Let The Games Begin!…the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics – (Three columns combined, a long read)…

 

squawvalleytowerofnationsWritten February 7, 2002 (©RGJ) rewritten, combined and updated February 8, 2018

Some readers may have watched NBC’s Olympic Opening Ceremony coverage from Salt Lake City last night [2002].

            CBS carried an earlier opening a little differently 42 years ago [2018: 58 years] at Squaw Valley.  I quote from the official VIII Winter Games’ brochure, published – writer unattributed – prior to the opening ceremony:  “…A fanfare of trumpets, crisp against the mountain snow…2,000 doves of peace flutter skyward…and all eyes are on Little Papoose Peak as Andrea Mead Lawrence bears the Olympic torch down the hill on the final leg of its journey from Norway.

            “She passes the torch to a speed skater who circles the speed skating oval once, then holds the flame aloft and lights the Olympic torch…the Olympic prayer is preceded by chimes high in the mountains… the 2,645 voices and a band of 1,285 pieces render an impressive God of our Fathers.”

            A nice prediction, but the real drama preceded the event.  What the writer didn’t foresee was that there was no snow at all until a day before the Games’ opening on February 18th, 1960.   Fallback plans were being made to use Slide Mountain for the downhill events.  Then on the 17th it snowed – boy, did it ever.  It was cloudy and still snowing an hour before the Opening Ceremony.  And windy and bitter cold – the musicians’ trumpet valves and trombone slides froze.  The 2,000 doves, caged in two flatbed trucks brought by Walt Disney Productions (who staged the opening ceremony) chirped “no way” and stayed perched, waiting for the trucks to haul them back to balmy Anaheim.

Then – and I kid you not: As the chorus started to sing through the gloom, the clouds parted and a brilliant sun – which we hadn’t seen for three days – glowed above Little Papoose then eventually lit up the valley as Mead Lawrence (pictured right) Andreadescended the slope with the torch.  She did hand it off to the skater, who took it around the track.  (One glitch: As he lit the flame, it flared as high as the nearby pine trees, scared the hell out of him and he fell off the tower.  That’s show biz…)

            The program writer mentioned chimes and the chorus, maybe not knowing of the yodelers and the Alpenhorns – a half-dozen of these ungodly loud instruments, surely the Swiss’ revenge to the Scots’ bagpipes, waited high above the valley and began at once to play (you don’t hear an Alpenhorn – you feel it under your boots!)  The sky by then was fully bright and blue, the pine trees green, the new-fallen snow pure white.  The five Olympic rings hung above Blythe Arena, framing the Tower of Nations and the burning cauldron (a replica of this peristyle had been built in Newt Crumley’s Holiday Hotel – now the Siena – parking lot.)

            From a valley bereft of snow two days before, to a breath-taking winter scene, filled with that ethereal, incredible Alpine sound.  River and plain, and mighty peak – and who could stand unawed?  As the summits blazed, I stood unfazed at the foot of the throne of God…”

            I wish I had written that, but poet Robert Service beat me to it by about a hundred years in his Spell of the Yukon.  And this Disney fellow was good, breaking that sunshine through like he did.  But his doves never did leave their cages. 

A note to readers, added Feb. 2018: You will note there are few graphics in this text – I didn’t take many pictures, and the few I can find I sold and thus are copyright-protected, which I will respect even after 58 years! Sorry…..

• • •

The Games were underway in Squaw Valley and the eyes of the world were upon us.  Bill Harrah had opened up a brand new casino at Lake Tahoe’s south end, and Red Skelton inaugurated the South Shore Room just before midnight on New Years Eve of 1959 and continued into the newyear.  (Liberace and Marlene Dietrich would play the room during the Olympics.)  Lee Frankovich had renamed the Riverside Hotel’s showroom the Olympic Room; the Will Mastin Trio with a new fellow named Sammy Davis Jr. would head up the Mapes Sky Room.  A leggy local fashion model named Bobbie Bender wrote a segment in a ski magazine about appropriate dress for snow, and another fashion article told of the new ski-pant style called “Bogners,” described by someone (Herb Caen?) as an ankle-length bikini and eponymous with German Alpine ski racer Willi Bogner, Jr.’s father.  A guy named Don Dondero was taking a lot of pictures for the world press, of racers Penny Pitou, Heidi Biebl, Betsy Snite and Joan Hannah.  Knowing Don, he’s still got the negatives, and weirder yet, he can still locate ‘em.  [Don passed away, but his family can still locate them…]

            (Before proceeding, I should thank my friend Don Stockwell of Sparks for Olympic plateloaning me a box of Olympic memorabilia, which enabled a lot of honest research on this piece.)  It develops that Olympic hype is not new.  Be advised that Absorbine was the Official Liniment of the VIII Winter Olympics, while Listerine, the Official Mouthwash, kept Carol Heiss and Toni Sailer from buffalo breath on the high Sierra mornings.  (An older person can tell you of those Olympic idols.)  The Renault Dauphine, sold at Retzloff Motors on South Wells Avenue, was the Official Car of the Olympic Games.  Skater/commentator Dick Button had hair.  And he was already annoying.  The Bavarian Inn was on Fulton Alley downtown and catered to the Nordic oom-pah crowd.    Double rooms were 12 bucks at the Holiday Hotel, no vacancy though.  Long-forgotten facts: The cross-country and biathlon events were held at Lake Tahoe’s McKinney Creek.  And, there was no bobsled or luge in these VIII Olympics.

Luce & Son of Reno, the liquor wholesaler to the local establishments for many decades, pushed the Tahoe Toddy, the official drink of the 1960 Winter Olympics.  I have the recipe and I’ll include it here next week.  I owe it to readers to test it first before endorsing it.

MaddenThe Twilight Zone: Leaving the 1960 Olympics just for a moment – I write this an hour after the 2002 Super Bowl broadcast, where John Madden bid Pat Summerall into a happy retirement.  One of the resources in the Stockwells’ Olympic memorabilia box is a January 4th, 1960 Sports Illustrated, its lead story an account of the famous Colts-Giants football game, the game where a young Giant place kicker named Pat Summerall kicked three field goals…

They’re having no more fun in Park City and Salt Lake City right now than we had working up at Squaw Valley so we’ll probably go back to Squaw Valley next weekend.  I’m on a roll.

Have a good week, and God Bless America.

ADDED FEB. 9th – THIS COLUMN LED TO A 13-MINUTE RADIO INTERVIEW ON KNPR FM 94.1 HERE

• • •

The View from KT-22, 1960

President George W. Bush’s invitation to the children of the world to convene in Salt Lake City, extended in that magical Olympic opening telecast last Friday night on NBC, must have put readers in the mood to reminisce about the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics.  The e-mails and phone calls with your recollections following last Saturday’s piece were welcome and wonderful.

            A favorite Squaw Valley moment came from a favorite Reno High sweetie of mine, a comely lass named Sherry (Cannon) Butler, now a Southern California denizen who picks this column up off the internet.  Sherry, using her considerable feminine wiles, scored a ticket for the semifinal hockey match, the U.S.A. versus the U.S.S.R.  Remember now, relations between these two superpowers were plumbing new depths in 1960 and the whole hockey match was seen as a metaphor of world politics, but that wasn’t what Sherry remembered most:  It was the slightly disoriented inebriate seated next to her who spent the entire match rooting for “Stanford”.   Apparently the Russians’ jerseys looked a little like the Cardinal.  At least to Sherry’s bleacher mate.  Many of you remembered that contest, on the closing day of the Games – a real thriller – and the final score, 9-4, (the U.S.A. won.)  That score remained on the scoreboard at Blythe Arena until the arena collapsed in 1983, a “maintenance accident” that should have landed Squaw’s management in the hoosegow.  Did a Russian skater die in that match?  One of you resurrected that rumor that flourished for a decade following the Games.  Their goalie got slammed into the wall with a crash you could hear on top of KT-22, and many thought he died.  Don’t know myself, but if he was alive, he was damn sure counting birdies on his stretcher ride out of the arena.

