_Banquete_tiffany

Enter a large man with a wooden mallet who hits me right between the horns with a guttural incantation: “Finish – the – Plumb – and – South Virginia – intersection – yarn…”

            Why didn’t I think of that???

            OK – I made some notes at the Nevada Historical Society, which will henceforth be known as the “NHS” on this web, get used to it, from Sanborn Maps, City Directories and some old friends’ recollections. We’re downtown and heading south along two-lane South Virginia Street, Plumb Lane is brand-new but we don’t think it had a stop signal in its first incarnation. Wells Avenue comes in from the east, a service station on both corners, with a couple of fast-food joints on the corners. Some of the coolest rock-work in the valley is on our right at the El Borracho Lounge and the El Dorado Motel – still there, next time you drive by, take a look and imagine what it would cost to replicate that today.

            Al Vario, a popular fixture in the downtown late-night scene and a good guy all around, had just opened his “Vario’s” fine restaurant – one of Reno’s premium high-end night spots for dining, dancing and cocktails. I’ve mentioned it in columns past as being on a par with two others, Eugene’s, a little further to the south by the present Peppermill, and the Bundox at East First and Lake Streets. Al Vario sold his restaurant, after a great career of entertaining two generations of locals (and moved to Arizona); following a couple of intervening operators, it became “Bricks,” which remains to this day as one of Reno’s premier restaurants – you can count them on one hand… “Bricks,” by the way, is correct with no possessive apostrophe – the place is named for the extensive use of brick in the original Frank Green design.

            South of Vario’s/Bricks, hang on, you’ll love this: a golf driving range. It was called the Tom Thumb Driving Range, and had the best snack bar in Reno, most agree. (Jack Pine remembers the “pickle burger” they served, with a pickle inside the patty, invisible.) And, your next ball popped up from underground, automatically, after you drove. Cool. The driving range, where you hit from Virginia Street west to Lakeside Drive, was the brainchild of Al Vario and contractor Bob Helms, who was starting to rule the roost in the highway construction business. And maybe a couple other guys. The ultimate plan was to use the site for a hotel/casino on a grand scale. That never happened; in later years that massive lot was subdivided into office parcels visible today from the street. Interestingly, the streets were named for Lincoln and Mercury automobile models.

            And why was that, you say? Glad you asked: Sometime soon after 1960 and the Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, the owners of Eugene’s restaurant (e-mail me for a copy of that old column) whose names were Joe Patrucco and Gilbert Vasserot, envisioned a great new motel, on the northwest corner of brand-new Plumb Lane and South Virginia Street. They were both émigrés from Europe, and chose “Continental” for the name of their new venture. It was designed after the lines of the Holiday Lodge (now bygone) on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco – a south-seas look, very enduring, still one of the prettiest motels in Reno today. It had a fine restaurant mimicking their Eugene’s, a lounge that jumped (the Central Park), a gift store, a beauty shop, and remains a hub of Reno today. Why not rejuvenate the storied Central Park Lounge – parking shortage probably. In its heyday street parking was generous. No longer.

            And that “Continental” name explains the nearby street names…

Still driving south, we encounter a corner, sort of, at what will become “Plumb Lane” extended, but in the years close to 1960 about all we’ll see are used car lots on three corners, on the corner where the Continental will soon be built are now Pontiacs from still-downtown Winkel Motors, and kitty-corner from that on the future Park Lane corner, the embryonic Lee Bros. Leasing and Sales. At the present IHOP location was Whitey’s Union 76, a place where a guy comes out and puts gas in your car, washes your windshield, checks your oil (under the hood, it’s called) and airs your tires. Quite a concept. In a year or two, Security Bank of Nevada – later Security National Bank – Art Johnson at the helm, would open in the present B of A branch.

            Footnote: I used just one time “catercorner,” correct for “kitty-corner,” and “International House of Pancakes,” also only one time, and learned that Americans like their slang. In this column it’s IHOP and kitty-corner. And a few non-words you won’t find in Websters.

