Walking East Fourth Street – 2001


F-carI pretty much left this alone from its original publication in the Gazoo. BTW, “Homefinders” was the section of the paper I wrote in, and I formed a Homefinders Club for the readership. And don’t ask me why I used a SF Muni streetcar for a photo – there’s no reason whatsoever…

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

          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.

          The two neon signs that most interest me while I’m enjoying an ale or three at Great Basin brewery 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 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, 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 Morrill 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.  [2016 note: Windy Moon has a second location now, in the old Mary Ann Nichols Elementary School on Pyramid Way.]

          We couldn’t tour East Fourth without stopping at the architecturally resplendent 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…

          Many notes remain and readers will kick in a few more, so we’ll probably go back and finish this tour soon.  (I’LL PUT IT ON THIS WEBSITE AFTER HOT AUGUST NIGHTS – kb.) 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 Homefinder.”  (Good story, buddy, tell it to Judge Salcedo.)

  • • •

Giddyup: I’ve mentioned Mt. Rose Sporting Goods liberally in columns about downtown Reno and Park Lane, and thanked Kenny York and his late brother-in-law Sonny Burke for putting half of us through college by giving us jobs.  There probably won’t be more than 10,000 Homefinder readers delighted to know that Kenny will be the Honorary Grand Marshall of the Reno Rodeo this week, lookin’ good on his ol’ cayuse.

          The G-rated story of the Southern Pacific’s call girls in Sparks promised two weeks ago has not been forgotten, stay tuned.  Yes, all 17 of you nit-pickers, the old main fire station was on the southeast corner of Commercial and West Streets, not northwest as I wrote.  I knew better, my Cub Scout Pack 304 went there once. 

          And our friends at Ralston Foods on Greg Street, all 124 of them, are working on 522 Accident-Free days as I write this.  That’s close to 65,000 man-days without an accident.  Hell, I didn’t do that well at Breckenridge Realty, and I was the only employee with the most dangerous machine an electric pencil sharpener.  Good for you all, keep it up.

          Have a good week, Let’s get it on, Mills; ride ‘em cowboy and God Bless America.


© Reno Gazette-Journal, 2001


Some old recipes from the Washoe Medical Center Ladies League cookbook ~


Enter a caption

RenoAlsoCooks It’s a book produced by Washoe Medical Center’s Women’s Auxiliary no later than 1959, for Gov. Charles Russell signed the dedication. It’s over 400 pages of handwritten recipes, from local men, and ladies whose first names were all Mrs. (Except for Mrs. Norman Biltz, who used her own name Esther…)

Added Nov. 29. 2017: For more information about the Washoe Medical Center Women’s League, click here Tombola Days


Thursday day night 12/10, Mrs. Cavilia, who knows her Italian sauce, shares a secret above




Muriel Kafoury checks in on this Tuesday Dec. 8th, with some Crab Creole – whoops, crab’s a little hard to come by at the moment with the ban on in the SF Bay. But save the recipe. And here we have a Household Hint, and some artwork!



On this gloomy first Sunday of December we see a recipe for which I have no idea what it is, but have selected it for the neat penmanship and also because the contributor, Mrs. Norman Biltz, violated 1960s convention and signed it with her own name, which was Esther. Should anyone know what it’s for, lemme know. It appears to be for leftover fish



Saturday afternoon 12/5, good college hoops on the tube, cold outside, need some dessert for the stuff we’ve been cooking, here’s two from Leola MacDonald and Mrs. H. Lownes Jackson whose name I don’t know but she makes a mean dish of ice cream, load up on the brandy if you want



On this Friday, Dec. 4 I bring you with great pleasure two pecan recipes, not picon like we get at Louis’ or the Santa Fe, but nuts – these are from Cherry Luce and Hazel Herd. Go for it!



Thursday, Dec. 3, happy to bring you Gov. Charles Russell’s favorite chicken dish, a recipe from his wife. I knew her, sort of, as a child knows an adult; her name was Marjorie, and she was Clark Guild Jr.’s sister, Judge Clark Guild Sr.’s daughter, born in Yerington and a great Nevadan. Here’s her recipe, try it: 


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Wednesday late: Here’s a couple from Sen. Clifton Young’s wife, Loretta, and U of Nevada president Minard Stout’s wife Ruth (?)



Tuesday night, Dec. 1: This is a humdinger, which appears to be very close to Danish aebel skivers, which take the basic pancake to the closest thing to heaven at breakfast – if you’ve been to Solvang, near Santa Barbara, you’ve probably tried them. Bookmark this one, you’ll like it (it’s from Mrs. Thomas Harvey, known to many as Maxine!)



Monday night; here’s one for trout from Gilbert Vasserot. This was a specialty dish on the menu of his (with partner Joe Patrucco) Eugene’s Restaurant on South Virginia Street 


Here’s Gilbert! Gilbert!


Sunday afternoon, ‘Niners struggling, too cold to go outside much so here’s two more, from Mmes. McDonald (McDonald Carano) and Johnson (Chevrolet)   TOUCHDOWN ‘NINERS!!!


On Sunday Nov. 29, Here’s a couple, from Walt Tobin and Dr. (Bart) Hood



Added Saturday, The Ohio State beating Michigan, here’s a recipe from Harold Cafferata. Love his penmanship! And the recipe doesn’t look bad either…




Horsley on the Fun Train…!