            And just who was Andrea Mead Lawrence, the skier who carried the torch down Little Papoose?  Sorry, I should have fleshed that in for the younger readers: Lawrence won the Slalom and Giant Slalom at the Oslo games in 1952 and was the 27-year old darling of the American skiing scene in 1960.  One anonymous caller corrected me, rudely, that it was Tenley Albright who skied the torch down the hill.  Not likely; Albright was the ladies figure skating Gold medalist in the 1956 Games at Cortina (Italy).  Maybe this caller is a Stanford alum.

jumperThe reigning jumper during many prior Winter Olympics was the Finn Juhani Karkinen, a star jumper in the Oslo and Cortina (1952 and 1956) Games.  USA’s Gene Kotlarek, who won the Gold in Squaw and Innsbruck (1964) jumping wore classic, as in baggy, Nordic-style ski apparel and hit the 80-meter jump like a herd of turtles with his arms out in front of him, his knickers rattling in his own 50 mile-an-hour breeze.  Imagine his surprise, (and jump hill steward/judge Jerry Wetzel’s), when the Japanese jumpers hit the inrun wearing new skin-tight Spandex flight suits, their hands at their waists.  And they glided like silent birds…  Not enough good can be said about Wetzel, the late Reno ski-store co-owner (with partner Hal Codding).  And, as some old 1960 newspapers remind me, the local employees of Nevada Bell, then a local company, donated their time generously, and Bell made time available to them. They basically ran the communications for the Olympics, with fewportable radios back then that I recall. One volunteer who has to be included, although I haven’t permission to use his name, was a college guy from the Midwest who came to Squaw as the operator of the brand-new Zamboni.  He lovingly tended the ice rink and speed skating oval and now lives in Lakeridge.  Truly, the hero of every American male (a Zamboni’s a guy thing.)  I should probably do a stand-alone column about Squaw Olympic volunteers.  Virtually the whole town of Reno and certainly the University of Nevada came to a standstill, providing labor to the Games.  White Stag ski wear donated the officials’ nylon parkas with the Games’ logo, probably a thousand of them, color-coded by work assignment (Nordic, Alpine, gatekeepers, communications, Ski Patrol, judges – things were pretty well organized.)  I recently dug my red (Press) parka out, and pulled a “Sparks Nugget – Two Fine Restaurants” matchbook from a pocket.  I’m donating it to John.

I mentioned “Bogners” last week – a reader pointed out that the namesake for these ski-pants (Willi Bogner) competed in the Squaw Olympics (Downhill, 8th place).  Another reader reminds us that Vuarnet sunglasses got their name from the gold medalist in Downhill (Jean).  Several of your recollections were of the Indian snow-dances in the valley – the Shoshone tribe sending a team of their best dancers.  They did well – it snowed beyond belief for twenty-four hours preceding the opening.  And the valley “parking lot” – many remembered that fiasco: Sawdust was mixed with snow and compacted, to make a solid, non-slip surface to park on.  Worked great for the Games’ chilly first week, then it warmed up and thawed the second week, and, well, there’s probably a couple of heavy DeSotos and Packards still out in that valley somewhere.  Yikes, what a mess!

Last week we promised to reveal the Tahoe Toddy, the Official Warmer of the Olympic Games, according to Esquire magazine, March 1960 edition.  Here goes: garnish a glass with lemon twist, pour in four ounces of very hot water, add a level tablespoon of batter.  (That’s batter, not butter.)  Batter up: 4 teaspoons brown sugar; 2 teaspoons butter (that’s butter, not batter.)  2 dashes of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch of allspice, and 2 teaspoons Bols Orange Curacao.  Serves four.  (Oh, and did I mention one ounce of Early Times per drink.)  Have three and the butter and batter won’t matter.

VasserotOf course, as we learned in a column last summer, it would be easier go to Eugene’s restaurant on the way home from Squaw Valley, where bartender Cliff Challender could make us a Toddy from memory.  And, we might see Eugene’s owner Gilbert Vasserot (right) entertaining the athletes from his native Switzerland, notably favored skater Madaleine Chamot. (Eugene’s hosted the prestigious International Olympic Committee at a luncheon prior to the games, a feather in Reno’s cap.) 

Wrapping up Squaw Valley

            Stop the presses!  An email and a phone call arrive into our lonely writer’s garret in the God-forsaken desert, regarding our visits to Squaw Valley during the 1960 Winter Olympics.  One’s from an old friend, the other from an Incline Village resident who called me a male chauvinist for the way I worded a passage.  Imagine that.

            What offended her was that I identified by name the 27-year old darling of the 1960s slopes, Andrea Mead Lawrence, the twice-Gold medallist skier who brought the torch down the hill during the Olympic opening ceremony, but then I left the male speed skater that Mead Lawrence handed the torch off to to remain in obscurity.

            Frankly, I skipped over a whole bunch of people in that description of the opening ceremony, including Vice-President Richard Milhous Nixon, who declared the Games open, and Karl Malden, who recited the Olympic prayer.  But the skater?  He fell into relative obscurity, and only after uncharacteristic and tedious research can I offer that his name was Kenneth Henry, which should make Henry’s mother and the Incline Village reader happy.

            Karl Malden???

• • •

The phone call came from my old buddy Buddy Sorensen, who helped me with a couple of names: Gene Kotlarek  and Juhe Karkinen.  I’m glad he called, because it prompted me to write what many of us know: When local skiers gather in the warming hut to speak of the golden days of 1950s-skiing, Buddy’s name comes up prominently with Dick Buek, Jack Bosta, Jon Madsen, Dick Dorworth, the late Harry EricsonEricson (right) , Lynette Gotchy, Linda Smith Crossett, Rusty Crook and a bunch of other guys, as a Far West Ski Association official and coach, Nordic Director, sometime Falcon coach and a mentor to a hundred local skiers that went on to regional and national prominence.  Our area and our sport are indebted to all of them.

            Another name and anecdote that came up in the past few weeks was that of George Kerr, known by many as Harolds Club’s photographer/host, when mighty Harolds and Harrah’s ruled Reno.  George clicked thousands of golf tournament and celebrity photographs, many going ‘round the world on wire services, and was known as a linguist:

            Just prior to the Games, he was asked to be available as an interpreter.  “You speak several languages, don’t you?” George was asked.  “Actually, I speak only two: the King’s English, and Nevadan.”

            In truth, George could say “Say Cheese” in seven languages, not counting the King’s Nevadan after a Tahoe Toddy at Eugene’s.  He did Yeoman duty during the Games.

• • •

WeaselA week ago I wrote of my red Olympic parka, the color assigned to the Press whereupon a friend accused me of posturing as a hotshot.  In truth, I was a grunt, working with seven other University of Nevada grunts who could ski, backpack, snowshoe, yodel and a few less upstanding qualities, and we were assigned “Weasels” (seen at left) – open Jeep-sized tracked vehicles built by Studebaker, loaned to the Olympics by the marines at Pickel Meadows Winter Training Center.  We ran all over the valley, typical cargo being endless paperwork, clipboards full of race results, times, schedules, a dead Longines timing clock, an urn of coffee destined for a CBS camera crew at the jump tower, somebody’s glove that was left in a limousine, a pair of snowshoes, three reels of communication cable, box lunches for the slalom timers and a very important person needing to be somewhere else (a very important person being almost anyone in Squaw Valley beside us.)  We mentioned earlier that CBS carried the Games, but in 1960 only 15 to 30 minutes each day – taped – in reality not even videotape, but movie film with sound on a different recorder, the big tanks of film and huge batteries somewhere in the back of the Weasels, to be processed in the Bay Area and aired that night. 

