I just ran a column about Reno High School and mentioned its famous dome, which the architect himself, (Monk Ferris), called parabolic in a 1951 newspaper article. A parabola. Then, this arrives in the e-mail this morning, from a friend I’ve known since 1950 at Central Jr. High. I’ve been writing a column for 28 years, but it’s bullshit like this that will bring the curtain down on the whole shebang someday:
The “dome” at RHS is not parabolic. It is roughly ellipsoidal – or rather roughly the upper half of an ellipsoid, which is the three-dimensional analog of an ellipse. Both an ellipse and an ellipsoid have two foci, and rays emanating from one focus are reflected to the other focus. This phenomenon is responsible for some “whispering galleries” and “whispering domes”. One of the attractions in the physics lab at CalTech was a small water tank in the shape of the bottom half of an ellipsoid. When it was filled with water, poking a finger into the water at one focus made a little column of water shoot up at the other focus.
I haven’t set foot in RHS since 1959, but my recollection is that the dome is too shallow to be a true ellipsoid, and therefore incapable of transmitting whispers.
This column © 2001 Reno Gazette-Journal
A fortnight ago in a treatise about Stead AFB I noted that “…there was only one high school in Reno until 1961” and proceeded to recall that all the high school students in town could fit into two 66-passenger school buses.
The remark endeared me to many a Manogue High School graduate, who called en masse to remind me that there was indeed a second high school in Reno in 1961 – their alma mater, then as now on a site just east of the University of Nevada campus. The thrust of what I was writing was that Reno High was the only school in Reno with a bus program. But, when life hands you a lemonade, a writer makes lemonade: In talking with one of the Manogue alums who was kidding me about my gaffe, Nancy Howell Spina, the topic of school buses inadvertently arose.
Starting closer to the beginning, a word about Manogue, formally Bishop Manogue High School. The school’s name came from Bishop Patrick Manogue, who contributed to the education of miners’ children during the Comstock gold rush and was later the first bishop of the Sacramento Catholic diocese. The school opened in 1947, in a couple of old barracks in a beautiful meadow at the old Flick ranch by the Truckee River near the present southeast McCarran Boulevard (it’s now utilized by Sage Winds school). Within a decade it had grown and was relocated to a campus near the University of Nevada in 1957. Manogue’s new campus is south of town by Zolezzi Lane. (Arrowcreek Drive, to the newcomers.)
Nancy told me that a bus made the loop around Reno picking up Manogue students to transport to the school’s original location, which back then you had to pack a lantern and a lunch to drive to. “A bus, you say?” I asked. “A bus,” she replied. There I was prepared to get myself off a hook by saying that Manogue never had a school bus system and get myself into yet-another jam. But you read it here first: Bishop Manogue High School indeed had a school bus system, in the 1940s. There were two high schools in Reno in 1960. Finally, we wish Manogue’s leadership well in completing their new campus.
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On the topic of schools, Reno High School Alumni Club honcho Joe Granata tells of a bit of school apparatus that has been around longer that it might appear. There’s a strong probability that the flagpole at Wooster High, which spoiled Reno High’s place as the only PUBLIC! High school in Reno when it opened in 1961, was the same pole that was originally installed in the front courtyard of the Reno High School on Fifth and West Streets in 1913. (I almost wrote “the original high school”, which it wasn’t.) Take a look at the flagpole next time you’re traveling down East Plumb Lane past Wooster – that baby’s been around for a long time.
Now, I’ll solicit some reader help, maybe from Dale Sanderson, Washoe County School District’s great facilities manager: I think, but have never been able to prove, that the scoreboard that originally clocked basketball games in the old Reno High (later serving as Central Junior High) gymnasium, was later relocated to Vaughn Middle School on Vassar Street near Kietzke. It’s a classic scoreboard/timer with a revolving hand, not the contemporary 00:00 electric numerals – the words I’m groping for might be analog and digital. Last I saw it it was hanging unused in the Vaughn gym, alongside a modern digital scoreboard. It might be nice – if it is indeed the old Reno High gym clock – to relocate it to the Reno High Alum Center on Booth Street someday, or at the least be aware of its heritage and not trash it as pre-WWII junk.
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Topic A for this Saturday is the Elizabeth Babcock Memorial Kindergarten, named for a schoolmarm/émigré from Carson City. “The Babcock” opened for the 1901 school year in an attractive private building on the northeast corner of West Sixth and West Streets. It was operated by the Reno Kindergarten Association. I include it herein and herewith because a day or two I mentioned it in an irreverent column about snow and the current district’s dedication to serious education as opposed to preventing a few children and adults getting the sniffles on a wintry day.