            A Motel 6 will soon appear on the southwest corner, that cardinal number indicative of the cost of a night’s lodging, which sounds a lot more rhythmic than “Motel 83” which is what a Motel 6 cost me in San Mateo recently. On that corner, where, by the way, one could parallel park on South Virginia Street in front of the coffee shop, was a “Sambo’s” which sort-of started to be a part of the Continental across the street but negotiations broke down. It was a gathering spot for half the town, as were its sister locations on Keystone and West Fourth (now gone), and on B Street in Sparks (Jack’s). Sambo’s name was actually taken from the founders, whose names were Sam and Baureguard or some such thing, but was interpreted by some with another connotation, and the Sambo’s reign ended in Reno and nationally. There was at least a few years ago, the first one in the town of my birth, Santa Barbara. (And I’ll hear that it had nothing to do with the name, just bad business. Dunno.) Anyway, now, it’s a Chinese joint.

            Which takes us one joint south, that one specializing in sushi, which some people actually ingest. That building, we all know, was the home of Waldren Oldsmobile following Frank Waldren’s move of your grandfather’s car dealership from downtown – one of the earlier GM migrations to the burbs. The mini-shopping center lying to the west along Hillcrest Drive was the dealership’s mechanic and body shops.

            Across South Virginia in the pre-Park Lane days, we can’t forget the Key Animal Hospital, Dr. Joe Key, still kickin’, a great guy and lifelong friend, and further to the south, the storied Doll House, and that wasn’t Barbee and Ken shakin’ their booties in the wee hours of school nights.

            I’ve some other notes, and readers will probably send in a few more – and I’ve got some photographs stuck somewhere in the great beyond of cyberspace, which seems to be my milieu lately – so our trek around Plumb and South Virginia probably will roll on again. Somebody will probably want to know about the Old Orchard Trailer Park – I’ll meet you right here.

            Have a good week, and God bless America!

 

© RGJ Feb. 2006

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BundoxThe River House, and the Bundox

THIS IS AN OLD GAZOO COLUMN PUBLISHED FEB. 13 BECAUSE THE TOPIC IS CARRIED ON ANOTHER RENO HISTORY WEBSITE. DON’T ASK ME WHY IT’S CENTERED-TEXT AND HED BOLDFACE. IT’S A WORDPRESS THING

The mystic Orient and movers-and-shakers meet on the Truckee River…

THE BUNDOX

Word reached me last weekend that yet another Reno landmark will bite the dust – the once-intimate Bundox restaurant and the adjoining River House motel on Lake Street at the river will soon feel the wrecker’s ball.

We’ll turn back the clock to about 1910 when a photographer of national renown named Loomis*, who with his wife, the former Anna Frandsen, was working in Argentina for a number of American newspapers. Anna was the daughter of Andrew Frandsen, a pioneer Reno sheep man who had emigrated from Denmark. In Buenos Aires, the Loomis’ only son would be born and named Eugene Frandsen Loomis. One day he would become known simply as “Bud”. (Bud’s older sister, Inez, would marry Scoop Johnson in later years; his younger sister, MaryAlice, would marry Bill Blakely.) [All, and Cebe below, have passed away.]

Bud grew up and went to law school, then journeyed to mysterious pre-war China, where he acted as an envoy for American people and companies doing business in that inscrutable land. He acquired – legally – many artifacts, shipping them home periodically to Reno, where his mother was by then teaching Spanish at Reno High School. When the Chinese closed their borders and excluded foreign nationals in the 1930s, Bud returned to America and Reno. He met and wed his wife Cebe – say “Seeb”. He opened a law practice, and maintained an interest in his father’s vocation – photography. Bud and Cebe moved into a home on the Frandsen family property at the west end of Wingfield Park, that originally served as a carriage house for the Gray mansion above it on the Court Street bluff, that burned in 1939. Across the river was the Christian Science Church, on a site donated to the church by Anna Frandsen Loomis – as kids, we called her “Dosh”. Anna commissioned architect Paul Revere Williams to design the church and the Loomis Manor Apartments to the west of the church on Riverside Drive. The Frandsen Apartments on West Fourth Street bounded the family’s property holdings to the north.

• • •

But the Loomis’s’ home was not large enough to display their art collection. Bud at that time was serving as an advocate to the Chinese community in Reno, and the Chinese owned a piece of property on the north bank of the Truckee River – there was still a joss house operating on it even into the 1950s.