            I’m waxing (skier-term) sentimentally toward the close of the 1960 and 2002 Games, with an observation about how things have changed in 42 years [and now in 2018, 58 years!], as we watch on NBC tonight – a production not filmed, but digitized, sent not to Sacramento by courier for processing, but to a satellite for instant broadcast.  The clocks, timing, and standings are instantaneous, not delayed hours by the lag between the start house and the finish line and virtual longhand computation.  A tiny camera gives us a real-time pilot’s view from a bobsleigh (the sleigh built from materials developed by NASA).  Ice dancing and the half-pipe.  How the sport, and the way we view it, has changed in 42 years…

• • •

They were wonderful weeks in our towns’ heritage, and we wish the children of the world now convening at Park City the fun, success and memories that we continue to enjoy.

text © RGJ and Karl Breckenridge; ski jumper photo from handout; license plate issued to Ed Pine, Sr., photo courtesy Jack Pine; Andrea Mead Lawrence, photo © Getty Images; Tower of Nations & Olympic Flame © California State Parks – State of California; Harry Ericson and Gilbert Vasserot, from KB

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Feb. 4, 2018 – one year today!

 BaffertHow this began a year ago..

Well, it’s been a year since I got bored waiting for a ball game to come on to Dad’s Philco radio and started writing about what was going on in Reno and around our house at 740 Ralston Street across from Whitaker Park. Now it’s the same thing, but this year it’s a Sylvania radio Dad bought from his friend Mr. Saviers at his store on West Second Street and West Street. Mom said he should wait for “television” to come to Reno but Dad said that would be a couple more years so he bought the Sylvania. The game starts in three hours, between the “Patriots” and the “Eagles,” which I can’t even find in my almanac now.

A lot has happened in the past year; and more has not happened also. There’s some stories I’d like to tell, but since I was only six when I started that “column” and it was only 1946, a lot of stuff hadn’t happened yet and I tried to stay in the time frame. I realized that would just drive me crazy so I started fudging the year up to like 1950. Now, it’s a year later and I’m going to be even less limited by the year – I’ve stories to tell you. We have moved now; to Sunnyside Drive, at one of the most northwest corners of Reno, with only a few homes to the west or the north. My new neighbors are Henry Philcox, Hugh Barnhill, the Foley sisters, Tommy Weichman and some new kids whose dad just bought a lot from my dad on Irving Circle, named by my dad for his uncle Irving. There’s six kids in that family, all close to my age; they’re moving in from Loyalton and their parents Ken and Helen Metzker own a big lumber mill west of Reno. But Henry’s my closest neighbor, and friend.

Not only do we have a new house on the southwest corner of Sunnyside and Peavine, we have a new car – Dad sold another lot on Irving Circle to Mr. Winkel, 1950Catalinawho owns a Pontiac dealership downtown next to the Tower Theater (I’ll have to write about that soon!) It’s a  yellow-and-brown  “hardtop convertible” 1950 Pontiac “Catalina” – the first one, and it looks like a convertible, inside and out, but has a regular roof but no window pillars. It has a lighted hood ornament, in the shape of an Indian, and I suppose that Lees1some year I’ll write that and someone will say “what’s a hood ornament?” and some editor will say “You can’t type ‘Indian’.” My sister’s little playmate Pam Lee sent a picture once of her dad’s drive-in on West Fourth Street, and I think that’s mom’s Catalina in the picture. I blew the picture up real big but still can’t see the plate, but can tell is has four numbers so it could be “3090” (Nevada added the county initial in 1954; I still have “W3090” on my Honda. Yes, with the “59” expiration year!

So I’ll write about a lighted whatever on the hood of the car in the shape of an indigenous person. Maybe I won’t write at all… By the way, what’s a “Honda”?

My Aunt Isabel in Petaluma, (California, where Mom is from) gave me a used Sears1950Sears Typewriter Roebuck typewriter for Christmas because she knows I like to write (someday if I can find my story, and I think I can, I’ll tell you about throwing Aunt Mittie off the Fourth Street Bridge in Petaluma under the props of the Steamer Gold. It was an exciting day for Petaluma).

My sister Marilynn and I didn’t like Mittie…nobody did, so far as that goes…

I’ve been contacted by readers about stories I ought to write. And some I will, others I know of also but since there’s family or feelings still around I stay away from them. As I did in later life. I know all about the man who drowned his wife in the bathtub; it happened two doors away from me. But it’s not a good memory to bring up. And yes, the two boys my age who drowned in the Truckee in 1952. We knew them both, they were brothers, lived a block from us on Seventh Street. They were pulled out of the water by a friend of my dad’s, Dick Rowley, and the other by a man named Bob Williams, who would later shoot up a courtroom in Nov. 1960 before he gave his wife half his business in a divorce. Dad said he should have given it to her… And I’ve been asked about the 14-year-old boy who drowned in Virginia Lake in 1952, June. By the Cochran Ditch outlet on the west side. Yes. True. But no story here

Yeah, there’s lots of stories. I sometimes wish, and probably will all my life that a few other guys would start writing stuff down too before it’s all forgotten!

MY GOD, IS THAT BILL BILICHICK IN A SUIT AND TIE ON TV?

Back to work. Pardon the outburst.

I met two of my little playmates Debbie Hinman and Karalea Clough yesterday at an old federal office building on Wells Avenue, that later became a place called Posie Butterfield’s and even later, Rapscallion. (But I don’t know about any of that in 1950 yet. And the moniker “Rapscallion” is probably like the Indian on the hood RapsPatioornament or the man with the eastern European surname from Marin County who once told me that I couldn’t write “Paddy Wagon” in a Sunday column because it was upsetting to the Irish. I’m mostly Irish and responded that I didn’t give a shit what he thought. Boyoboy, will Mom be mad that I wrote that! And the Gazoo editor didn’t like it much more. Some day I’ll tell about the “Gazoo”.)

Anyway, back to the point, if there is one, Karalea is a librarian/researcher at the Nevada Historical Society in the basement of the State Building downtown, and Debbie was a switchboard operator with all those cords and plugs in the Reno Telephone building on the river, but recently went to work for Washoe General Hospital in their foundation department. Not bras and girdles, she reassured me, but twisting tails and scaring up $$$$$$$ to run the place with.

Debbie is a leader in Historic Reno Preservation Society, and is working on a “walk,” where she meets a bunch of people somewhere and walks around with them pointing out buildings and who lived there and stuff like that. She’s doing a new one next summer in the Country Club Addition of Reno, you know, almost out of town across from the Washoe Golf Course east to Virginia Lake. It got its name from the country club that was open briefly in 1935 until some rude gambler, possibly the owner, burned it down. Someday, but not yet, there would be tennis courts and an old folks’ home there. But not yet.

RumbleSeatSo, Karalea is going to drive (she has a car and a driver’s license!) and Debbie is going to sit in front next to her and take notes while I’m going to sit in the back seat and describe the neighborhood. The Reno Bus Lines run right down Watt Street; maybe they could pick up the people on the tour! Then we’re going back to that federal office on Wells Avenue for more milk and cookies andBus 109 treats.

I hope her car doesn’t have a rumble seat. THERE’S another word like hood ornament!

This is getting out of hand – it’s too easy to write now that I have my typewriter. Come back and see me occasionally, or come by the federal building on Wells for a sarsaparilla!

 

Jan. 29, 2018 – the Hancock mansion by Virginia Lake

Baffert

Well, when I rode my bike from Ralston Street to California Avenue last week and watched the men pull the mansion down Plumas Street to make way for Mr. Ramos’ drug store, which would later become the Cheese Board, I kind of screwed up. The house wasn’t going to Virginia Lake, that was another one. I knew I was in trouble when I rode out again last weekend with my Brownie Hawkeye camera to take some pictures for you. There was no way they could get that big house down any of the hills at Country Club Drive or Mountain View, and it was too big to take along Lakeside Drive. So they left it at the southwest corner of Mt. Rose and Plumas Streets. My little buddies Dee Garrett and Rosie Voyles wrote me, and said it was haunted. (And it’s not the recording studio-turned-law office that’s on that corner now.)