The Babcock Building also served some other municipal uses to generate a little cash flow; per the Nov. 8, 1901 Nevada State Journal “…rooms are available to rent for meetings and socials,” and a U of N fraternity party brought all two of Reno’s Finest out on the night of March 2, 1907 (NSJ).
The school district in those early years was the Reno School District #10, the “10” a number assigned by the state. I’ve written in the past of the existence of eight, sometime expressed as nine if Franktown is included, school districts in Washoe County when the Washoe County School District was created in July 1956, combining all those districts. Several other archives at the Nevada Historical Society indicate that number to be 17, counting all the one-room schoolhouses in the county.
The Babcock functioned merrily at Sixth and West as a kindergarten until the Reno School District bought the building in May of 1932; conflicting archives point to 1933 (if the world relied on our school district to keep records, Columbus would have discovered Malibu and Washington would have thrown the dollar across the Pecos.) Reno’s kindergarten students were split out into the district’s five Reno schools (the Spanish Quartette and Southside School at Liberty and Center Streets.) The Babcock Building became the head-shed for the Reno district and remained so after the WCSD was created in 1956. Regrettably, in the 1950s the classic brick building we remember in our 1940s youth, close to our Reno High/Central Jr. High and Mary S. Doten alma maters, got a treatment akin to the blonde Olympian who won a Gold medal and had it bronzed: The new district stuccoed over the ivy-covered Babcock Building. Yikes!
The Washoe County School District remained headquartered in the old building, even after the Babcock was sold to the West Sixth Medical Building Group in October 1961. The “new” district moved into the East Ninth Street “Greenhouse” in January of 1962, built right smack in the middle of our athletic field – the original Foster Field, darn ‘em – where we trekked from all over town to play ball, held our fantastic and talented pet parades, our school picnics, and tried not to get caught tubing down the nearby English Mill Ditch.
As always happens to Reno’s most elegant old buildings with any history, the Elizabeth Babcock Memorial Kindergarten was razed in March of 1966. But “the Babcock” – the education envisioned by early members of the 20th Century Club and the classic building they built to provide it, live on in the great pantheon of Reno’s heritage.
(By-the-by, “NSJ” appearing somewhere in the preceding text and most of these yarns is Breckenridge shorthand for the Nevada State Journal; one may also see “REG” if I neglect to extricate it, Reno Evening Gazette. These papers were combined in 1983 to the present Reno Gazette-Journal.)
Officials of the Washoe County School District today placed an order for a steam-operated plow to assist in keeping the schools open when snow levels in Reno exceed the allowable two inches, measured from the pavement to the surface of the accumulated snow. There has been some consternation in the District since 1956, when there were nine school districts in Washoe County and those in the snow-prone areas (Franktown, Brown, Huffaker, Galena, Verdi) would routinely close if snow threatened safety, while other districts (Reno, Sparks, Natchez, Glendale) remained open and in business. (There was no Incline Village nor Stead.)
Old-timers remember several winters in Reno when the snow exceeded the tops of fire hydrants and the fire department implored folks to put a broomstick marking the hydrant so they could be located if necessary, when closure of school was considered, but only a very few times that the interior schools actually closed for a day. This reporter recalls his father, alongside other fathers, shoveling the steps of Mary S. Doten School on West Fifth at Washington Street, as conscripted by Rita Cannan, large-and-in-charge as principal of that school, whom one didn’t trifle with. One just shoveled.
There was a bus, at least one, maybe a couple down south we didn’t know about. The bus to Mary S. Doten (and Reno High, at West Fourth and Chestnut) came in from Verdi and points west with the ranch kids, and the many children of the Sierra Pacific Power Company employees who lived and operated the power stations on the Truckee channel west of town. The driver of that bus was known for being a one-armed bus driver, not a situation one encounters often. And it was a stick-shift, at that.
But we got to school, I from Ralston Street, others from further away. But we got to school, or else, and Rita Cannan didn’t particularly give a rat’s-ass how we got there, but she would feel terribly hurt if we didn’t show up. When we arrived, we stopped first in the boiler room next to the kindergarten room to drop off our galoshes, hats and gloves, and somehow kept them straight, 200 pairs (We were in the first public-school Kindergarten in Reno, for prior to that it was, before WWII, the Babcock private Kindergarten at West Fifth and West Street, and during the war, subsidized by the War Department so moms with kids and husbands off to war could get out and commit some war effort.) Long story, another column someday.