Loomis negotiated with whatever entity owned the site, and eventually acquired it. He and Cebe built, on its eastern end, the headquarters for Ben Dasher’s Universe Life Insurance Company. On the East First Street corner they built a smallish restaurant, cocktail lounge, and the River House motel, all with a Chinese motif. Into this restaurant and bar, and with the hearty approval of the local Chinese community, who were grateful to have their story told, went the Loomises’ collection of artifacts. Cebe told me years ago that there was at least one artifact from China in every room of the motel.

The name? Bundox. It was frequently mispronounced bun, as in “cheek”, but always by the cognoscenti as boondocks. Bud told me years ago that the origin of the name was the Tagalog – (Filipino) – word bundoc anglicized by pre-World War II American soldiers to connote a remote, forgotten, and somewhat romantic place, somewhat like Xanadu.

At least I think that’s what he said – better than 20 [40 as I write this in 2014!] years ago. Or then again, maybe it’s taken from Kipling or Coleridge – who knows?

But it was never remote to many movers and shakers in Reno, and the little bar was a favorite watering hole for the rich and the famous for several decades, or at least for civic leaders in the days when civic leaders actually got something done from start to finish. (I remember my own father laboring there into the wee hours in the nascent days of acquiring land south of town for a big building to be called the Centennial Coliseum in 1962.) [the present Reno/Sparks Convention Center.]

At least, that’s what he told my mother…

Maybe the civic leaders should have acquired a little restaurant called the Liberty Belle back then, which had already been open for three years, but that’ for another column – the Belle lives. [No, it doesn’t}

Straying back now to the Bundox story: Bud died about 35 years ago; Cebe kept the place hopping for another ten years, and then sold the property. (Cebe too passed away, in June [2003] in southern California.)

The corner’s buildings are now abandoned and boarded up, an ongoing insult to the by-gone revelry and that certain je nè cais quà that the Bundox and the Loomises once brought to our fair city and the Truckee’s shore. [And now they’re gone altogether. The question on everyone’s mind: Who got the brass door handles…?]

• • •

Two footnotes form an epilogue to this yarn: The wrecker’s ball is not Earl Games Construction’s Christmas party, and “je nè cais quà” is dedicated to the lady who questioned “ethos” last week. We’re introducing a new feature: the Homefinder word of the week – use it correctly and the duck’ll drop down and bring you 25 bucks. [And as you read that, I hope you watched the old Groucho Marx You Bet Your Life on KZTV, or you won’t know what I’m writing about.]

Have a good week, and God bless America.

• • •

*[The rest of that story, that might have been inappropriate for the Gazoo column: I am close enough to the Blakely family that some use me as a tax deduction, and one night I asked “What was Dosh’s husband’s given name?” (The photographer of “national renown” in my column.) No one knew – he was always “Mr. Loomis” when they were growing up. Dosh and Mr. parted after their youngest child (Mary Alice) was born, and Dosh came back to Reno and taught Spanish for many years at Reno High School.]

Reno’s Ground Cow diner

Ground Cow</a

A friend e-mailed, following a mention of the Ground Cow re-opening under it’s own name in Penryn a year ago, “Didn’t we have a Ground Cow in Reno?”

Indeed we did; back before the freeway came through Reno, back before there was a McCarran Boulevard – “Ring Road” – running north/south west of Keystone Avenue, there was a Ground Cow. It resided approximately on the corner of West Seventh Street and Keystone, which was known as Peavine Row in my youth.

In the photo above, a familiar scene, traveling north on Keystone, the car on the right coming off the freeway, the antenna array on the site of the ole Ground Cow.

It was a popular place, food was good and the prices were right, but, it was a casualty of the freeway construction in the mid-1960s.

The Ground Cow was an Oakland-based “chain,” if three restaurants make a chain. The first was in Oakland, and in the early 1950s another opened in Auburn, on the north side of Highway 40 just about across the path from Lou LaBonte’s. In 1962 that one relocated westward to Penryn, flourished, then for reasons unknown seem to go to hell. It reopened again other other names, each new tenant being worse than the last (in my humble opinion. I am not a restaurant reviewer.) It’s now back to being the (only) Ground Cow, and I’ve had so many bum meals there I can’t bring myself to go in and dine. Maybe this fall I’ll put that on my list of columns that need to be written. Or, in the alternative somebody from my burgeoning reader base may actually consume food there and I can do a review.