 

                          photo 2301 Lakeside Drive © Karl Breckenridge 1975

So, I have to admit that – but – since we’re out by Virginia Lake anyway I’ll tell you about another house that was built eight years ago, in 1941. It was finished the same year that Virginia Lake first filled to its rim. I stopped at the house at the corner of Audubon and Lakeside Drive, at the bottom of the hill down Country Club Drive. There was a nice man standing by this big house, and I got talking to him.

It turns out that his name was Luke Hancock. He was pretty rich, Dad said, and had formed the Hancock Oil Company and sold it years ago to the Pure Oil Company. He came to Reno before World War II and spent some time at the Country Club on Plumas Street before it burned. He told me that he stood on a barren bluff overlooking a big hole in the ground a mile around watching WPS crews planting trees by the dirt road ringing what would soon be Virginia Lake. 

He had planned to move to the Holmby Hills of Los Angeles County, but immediately came to like Reno more. He had his architect in San Francisco change the house he was going to build in LA, to suit this site. Although his five children were mostly out of the house in 1940, he built this big six-thousand square-foot house anyway.

Luke invited me in to see his house. Even though I was only eight, a lot of things stuck out in my mind – a mansion with a grand staircase winding up to three huge bedrooms. (The little oval Arabesque window in the master bath fascinated all those who strolled around the lake until the home was totally remodeled in the early 1980s.) It had a big kitchen on the west side of the house with an adjoining “butler’s pantry” with all the dishes and stuff. Those rooms opened up to a breakfast room with a curved wall on the south end of the house. From there, was a huge dining room. And the walls of both rooms had what he called “fresco” art. He said that he had hired an artist to come from France to do the fresco walls – a dark woodgrain with some hanging plants in the dining room, and a bright scene of a bayou in Louisiana from a photo he had taken, of a shadowy bayou with sunlight radiating through Magnolia trees with Spanish moss hanging from them. The artist came to America in 1940 and did this house and a few others in Los Angeles for an architect named Paul Revere Williams.  Pretty cool.

The living room had a big window that looked out over Virginia Lake, where the trees were now five or six years old and looked pretty nice. It was a large room with an egg-and-dart coving around the ceiling and what Luke called “parkay” hardwood floors. I looked the word up later last night and it’s parquet but that doesn’t look right. A big front door opened to the front porch, and a driveway that went from the bottom of the hill to the front, around the side of the house and out to the street. I asked Luke why the peephole in the door was so low; he told me that it’s because he and Mrs. Hancock were both quite short, and they designed the house with the peephole, the basins and the counters and the clothes hanging rods in the closets, all low so they could use the easier.

We went down to the basement, which was a real treat – the big southeast room was just a fun room with all kinds of stuff in it, but what was really neat was the collection of dolls – Mrs. Hancock collected dolls and had over a hundred dolls from all over the world, from Europe and China also, and had a lady seamstress almost full-time to make clothes for the dolls, which were from a foot to three-feet tall. The room would have been pretty weird to be in at night! (I learned later that when Mrs. Hancock passed away, and she outlived Luke, that a collector would buy her dolls for almost a million dollars. Some of them were pretty rare…)

We went up two flights of stairs to the bedrooms – three rooms, all good sized bedrooms each with its own bathroom and tub and shower. There was a sitting room up there too, and two rooms had private balconies out over the lake.

The coolest room in the house was the library, which was on the main floor. Luke had a lot of pictures, and books, and maps, and many of them on display. A huge fireplace comparable in Reno only to the fireplace in the adjacent living room.  Beveled- glass, beam trusses resting on ornamental iron corbels to the cathedral ceiling. The walls were rich, brown wood like walnut or oak, with a lot of brass fixtures and lamps and a ladder on wheels to roll around and reach books on the upper shelves. Luke reached around a cabinet and got a crank, a long handle with a loop on one end. He said, “Watch this!” and hooked the crank around a concealed hook on one of the top bookshelves. He turned the crank, and the glass ceiling, which was kind of a green cut-glass with flowers and stuff in it, started to open. First an open hole in the center, then opening further like the iris in your eye, opening larger with each turn, until finally the sun started to beam into the room through the roof. Pretty neat. And I can write that he and Mrs. Hancock passed away and the house sat for a long time, until only this seven-year-old kid even knew it was there! No lie – I showed in the early 1970s this sunroof, to a couple of grownups, who didn’t know anything about  it. But this is 1949 and I don’t know anything about that now either.

Luke and I went out into the yard, into a garden house with a whole lot of stuff stored in it. He touched a button, just for a second, but it was long enough to start a generator that he had in the little shed. It was built by Koehler, now Kohler, and ran on propane. It had enough power to light the minimum of lights in the house, to operate the elevator (which would be dismantled I 1974), to run a couple refrigerators and the bomb-shelter which was built in 1952.

Having made friends with Luke, I returned to the house several times until he passed away. In 1952 he converted one of the three bays in the garage to a bomb-shelter, during the height of the Cold War. It had several beds, a water supply tank that was constantly being re-circulated to keep it fresh, a forced-air filtration system, a propane heat source, basins and a tiny shower and lots of books and stuff to read. He stocked it with food, which still had the labels of Washoe Market and Sewell’s Market on them. And a classic Zenith Transoceanic long/short wave/AM battery-or-AC radio – state of the radio art in 1951 and for many years to follow.  The door was double – one looking for all the world like a jail-door with bars, the other a heavy, metal airtight door. Luke said they built this way because when the Russian bombers were enroute, the jail door would be closed to keep panic-struck neighbors from crowding into your shelter and eating all your goodies, but would allow the concussion from an atomic blast to blow over the shelter and not collapse it. After the blast had occurred, the air-tight door would then be closed to keep the death rays out.

Hey, I’m seven years old. It all makes sense to me….

Anyway, that was my meeting with Luke B. Hancock at his Mediterranean-villa home at the southwest corner of Virginia Lake – the home and the lake each in its infancy (pretty neat writing for a seven-year-old, huh?!) I went back many times until it sold out of the family (they had five children!) in 1974. It sold, by the way for $205,000…

And I got in a lot of trouble for taking the aerial picture with my Brownie Hawkeye and awakening half of 89509 as I buzzed over too low on a Sunday morning. I say this because it’s copyrighted, I suppose, but this 2018 internet posting is the first time it’s ever been published so if you steal it, give  attribution, please (the year is 1975).

So that’s my bike ride for today; it’s a long haul back to 740 Ralston Street but come back later and we’ll have another adventure!!!

 

The Beret

This piece appeared in the 1931 Reno High School yearbook, the ReWaNe RHS2009(REno/WAshoe/NEvada).  No attribution given to the student author, who might have penned it on a solitary night at the Santa Fe Hotel.  Some reader might claim it as their work – they’d be 100 years old now. The text begins:

“Introduced into this country about five years ago, the beret has become the sensation of the hour and the inveterate choice of the hoi polloi.  Tennis players have affected berets ever since Jean Boratra, better known as the “Bounding Basque,” made such an outstanding success with his pancake-shaped top-piece. Golfers took it up close on the heels of the tennis fans. And nine-nine and forty-four hundredths per cent of the miniature golfers – or should I say tiddely-winks experts – have adopted the beret as their badge.

BasqueBeret            “There is something uplifting and comforting about the fit of a felt beret on the old cranium. No matter how old or how battered it is, you feel qualified to strut with the best of the crowd when you wear it.  It gives an inexplicable feeling of confidence and self-esteem, which is puzzling, since there are so many other numbskulls wearing “critters” who must be in about the same mental frame.