FunTrainGordon Horsley, pictured at the right below, is a Reno guy, pure and simple, all over the place all the time, Reno High Alum Association, Harrah Auto Museum trustee, great taste in columnists. And drives a classic Dodge with an old Harrah license plate. He took the time to send this:
Boy you really hit home on the Sunday column.  I could write a book report on my ties with this one but I promise not to.
Some highlights….
Don “BoomBoom” Burke I first met when he ran the Reno Chamber office in S.F. and got the fun train started.
Jud Allen, (who hired Don),  his widow Glenda and my wife are the best of friends.
When the RSCVA was formed Roy Powers brought Don to Reno to be a sales manager for him
As time went by Don later came to work for me at the Kings Castle as a sales manager and was my best man when I Horsleymarried my wife in Virginia City.  His wife Carol and my wife were business partners in Convention Activities, a convention services company that my wife and I took over and ran for 30 years.  Don’s widow Carol is still living in Reno and another of my wife’s best pals.
The fun train is still in operation run by Key Tours out of Walnut Creek but not anything like what you wrote about.  TheyNouk charter buses from us now and then to get the people from the train station to the various properties.
Boy what a event when you got Don Burke and Don Manoukian [at left] in the same room or on a golf course.  One a 49er and the other a Raider.  It was a cherished  part of my life I will never forget.
As always Karl….many thanks for the memories..

Walkin’ “Midtown” c. 1955

Dick Dimond Dodge - 600 South Virginia St 1950So, it’s a 1950s walk y’all want. We haven’t taken a Saturday morning walk for a while, and although there’s frost on the pumpkin as I write, by the time you read this it could be a brilliant fall day. Or the dead of winter…no matter, we’ll meet on the lawn at the Lake Mansion on California Avenue and South Virginia and trek south to Mt. Rose Street, and return next weekend. Remember the walk rules: Space doesn’t permit including every man, woman, child or business along our path, nor a time span from the Civil War to today. We’re in our usual 1955-1960 time warp.


Onward we go across California Avenue with no stoplight, much to the consternation of the firemen in “South” Station across the street. We’ll walk by Lyon’s Signal service station on the corner (this is an era when almost every corner had one, if not more, service stations, heavy on the service.) Past there, Ham McCaughey’s Reno Motors was selling Lincolns and Mercurys, in a showroom that would later serve as Codding & Wetzel’s ski shop – Hal and Jerry, great guys – then later to become the casino area for the Ponderosa Hotel that would be built to the west of it.

We pass Reno Motors to Con Priess’ Kit Carson Motel and its expanse of lawn second only to the University’s Quad – many tiny rooms, stretching west all the way to Forest Street. It would later become the parking lot for the Ponderosa. Southward we pass Royal Tire, to have a few other names in years to follow, to the corner of St. Lawrence Street, and popular Glenn Turner Florist.

We’ll look both ways and cross St. Lawrence to what my contemporaries knew best as the Del Mar Station, but on the morning of this walk it was Heric’s Café, and would remain so for many years. [We’ll learn soon that it was also the Peppermint Lounge.] The Mt. Rose Market, one I wrote about in columns past was in the south end of that same building; a neighborhood grocer, as most were in that period of time. South past another bar that’s had a dozen names, to the Penguin Café, a favorite hangout until well into the 1980s, black-and-white checkerboard floor and all, their fare rivaled only by Ramos’ Drug around the corner. Now it’s Luciano’s original location, still great food. [2015 maybe not] Reno Pet Food was the baby of Don Combs, an incredibly funny guy whose [late] widow Rachael charmed all that knew her. Once upon a time a guy could work on his own car and might have gone to Ayres Auto Parts, south of the pet food store, for his plugs, points and condenser. (Do cars still have those gadgets??)

Across Taylor Street, a structure once the Dondero family home, later a laundromat, later still the American Red Cross, still later the KSRN-FM radio studios. South Virginia Street was used-car row in the post-war days, and we’ll just stroll past a few car lots now until we get to the corner, once a Richfield service station, later Tom and Suzi Jensen’s taco stand.

More car lots as we cross La Rue Street, translating from the French to Street-Street, the most notable lots were Hermann & Wilson’s (Chryslers), and Pio’s – Pio Mastroianni was an immensely popular Reno businessman whose surname I’ve never spelled right yet on the first try. At Martin Street, one of the earliest Eagle Thrifty Drugs then the Ox-Bow Motel, Harry’s Coffee Shop (later the Olympic) and a Shell Station. (Note the proliferation of great little coffee shops before the fast foods took the viability out of them.) Beyond Mary Street, the Pet Emporium where good ol’ Tom Jamison now has [had] his Pro-Serv printery and clock shop (clockery?), the Ho-Hum Motel, then Rauhut’s Bakery’s final location, now an open shell in the building. Two premium furniture stores: Freemont & Humphries, and Sellman & Gravelle Furniture and Décor a few doors to the south. Harry O’Brien, the Smilin’ Irishman was in that block before moving out to Glendale Road, Ma Bell had a phone truck garage there for a time, Nevada Traction sold tractors in this block, and we had two bars, Klub 1091 under the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, and the 1099 Club on the corner, and you don’t want to confuse one with the other if you’re pub crawling. And, a Wash-a-Mat, when “Laundromat” was a copyrighted term. The 1000 block was a busy one.

