/11.”

            Have a good week, and God bless America.

 

© Mar. 23, 2006 RGJ

 

 

 

 

You’re doing WHAT to the Liberty Belle?

Liberty Belle

PHOTO CREDIT: © ROY POWERS, SCANNED FROM A DOCUMENT IN MY POSSESSION

I’ve a fond recollection of a ’52 Chevy full of Reno High hotshots returning from an afternoon of skiing at Sky Tavern.  Far south of where U.S. 395 became South Virginia Street on the east side of the two-lane road was, well, a little red barn.  We needed nourishment…

            “Let’s stop here,” said one.  “Wasn’t this the Li’l Red Barn?” another asked.  “Yup,” said yet another.  (That watering hole had become the “Liberty Belle” a month or so earlier, on Nov. 20, 1958.)  We entered, ordered, and met Frank and Marshall Fey, whose grandfather had invented the Liberty Bell slot machine, that Bell with no second “e,” and they had just moved from San Mateo, Cal. to open their new saloon.  We formed a friendship that has lasted for 48 years. [and, 61 years next March 2014!]

            I scribe this on a Tuesday for you to read on a Saturday, not knowing for sure whether or when we will satiate ourselves at the Belle again.  I do know that there will follow scores of other patrons’ pleasant recollections and a ton of ink about it in the next few months, and thus I’m moved to offer a few thoughts to the assembled Homefinders.

            By some measure I write of many old Reno establishments that have all converged over time under one roof – that roof itself supporting some of the eight horse-drawn wagons that the Feys acquired from Roy Stagg’s Roaring Camp, a downtown 1940s tourist draw in the now-vacant triangle bounded by Lake, East First and Second Streets.  Two heavy ore wagons near the building later arrived, one from Death Valley and the other from Mina.

            One hundred years minus 30 days ago, the city of San Francisco was ravaged by an earthquake and fire – from that maelstrom to Reno came the heavy bronze doors from Market Street’s Palace Hotel.  Marshall once quipped that it cost them $250 for the doors and two grand to adapt the Belle’s front entrance to utilize them.  We’ve all opened them a few times.  Underfoot, wooden planks form the decking of the entrance, not just any planks but wood taken from the entrance to the Federated Church on Virginia Street at Fifth when the church was razed to make room for parking at the new Sewell’s market in 1948.

            Inside the Belle and over the bar hang two chandeliers and three round glass globes – those hung for 80 years downtown at the Wine House until that venerable saloon was razed to make room for Harolds Club’s addition in 1960.  Dust them carefully; they’re pushing 125 years old.  From the Golden Hotel, following the 1962 fire came the curvaceous life-size cocktail waitress mannequins-with-built-in slot machines in the south dining room. 

Tripp Plastics made the mirror-image signs…

            The back bar’s been around for a while also.  The rosewood and birch classic started life in the Owl Club downtown at the turn of the last century – some speculate that it came ‘round the horn from Europe but I can’t prove that – and following the repeal of prohibition was relocated to the Pastime Club on Sierra Street at Douglas Alley.  The Feys got it in 1964 and my recollection is that it was unveiled during Nevada’s Centennial celebration, after the ceiling was raised two feet to accommodate it.  Somewhat noteworthy was Walt Tripp’s early frustration in locating a letter font in mirror image to make engraved signs with, enabling a patron at the bar to read in the mirror “Winchester Model 94” or whatever above the rifles displayed over the bar.  Walt’s son Warren, now the honcho of Tripp Plastics, reports that the Liberty Belle’s signs were the only use that mirror image font ever saw.