            “A beret is one of the least distinguished pieces of head-gear ever created. Designed originally for sports, it goes to school, to five o’clock tea, to prize fights, to dances, to weddings and funerals, and even to church.  Every stenographer boasts of a half-dozen in her wardrobe; the screen stars have a beret for e very costume – everyone from the gray-haired dowager to the year-old tot sports one.

            “There are as many ways of wearing a beret as there are of tying knots n a piece of string.  Straight up from the eyebrows, it resembles a French chef’s cap, from which it may have been derived. Placed squarely on a mop of shoulder-length hair, it brings visions of the inverted-bowl and pruning shears haircut popular in our youth, before we were old enough to object.  Placed on the back of the head with hair bushing out at front and sides, a clever impersonation of an Airedale dog is achieved. Worn forward over one or both eyes, it gives that natty, natural aspect, ad infinitum.

            “As to there being anything sissyish in a man’s wearing a beret, we would advise you to say nothing about it if you think so. People have been run out of town for less, and besides, we know a football player who wears one.

            “The beret is ideal for yachting and speeding in a roadster. It sticks like a MilitaryBeretleech in the teeth of the strongest gale. It is the mainstay of the rumble seat rider as well as his protection from the elements. There doubtless would be many more bald pates in this country if the beret had not happened along, just in time to offset the evil effects of hatless rumble seat riding. In B. B. (Before Berets), if a man rode hatless in a rumble seat he was certain of losing at least half his hair combing knows out of it afterwards. Now he doesn’t even lose his dandruff.

            “White berets are considered conspicuous until they have acquired a generous coat of grime. From then on, the object seems to be to get an agent-in-the-dirt effect punctuated by swipes of lipstick and chocolate, with an occasional gleaming white place in a fold. Other colors, particularly tans, are considered bourgeois. Trying to age a tan beret is like trying to sunburn an Australian bushman.

            “Only initiates wash berets; the dirtier they are, the better they feel.  Seasoned veteran say that to wash a beret is net to the sin of washing a sweatshirt, which, according to old theater tradition, brings bad luck to the wearer.”

2001 copyright by somebody, God knows who…

           

 

Jan. 21, 2018 – Ridin’ the ol’ Schwinn around the village ~ clearing the Ramos Drug site in 1951

 

BaffertWell, we’re coming up on the first anniversary of me writing down about my adventures from 740 Ralston Street – I started on Super Bowl Sunday in 2017 and here it is almost a year later; I’m seven years old now, a year older and wiser; my little sister Marilynn is out of the bassinet into the playpen. The little red-haired girl still lives next door, now she has a baby brother who will grow up to be a dentist. Dad has his own office now, away from A Street in Sparks to 119 East Liberty Street, across the street from Southside School.

The war’s been over for over a year now, a lot of my friends’ dads are coming home, the merchants’ shelves are starting to get stuff on them, and the Army’s vehicle repair center behind Washoe County Hospital is being dismantled. Quonset huts are going all over town, we have one at Mary S. Doten and there’s a barracks at the corner of Tenth and Ralston Street a couple blocks from my house, by my buddy Don Hartman’s house.

housemovingI’m riding my bike further away from the house than I’m supposed to, all the way down to California Avenue where dad is going to build a new office, I’ll write about that someday. But today, and it’s actually 1951, there’s a lot of activity on California Avenue where Humboldt Street comes in, by Powell’s Drug Store that the Lee family built for their car-leasing company upstairs. A crew of men has pulled away all the foundation and rubble under an old white two-story house, pretty fancy place at that. The men are from the Bevilaqua family, who moves houses all over Reno. Dad says it’s not unusual for someone to sell the lot where a house is, and take the house to a new place in town or Sparks.

LevyMansionThe old house they’ve got up on timbers now was a Reno mansion, which looks a lot like Mrs. Levy’s house down the street at Granite Street, which would later become a bookstore named Sundance or something, but I don’t know about that yet. Anyway this big house is up on blocks and the Bevilaquas are putting wheels under the timbers. I heard a guy say that tomorrow they’re going to tow the house out by that new lake south of town, Virginia Lake. Boyoboy, I’m going to get skinned tonight but I’m coming back down tomorrow and watch them move it if I haven’t been grounded.

Aha! I told Mom I was at the Christian Science Reading Room on First Street all Truck6x6afternoon, so I’m a free kid still. Down the hill I go to the river, to the new Chestnut Street bridge and across the Truckee, up the hill on Belmont to California Avenue. Then down toward town where all the men are back. A great big truck is sitting pointing down Humboldt Street, with an iron towbar hooked to the house. They’re getting ready to move the house!

I learned that the place is being moved because a pharmacist named Mr. Ramos, who has a drug store at Second and Virginia Streets downtown, is building a new drug store on the site of the house. He’s going to live upstairs in the drug store. The land next door to the east, to Hill Street, was going to be leased to Texaco for a service station operated by a friend of dad’s named Jess Brooks. His daughter Patsy is a real looker but I’m too young to look. (That, however, will pass.)

They start up the big truck. Both of Reno’s motorcycle cops are on the street and there’s a bunch of guys from the power company and Bell Teleephone on the roof of the house with poles. They will ride on the house while it goes out Plumas Street, and lift the power and phone lines to allow the house to pass under (the brick chimney has been taken off the house). They’ve moved some of the wires and trimmed some trees back, and planked up Plumas Street where the house will pass over the Cochran Ditch. The house is heavy and might collapse the street.

The ugly old truck starts to pull against the drawbar, and make a huge racket and motor_copspumps black smoke from its two exhaust pipes. It shakes and the tires on the two back axles slip a little bit but the truck keeps pulling. All of a sudden the house moves and starts to rise where the wheels under it hit the little uphill grade from the basement, to California Avenue. It keeps pulling, roaring and smoking and eventually all the tires are on the pavement and the truck starts to turn to the left, toward Plumas Street. The motor cops stop the traffic. All the movers and the people who work in the offices cheer, even Mr. Hardy, in the big house next door across the alley, is watching from his front porch of what we now call the Hardy House. And Mom is really going to be mad at me for writing “cops!”

But what else is new. The truck and the house reach Plumas Street and it becomes clear how much the house being moved looks like the Levy Mansion. Granite Street doesn’t line up with Plumas yet. In fact it wouldn’t even be called “Sierra Street” south of the river for a few more years. The truck swung wide to the left then started a right turn, to go south on Plumas. The men on the roof lifted wires and walked to the “back” of the house, holding the wire and letting it fall behind the house as it moved. They were pretty good at it, as there were a lot of houses being moved around Reno and Sparks. But not as big as this one.

SpeedGraphicI rode my bike along behind it. A few other guys rode along too, and a photographer from the Nevada State Journal with one of those big black Press Graphic cameras. There would be a picture of it in that paper in the morning.

We traveled south on Plumas Street, and passed slowly by Billinghurst Junior High School. In a couple of months the new Reno High School would open at the bottom of the California Avenue hill and a lot of kids will go there. We passed by my friends Ty and Bill Cobb’s house at Martin Street, across from Billinghurst.

We got to Mt. Rose Street, beyond the planks over the Cochran Ditch where all the men were worried about the weight, but the planks held. Mt. Rose was the south city limits of Reno and there wasn’t much beyond there – just a few houses. Somebody said that Plumb Lane, with a “b” on the end of Plumb because it wasn’t named after a Plum but a family, was going to be extended eastward from Arlington to South Virginia, and then all the way to Hubbard Field, our airport.

HA! I thought. I may not live long enough to see Plumb Lane go all the way to Hubbard Field!

It’s getting close to my bedtime and I know Mom and Dad are going to make me turnSlim the light off, so I’m going to quit writing tonight. Within the next week I’ll tell you about getting the house all the way out Plumas Street where it was going to be placed, and we’ll poke around Virginia Lake a little – it’s a fun place.

So – I’ll leave you here – the house has been moved as far as Plumas and Mt. Rose Street and it will stay there all night. Come back in a while and we’ll pedal back to watch them put the house in it’s new home by Virginia Lake!

