Mumbles rides again



Following our score of column visits to a bygone downtown Reno, one denizen was destined to accept his place in posterity.  This column was inspired by a voicemail from Realtor John Utter: “John Gascue and I were talking over lunch about a weirdo newspaper delivery guy who used to work in downtown Reno – call me and I’ll tell you more.” My initial thought was that this topic defines the luncheon fare of two aging Sigma Alpha Epsilon alums that have sold one too many buildings or spent one too many years as principal of Reno High School.  I called Utter: “I know who you mean without hearing any more. His name was Peanut Butter Joe, the old guy on the Simplex.”  (We later agreed he was probably younger then than we are now.)  Peanut Butter Joe, he was, owing to PBJ’s daily nutrition regimen in the form of 13 beers (Acme) and a jar of Skippy’s peanut butter (crunchy) at Harolds Club’s second floor bar as the guest of no less than Pappy Smith himself.

            “Oh, no,” John spoke.  “His name was clearly ‘Mumbles.’” That appellation was born out of Mumbles’ tendency to ride his cycle about the village mumbling incoherent epithets – unprintable on this website – at passersby who would get in his bike’s path, and, uh, expectorate at all of the town’s six taxicabs.  “And he rode a Vespa, not a Simplex.” 

            I concede Utter’s Vespa as to being accurate over my Simplex, having grown up with John and knowing that were Morganna the Kissing Bandit riding a Vespa, Simplex, Ariel Square Four or anything else downtown clad in naught but Santa’s boots and two squirts of Gucci fragrance, John would notice her bike first.  John’s wife Anne Marie’s brother then entered the fray: Tony Lesperance, whose journalistic background came primarily as the head goat-roper for the University of Nevada – (OK, an aggie professor and great guy who ran the University Farm until he retired) – volunteered, “No way.  He was ‘the Bombardier’.  Everyone knew him as that because he always wore a World War II flight suit with a bicycle clip on his pantleg.”  Well, Gascue, Utter and Breckenridge sensed that Lesperance might be a bit shaky, so we brought in a higher authority, this time a big-gun real-deal newspaperman. 

We call in the heavy artillery:

A call was placed to Warren Lerude, who before becoming a Pulitzer Prizewinner, if that’s capitalized, was a circulation director for the Nevada State Journal, the freight that Mumbles or Peanut Butter Joe or the Bombardier delivered on his Vespa.  Or his Simplex.  And, to add further credence, almost overkill, to Warren’s immense credentials, he’s a fellow Sigma Nu alum. “You’re all wrong.  You are obviously speaking of ‘Bicycle Eddie,’ a central cog in the wheel of the 1950s journalistic community, who none of the papers’ staffers in the old building on North Center Street would tangle with for fear of being, uh, you know, on.”

So there you have it, BPS readers [Blue Plate Special, my website where I guess I published this melarkey]. Were you to be downtown Christmas shopping 60 years ago, holiday cheer abounding, Bing Crosby’s pipes crooning White Christmas from the speakers on the roof of the Byington Building, the little animated shoemaker in the window of the Nevada Shoe Factory on Sierra Street bedecked in his annual Santa Claus outfit, the kids skating on the Truckee being chased off by Reno’s Finest, an S.P. cab-forward mallet locomotive laying a haze of smoke along Commercial Row, Vic Charles swinging the Salvation Army bell at his yearly post in the warmth of the Arcade Building, a Marine deuce – OK, big green truck – parked at Second and Virginia to put presents for the needy in, you’d probably run afoul of this legend, in his flight suit and hollering at you, banging on the side of your Nash Metro, cutting off an old lady as he turned his Simplex/Vespa into Douglas Alley. It’s high time that Bicycle Eddie, the Bombardier, Peanut Butter Joe, Mumbles, or the dozen other names that we remember him as, now be enshrined in the great pantheon of the rich heritage of our town that I struggle so diligently in monastic solitude to painstakingly research, a gift for those who will follow us.  And yes, once a year at Christmastime [when I first wrote this column], I am permitted by the Gazoo editor to use run-on sentences that would make my favorite and dear RHS English teacher Roberta Kirchner cringe [Bert passed away – now she revolves in her grave].

• • •

Have a good week, and God bless America.