Jeremiah’s joins my list of faded menus

Jeremiah's

Back in the mid- to late-1970s a whole new way of eating burst forth, in French, Roquefort or Thousand Islands: A diner could make his or her own salad! Just the way they wanted it! Well, let’s all go down to that new joint at East Plumb Lane at Kietzke – Jeremiah’s Steak House – yippee.

Jeremiah’s was a great place to dine, dinner or lunch; a pleasant series of rooms on different levels that would drive the ADA freaks crazy today. An upstairs loft, a comfortable bar. Lots of wood, nice-looking servers, a real trend-setter in Reno.

And it did a good business from the get-go. A hot place for lunch, business or pleasure, with Strolling Fashions a day a week. The upstairs loft for group lunches, quiet, but not to the extent of tomb-like. Proximate to the airport, if you were dropping someone off or had just landed, a nice meal on the way home.

And steaks! Jeremiah’s Steak House. What’s in a name – that said it all. This was truly a nice place to eat, good prices, service, menus.

What happened? Who knows – somebody probably does, I don’t. One day, a day quite a few years ago, it fell off the radar. It went to seed overnight, it would seem. It closed, and reopened, and opened as a Mexican joint, I think, later a Chinese buffet. And closed some more.

Now, it’s going, going, gone. Too bad. Why do all the nice restaurants in Reno close? Remember Marie Callender’s (on South Virginia)? Hobo Junction to the north? I won’t even mention Eugene’s and Vario’s, but am somewhat proud to have a Bricks in our town. Even although when I wrote about it in the RGJ, twice, some well-meaning editor put in a possessive apostrophe: Brick’s. Twice. If I wanted an apostrophe, I’d have typed one. Like Harolds Club. No apostrophe, Pappy Smith says so. But how often do you see it? Every time you see it.

What’s this to do with Jeremiah’s? I don’t know either. But, if I had lunch with you there, or a nice dinner, let’s look back fondly on that night!

Lou LaBonte’s – the best-kept secret in Auburn

Labonte entranceLabonte Sign

I may be wrong – Reno folks may go to Lou LaBonte’s in droves, and I just don’t hear from them.

But we stopped there for dinner tonight on the way back from Sacramento – a quick day trip – and it was wonderful! Good food, service, great old photographs on the walls of the days when the road in front of the building was the Lincoln Highway – Highway 40 (now it’s a frontage road; Ikeda’s is a short block to the east, on the same side of the freeway). I’d bet – I may lose but I’d do it anyway – that the fireplace was crafted by the Indians from Stewart Indian School in Carson City. Can’t say enough good about it, but give it a whirl, breakfast, lunch or dinner…it’ll bring back a lot of memories, for many of us back to the days before Interstate 80 crossed the Sierra

When life hands you a lemon…,

dnL2

This is a columnatic outgrowth, if that’s a word, of our post about our friend Larry Horning-from-Corning, (April 20th), who ran roughshod over the 7-Up distributing network in Northern Nevada for several decades, and who had the temerity to impugn my skills at the Good Old Days Club, but all that has absolutely nothing to do with this Friday post.

What is of consequence here is a corporate blunder, a major goof on the part of no less than the Seven-Up Company’s head shed in wherever, where somebody, no doubt a graveyard shift worker with his mind on some Baywatch babe or another diversion poles apart from the safe watch over the 7-Up bottling racks. He let this goof go unnoticed for most of his shift – labels inverted from their cargo.

And lo! 7,400 cases, if I may start a sentence with a Cardinal number, were bottled, cased, and put onto trucks in the shipping bay with a goodly number to be sent by rail hither and thither to the far corners of the land, or maybe not to thither at that.

But what do we do now? We have 7,400 cases of product with the name inverted on the labels, to form what appears to be a “dnL” as the name of the product. Do we admit that we screwed up in the bottling plant? What would Coca Cola and Hires and the other bottlers say: “7-Up can’t keep their products straight!!!”