            The list goes on – ephemera from Becker’s Bar on North Virginia, later the site of Southworth’s Cigar Store, antique street lamps from downtown Reno in the parking lot, and a gas lamp brought down from Virginia City.  Here’s a note to fit somewhere in this yarn: Behind the original bar in the years before that back bar was installed, were hooks to hang beer mugs from.  Frequent customers had their own time card on a rack by the front door, and after they “clocked in” on an antique time clock 16 times they were accorded their own personalized steins to display behind the bar,

            In 1967 the south dining room of the building was added and served for a couple of years – at least during the summers – as the Bella Union Theater.  Some of my own greatest memories of Liberty Belle visits were to the Bella Union, and I will probably hear enough from Homefinders in the next few weeks to accord it its own column.  There was little in Reno in the late 1960s to compare with a warm summer night at that theater – a production of “The Drunkard” with local talent, using that term judiciously.  “He tied her to the railroad tracks” the narrator would announce as the villain twirled his moustache, the audience gasped and Barney Barnard of Hatton’s Mens Wear rumbled an ominous chord on the piano (Hal Goodwin of Kentile Floors played the banjo).  The show ended in an “olio” – a grainy black and white movie with song lyrics, follow the bouncing ball as Barney and Hal played and all sang.  Two nights a week at the Liberty Belle, repeated on another two later in the week at the Bucket of Blood in Virginia City, all summer long, and life was good.

            I’ve got more notes but no space, so I’m probably not done as yet.  I thank Geno Oliver, who’s spent three decades behind the Liberty Belle’s plank, for passing on this morning’s column head which was uttered by an anonymous customer last week.

            We’ll end this visit to the Belle as we always do, with a chocolate sundae in a shiny bowl served up by a pretty lady in a black skirt, a crisp white blouse and a smile.  Thanks Marshall, Frank and Jeff Fey, Jeff Courson, Geno, Alice and all hands for what seems like a lifetime of pleasant memories.

            Have a good week, and God bless America.

March 17, 2006


 

BundoxThe River House, and the Bundox

from an old column…

Word reached me last weekend that yet another Reno landmark will bite the dust – the once-intimate Bundox restaurant and the adjoining River House motel on Lake Street at the river will soon feel the wrecker’s ball.

We’ll turn back the clock to about 1910 when a photographer of national renown named Loomis*, who with his wife, the former Anna Frandsen, was working in Argentina for a number of American newspapers. Anna was the daughter of Andrew Frandsen, a pioneer Reno sheep man who had emigrated from Denmark. In Buenos Aires, the Loomis’ only son would be born and named Eugene Frandsen Loomis. One day he would become known simply as “Bud”. (Bud’s older sister, Inez, would marry Scoop Johnson in later years; his younger sister, MaryAlice, would marry Bill Blakely.) [All, and Cebe below, have passed away.]

Bud grew up and went to law school, then journeyed to mysterious pre-war China, where he acted as an envoy for American people and companies doing business in that inscrutable land. He acquired – legally – many artifacts, shipping them home periodically to Reno, where his mother was by then teaching Spanish at Reno High School. When the Chinese closed their borders and excluded foreign nationals in the 1930s, Bud returned to America and Reno. He met and wed his wife Cebe – say “Seeb”. He opened a law practice, and maintained an interest in his father’s vocation – photography. Bud and Cebe moved into a home on the Frandsen family property at the west end of Wingfield Park, that originally served as a carriage house for the Gray mansion above it on the Court Street bluff, that burned in 1939. Across the river was the Christian Science Church, on a site donated to the church by Anna Frandsen Loomis – as kids, we called her “Dosh”. Anna commissioned architect Paul Revere Williams to design the church and the Loomis Manor Apartments to the west of the church on Riverside Drive. The Frandsen Apartments on West Fourth Street bounded the family’s property holdings to the north.

• • •

But the Loomis’s’ home was not large enough to display their art collection. Bud at that time was serving as an advocate to the Chinese community in Reno, and the Chinese owned a piece of property on the north bank of the Truckee River – there was still a joss house operating on it even into the 1950s.

Loomis negotiated with whatever entity owned the site, and eventually acquired it. He and Cebe built, on its eastern end, the headquarters for Ben Dasher’s Universe Life Insurance Company. On the East First Street corner they built a smallish restaurant, cocktail lounge, and the River House motel, all with a Chinese motif. Into this restaurant and bar, and with the hearty approval of the local Chinese community, who were grateful to have their story told, went the Loomises’ collection of artifacts. Cebe told me years ago that there was at least one artifact from China in every room of the motel.