July 11, 2007


Christmas countdown: Two men you should know…


This august site will endeavor, during the next 20 days, to bring back some memories of Christmas around Reno and Sparks that readers of a certain age, if any there be left, might enjoy (this website is on a collision course with reality, because the demographic who reads my stuff is either A/ deceased, or B/ not prone to using the internet. Ergo, I occasionally wonder why I write anything at all.)

            But, pressing on, I’d like you to know, or recall, a couple of guys who brightened our Christmases, and with both of them I’m going back into the 1960s.

            The first was named, and I write “was” because he was in his early forties during the time we’re reading about, and if he lives, he’d be one old rabbi. His name was Philip Weinberg, and I suppose that in this mid-1960s recollection he had some association with Temple Emanuel, which at the time was on West Street between West Fourth and Fifth Streets. It would soon be relocating to Lakeside Drive just north of Manzanita.

            Rabbi Weinberg, as memory serves, took a page from the military, wherein many of the Hebrew faith would take over the posts of their Christian counterparts on Christmas Day, that the latter may enjoy the holiday with their families. Weinberg chose to stand in for Reno’s police chief Elmer Briscoe, a man not averse to lighten his workload on any day, particularly Christmas. Weinberg’s offer was readily accepted by Chief Briscoe.

            The interim chief dutifully showed up on Christmas morning, in the stead of Chief Briscoe, and spent his day making the rounds of the police station, visiting with the on-duty officers and taking a ride in a patrol car, cheering the hearts of many, and mostly Chief Briscoe, home by the hearth with his family.

            This went on for several years; I’d say six or eight. And as I recall, there was only one problem, the minor matter of a Reno resident being run over, possibly by a sleigh and eight reindeer, and further having the timerity and bad fortune to expire on Christmas Eve yet, leaving Weinberg to do whatever police chiefs do under such circumstances. Otherwise, the watches were quiet.

            So, Rabbi Weinberg, wherever you may be, the Ol’ Reno Guy  and all four readers send Holiday greetings to you, and the readers and residents remember you fondly.


The second man we celebrate today I do know passed away many years ago. In about the same time frame that the Rabbi was bailing out the Chief (and my favorite English teacher the late Roberta Kirchner would question my capitalization of both those appellations), there lived among us a sign painter verging on genius, whose name was Red Nibert.

            Red operated out of a smallish hut on Mill Street just east of Kietzke, when there wasn’t a whole lot happening on little two-lane Mill Street. For most of the months of the year, Red painted signs. And painted them well; his work had a signature that was fairly evident, and was in demand.

            Then one day, in early December of what might have been 1964, like right about now, a Christmas sign materialized on the windows of the newish Sambo’s restaurant on the northeast corner of newish Keystone Avenue and oldish West Fourth Street-slash-Highway 40. The sign was bright and alive and eye-catching, sleighs, reindeer, Santa himself, mistletoe, holly, candles and “Merry Christmas!” emblazoned on maybe four, eight-foot wide windows on the Keystone Avenue side.

            Yikes! What was this? A Christmas sign on a commercial building? What genius! The genius behind this was our friend Red Nibert, who painted the window with its extensive detail and eight colors in about 17 minutes flat. Soon Red was loose all over our little hamlet, brightening the hearts of patrons of restaurants, commercial buildings, even the Mapes Hotel and some delivery truck windows. Red was indeed a genius, becoming even more of a genius as each day wore on and holiday cheer infused his creative veins and mind. Credit for all the windows you’re seeing now, goes to the friend I re-introduced you to today, a man of Christmas and Christmas cheer, Red Nibert.


A few final notes beckon for this visit: first, yes, I use Christmas, for it is now the Christmas season, and while I wrote with the highest respect for our Rabbi friend, the fact remains, Christmas is upon us. The second final note for today, is, yes, I wrote the word “Sambo.” I wrote of Sambo’s restaurants a score of years ago and was assailed as being racist. No, I’m not racist; no, the restaurant chain didn’t close because its name was racist (as most think), and yes, the restaurant chain was formed by two dudes, one named Samuel and the other Beauregard, who called their restaurant Sambo’s. Sam and Bo, get it…?

            And in closing, one may wonder, “Why the hell is the picture of the Ozi Willium Whitaker Episcopal School for Girls in Whitaker Park on the hed of this column?” And the reason is because in a recent offering about snow and schools and stuff, I mentioned Whitaker Park across the street from where that damn six-year-old kid lives. And it ain’t over yet; next chance I get I’m going to insert a picture of the Babcock Kindergarten, mentioned in the same column. 