See ya…

Walking East Fourth Street

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

(This is a re-run of an old column….)

            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.

            To the ongoing horror of friends, the two neon signs that most interest me while I’m enjoying an ale or three at the Great Basin Brewpub 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 over Prater Way from the car wash, 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 [the railroad trench!], 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 NicholsSchoolMorrill 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. [In a later column I alluded to the Windy Moon moving to the former Mary Ann Nichols School on Pyramid Way in Sparks (pictured at the right), and some dude wrote the paper deriding my “poor research.” In reality, he was right; it’s still in the Morrill Avenue location as well as the former school. But to hell with thanking me for the plug…}

            We couldn’t tour East Fourth without stopping at the architecturally Inezresplendent 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… (pictured at left, photo courtesy Guy Clifton)

            Many notes remain and readers will kick in a few more, so we’ll probably go back and finish this tour soon.  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 RGJ.”  (Good story, buddy, tell it to Judge Salcedo.)

There’s a second part to this 2001 newspaper clip (© RGJ). Possibly it will be posted and linked to this in the near future, probably on a TBT 

 

Hear ye, hear ye – this site is going dark for a week or two and will not be changed – see y’all later in January!

SlimWere we all to tune the ol’ Philco tabletop radio to KOH AM-630 sixty years ago this Christmas morning, we’d probably hear the mellifluous voice of Cactus Tom, who ruled the early morning airwaves in early postwar Reno.  Tom Cafferty worked as a Reno casino card dealer in the mid-1930s, but broke into broadcasting a few years later at WGN in Chicago. After World War II, he managed an advertising agency in Los Angeles and played bit parts in Western movies and worked as a disc jockey. He became the morning disc jockey at Reno’s KOH in the 1950s, and began appearing also on KOLO-TV in 1961.

 Cactus Tom, while at KOH in their magnificent old Queen Anne house-turned-studio on the site of the present Greyhound station by the Truckee, recited the following poem annually, thereby giving birth to a local Christmas tradition. To the best of my research, it’s not copyright-protected other than by its appearance in this RGJ edition. But if we save it or pass it around to our friends let’s give a little attribution, to Tom, and to Nicholas D. Jackson, a popular, enduring and nocturnal habitué of Reno’s late-night downtown watering holes, where, legend has it, he wrote the verse on a cocktail napkin and offered it to Tom:

“Twas the night before Christmas, an’ ol’ Smokey Joe lay a’shiverin’ deep in his sack.     

While a coyote wailed, kinda mournful and low, an’ the wind drifted snow ‘round his shack,

An’ the moon played Roulette with the cold starry sky; til the clouds piled like chips on the black.

An’ Ol’ Smokey Joe kept a wonderin’ why Fate had placed him alone in this shack.

 

“Then Ol’ Smokey Joe, with a questioning look felt around for his boots on the floor,      

And from one took a sock which he hung on a hook attached to the worn cabin door.

Then shiverin’ a bit he walked back to his bed, and he slipped to his knees for a prayer,

An’ the kerosene lamp that hung overhead etched a silvery halo there.

 

“Then Ol’ Smokey Joe reached up for the light that hung on a nail overhead,

An’ he glanced to see if this stocking hung right, and then nestled deep in his bed.

And just before he fell sound asleep, he heard the noise of hooves on the flat,

An’ he knew that the cattle would soon bed down in the sheltered lee of his shack.

 

“The night wore on and a little grey mouse sneaked down from the eaves for a look,

A timid l’il soul without a home – ‘til he spotted the sock on the hook.

A tiny ol’ hole he chewed in the heel, a window where he could watch Joe;

Then he spent the whole night a‘packin’ in straw, and at dawn fell asleep in the toe.

 

“And a cow gave birth to a calf that night between the shack and a drift;

And it nuzzled the calf to the cabin door, Ol’ Smokey Joe’s Christmas gift.

Next mornin’ the sun came a’streamin’ through, lit the cabin’s every nook,

Smokey Joe waked up, kinda cautious-like, and’ gave that ol’ sock a look.

 

“Then a smile lit up his worn, kind face, he gave out with a mirthful squeal,

Threw a crust of bread to the little grey mouse, who peeked through the hole in the heel.

With the mouse tucked away in the crook of his arm, he opened the cabin door;

His heart started dancing and he felt a warmth like he’d never quite felt before.

 

“For there starin’ at him on his wobbly ol’ legs stood a calf, kinda shakey and worn;

Just waitin’ for Joe and a pail of hot milk, an’ a spot by the stove to keep warm.

And that night with the mouse sound asleep in the sock, and the calf cuddled up in the grate,

Ol’ Joe knew the answer of why he lived there, with the grey mouse, the calf, and Fate.”

  • • •

 Robert Service, in his epic Cremation of Sam McGee, couldn’t have written that yarn any better. Reno history is silent on the fate of poet and raconteur Nicholas D. Jackson; Tom Cafferty passed away on Dec. 11, 1993 in Reno.

This will be our last chance to visit before the prancing and pawing of each little hoof on our rooftop – I wish you all my best, and send thanks for your wonderful letters and calls over the year – those cherished presents that arrive weekly and won’t fit under my tree. And, we’ll amend our usual closing slightly and defer to Tiny Tim Cratchett, who said it best: “God bless us, everyone!”

 e-mail naughty or nice to kfbreckenridge@live.com

this © column last appeared in the RGJ in December 2015

ADDED AFTER ORIGINAL PUBLICATION: CACTUS TOM’S OBIT © RGJ 1993

 CactusTomI

CactusTomII

 

My Term Paper “WHAT I LIKE ABOUT RENO HIGH SCHOOL” – with a comment added from Dee Garrett following its publication…

CarmineGhiaby Carmine Ghia  Sept. 1957

I am writing this under diress pressure for Mrs. Lehners’ English class so I’m supposed to use good gramar and spelling but I’d rather just write down a bunch of stuff I like about Reno High School without all the fal-de-ral and let her correct it if it’s that big a deal to her.

    Miss Stern let me borrow this typewriter. Mr. Marean told us in his Physics class that someday there would be a typewriter that puts letters up on a “screen” like a television’s with a typewriter hooked to it that you didn’t even have to touch. That’s pretty hard to believe! In Mr. Daniels’ journalism class we’re learning to use a “Speed Graphic” camera, a great big thing with film on slides that slip into the back of the camera. We go across the hall to a darkroom and develop the film for the Red & Blue school paper. If it weren’t for one cute girl in my Journalism class I’d Marideeprobably cut it more often and go skiing. Then we take it down to a printer on West Fourth Street by Central Jr. High who re-types what we write on some kind of machine called a Mergenthaler then prints the newspaper. An older guy in our class named Cal Pettingil Petengill Pettengill said that someday we’d all be “alumni” of Reno High and the alumni would put out a newsletter on a “computer,” whatever that is, in about 20 minutes without the typesetter, print it and mail it out for 44¢ a copy which is about eight times what a stamp costs now. I’d like to work on the newspaper if I could learn how to type and spel and use that camera. 

    They’re adding a new building for auto shop and stuff along Foster Drive so theyNewUnderwood can move all the shops out of the basement under the cafeteria. Mr. Morgan and Mr. Cline are in charge of that. The cafeteria is a nice place to eat and has good cinnamon rolls. It’s a good thing we have one because there’s nothing for blocks around the school, maybe Tony’s Dellickatesen Delikatsesenn Delicatessen downtown on First Street, Ramos Drug on California Avenue or Hale’s at Fourth and Vine. Or the Penguin on South Virginia but that’s a pretty tough walk during a lunch hour/ That’s about it. We hear that someday they’re putting up a bridge over the Truckee from Keystone Avenue but no one can figure out how to connect it to California and Booth Streets. So they’ll probably never build it and we’ll walk over the old Booth Street bridge to Hale’s Drugs or that new place they’re building on Vine, the Silver ‘n Gold, or something like that.