Well, when the dipshit in the bottling line puts the labels on backwards, they did what any mega-corporate, national bellwether of doing-it-right would do: THEY INVENTED A NEW PRODUCT! This, in 2002, they added some lemon-lime, caffeinated it, gave it a greenish color unlike clear 7-Up, and did a few other things, mostly legal, to differentiate it from the plain ol’ 7-Up. For all the world to see, from the capitals of Europe to the backwaters of third-world countries; from Saturday afternoon football games on TV to fine ladies sipping something at the Kentucky Derby, move over Mint Juleps, the cognoscenti are swilling “dnL!” a new drink from 7-Up!

Photographed here, in an exclusive shot taken in the parking lot of the Black Bear Diner, where gentlemen of a certain age meet daily and if no rumor is heard by 9:00 a.m., one is then started, is seen a cooler with the “dnL” trademark upon it, and please note this is not a label placed upside down, for to keep the ruse alive, you can see that 7-Up made sure that the copyright registration “®” mark was appended in the inverted position barely, yet visible, below and to the right of the accidental “L”.

We of the Ol’ Reno Guy editorial staff will meet you all, for a “Seven-Crown-Royal and dnL,” the new highball of choice for the 21st Century! dnL – that’s where it’s at! And in closing, don’t forget the giraffe, who walked into the bar and said, “The highballs are on me…!

Have a good weekend…..

 

 

 

TGIF, with beans and rice

Miguel's

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ground Cow moos again!

Ground Cow copy
Off to Old Sacramento this weekend, and should have stopped and taken a photo of a sight we noted in Penryn, just a hoot-and-a-holler west of Auburn. As all readers of this site recall, the old Ground Cow we remember from Auburn moved to Penryn ca. 1962, as the Ground Cow. In years to come, it would become about three different restaurants with three different names, all of them lousy.
Now, the once-Penryn Ground Cow is re-named the Ground Cow (hell, this could have happened a year ago and I didn’t notice it. But I don’t think so.) One would hope it is as good as the old one was in Auburn, and when it first moved to Penryn these 50 years ago.
A bit more background: I researched the place once and if I ever wrote a column I can’t find it now. The original Ground Cow, I learned, was in Oakland, opening a second location in Auburn sometime after WWII. And yes, there was a third location in Reno, that one up in the northwest near where Keystone Avenue – then known as Peavine – crossed West Seventh Street – a site that became a casualty of the I-80 freeway construction.

Remember the Circle RB?

Reno Browne

Out West Fourth Street before Stoker Drive was even cut through there was a great restaurant called the Circle RB. I’m working on a story about it in the midst of fighting a computer glitch, and facing a trip out of town Saturday/Sunday.

But in keeping with the thought-a-day commitment, here’s a lady you’ll remember, the blushing bride of Lash Larue, eponymous with the Circle RB Restaurant (now Micasa Two). Which invites the question, where was Micasa (one)?

Much more to follow on this score; the restaurant and the motel to the west, and John Robb Clarke, the attorney and father of RB. There she is on the graphic above.

And Micasa was on the southeast corner of Mill and Terminal, if you’ve read this far. Back in the day when one could park diagonally on Mill or Telegraph. More will follow about all this in days to come…

A companion to the food truck craze, and a revision

BikeBar

Tom Young at Great Basin Brewing recently won Sparks City Council approval for a new service on Victorian Way – look forward to it in the warmer days, be prepared to do your share of pedaling…!

Hey, it’s April Fool’s Day. Yet, it’s still not a bad idea

Added April 2nd: OK, now: April Fool’s over. And a dear ol’ reader, which is all I have are ol’, not all dear, reminded me that the old column, read by old people, uses the old name, “B Street.” That’s all well-and-good, but I’m learning that too many people don’t know where B Street is (Victorian, to them), and the sadder fact is, that some who once knew “B” have forgotten that also. So for all of them, come to our meeting tonight at Boulevard Pizza Parlor, on 17th Street. (Rock Boulevard’s old name, and no, we’re not meeting, but the Masons had a pizza night last Tuesday at the Boulevard and it’s a great joint!)

Possibly not as great as Tom Young’s rolling brew pub. But good pizza nevertheless.