And won’t you all be happy when the sun comes out and I can get outside and ride my bike!?

photo of Whitaker School source UNR Library Special Collections

Ozi Willium Whitaker spelling is stet

Our own favorite America’s Cup skipper


The challenge for the America’s Cup rules the high seas, or at least the high Bay of San Francisco. Traffic, lodging costs, restaurants and life in the City generally are screwed up to a fare-thee-well as this continues, and will continue through September.

We of the Black Bear Diner Gentlemen’s Coffee, World Dilemma Solutions, Laudable Opinions, If-a-rumor-is-not-heard-by-9:00 a.m.-sharp-we-start-one, and other general BS as may properly come to our attention, have our own favorite skipper, in a shot taken when she was at the helm of an America’s Cup yacht, the one that won in 1987, the Stars & Stripes; she’s seen here putting it into a tight upwind turn, the 110-foot mast heeled over, the “grinders” cranking on the windlasses, a lass thoroughly in charge.

As a matter of fact, she actually took the conn of the vessel a few years ago in San Diego Harbor, where it is made available for day tours by its owners, who I don’t think now include Dennis Connors, its master in 1987. But I could be wrong.

She’s a local lady of my acquaintance since our childhood, and did indeed several years ago crew the return of a Transpacific race yacht back to the Mainland, a journey that many forget must occur after the Transpac races, that eastbound journey into far less hospitable seas than the more publicized westbound race to Hawai’i.

She’s definitely no stranger to Blue Waters. We’ll just know her as the Lady of the Stars & Stripes (by the way, the accompanying photograph is of the Endeavour, a 1932 defender of the America’s Cup.)

And here, we’ll do a little lobbying: The boats currently pitch-poling all over the Bay, fighting with each other like wee kiddies on Jessie Beck Elementary’s playground and going through the owners’ money like shit through a tin horn, don’t have names. They’re known collectively as Emirates, the Kiwi team, and as Luna Rosa, the Italians, but with no names on the transoms. (Actually, no transoms either, but these are sailboats in name only.) What happened to yacht names like Stars & Stripes? Proud names that went into sailing history – Dauntless, Defender, Resolute, Mayflower…? Courageous and Intrepid? (Twice each, twuly…)

Goodyear Tire, shortly after WWI, decreed that its publicity balloons, slow and stately, emulated blue-water sailing ships, and so would be named for America’s Cup defenders, and called their first airship Puritan, after an early Cup defender. Ranger, Enterprise, Columbia, America and Stars & Stripes, and a few more, and the ones named in the last paragraph, followed the Puritan into the early 2000s – “Spirit” took over the series of names, “Spirit of….” the three airships based in the United States.

Now, what would Goodyear had done with the names in use today, or rather, not in use? Shameful, I say.

And the final Goodyear blimp note: Years ago, Goodyear was successful in wresting from the FAA a series of consecutive tail numbers for its blimps, through, I think N2A through N12A. Lowest numbers in America, save for one, that one emblazoned the tail of a DC-3 donated to the FAA by Standard Oil.

And recently, the FAA ceded that coveted number to Goodyear, for airship Spirit of America, November-One-Alpha.


Sail on, Lady of the Stars & Stripes – blue waters ahead, fair winds, and a following sea….

We’re forgetting a few guys…


Work progresses in site work on Foster Drive across from Reno High School on what was once the home of the Reno YMCA. The new building will be the William N. Pennington facility for the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows.  This is a wonderful thing and has been appropriately ballyhooed wherever applicable, as it should be. Pennington did a fine thing endowing this building, and was generally a good guy (we were neighbors in the 1960s before our lives took separate courses.)

But it’s mildly annoying to some, in this case, to me, that with all the fol-de-rol over the new facility, little, as in zilch, has been said about how that little piece of dirt was transformed from a dairy farm adjoining Westfield Village, to a grand new building. A few steps have been left out of that site’s journey.

The journey started back in 1952 when the original Reno YMCA, pictured, blew up, actually a boiler in the basement blew up and took the building down to ground level in one quick hurry. I watched it. That YMCA, by the by, was the next building east of the Mapes Hotel and if you don’t know where that was you probably want to leave this site and go read the Mommy Files or the Sudoku page. Reno was without its Y.

