Jean Myles writes of Virginia Lake

V Lake north end Sept_7Dear Karl,

 The article on Virginia Lake needs a follow-up, plus a rational “Save the Lake” committee!   Reno is known for its ability to raise money for causes.  Here is an excellent one.
When we came to Reno in 1958, the lake was beautiful.  The island had three majestic Weeping Willow trees, and, yes, children played in the lake at the south end, which had a beach that you could walk on with bare feet, or in the Cochran Ditch that supplies the water to the lake.  There is no way that anyone could go into the ditch with bare feet today.
Wood Ducks nested in the trees on the west side of Lakeside Drive.  We watched their tiny ducklings dropping from the trees and scooting across the road to the lake, where they thrived.  Loons came to the lake in the fall, stopping on their migratory path.  Then the cormorants, not a native bird, moved in and nested in the willow trees.  In a few short years, their toxic droppings killed the trees and created a barren, guano covered mound in the lake.  Now we have ducks and geese dying from the toxicity, and environmentalists saying that we need the lake for the cormorants.  Not so!
You noted that Virginia Lake has been drained twice.  We remember when it was drained in 1965.  All kinds of things were found, including (as I remember) an old safe, at least one motorcycle and bicycles.  Almost 50 years have passed since the lake was drained.   This is an opportune time to empty the lake once again, dredge it, repair the fountains – and the sidewalks around the lake – and re-establish a tree covered island.  I doubt if any type of plant could live on the Virginia Lake island now, and I cannot even begin to imagine what kind of “yuck” or artifacts would be found if the lake is drained.  Local archaeologists could be enticed to see what they could make of what would be found after the 50-year hiatus.  Perhaps the old island could be removed and a new island built in its place.  This could be a “Works Project Administration – WPA” project for the Biggest Little City.
How to get rid of the cormorants?  Yes, they are interesting to watch, but look at what they have done to the beautiful lake, one that used to be non-toxic.  If there is no lake, they will go elsewhere.  They are among the opportunists in the bird world.  The best idea would be to drain the lake now, and leave it to dry over the winter.  Once it dried, it could be cleaned out, then refilled when water is again available.
(Good Lord!  Does anyone even remember what the WPA did for the 1930s around the country?  Or the CCC for our forests?  Watching the Roosevelt Saga this past week on Channel 5 brought back all kinds of memories.  Virginia Lake was a WPA project.  My two uncles worked in the CCC in Sierra County, helping to create “fire defensible” forests.  And, that … is another soap box!  Note that when you get to my age, you find that there are many soap boxes to stumble over in your path.  You are doing very well with yours, by the way. … J.)
’til later … Jean

A friend writes of Joe Conforte…


I have friends who write excellent missives, and this is one such friend and one such missive. I’m running it as-received a day or two ago, with my thanks!

When we first moved to Reno, we purchased a small Westfield Village house on Westfield Ave, as it turned out right across the street from Joe Conforte’s “R & R” house for the girls who worked at Mustang.   We were very new to the Reno area, and very quickly found Reno a very interesting place to live.   Several other physicians lived in “the Village” or had purchased their first Reno house there.  We became friends with the Rosenauer and Guisto families, who also lived there.  Many Saturdays we would have “chowder and marching society” meetings at one house or another, sharing meals and family fun. And, we became friends with “the girls,” although they did not join in neighborhood gatherings.  

Conforte often stayed at the house, as he did during the court hearings.  When all the hullabaloo was going on, Bill Raggio, who lived around the corner on the corner of Robin and California Streets, drove to work down Westfield Ave every morning.  One morning I was in the front yard with the children as Raggio drove by.  He waved and called out,  “Has he left yet?”  We thought it was rather funny, because Conforte usually left early, beating Raggio to the court house.  That day he had not left early.  When he did leave, moments after Raggio drove past, he smiled, waved and called out a cheerful, “Good Morning,” as he followed Bill down the street.  It was an interesting neighborhood.

The girls were quiet neighbors, keeping much to themselves.  There was one funny incident when their cat went up a tree in front of the house.  Firemen came, the neighborhood gathered, and, to the delight of one and all, especially the children, got the cat down.  As one of the firemen started to place the small cat in one of the girl’s arms, the cat jumped down and went right up the tree again.  We were all laughing, and the firemen allowed as how the cat could get down by itself this time.  “When it gets hungry, it will come down.”  Sure enough, it did.  
Bob came home one day, with a fifty-dollar bill in hand and laughingly told me the story of two new patients, a couple who had come in to his office for general check-ups that afternoon both dressed in jeans and well worn cowboy boots.  Bob did complete exams on both of them, including drawing blood for certain studies.  (Docs did that then!)  When it came time, the man asked what his fee was.  Looking at them and their clothes, Bob said, “Well, lets make it fifty dollars for the two of you.”  At that point, the man proceeded to pull out a wallet full of hundred-dollar bills, handed Bob a bill and said, “Sorry, Doc, this is the smallest I have.  Hope you have change.”   Bob had to go across the hall to Drs. Greer and Lanning’s office to get change.  When he handed the man his change, the patient commented, “I know you are young, but I sure hope you are as good as you seem to be.  This is a real bargain.”  The couple became good patients, coming in regularly every year for their check-ups, and often laughed about that first visit.  Margo Frye, Greer and Lanning’s secretary/receptionist/jane of all trades, teased Bob unmercifully after he told her about the two patients.  
That year we were invited to go out to Margo’s home, an old stone building on a large acreage on the Old Geiger Grade Road, to cut a Christmas Tree.  We cut our trees there for several years, until Margo retired and moved from the wonderful building.  Families would gather one Saturday before Christmas, each bringing treats of some sort.  Margo had hot chocolate for the children, and hot buttered rum for the adults after they cut their trees.  There was always enough for everyone who arrived at the house, happily displaying a special Holiday tree on the tops of their cars, hungry and cold after trekking around the steep hills.  Margo’s mother lived there with them, a delightful old lady.  “Mom” went missing one day when no one was with her, and was found some time later in a steep sandy ravine where she had fallen.  (I know that it was one night, possibly two.)  She kept talking about the big kitty that had slept with her at night.  Curious, the sheriff’s officers returned to the spot and found very large mountain lion tracks all around where she had been found.  Without the “big kitty” that kept her warm at night, Margo’s mom would most certainly have died of exposure.  She was dehydrated, and I think that she had a sprained ankle, but she was otherwise unhurt.   I would say that that happened somewhere in the early 1960s, probably before 1966.  There was quite a write-up in the paper. 
By-the-by, on your walk down Virginia Street, wasn’t Grey Reid’s just between 5th and 6th on the west side of the street?  
Jean, when we were walking last weekend, Gray Reid Wright was still on West First and Sierra – we’ll visit it in a column some morning soon…Karl
Love your articles.  Keep them coming.  ‘Til later

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