South of Caliente, the South Virginia Deli and Liquors owned by the Games family, who would build the new Washoe Market on the other end of the block – (it’s now an antique store). In midblock was Sprouse-Reitz, ditto [presently Ace Hardware], and a little building that some say was bootlegged onto Sprouse-Reitz, years ago. In the time of our walk there was a long gap from Arroyo to Pueblo Streets – the El Reno Apartments that once occupied it had all been removed, and the block was vacant for a time before the Sewell family built Sewell’s Market and joined the Bates family opening Nevada Bank of Commerce, both in the same building now occupied by Statewide Lighting and more antique dealers.

Another bank across Pueblo was an early First National Bank about which I touched off an e-mail riot sometime back, saying it had the first drive-in window in the state, while even admitting that Joe Sbragia’s FNB on Pyramid and Greenbrae, or an FNB in Las Vegas might have preceded this one by a month or two. Touchy, touchy… Rauhut’s Bakery occupied the southern part of that building, the best-smelling bank branch in Reno, later moving to their final location to the north, mentioned a paragraph or so above.

I think there was an beauty shop in what is now Miguel’s restaurant prior to Miguel Ribero but can’t pin that down. Miguel’s became a Reno classic, moving to a building across from the Peppermill for a time in the early 1970s, retaining the older location as the “Cove.” Before he passed away he beamed back to the old site; the food there better for extraterrestrials and mortals alike. A good hombre, Miguel was. We’ll end this tour at the Office Bar, now Mr. O’s, and cross Virginia Street next Saturday to Bill Stremmel’s new Volkswagen dealership, then catch lunch at Landrum’s – the Gazoo’s buying.

Have a good week, take a columnist to lunch and the family kayak down to the Truckee’s banks and enjoy our new park; congrats to my buddy Skip Hansen, named a Life Member of the Reno/Sparks Board of Realtors, and God bless America.

Strolling the east side of South Virginia

When last we met, we huddled over the shuffleboard table at Paul O’Gorman’s public house at South Virginia and Mt. Rose Streets, with a promise of walking north to our cars at California Avenue. I might have stopped too soon last weekend – several readers mentioned the early Safeway superstore in the “Val-U-Mart” Center across Mt. Rose Street, now an auto parts store [even later and presently Fed-Ex Office], and the early Eagle Thrifty Market, later a Raley’s, in the present Sports West gym; how could we forget the Cork Room and Spaughi’s? and the golf driving range south of Walts Drive bordering the early Vario’s, later Cicero’s, now Bricks, no apostrophe. Bob Helms and his group attempted for a time to build a hotel-resort on that block-deep site.

Now we can cross South Virginia, near the New York Deli not far from the present IHOP, and Warren’s Sav-Mor store, that would later move to Moana West. A slumpstone building next, housing a used-car lot, nearly across from the Continental Lodge, drab now but at one time invisible beneath a façade built around it to replicate a stagecoach, wheels, drover’s seat, luggage rack and all – looked like it should have been on the roof of the Liberty Belle. It was a Richard Graves creation, he the son of the Nugget’s Dick Graves, opened as a restaurant with chuck wagon vittles, whatever they are. It did well for many a year. Bill Stremmel built his Volkswagen dealership, Bugging out of his original West Second and West Street showroom. [Now, partly Lulou’s Restaurant; that cross-street came later.] Walking north across Pueblo Street, we find Applewhite Motors, notable only for their pre-FAirview (32) prefix phone number, 3-0000. We have to remember the late Ted Mattson’s little office on our path, Ted a fine Realtor, as were Ted’s office neighbors Gene LaTourette and the octogenarian Tom McKeown, now running a golf resort in Maui, the poor soul. The Lord smiles down on a few old Realtors. Walking north, Circus Potato Chip’s factory, next to my classmate Roy Walker’s Thriftee Seat Covers auto upholstery, and the venerable Landrum’s – with only seven stools, we strollers may have to eat our chili cheese omelettes in shifts.

Crossing Arroyo, well-nourished, we find what was once a White Spot grocery, replaced later by an early post-war retail building that housed a number of shops and restaurants – Martin Furs, Ma Rue Beauty Shop, Brookie’s Grill, and every guy in Reno’s favorite, Builders & Farmers Hardware. Upstairs was the greatest hardware store known to man, downstairs the most intricate model railroad ever built in Reno – few will ever forget the smell of artificial smoke puffing from the O-guage locos’ stacks, mixed with ozone from the big Lionel engines’ single-pole motors, plodding their cargo around a couple of hundred feet of track. What a store…

We’ll walk past Reno Frozen Foods north of the retail shops, later occupied by Flowers Distributing, which distributed not flowers but OJ and other cold stuff to grocers (kind of like Eagle Service a few blocks to the north during this time period, a mortgage broker, not a place to take your eagle every 5,000 miles for a tune-up.) On the corner, a Standard Station, and have I ever written that in our mid-century time period, a Standard Station was owned and operated by Standard Oil, and a Chevron Station a Standard Oil franchise? I didn’t think so. Standard closed this station, and did the only logical thing to do: park reefer trailers all over their lot to be used by the meat-packer next door. In a moment of civic pride, they flashed the underpinnings of the trailers, an only-in-Reno neighborhood cleanup display of solidarity.