So, a group of businessmen got together once, becoming weekly, if memory serves (I was 10 years old and don’t accurately recall; I have a faint recollection of them meeting at the Trocadero Room of the El Cortez but wouldn’t swear to it.) Some names I remember were Al Solari, Del Machabee, Buddy Traynor, Conrad Preiss, Jim Morrison, Gene Gastanaga, Ed Pine, Sr., and hell of a lot of others. Oh, and a young Realtor named Karl Breckenridge. (My dad, not me.) If anybody can think of some more, lemme know; there’s a plaque around somewhere with some names but I can’t find the plaque.

Those local men got on the bandwagon to beg, borrow, and steal, well almost, the funding to acquire a piece of property for a brand-new Y building. And my dad, being a real estate man, found the property, as I recall, with Del Machabee. And they all had fundraisers, barbecues at the California Building, virtual house-to-house solicitations, tail-twisting of the school districts (there were eight in Washoe County back then.) The city government, Stead Air Force Base, the power company, Nevada Bell employees, just an incredible, damn aggressive but all-in-fun fundraiser.

And they raised the funds, and bought the land, I think from the Vhay Ranch but don’t know at this writing. I traveled with my dad for 10 days in his 1952 Buick to a dozen YMCA buildings in northern and southern California, spent nights in them, swam in their pools, while he gathered ideas for the Reno building. And, the building was indeed built, Orville Wahrenbrock was hired to run it with Dick Taylor second in command, and Tom Hardester and Steve Rucker in the P.E. department. Reno had a Y.

What the hell happened to it I can’t say; some of the Ys in California that we toured preparatory to building it still stand (it was a well-built building.) My personal opinion, which I’ve learned is shared by many guys in Reno, is that something or somebody screwed up. It doesn’t matter – it’s been torn down. And we have no Y. And a new building is going up on its former site, a new building with a flagship name.

But, ya know what? There’s a long list of once-prominent people who did a great deal of work, and personal commitment, and personal expense, to get that site. But I don’t look to see their names being bandied about when the new youth club opens a year from now.

If they are, they’ll probably be right alongside Anna Frandsen Loomis’ name on the Lear Theater – my friend Anna who endowed the Christian Science Church in 1938, later the Lear, getting the same credit that Machabee, Solari, Pine, Breckenridge the Elder, and all the others will be getting on Foster Drive – none.

(Photo credit to “” on the web, it’s an old postcard that half of Reno has in their collections but I couldn’t find mine.)

Getting back to work


No particular post tonight, just seeing if this still works. The photo’s a teaser, a few of the 17 guys in the picture that I’m going to turn into a little game for locals, to see 17 old friends and their cars a hoot and a holler outside of town. I’m now trying to get names of all 17, almost have all of them; only one remains with us, sadly the others have passed away. Come back in a day or two and I should have it posted.

I just knew this would happen…


Two of my lifelong friends brought out a book a few years ago. Their names are Jerry Fenwick and Neal Cobb, and together they are to Reno what the Bettman Archives are to the US of A and Matthew Brady was to the Civil War – the two of them have this city on celluloid, cold.

The book was a tremendous success, photos of today contrasted against the same scenes going back in time, for comparison. Big, clear photos. I knew the book would be a winner, and that it would just encourage them. And it was, and it did. Now they’re doing a second book. And they’ve asked me to write another Foreword for the new book, as I wrote for the original. And I said I would.

I nicknamed them the “Grumpy Old Men.” Their opinions differed from time-to-time over the archival photos’ placement within the book, the description of the newer views, the dates that the older views were taken on film (many taken by their parents, who were all in the art and photo business in Reno before and shortly after WWII.) They differed on the occupants of buildings depicted within the book, on east vs. west, on 1909 vs. 1910, on whether the pizza on our work nights would be pepperoni, salami, garbage, pineapple, anchovy or just plain. On whether it would be Reno Now and Then, or Then and Now, and a sky blue cover or a dove grey cover. They differed on who would get top billing, Cobb vs. Fenwick, Oscar vs. Felix, on whether we’d listen to Benny Goodman, the New Christy Minstrels, Broadway, the SF Giants, jazz, Mario Lanza or the Chipmunks as the book was being crafted. They were indeed the Grumpy Old Men, and I swore that if I ever, ever got mixed up with them again, individually or collectively, jointly or severally, that I would have my head examined.