The name? Bundox. It was frequently mispronounced bun, as in “cheek”, but always by the cognoscenti as boondocks. Bud told me years ago that the origin of the name was the Tagalog – (Filipino) – word bundoc anglicized by pre-World War II American soldiers to connote a remote, forgotten, and somewhat romantic place, somewhat like Xanadu.

At least I think that’s what he said – better than 20 [40 as I write this in 2014!] years ago. Or then again, maybe it’s taken from Kipling or Coleridge – who knows?

But it was never remote to many movers and shakers in Reno, and the little bar was a favorite watering hole for the rich and the famous for several decades, or at least for civic leaders in the days when civic leaders actually got something done from start to finish. (I remember my own father laboring there into the wee hours in the nascent days of acquiring land south of town for a big building to be called the Centennial Coliseum in 1962.) [the present Reno/Sparks Convention Center.]

At least, that’s what he told my mother…

Maybe the civic leaders should have acquired a little restaurant called the Liberty Belle back then, which had already been open for three years, but that’ for another column – the Belle lives. [No, it doesn’t}

Straying back now to the Bundox story: Bud died about 35 years ago; Cebe kept the place hopping for another ten years, and then sold the property. (Cebe too passed away, in June [2003] in southern California.)

The corner’s buildings are now abandoned and boarded up, an ongoing insult to the by-gone revelry and that certain je nè cais quà that the Bundox and the Loomises once brought to our fair city and the Truckee’s shore. [And now they’re gone altogether. The question on everyone’s mind: Who got the brass door handles…?]

• • •

Two footnotes form an epilogue to this yarn: The wrecker’s ball is not Earl Games Construction’s Christmas party, and “je nè cais quà” is dedicated to the lady who questioned “ethos” last week. We’re introducing a new feature: the Homefinder word of the week – use it correctly and the duck’ll drop down and bring you 25 bucks. [And as you read that, I hope you watched the old Groucho Marx You Bet Your Life on KZTV, or you won’t know what I’m writing about.]

Have a good week, and God bless America.

• • •

*[The rest of that story, that might have been inappropriate for the Gazoo column: I am close enough to the Blakely family that some use me as a tax deduction, and one night I asked “What was Dosh’s husband’s given name?” (The photographer of “national renown” in my column.) No one knew – he was always “Mr. Loomis” when they were growing up. Dosh and Mr. parted after their youngest child (Mary Alice) was born, and Dosh came back to Reno and taught Spanish for many years at Reno High School.]

 

OK, we’re going downtown…

Siamese<

Boy, you skip one day writing a post after you make the public declaration that you’ll strive to post once-a-day, and find out who your friends and readers are. To put it differently, I get more response when I miss a day than when I post something, which tells me that I’d be better off to leave the laptop alone!

OK, today we’ll post an ad that I dredged up when I was writing about the Granada Theater, which was also the home of the Siamese Room, a venerable Reno establishment on West First Street that had about ten seats, and would be considered full to capacity if Tad Dunbar was occupying one of them.

The best part of the ad, save for the recollections of the Siamese that so many of us have, is the map that goes with it. Check out the establishments named on the map, and how many of them are now bygone memories…

Now I hit the “post” button, and with any luck at all, you’ll read this, and frankly the website hasn’t been cooperating lately. Like right now when I try to make the second “o” in cooperating a dieresis and it won’t let me. I think the smoke is getting to me.

Craig Morrison says I have to make two posts today to get even. Maybe I’ll post something about him going into the Reno High School Athletic Hall of Fame next month. But the only picture I have of him is when he was ten, sitting on a pony with a bandana on (Craig, not the pony). Somebody should write a column about the little corral out at the corner of Mt. Rose and Plumas Streets, the edge of Reno, where I think Craig’s picture was taken.

Check back, maybe Buckaroo Morrison will grace our pages.