This column is what happens when a writer gets cooped up with little to do on a snowy day with little else to do and gets a little buggy on a laptop. And somewhere up there I think I wrote Chestnut Street, which we now know as Arlington Avenue (the other day I spoke to a friend of the Belmont Street bridge, and she looked askance.) Or awry. Or bewildered. Arlington, when my dad was shoveling snow under the watchful eye of Rita Cannan, was Arlington from the golf course north to California Avenue, Belmont from California to West First, and Chestnut from there to the north end up by the Orr Ditch.
Anyway, the snowplow is ordered (you can see the Nugget in the background of the photo), and henceforth, there will be no more snow days at schools, and teachers and students alike will be expected to have their fannies on deck at eight bells in the schoolrooms in the interior of town, as we did in the old days (don’t you love that expression? Hey, I left out the part about getting the cows in Whitaker Park across from my house milked before I left to school…)
All for now…
This is not a post about the greatness of youth, athletics, the molding of young minds, the bonding for life that team sports accomplish, a litany of anecdotes about locker-room horseplay, favored teachers, coaches, but simply a post about a friend of mine; actually two, no actually three friends: Marilynn Burkham (Ma) Bell who proposed Craig to the Reno High Athletic Hall of Fame, to John Doyle, Craig’s (and Ma Bell’s and my) classmate, who is indeed the spokesperson and voice of the Class of ’59, and Craig Morrison, three-sport letterman at RHS who went on to lead the Arizona Wildcats (baseball). John, followed by Craig, gave the superior speeches, introduction by John and acceptance by Craig, that were heard last Saturday night at the Eldorado, and that includes six great speeches by the other nominees. I was damn proud of them.
With some amusement our morning coffee group consisting of men of a certain age who have grown up in Reno, if indeed we’ve grown up at all, have been noting with some amusement the heartbreaking and ongoing saga of the wussy school principal who got chased out of Double Diamond School by some tyrant mother and is now sitting home getting paid to watch The View while somebody sorts out his dilemma for him. A part of what we await is for the RGJ’s writer Siobhan McAndrew, in our opinion tied with Guy Clifton as the best writer on the staff, to get tough and find out and tell us what the hell is really going on at that school. This lady is a great writer but has become bogged down writing about kiddies, of which most of us have at least one and have long ago discovered that there’s little new to be said about them. Nor of the school district, which trying to improve upon is akin to shoveling s**t into an incoming tide. She could do better than writing of them when topics of consequence beckon her.
But what we really find interesting is that this situation could have become so screwed up in the first place. We talked this morning about what would have happened should a parent, possibly ours, have stuck their nose into principal Rita Cannan’s office, or Eleanor Miller’s (pictured above) or Jean Conrad’s or Esther Traner’s classrooms in Mary S. Doten Elementary School on West Fifth and Washington in 1948, in an attempt to offer their wise counsel and advice about their methods of teaching us.
Good luck with that! And good luck with chasing Rita Cannan out of the school, which absolutely wouldn’t have happened, while Mr. Corbett the Reno School District superintendent adjudicated the issue with the parent, which would have taken him until about noon the same day. (If this principal thinks the Double Diamond mommy’s tough, he’s never crossed Rita Cannan!)
One wonders, how did we ever get an education with people like these, who steered their own ship and didn’t take any crap off the students, their parents, the public, or the Nevada State Journal?
Actually, pretty well…
The Mary Lee Nichols school on Pyramid Way in Sparks, with a for-sale sign on its west lawn? Yikes! This little building was an active school in the Sparks School District (pre-dating the Washoe Co. District), built in the mid-1910s and designed by Frederic Delongchamps with all sorts of historical designations, was in service ’til the early 1970s as a school in the Washoe District, then sold. Is there no “tail” on the deed requiring that it stay as a historically significant building? It’s too nice – and too historical – a structure to be used as just any occupancy. Check it out on the east side of Pyramid Way in the 400 block – it’s part of our local heritage.
OK, here’s one for your weekend; you’re looking northwest at Peavine Peak. The new Reno High School is just about center in the photo – Booth Street running lower left to upper right in front of the school (to the left, or east of the campus.) There is no Foster Drive yet, although you can see Foster Field to the west – right – of Reno High’s building (note no shop building yet either.) Above – north – of the school you can see Idlewild Park – to the south of the school that’s Idlewild Drive leading off Booth Street. And you can see the Booth Street/California Avenue/Keystone Avenue intersection, albeit in its original configuration.
To the left – the east of that three-way intersection is are two vacant chunks of land; the upper one in the future site of the Federal Building, below that is actually above Keystone Avenue, the bluff on Marsh Avenue (the house that would become the Catholic Parish’s house is to the right in that photo; the home presently at 885 Marsh Avenue at the left portion of that open field would be built that year.)
I regret that I can not offer attribution to the photographer – if a viewer can help with that, I’m all ears….