I’m getting used to my new brick home down here on the Truckee; the people who work here are friendly enough and let me wander the grounds at will, babbling aimlessly. They have allowed me my old favorite IBM Selectric III and some paper, and I am once again crafting a Foreword for the Grumpy Old Men’s second book, while they differ on the title, Reno Now and Then II comes to mind but I wouldn’t bet on it.

But it will be a hell of a book, mark my words, with wonderful old scenes of our picturesque town, some never seen publicly before, many with a running dialogue of little known, and often fun facts and anecdotes about our beloved hamlet, the Tough Little Town on the Truckee; The City of Trembling Leaves. (I can tell I’m getting very near to scribing a Foreword; I’m already plagiarizing John Townley and Walter Van Tilburg Clark!)

Publication date: The first. (The first chance they get.) But right now if I were loose in Reno I’d hold off on my Christmas shopping to ensure that my friend(s) will get a heck of a good book under their Christmas tree(s). Watch this space; the Ol’ Reno Guy will keep you posted.

If they let me keep my Selectric…

A Star is Born


“Why,” several e-mailers have asked over the years, mostly in reference to the old Blue Plate Special, “don’t you ever write about personalized plates…?”

            I’ve revered the late RG-J columnist Ty Cobb from a time dating back to my early 1950s Reno Rec youth baseball days (before Little League), and it’s been  a bit early to invade that popular milieu in his Cobbwebs columns. 

            Today we’ll read of a personalized plate that has prompted some calls and comments over the years.  It was attached fore and aft to a late model Cadillac parked at Longs Drug in the Village Center a while back, so I laid in wait for the owner. 

I first saw this plate in the early 1970s on a red Caddy, and often through the years on a number of intervening Cads, always red.  I thought back then “How in the world did he get that plate?”  Over the years occasional column mentions of blue license plates have sparked inquiries about this unique one from some of the readers.

Soon a couple exited Longs; a nice-looking couple who could pair in any TV commercial as the all-American, picture-of-health grandparents, and they fortunately also had a great sense of humor when this total stranger/drive-by columnist told them that the time was here and now, to speak of their license plate for a hundred thousand-or-so waiting readers.  We talked for a half an hour.

            A little background is required here: Before World War II Nevada plates used just numbers, and shortly before the war they received a county prefix, in our local case a “W.”  Fast forward to the late 1960s when the connoisseur of all things automotive, William Fisk Harrah, wanted something a little more unique than “W23743” or whatever on the tail end of his hopped-up Chrysler 300.  He dispatched his minions out into the hinterland with orders to bring the casino every plate in Washoe County from W1 to W100, car and truck alike (trucks wore “WT” back then), and use any asset in Harrah’s arsenal to convince the plate’ owners to cough them up.  There were a whole lot of Nevadans winding up with everything from trips to the club’s Idaho Middle Fork Lodge retreat to showroom tickets for life to a date with Olivia Newton John in a chauffeured Harrah Rolls Phantom V, and acquire almost all the double digit “W” plates for his execs and truck fleet, Harrah did.

            One such plate was W7, whose owner resisted early efforts by club delegates.  “Do you like to hunt?” they asked.  “Why sure,” the owner said, “but what I really want is one special plate.”  “We can get it,” the suits promised.  “We otter just hop in the club’s Twin Otter and fly up to Idaho and get acquainted.  We’ll get you an Idaho elk tag, pack horses and a guide and have a little barbecue for a couple of days while we chat.  Bring a friend.”  And so they did, successfully.  Harrah’s mounted the trophy head, skinned the beast and tanned it, and processed the beef when they got home.  “Now, what plate was it you wanted?”

            “A star, a simple, five-pointed star, smack in the middle of the plate,” said Swede Olsen, aka W7, and as a matter fact, as W76, for Swede owned the Union 76 service station at the Village Center almost since the center was built in the mid-1950s.  “We can do it,” said the Harrah people, secretly wondering how in the hell they could sell that symbol to the Nevada DMV, but Harrah’s had clout then.  The craftsmen at the gated community in Carson City that make license plates lacked a star in their font of dies, so they sent it to their branch office at San Quentin to be struck – a star centered in the field of blue, the ’69 stamp on the upper left corner (those plates were issued January of 1967 and validated with a sticker in 1968; 1969 was the expiration year.) 