Crossing Vassar Street, another service station, this a Signal. Further north on the block in a handsome two-story brick building with offices above, the Hansel & Gretel children’s apparel shop, I’ll write at some peril the largest then in Reno, and one destined to stay in business for many years hence (in Moana West). That South Virginia store became John and Janie Oliver’s waterbed store in years to follow and is now an adult bookstore. To the north, a Richfield station through the block to Center Street, later a drive-in, then yet another service station on the corner at Center Street, with a dozen names and operators.

We cross Center Street with some caution, because on this morning of our walk it’s still a two-way street with traffic entering from the north toward South Virginia. One of my favorite buildings in Reno was the classy brick Shoshone Coca-Cola bottling plant, the gleaming stainless steel bottling line visible in the huge south windows, a parade of pale green Coke bottles being squirted full and capped right before our eyes, boxed in wooden cases, and loaded onto the yellow, red and white delivery trucks in what’s now Restaurant Equipment and Supply Company’s parking lot

A modern industrial miracle when the Farr family, nice people, opened it right after the war. Down the street across from Martin Street was and is Pangborn (then Pangborn & Douglas) CPAs, now the lair of my buddies David Morgan, Harry Parsons and Roberta, the Grinsell Who Stole Christmas, and onward to the Arctic Circle Drive-in at the corner. Onward to the next corner to the Q-ne-Q Diner – a stainless steel structure right out of a James Dean Hot August Night poster, where I had dozens of those new “hamburger” things with my dad right after the WWII while he met his buddies for coffee on Saturday mornings.

We see, from the Arctic Circle across LaRue Street, the neon “Barnes Radio” sign that would look so good in my backyard; Jim Barnes a radio pioneer in Reno who at one time had blue license plate W1, and also owned Barnes Cash Grocery on West Fourth Street. During the days when few locals had radios, Jim hooked up his set to loudspeakers and broadcast news of the day and prizefights to a crowd that assembled in front of the store on the Lincoln Highway. At the Cheney Street corner, we opine that the Giller family might have named their defunct ambulance service on that corner anything but “Aids Ambulance”, and a few steps to the north, the new Caravan Motel and its legendary cocktail lounge where if the walls could talk, I could write another book. And looking across the street, I’m reminded by my childhood friend Bob Busey that post-Heric’s Coffee Shop and pre-Delmar Station, was the Peppermint Lounge, where presumably one so inclined could do the Peppermint Twist. (Other landmarks I forgot last week were the El Borracho watering hole and the adjacent El Dorado Motel. Check out the incredible rockwork on both of them. They were all in my notes – who knows why not the column?)

Approaching the end of the walk lays Savage & Son Plumbing, Nevada contractor’s license #10, with its basement chock-full of oddball obsolete fittings and parts awaiting those goofy enough to want to buy and remodel old, picturesque homes with hundred-year old plumbing. [Savage is still hard at it on Wrondel Way – no basement anymore but their terrific inventory lives on.] Finally, Dick Dimond Dodge in the attractive, San Francisco-style brick building, [PICTURED ABOVE] later known briefly before its demise as Les Schwimley Motors. And lo, we cross South Virginia Street to the Lake Mansion, our tour completed.

Have a great week, a great Holiday season, and God bless America.

© RGJ December 2005

The Alice McManus Clark Library at the University

ClarkOnce upon a time I wrote of Reno’s Chism family, including that Miriam Chism’s dad was Walter E. Clark, who was president of the University of Nevada from 1917 to 1937. So far, so good.
The column created some confusion, with readers connecting the one-time Clark Library, now the Clark Administration Building on the University campus, to President Clark’s memory. Herein we’ll now straighten the record out:

The Clark Administration Building is named for Nevada native Alice McManus Clark, the wife of William A. Clark Jr. Clark’s father was a Montana senator, railroad financier, and namesake of our state’s Clark County (Las Vegas). William Clark Jr. donated the structure in memory of his wife; the building was designed by Los Angeles architect Robert D. Farquhar, and it was dedicated in October 1927. It housed the campus library from 1927 until 1962, when it was replaced by the Nobel Getchell Library and renamed the Clark Administration Building.

In 1962, the entire University of Nevada student body, all two thousand of us strong performed a bucket brigade of books, out the front door of the Alice McManus Clark Library and north along the main drive to the newly-dedicated Getchell Library. Truly a social occasion not without some hi-jinks, but a productive one indeed. There’s been talk of replacing the Getchell, as being rendered obsolete by the cyber-age [2015 edit: It’s been replaced, and the structure has been demolished].

‘Twill be a bittersweet afternoon when the Getchell’s intellectual resources are moved to their new home, wherever it may be and whatever it will be named, in one pickup-loadfull of beefy computers. [They’ve been moved, to the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center – what a name for a library – can you imagine the Music Man singing to Marian the director of the knowledge center? – loses something – back to the text:] Doesn’t sound like a big deal to celebrate at the Lil’ Wal when the job’s done, as it was 43 years ago. [53, as you read this in 2015]

And that, my friends, is the connection with Walter Clark and the University – Walter Clark was president but had no structure that I know of named for him. William Clark (the given names both starting with “W” to add to the confusion!) had the first library (and the county) named after his dad. Sounds like a dude with a little political horsepower; they broke up Lincoln County to designate its southern portion as Clark County.

