Some shots by Cal Pettengill taken June 14 of the Virginia Street Bridge demolition progress. Note photo #2 demonstrates vividly how much of that bridge was earth within the shell of concrete!

Sierra Exif JPEG

Sierra Exif JPEG

Sierra Exif JPEG

Sierra Exif JPEG

Sierra Exif JPEG

Sierra Exif JPEG

Sierra Exif JPEG

Sierra Exif JPEG

Here’s some shots that Cal Pettengill took with his Brownie Hawkeye earlier this Flag Day. One is of the drained pond at Idlewild; the others are of the progress of the removal of the Virginia Street Bridge. That pond in Idlewild was Reno’s first municipal swimming hole!

Thanks, Cal! The torture continues at AT&T Park – After Brandon Crawford made two errors on one play I decided the time to post had arrived. White Hats stuff is in the mill. Don’t ask me what the “Sierra Street exit” is, must be a GPS thing

The Harolds Club mural

mural4During this rodeo week in Reno, a few references have been made to the Harolds Club mural (and I should note here that Pappy Smith, who owned Harolds Club, named for his son, didn’t like apostrophes and that’s good enough for us!) Therefore, it’s probably appropriate to scribe a few words about that mural.

It was commissioned by the club in the mid-1950s, and a picture painted by Theodore McFall of Pacific Grove, Calif., was chosen. McFall knew that the mural that was to be created from his picture would be huge – 38 feet high and 78 feet wide – pioneers at a campsite that could be Crystal Peak to the west or the shore of the Truckee to the east – a campfire burning, azure-blue water falling in the background. He also knew that the farthest away a viewer could get from the mural was about a hundred feet – from Harolds Club across Virginia Street to Southworth’s Cigar Store on the west sidewalk – so he created the picture to look proportionate from any view, absent a parallax from looking up, or crosswise at it.

Deal was made and deed was done for the newish casino to buy the rights to the photo, and the process of taking an oil photo to a mural capable of withstanding weather and beating sun then began. It was decreed that it would be of steel, with color porcelainized onto the steel and fired (the mural consisted of many small squares of artwork.) But who could do such a process?

A man was located, an interesting artist named Sargent Claude Johnson, a New Englander by birth who later spread his time between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. He was a sculptor, and a mosaic artist (his works can be seen as a mural on George Washington High School in SF, in some sculpture still in place on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, where it was placed for the 1939 World Exposition, and mosaics in the veranda of the Aquatic Park Museum in SF, and in that same building’s entrance in the form of intaglio. Most other works are on private property, and one is in storage, a scene similar to the Harolds Club mural created for a Las Vegas casino, acquired by the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, and now in storage.)

Curiously, I first wrote of Johnson and the mural in a February, which is Black History Month, because Johnson was half black, and elected to live his life in the black communities of LA and Oakland. He was a member of the Communist party during his adult life.

He undertook to create and fire the mural in 1948, and it was ready for presentation to the City of Reno by Harolds Club in 1949. It was trucked to Reno in many pieces, and suspended on a steel frame affixed to the Harolds Club building.

In its original form, the waterfall “fell,” sort of like the lights in a Wurlitzer jukebox, and the campfire “burned.” The waterfall’s cascade and the fire’s flickering flame were allowed to fall into disarray at the advent of the Hughes acquisition of Harolds Club. And some of the artwork on the lower part of the mural, primarily the snake that appeared poised to bite the lady pioneer’s butt, were covered by some signs spelling out the casino’s name. The legend atop the mural was attributed to Harolds Club’s genius adman Thomas C. Wilson, Dedicated In All Humility to Those Who Blazed the Trail.

Sadly, a home for the mural could not be located in downtown Reno when the club’s structure was demolished in 2001, and was in storage for a decade until the Reno Rodeo Association, with some help from other local people and entities, made it possible for it to be re-erected on a building at the Reno Events Center on Wells Avenue.
Well done, Smith Family, artist Theodore McFall, sculptor Sargent Claude Johnson, and the Reno Rodeo Association!

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…

Ol’ Reno Guy gets a Sunday off…

Red T-Bird

It’s Sunday; the Giants are beating the Padres in AT&T Park, it’s Earth Day, all is right in the world so we make a light-duty post just to keep the streak alive. We’ve  extolled the virtues of staff photographer Lo Phat. Here is a shot he took over the back fence of the Ol’ Reno Guy global headquarters onto Allen Street, a dead bird under tow from a ’57 Chevy tow truck.

    Actually, the T-Bird and the tow truck are each about four inches long, seen sitting on top of the fence, and now back in their place in the cabinet in the headquarter building. How does he do it, with that old pre-war Speed Graphic?

     Have a good weekend. Go Giants,

Update: Giant won, shutout