            The new plates were returned to Carson City, and Swede and his wife LaRue (retired from Sierra Pacific Power Company) journeyed there to pick up their star plates in trade for W7.  It’s been on four or five Caddies since, all red.  The Olsens have pizzazz.

            I asked if it drew any inordinate attention from the fuzz.  Once on their way to Portland, Swede recalled, they were yanked over by one of Oregon’s Finest, piqued about Swede’s mile or two (or 15) over the speed limit.  The officer gave him the usual admonitions and checked his license, but as the moment drew closer to putting pen to paper on a ticket he seemed to have second thoughts, something disarming about a sharp, well-spoken driver and his attractive wife in a new clean Caddy with a weird license plate that didn’t fit into any highway patrol computer.  Who was this guy?  He let the roadside visit end with a pleasant “Now you all be careful and keep it down a bit.  My wife and I were married in Reno so I want you to enjoy Oregon.”  Swede and the trooper were both relieved.  (Spend five minutes with Swede and you’d learn he’d have just paid the ticket like the rest of us would.)  “What happens if you get rear-ended and the plate gets mashed?” I asked.  I’m sworn to secrecy, but an extra might have fallen out of the press that day in San Quentin, just might have.

            That started the era that personalized plates started to proliferate, owing largely to, you guessed it, Bill Harrah, who eventually came up with almost all the low numbers save for one – I still smile when I see another Caddy streaking across Washoe Valley to John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks, then parking in the Nugget’s executive lot – “John” on the parking space, W6 on the car.  Perfeck. 

Mr. Harrah was eventually able get the low numbers, yet longed to put “CLANG” on the auto collection’s cable car, “SAMMY” on Mr. Davis’ son’s Duesenberg or a lone “H” on his personal Ferrari Boxer (red, natch).  He successfully lobbied the Nevada legislature for personalized plates, grist for a future column unto itself.  Ty Cobb deciphered them for us in grand style, but it was Swede and LaRue who got the Star of the Show. 


• • •


The Wreck of the Ol’ 97


The inherent peril in promising the world that you will post something, every day, come hell, high water, sleet, rain, power outage, abduction, waking up with weasels tearing at your flesh, death by fang, cliff, claw, sudden wealth, pestilence, hooch or hot lead, is, that sometimes the bar for the quality of the post can be lowered, or in today’s case, tanked, just to get a post posted daily. Today, Saturday, is such a day, and this is such a post.

We see here a vista that I’m not sure of, somewhere between a Sheep Dip stunt and a Laugh-In segment, a hot Olds 4-4-2 with two drivers and three groupie babes. The guys are Tim Burke holding the helmet, and Larry Horning, who presumably needs no helmet. Larry – Horning-from-Corning – or close to Corning (N.Y.) anyway, came to town in the 1960s to ensure that diners, tavern denizens, picnickers, residents, all the denizens of the valley, would have 7-Up on their tables, bartops, checkout counters and picnic baskets everywhere on this side of the Sierra, and he did a pretty good job of it ’til he retired as a top–exec, no-bull, all-business type, which he remains in retirement. He has also rendered some beautiful music from a great pair of pipes, for Masterworks Chorale and a few  other groups and monthly at the Good Old Days club. The guy can sing, no question about it; he could have gone to the Big Apple instead of Reno, and moved ol’ Blue Eyes aside in the hearts of American lasses in the early 1960s.

(The ladies occupying and glamming up the Olds are, and this is true, are the Barq girls, Barq being a root-beer drink that we see little of in the West who loaned these ladies to whoever took the picture. We’re told.)

Horning would have us believe that this is a publicity stunt conjured up by 7-Up, but as trained professionals, we find this to be a load of horse-hockey and that he and Burke, and the Barq girls had probably in truth stolen the Olds from Waldren Olds’ lot and the NASCAR suits from John Tyson, in some failed attempt to pad their burgeoning expense accounts at the bottling company.

And that’s the story the Ol’ Reno Guy is going with. This has almost nothing to do with the post itself, but it might be known by all that the stalwart members of the Good Old Days club, not prone to hi-jinx, were witness to Mr. Horning relating an anecdote of dubious veracity yesterday at their meeting at the Tamarack, that anecdote bearing upon some shortcomings in the Ol’ Reno Reader’s intelligence, work-ethic, and shoddy use of the English language, speling and grammer.