Footnote: I’ve been asked why I vacillate on the UNR vs. University of Nevada usage. Two reasons: One, I’m a Libra and therefore intransigent by nature; secondly, I write the term appropriate for the time of the topic, e.g. the 1927 University of Nevada building dedication is University of Nevada; if something happened after 1966 it’s UNR. That’s a battle I’m losing, as our alma mater is pretty consistently UNR now, regardless of the year in context. But never University of Nevada comma Reno. Never.

And there you have it, Craig Morrison, who accused me of dogging it for letting a post stand for two weeks without replacing it. It won’t happen again…! (Baloney…)

© sort of, Reno Gazette-Journal, May 2005
photo credit: UNR


A pleasant letter from an old friend, with some old Reno geography…

EricHi Karl,
The cover story in the Food & Drink section of this morning’s RG-J reminded me of when my family first moved to Reno in spring 1950. For about four weeks or so we lived in the Suburban Motel on the north side of East Pueblo St. between South Virginia St. and Wells Avenue. Although the unit we stayed in had primitive kitchen facilities, my father and I had hamburgers a couple of times at Landrum’s. (My brother John was only two – too young for hamburgers.) I was duly enrolled in Veterans Memorial Elementary School, to which I could easily walk. I think I remember that Bob Blair was there, and possibly Marilyn Peterson. >Petie Anyway, my parents found a house to rent on Hood Avenue, off Valley Road, which was then in the far north of Reno. I transferred to Sierra Vista Elementary School, also within walking distance of our house, for the remainder of third grade and most of fourth grade. The house lease was for one year, and just before the lease expired my parents bought the house I grew up in on the southeast corner of Keele Drive and Von Way. California Avenue had not yet been extended past Hunter Lake Drive, so access by car was via Mayberry Drive to Keele Drive. I finished fourth grade at McKinley Park Elementary School, and was assigned the desk belonging to Judy Stratton > Stratton(who was not there, I believe, because of some medical problem). I could ride my bicycle to school because there was a footpath from about the bottom of Lyman Avenue northeast through a construction company yard to (what was then) the end of Idlewild Drive. Then, of course, it was on to Central for fifth grade, where we met.



It hasta be pasta – Reno’s Food Shop

Food Store

I was reminded by none other than Buddy Sorensen at a recent convening of the Black Bear Diner Gentlemen’s Coffee & Bear Paw, World Dilemma Solutions & Laudable Opinions Kaffee Klatsch, that if I’m going to go carousing around town on Saturday mornings talking about old markets as we have been on-and-off for the past few years, that I’d darn well better pay some mind to the Ferrari family’s Food Store, and particularly to include the nickname of a popular member of the family.

            That family member’s name is Bob Ferrari, who graduated from the original Manogue High School by East McCarran Boulevard at its Truckee River crossing, and went on to letter for four years in both baseball and basketball at the University of Nevada. He enlisted in, and later retired from the U. S. Army, then returned to teach at Sparks Middle School and eventually retired also from the school district. He’s now anything but retired in land development – his family recently donated a significant parcel to the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.

            But all that pales in comparison to his duties in the 1950s as a grocery delivery driver, taking vittles from hither and yon to the Food Store’s customers. On the tailgate of their 1946 Chevy truck was lettered, Noodles – free delivery. Thus our friend and Sigma Nu fraternity brother, following a career facing military combat and later the trenches of a middle school – which together should merit sainthood for anyone – came to be known by his friends as “Noodle.”

            I asked him whether any middle school students called him that or “Mr. Ferrari,” and he indicated “Mr. Ferrari, heavy on the ‘Mister’.”

  • • •

OK – it’s fine to have a little fun at Bob’s expense and anticipate him walking in to the Coney Island next Monday to a chorus of “Hey, Noodle!” but I owe the family more – the market was one of the stalwarts of our town. It was located in the venerable brick building on the southeast corner of West Second and West Streets, that building itself the subject of a Roy Powers painting in years past. I suspected that the Ferrari family brought their pasta skills from the old country, but learned that no, the family men were railroaders, coming to Reno from Palisade in eastern Nevada. The market was operated by several of Bob’s aunts and uncles and finally taken over by his parents, Ben and Nora. The family all pitched in, Bob and his sister Marilyn, who now operates the family’s motel in Kings Beach, and their younger brother, the late Ben Jr. – all taking their places in the store’s operation while going to school and college.

            Bob remembers a great grocery trade within the fashionable Colonial Apartments around the corner, delivering there frequently to some shut-in residents. He recalls a small strongbox in the market that had been ignored for many years being opened one last time when the store closed in 1958. In the box were I.O.U.s from many local residents who had fallen victim to the Great Depression, families that the Ferrari family stood behind in a time of need.

            The Food Store was an integral part of early Reno, and I’m glad we finally worked it into a column. Several e-mails asked why I hadn’t included it; the simple reason is that we hadn’t arrived at any downtown mom-and-pop markets yet. I’m glad Buddy got me moving on it, particularly with the nickname angle. But if you encounter Bob and call him “Noodle,” don’t tell him you read it here – I think he might have boxed a couple of rounds for Coach Jimmy Olivas while at the University, and I have a glass jaw.