I like the music teacher at Reno High, Mr. Tellaisha and his wife Ruby. They built a great pep band for basketball games and assemblies/ Our buddy Rob Johnson is the best drummer in Reno and Paul Smith plays a cool cornet. Assemblies are fun, each class gets to put on one a year and this year we’re doing “South Pacific.” One of our teachers said that there was a lot of language and meaning in that play that Rogers & Hammerstein wouldn’t be able to write fifty years later. But we had fun and sang “Nothing like a Dame” in spite of Mr. Finch telling us to sing “…like a girl.” What does he know? There’s a play opening on Broadway called “The Music Man” that the school will get to put on in a few years with a lot of “Barbershop” singing, whatever that is. Lauren House would probably like it, he’s a pretty good base baretonne altow tenor. We had an assembly the other day with a man named Pete Echevarria, who was the first guy in charge of the new Gaming Control Board and he was really funny. The Huskiettes marched in one assembly; they won’t date dumb guys like me but go for the jocks. We’ll see what they look like in 50 years. Ha!

    The school has a club called “Huskie Haven,” once an old fire station downtown on Center Street with pool and ping pong tables and stuff to read and movies, but StateBuilding2they closed it a few years ago. Now the Huskie Haven, which we all pay a couple dollars for on our Student Activity cards each year, has dances at the California Building and the State Building downtown, and skating nights at Idlewild Park with music and a weenie roast (the fire department floods the ice during the day so it’ll be smooth by dark). They’ve held a few ski days. They get a lot of good records for music at the dances, last Friday night the new Chordettes and Buddy Holly songs. Buddy Holly flies in a little airplane called American Pie to a lot of shows, which sounds pretty dangerous to me.

    Mrs. Lehners probably won’t like my sentences chopped up like this but I’ve got to get this turned in by second period next Friday. I don’t understand the “Sessions” baloney; at Mary S. Doten we just stayed in one room and at Central we had “Home Rooms,” now we have “Sessions” with numbers and the only people I get to meet are the people with names close to mine, Ghia, so all I know are people with last names beginning in F, G, or H. To make it sillier, we have Sessions officers, so we have a president of a group that meets 12 minutes a day.

    We’re decorating the gym tomorrow for the Sophomore Dance tomorrow night, and after the Senior Ball decorating fiasco last year, the girls were told to bring their dungarees and their father’s Oxferd Oxford shirts if they wanted to change after school to work in the gym. The Senior girls came to school in their dungarees and ratty shirts and were sent home before school to get into skirts or dresses. Mr. Finch said this is a school, and no student from Reno High is going to be seen in dungarees with torn-out knees, belly buttons and straps showing under sleeveless blouses, short tight skirts, red-and-blue hair, nose rings, tattoos, and boys with “Bite Me” on their t-shirts. When we walk across to the new Village Shopping Center being built across Foster Drive, we’re going to look GOOD!

    That’s some of what I like about Reno High, and the ribbon in Miss Stern’s typewriter has almost run out. If this were 50 years later I could write, “send me an ‘e-mail’ with your favorite things about Reno High, and if we have an “alumni” newsletter going by then – maybe we’ll call it the Huskies Trails – something like that, kind of catchy, you could put your favorite memories in the newsletter along with mine.

But heck, who knows now what an “e-mail” is in 1957?

© Karl Breckenridge website  2001  – Carmine mentioned a Reno High newsletter coming someday; here’s a link to the Reno High School Alumni Association

This missive arrived by that mysterious “email” later Thursday morning – thanks, Dee Garrett…

“Good Morning Karl:

 Just finished reading your latest  “ O’l Reno Guy” & What I like about Reno High School”., Great stories and being in the class of 1953 I can relate to all of the names your mentioned.

 With coffee cup in hand I pondered about  what I liked about Reno High and here is what I came up with.

1.    Dr. Effie Mona Mack & her Nevada History class. It gave me the bug to learn more and visit as much of the state as possible. She was amazing.

2.    David Finch..Human Relations Class. I am sure he taught us more in that class than we ever learned at home or from older friends.

3.    Ms. Anderson, World History.. This retired Army Captain knew her stuff. Made me want to travel and see many sights & places and I have.

4.    Mr. Finch, as Principal for standing up for the guys that painted the Carson City “ C” in red & blue.

5.    Jerry Fenwick for selling the guys the paint to do the dirty deed.

      That is about it.. I did work a few hours every day during my Reno High days for Thomas Wilson Advertising and that kept me from chasing girls.”

 Merry Christmas to you

 Dee C. Garrett

Reno High Class of 1953

 

 

 

April 19 • Fireworks at Mackay Stadium!

How all this began…

KF_headshotSchool starts but it’s still summer in my new town of Reno, and Dad wants to go to the stadium at the university by our house on Ralston Street and watch the fireworks! They’re put on every Friday all summer by a night club downtown owned by a guy named Harold, so it’s called “Harold’s Club.” In a few years he’d quit putting that little comma up high between the “d” and the “s” but that wouldn’t happen until 1949.

It’s Friday, so dad and I are walking down University Terrace toward the university. Mom’s staying home with my sister Merilynn, she’s still in a bassinet. We walk past my friend Bill and Margaret Eddleman’s house and then around a big curve. There’s a rock wall on the south side of the street and no sidewalk. Just below that wall the Orr Ditch is flowing full. The wall was built a few years ago as a government project to keep men working after something called the “depression,” when everybody was out of work. I heard that they also built a big lake with an island in the southwest corner of Reno by the old airport that was turned into a golf course. We’re going to go to there someday. I’ll tell you about that when we get there. I’ll write about it.

But tonight is fireworks, and they are free to watch. We walk past Mr. Goodwin’s house, a friend of Dad’s who owns the Kentile floor covering business in Reno. He’s the president of Reno’s banjo band, and there’s about 20 guys out in his front yard playing banjos and we can hear them from around the corner.

We get to Sierra Street and cross it and walk down to Virginia Street. It’s the main highway to a town called Susanville. We keep walking to University Street, the next street, and go through some big granite pillars with dates on them, a gift to the university when every graduating class donated some landmark with their class’ date on it. Then we turn left and go up the hill into the university itself.

There’s a couple of cannon at the top of the hill, and two twin buildings, called Morrill and Stewart Hall. We keep walking up past a big grassy park about as big as a couple blocks downtown. Dad said it’s called the “Quad,” or Quadrangle. Dad says MackayStatuethe Quad copied a design by Thomas Jefferson for the University of Virginia’s campus. All around it are a bunch of old brick buildings where kids go to learn something. There’s a statue of a guy named John Mackay at one end of the Quad, put there by his son Clarence who also paid for the stadium that we’re going to, so they named it after Clarence when it was built in 1908. Then we walk past a building called Lincoln Hall where a lot of guys live.

Mackay1Then we cross a dirt parking lot to the stadium – Mackay Stadium – and go in. It’s all concrete steps like seats on the west side where everybody sits. And there’s no lights, so it’s starting to get pretty dark. Across the stadium is another grandstand for the kids that go to the university to sit on. Behind that, on the left side of the picture, is a “fieldhouse” where all the lockers and showers are for the ballplayers. It’s getting dark and everybody is excited about the fireworks starting to begin.

There’s a loudspeaker system that’s pretty crackly but it works, and a guy in a whiteHarolds Club Buick suit gets out of blue Buick woody station wagon with bull horns across the roof, and he starts talking in the middle of the field. And here my nose is getting long like Pinocchio’s because this is supposed to be 1946 but the Buick is a 1949 so I must be fibbing, but hey, I’m only six years old.