It is logical to believe that Mr. Horning, having brought himself into the crosshairs of this civic offering of commentary, will from time-to-time again be featured in this website with further accounts of his adventures about our hamlet.

Actually, he told a pretty good joke. And really, he’s a great singer, and a good friend!)

TGIF, with beans and rice


A commitment was made at the inception of this website to do what I have not been able to perform for the 16 years that I’ve been putting up a website, the Blue Plate Special for 14 years, now the Ol’ Reno Guy. That commitment was to make a post-a-day, but nowhere does it say that that post shall be of great quality or social benefit. Today is such a day, and this post will fall short in many readers’ view.

For it is Friday, and just as I was preparing an offering of some substance, the phone rang: “Miguel’s. Six.” Then a deafening quiet. How could one turn down such a well-articulated invite? One couldn’t.

We remarked while we were dining tonight about Miguel’s long heritage – arguably one of the first Mexican restaurants in Reno, and I’ll hear about that, but can’t think of one that predates it. We went there in high school, which would be the latter half of the 1950s, and diagonally parked our ’52 Chevy sedan in front of Miguel Ribera’s little restaurant. The FNB to the north had recently opened, with the olfactory delight of Rauhut’s bakery next to it in the same building (now Heritage Bank), wherein was installed the first drive-in window in Reno, which is like saying the first Mexican restaurant in Reno. “First,” “longest,” “oldest,” “highest,” and so forth are words we learn never to use in a column because somebody will always make a liar out of you. “First drive-in window in Reno” is probably correct; there was one in almost a dead heat in Sparks at the Greenbrae FNB, and I’m told another in Las Vegas in another bank’s branch.

But the thrust of this piece that will keep the post-a-day alive is Miguel’s. I could also probably write “one of the oldest restaurants in continuous operation” in Reno. But I won’t. At some point in the 1960s Miguel, some say, was abducted aboard a space ship by alien life forms (Miguel was one of the earlier seekers of intelligent life outside our solar system) where while aboard he was convinced that he should move his little restaurant further out South Virginia (Mt. Rose Street was the county line during all this time), and so he did, to a brick building across from the present Peppermill that’s been a number of things like a golf shop and a dance studio and at this time might be a music store. Voila – a new Miguel’s was born; to pay the rent on the original restaurant he opened a seafood restaurant, well-remembered by local diners as the Cove, which as most recall was as good a seafood as any place in town, the barometer of seafood then being the Holiday Hotel’s offering, a buck-ninety-nine businessman’s lobster lunch. But, the Cove was a big hit and did a great business.

Alas, an ugly rumor about Miguel’s started to be heard around our hamlet, something to do with the disappearance of some local horses contemporaneously with some new offerings on the Miguel’s bill-of-fare. As all know, the substitution of horsemeat for more accepted cuts of beef, sheep and dead chickens is never good, and business at Miguel’s new South Virginia location tanked. Intervention by Miguel’s former associates in the space ship did no good whatsoever, so that location closed. The Cove, then doing a hell of a business and not tainted with the suggestion of horsemeat in the seafood, continued for a time while the townsfolk forgot about the culinary travesty foisted in the second location, and the local dining scene calmed down a bit. In time, Miguel Ribera was able to return to his second love, his restaurant (his first love by this time was establishing a destination drive-in restaurant for space travelers, as reflected in his menus and wall décor. He was hooked on flying saucers and those who traveled in them.)

Thus, he made a business decision and the town said Adios to the Cove, and welcomed back the old favorite Miguel’s – now proudly offering meat primarily from cows, sheep, goats and chicken on its lunch and dinner menu.

Miguel has left us, possibly for some new life somewhere in the Milky Way. His Miguel’s, where we ate tonight, was jumping – a great place to spend a Friday night with friends.

Miguel Ribera, aside from a minor transgression in judgment and the possibility of a slight reduction in the pony population in our valley, was a civic asset, and a great guy. And the restaurant, eponymous with his name, and even without the diagonal parking out in front  and those funny little cars from Germany being sold in the VW dealership across the street and the pleasant aroma of fresh-baked bread as in days gone by, remains a darn good place to go for dinner on Friday night when one should be writing a column…