© RGJ 2007


Washoe Valley’s San Antonio Ranch

WVI once asked a friend who knows northern Nevada like the back of his hand: How I possibly could drive a school bus through Franktown Road for three years, five days a week morning and evening during my college days, in the early 1960s, yet not know where the San Antonio Ranch is?

For Pete’s sake, its entrance is flanked by massive rock portals with a prominent “San Antonio Ranch” sign.

He allayed my fear of the onset of senility by telling me that neither the sign nor the portals were there back in those dark ages — the place was pretty well hidden for reasons that will become obvious in the next few paragraphs.

This duet of columns was triggered by Lavender Ridge, west of Reno on old Highway 40, leading to a search for a lavender field south of town which, in turn, produced a fleeting reference in an old Nevada Highways magazine to a San Antonio Ranch.

The Nevada Historical Society was bereft of any scent of lavender or the ranch. Reader Larry Garside helped me with its location. Thanks to readers Joyce McCarty and Muffy Greil Vhay, both with roots in Washoe Valley, you’ve alread read here of the Famel lavender fields, which did indeed exist in the 1940s.

The December 1947 Nevada Magazine pays minor homage to the San Antonio Rancho, a fortresslike home built by a wealthy but unnamed Easterner who came to our Silver State fearing abduction and thus built an abduction-proof hacienda for himself.

Reading between the lines San Antonio might just have been Tony from Brooklyn with Guido hot on his trail. He wouldn’t have been the first to come to our state for refuge. But that’s not the way it happened.

The spread was initially 2,500 acres, give or take, located near the south end of Washoe Valley. It enclosed the former lavender field and is easily visible looking eastward from the 6400 block of Franktown Road.

While “San Antonio Ranch Road” appears on a standard-appearing green county sign, the road is in fact private, and its inclusion in this column shouldn’t encourage an uninvited tour.

This prime acreage in Washoe Valley was acquired in 1932 from I-don’t-know-who, maybe the State of Nevada, byLavender pickup Ralph Elsman, a wealthy New Jersey businessman who later became the president and principal owner of the San Jose Water Company. Joyce Crowson Cox in her wonderful book Washoe County, which I loaned out and haven’t seen since, might know the grantor on that deed.

Elsman came to Nevada to seek a divorce and just stayed on, Pardner, motivated by Nevada’s tax structure. Local and Bay Area newspaper clips are unanimous that the huge home he built on the ranch resembled a fortress, owing to a fear of abduction of his children. That fear was spawned by the Lindbergh kidnapping a year earlier and heightened because his estranged wife, Beatrice, had shown a predilection to spirit off the couple’s two children.

At this point in our yarn, the casual reader might wonder how an entry-level columnist, who once was unable to determine even as much as where the ranch was in Washoe Valley, now can write on good authority that one of the children whose custody was challenged in that 1931 divorce, Ralph Jr., died in Korea in 1952 when his B-29 was shot down by a MIG.

Or can now write that Elsman’s second wife, Florence, died in Palo Alto in 1964, and reading between the lines in her obituary we surmise that Ralph and Florence Elsman had moved to Los Gatos, Calif., after they sold the ranch to Dr. and Mme. Sylvan Famel in 1939 (Elsman Sr. passed away in July of 1970.) It was the Famels who named the ranch the “San Antonio” and cultivated the lavender fields.

And, if I couldn’t determine even who owned the acreage at the south end of the Franktown Road before Elsman (and still can’t), how could I come along today and write that the Famels, upon their 1950 relocation to West Palm Beach, then to New York City, and finally to their native France, sold the ranch in 1951 to the storied Reno gambler James McKay?

The answer to the casual reader’s question is simply that I had a heck of a lot of invaluable reader help and some county records in putting this series of columns together.


If you haven’t heard by now of James McKay and Bill Graham vis-a-vis Reno’s early 20th century history, get yourself Dwayne Kling’s Rise of the Biggest Little City. It’s mandatory reading.

McKay had been released from a 10-year prison sentence for some dark deed. He was married to a Hollywood starlet; they had one child and were expecting another. They wanted privacy, and the San Antonio offered it. It didn’t have a sign on the gate then and had never had a sign before. Three owners — first Ralph Elsman, then the Famels with their shadowy emigration from WWII-bound France, then finally McKay — no owner really wanting the profane world to know who was behind the gate, ever put up a sign on Franktown Road.

McKay eventually went out of title, selling to a group which developed the huge ranch into some of the nicest, and remaining the most private, residential developments in northern Nevada.

And its privacy endures. Access for touring and photography seems nearly impossible, to this day. Maybe I’ll buy a drone with a Brownie Hawkeye camera.

It’s no wonder I never saw the ranch driving by in my bus twice daily in 1960…

V&T photo credit Washoe Valley.org

 © Karl Breckenridge 2007

Back to downtown Reno we go

Lerude's Wigwam


One of the bright spots in taking walks downtown is that you readers always prompt the next few columns, and this week we’re finally getting to a stockpile of “you forgots” and “where weres?,” thanks in advance to phone books, Sanborn maps, Polk City Directories and newspaper ads and a few friends. And in the 1947 photo above, you’ve probably already noted that Sierra Street carried two-way traffic, by the black coupe pointed north.