The guy in the white suit and Stetson hat is Mr. Smith himself – Harold – and he welcomes everybody to the fireworks show. Then RoaringCampthey play some music by some guys called the “Sons of the Pioneers” over the loudspeakers and make it pretty plain that he wants everybody to come to Harolds Club soon. Even the kids can go, because he shuts off gaming in the “Roaring Camp,” the name of his western museum, every Saturday morning between ten in the morning and noon, just so us kids can go in the museum. We can’t go other times because there’s people gambling.

OldMackay2The fireworks start soon and they’re really neat. It seems like half the town of Reno and Sparks is there in the stands on both sides of the field. The stadium is pretty full, and it holds almost 2,800 people on the west side seats. A lot of people brought blankets and are sitting on the grass on the football field. And they’re all “ooh”ing and “ahh”ing with the fireworks that go on for about a half-hour. They’ve been going on all summer, and tonight is the last night.

We get a Coke at the stand that some bunch of guys, Dad’s friends, run, the “Lions” or “Tigers” or something like that. I’d get to know them pretty well in years to come, because Dad got involved a year later in the “Friendship Train” collecting stuff to send to a town called Berlin somewhere in Europe that was blockaded by another country and the people were cold and starving. Two brothers named Sewell built a grocery store down the street, and loaned it to Dad and his friends to collect groceries and clothes and stuff. But that’s a year away so I can’t write about it yet. I’ve just got to grow up faster so I can write about the Friendship Train and the Lake Street Fire and some other cool stuff that hasn’t happened yet.

But, tonight’s tonight, 1946; we’re in Mackay Stadium and about to walk back home to Ralston Street.

Come back again, we’ll walk somewhere else!

(By the way, Dad says if I’m going to steal pictures I’d better say where I got them; some of the pictures, of old Mackay Stadium, are from the University’s Special Collections archives. I don’t know where they got them…)

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April 2 • Knockin’ around town on a Saturday

  How it began, click here… 

1941_chevvyI’m writing again, in my best handwriting, trying to practice as I’ll be starting kindergarten next week at Mary S. Doten, just down the Ralston hill from our new Reno house. It’s a Saturday morning; Dad and I are off in the Chevy to handle some of his chores, and I’m tagging along.

We take off on Fourth Street through town to Alameda Street. Across the Truckee to the south is the same street, called Wells Avenue because a rancher named Wells used to drive cattle up the street and across the river to the slaughterhouse a block west of Alameda. My uncle John, who just got out of the service, opened a Flying A service station on the northwest corner, almost next to the slaughterhouse. He has a nifty Harley Davidson motorcycle “tricycle” with a box on the back and his station’s name on the back of the box. My grandmother hates motorcycles and people who ride them. Uncle John promised me a ride on his Harley one time and my mother told him she’d kill him if he did that. Women I’m learning at age six are hard to understand.

There’s a neat little store across Fourth Street, Akert’s Market it’s called. There’s a fun guy in there named Ben, probably in college now, who wants to open a store that sells booze and call it “Ben’s Liquors.” My mom told me not to use the word “booze.” Oh well.

Dad said that the city was going to build a fire station on Morrill Avenue, a couple blocks to the east. It would replace the old fire station almost across the street, called “Reno East” which is a duplicate of the one at the dead-end of California Avenue on Virginia Street. This is a busy area of town, East Fourth Street, with a lot of nice stores, hardware, auto parts, lot of auto stuff and garages. Mr. Blakely, a friend of dad’s since high school, operated Eveleth Lumber kitty-corner from my uncle’s service station. It makes custom cuts of lumber and is in high demand from people building houses needing weird stuff like handrails. It is part of a sawmill up the river toward Truckee.

We got back in the car and left to see my dad’s friend Mr. Menante, another schoolmate. His family owns a shop by the railroad tracks on Virginia Street, that takes the tires off cars and “vulcanizes” new rubber and treads onto them and they put them back on your car, to save buying new tires. Dad said it was a wartime thing. Mr. Menante’s business is called Reno Vulcanizing, pretty original. His plan is to move further north on Virginia Street to his partner Mr. Besso’s family ranch, and build a new Reno Vulcanizing shop on what will become Sixth Street.

Mr. Menante told me how my father shot him with a pistol in their senior year in high school, which cost my dad his appointment to Annapolis, which is a big Navy school back east. Turns out they were in a play and my dad’s character shot Mr. Menante’s character, but the gun misfired and bent my dad’s trigger finger so it wouldn’t straighten and he never got to that Navy school. Mr. Menante was a fun guy.

We got back in the Chevy after dad made arrangements to get the tires fixed, and drove across the railroad tracks to have coffee – ugh – how grownups can drink that stuff is beyond me. Dad parked the Chevy at kind of an angle in front of Tiny’s Waffle Shop south of Commercial Row. We went to see Mr. Southworth in his tobacco shop on Douglas Alley. My grandmother, after my grandfather died in 1906, married Mr. Strausburg who was a stockbroker and owned the little building, his office on the second floor, Southworth’s Tobacco on the street level. Mr. Southworth was a nice guy, had a cigar-store Indian in the window that would piss some people off in years to come. Likely not the Indians. But, this is 1946 and I don’t know anything about that yet. (Three years later Harolds Club would put up a mural with Indians all over it, and more on the roof of the building, but I didn’t know that yet either…)

We went into Tiny’s for coffee, and a bunch of Dad’s friends were in there at a big table. I met Mr. Tripp, who worked for Mr. Smith at Harolds Club across the street. His job was making little plastic name tags for the ladies who worked in Harolds Club, with their first name and hometown. Mr. Tripp, I think his name was Walt, was a nice guy, had a couple of sons my age, and wanted to open his own engraving shop – “Tripp Plastics,” he’d call it. Mr. Smith I understand was going to help him get started.

Mr. Cobb was in Tiny’s at the big table. He was a sportswriter from Virginia City who worked at the newspaper, over on Center Street. He was also the announcer at the Silver Sox baseball games in Moana Stadium, a long way out of town to the south, and he told me that he’d let me sit in the booth some night during a game. He was a nice guy. I soon met his two sons and daughter, tell you all about them one of these days.

All dad’s friends were nice men. One was funny, his name was Mr. Maffi, and he and his partner Mr. Lyons owned a service station at the end of California Avenue across the street from the Lake Mansion, which I’ll have to study to learn more about and write about it another day. Mr. Maffi came to our house on Ralston Street later today to help dad adjust the furnace in our new house, which originally burned coal but was converted by Mr. Maffi to burn oil. Dad and Mr. Maffi, (and Mr. Sala, our next door neighbor; I’ll write a lot about him in the future), had to leave to get a furnace part and probably some more beer (surely Sierra!), and Mr. Maffi, who had a glass eye, took his eye out and put it on the kitchen table and told my mother, who had a limited sense of humor, “Here, Floie, (for her name was Flo), I’m keeping an eye on my beer.”

Dad and Mr. Sala laughed, but Floie (Flo) fainted, right on the kitchen floor, cold as a mackerel. Mr. Sala went next door to get Mrs. Sala to help out. Floie soon returned to consciousness, and Dad, seeing this, went out the front door with the other guys to Mr. Maffi’s pickup and took off down Ralston Street to get the furnace part. And some beer.

As I recall, they discussed Mr. Maffi and the occurrence further that evening.

I’m worn out from writing; I’ll start school in a week down the hill at Mary S. Doten, and maybe I’ll learn how to write cursive so it will be easier to read. Come back in a week and we’ll stumble off around Reno some more, maybe visit my new school and my new friends, all neighbors, Tom Cook, Cecelia Molini (Pearce), Jimmie Ceander, and Marilyn Burkham. And another new friend that I’m going to introduce next week, Cedric Parkenfarker from up University Terrace. Cedric has the ability to look into the future, which will enable me to write my 1946 memories, but interject what happened in the future, like Marilyn Burkham becoming known as Ma Bell. And I’ll get my Brownie Hawkeye fixed so I can add some pictures again…it’s busted today.

See ya soon…………

 contact the six-year old at kfbreckenridge@live.com

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