            You forgot Bello’s Tamales, capitals optional because I don’t think it never really had a name, just word-of-mouth advertising.  The best tamales in town, out on West Second near Washington in an old brick house, corn growing in the back yard, chickens to the west, with a gleaming pressure cooker in the immaculate basement.  Father would travel from Ralston Street and place an order in the morning, picking a plump Rhode Island Red sunning itself in the side yard, then return, probably have an Acme beer or two at Brickie’s across the street, then take the tamales up the hill to home.

            A tamale always tastes better when you look the major ingredient in the eye on the morning before you eat it.  And the steel Acme beer can is worth more now in an antique shop that both the tamale and the beer were in 1950.

            Where could you buy a Willys Jeep, now in civilian production following WWII?  Why, at Steinheimer Bros. Studebaker at Fourth and Sierra.  And don’t confuse that with Wiley Brothers Cars, on Plaza Street.  Where was Dermody Appliance?  On Arlington, then “Belmont”, between West First Street and the tracks.  John A. Dermody went from Whirlpools to warehouses, and I’ll stick my neck out by saying that Dermody Partners is now probably the biggest real estate taxpayer in Nevada. You forgot Duffy’s Tavern.  Not really; we didn’t walk Commercial Row, between Belmont and West Street, where William Bendix tended the bar. Not really. The main fire station was across West Street, on the northwest corner.  Chief Van Meter saved the bell when the belfry was removed, and it’s now displayed on the corner by the new station on East Second and Evans. [This is obviously an old column. We might be one of the few town in the world to tear down a modern fire station and build a ballpark with the revenue and taxes leaving Reno.]

            You forgot Chism’s Ice Cream.  I could never do that, a popular, longtime Reno family’s business on West Street, next to 7-Up Bottling in the attractive modern glass-fronted building. What does 7-Up stand for? I don’t know, but I’m sure a reader will tell us. [None did.]

            Faithful reader [the late] Kellene Gallagher asked once about the USO clubs; one venue they used was the Tropics on Center Street, which I think I tangled up in one column with the Palm Saloon on Lake Street (in Bill Fong’s casino), and got away with.

            You forgot Reno Mercantile, better know as Reno Merc.  No, we wrote earlier that it was on the southeast corner of Sierra Street and Commercial Row, in the oldest commercial building in Reno. And I didn’t even get challenged for that statement; the Masons built it in the 1870s. Landa Electric? On West Street south of the tracks – once upon a time if your clock or mixer would quit you’d take it to Landa Electric to be repaired. Once upon a time a clock or a mixer could be taken apart and fixed – now they’re molded in one piece and we buy a new one. If it was a big motor, we’d take it to Brown-Milbery, then on Sierra, now on Gentry Way, (known then as Airport Road – couldn’t resist throwing that bon mot in…)

            The one person in town who remembers T.D. Tuthill Inc. asked me where it was.  Never heard of it, but finally found it in mid-block on West Fourth Street next to Ruth Ryan’s Dance Academy. Fine little lady, Ruth was; many remember her brother-in-law, Gordon Sampson, a much-decorated stuffy Canadian of great swagger who was the president of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad at the time it suspended operation, which was either an honor or a career-ender, depending on your point of view. Wrote his own flowery obit. His life would make a good column for my RG-J compadres who write about people. I’m a street guy.

            An argument, and glad it came up because others might have noted it also: “The California Market was on California Avenue, not North Virginia Street as you wrote.” You’re right; there were two California Markets, one downtown, the other at California and Lander (now My Favorite Muffin) but in its day it was actually named the California Avenue Market. My father worked at the market – rode a bike delivering groceries to the residents of that neighborhood. George Minor opened it, Charlie Bradley and Fred Antoniazzi owned it later.

            You forgot the Bundox.  OK, OK – that great restaurant and bar, where not a few business deals were cut, was opened by the late attorney E. F. “Bud” Loomis and his wife Cebe, and stocked with Chinese artifacts that Bud brought out of China when it was closed to Westerners before WWII (he had been overseas as an Envoy to China.)  Another great story for a people-writer.  He also owned the Oriental-influenced River House Motor Lodge. [And you can use the “search” window below to find a story about the Bundox.]   

            Roy Stagg’s Roaring Camp?  Across East First Street from the Bundox, much earlier.  Next to the Reno Bus Lines terminal and shop. 

• • •

I’ve quite a few inquiries left over – If yours didn’t get addressed, be patient.

            Next Saturday we might return to Sparks – one of the most respected and meticulous railroad historians in our valley, Dale Darney, contributed information about the elevating of the Sparks Southern Pacific yard which supplements the information I used for last week’s column.  And I’ll throw in a little teaser: We’ll also elaborate on the call girls that Southern Pacific employed in the post-war years.**  Fear not; this is still a family column, you’ll get a chuckle…  Fly your flag on June 14th, and God Bless America. [Guess I should note that in 2014 as I re-post this, let’s fly the flags for Memorial Day!]

**and since you won’t see the sequel to this column, I’ll explain in 2014 that the railroad’s call-girls in Sparks were the ladies who would get on the phones and stick their heads into the bars and restaurants in Sparks, to get the trainmen back to the yard to crew a train they were assigned to. And here you thought I was writing about hookers…

© RGJ June 1, 2002


Nevada Day, 1947



‘Way out in the land of the setting sun, where the wind blows wild and free,


There’s a lovely spot; just the only one that means Home Sweet Home to me…

It’s Nevada Day, 1947; the torchlight parade wove through Carson City last night and 40,000 folks, most from Reno, convened in our capital city to watch a half-dozen high school bands and a parade that stretched for over a mile.  Many of them rode the Virginia & Truckee Railroad that according to the Oct. 31, 1947 Reno Evening Gazette put a second train on the line just for the occasion.  A highlight of the parade was the six-horse Prairie Schooner from Dangberg Ranch.  Prominent Reno attorney Lester Summerfield delivered the Admission Day address after the parade, and following that some went to the Capitol Plaza to watch the Quadrille dancers.  Other revelers went to the traditional Carson City Senator/Reno High Huskie football game.

In a convergence of three great Nevadans, storied Judge Edgar Eather administered an oath of the court to Julien Sourwine [Senior], who was then introduced to the crowd by Senator Patrick McCarran. The Governor’s Mansion will be open from noon to four o’clock today, and then close so that Governor Vail Pittman and the first lady Ida can dress for the annual 1864 Ball tonight (one of the V&T trains will stay late to return dignitaries to Reno after the festivities.)

• • •

If you follow the old Kit Carson Trail until desert meets the hills,

Then you certain-ly, will agree with me, it’s the place of a thousand thrills…

In other news today, the County Fair & Recreation Board approved $15,000 for the Silver Dollar Derby and University’s Winter Carnival, two longtime staples in the Sierra skiing scene (and just in time, Sears Roebuck on Sierra Street is advertising J.C. Higgins skis, $12.50, with bindings.)   The upsweep is in, the sidesweep is out, per a Hollywood hairstyle maven, but we all knew that.  The state approved bread prices to rise by a penny, to 15 cents a loaf.  Donner Pass closed for snow yesterday, the first closing this year, but the weather was OK for the parade today.  A motorist remaining unnamed herein was fined a dollar for contempt of court while grousing about a parking ticket. The demand to see Forever Amberforced the Nevada Theater to schedule an extra 8:30 a.m. screening.  

R. Herz Jewelers – civic-minded in 1947 and remaining so in 2014, sponsored the aforementioned Quadrille dance in Carson City (the Quadrille’s an incredibly graceful dance to watch or perform, often to a Scott Joplin slow drag.  Pity it died out.)  Order your Christmas cards, a term politically acceptable in 1947, from Armanko’s Stationers on North Virginia Street soon.  The two motorists who canned up their cars on Geiger Grade last night, according to the Ormsby County deputy sheriff, can try a new-fangled concept and rent a car from Hertz Drive-Urself while they fix the wreckage.  (For the newer folks, Ormsby County later was re-chartered as Carson City, and yeah, I know Geiger Grade’s in Storey County – I’m just parroting what I read in the Gazette.)

• • •

Whenever the sun at the close of day, colors all the western sky,

Oh my heart returns to the desert gray and the mountains tow’ring high…

Let’s see here: The University of Nevada’s Tommy Kalmanir was fourth in the nation in kickoff returns.  The Wolf Pack is off tomorrow to St. Louis, by airplane yet, but Coach Joe Shekeetski says that halfback Dick Trachok is questionable for the game with an injury.  (By the way, to several who wrote: The appearance of UNR herein last week was an editing change that didn’t tickle me one bit.  I write that only with respect to university events following 1967, when we first had a UNR and a UNLV.)  Penn State has the top defense in the nation this week; I don’t think Joe Paterno was coaching there in 1947 but wouldn’t bet against it.  Some things never change: Michigan was picked for the National Championship in 1947, and now in 2006 the game of the year might be the Wolverines vs. Ohio State.  Nevada has a two-day chukar season in 1947, three birds total.

            Want to get away?   Ride the mighty S.P.’s City of San Francisco, 33 hours to Chicago for 44 bucks.  Or fly Bonanza Airlines’ daily DC-3, $22.50 to Las Vegas, only $11.60 to Tonopah. This is cool: Joe Patrucco and Gilbert Vasserot are re-opening Eugene’s on South Virginia Street. Fifty-four years later in 2001 I would write back-to-back columns about Eugene’s, describing it as the benchmark that other Reno restaurants would strive to reach, and taking its place alongside the finest restaurants in San Francisco.

And no one disputed my words…        

• • •

Where the moonbeams play in shadowed glen, with the spotted fawn and doe,

            All the live-long night until morning light, is the loveliest place I know…

There were six, count ‘em, six, fire calls in the last 24 hours. Lucky Cowboy screens tomorrow morning at the Tower Theater; bring 14 cents and an Old Home Milk lid.  We spy a furnished two-bedroom home in Sparks FSBO, telephone 6541.  Lou LeVitt, a great guy I knew as a kid, is playing at the El Cortez’ Trocadero Room.  A Stetson felt hat at Grey Reid Wright was advertised for $12.50; get the same skypiece for only eight bucks at Parker’s (and no sales tax!).   Spike Jones and the City Slickers are live on the ABC radio network, affiliating with KWRN in November (that’s K-Washoe-Reno-Nevada).         

            We sang Home Means Nevada as kids on Friday mornings throughout Reno and probably the whole state. Thanks, Bertha Raffetto, for penning it in 1931.  God bless America, and Happy 142nd, Nevada; you’re lookin’ good!

Admission Day, 2006

© Reno Gazette-Journal 2006