AN EMAIL ARRIVED LAST NIGHT INTO MY LONELY WRITER’S GARRET
Good Evening, Karl,
Hi [friend] – I peeked at my email last night about 11:30 pm and then laid awake all night thinking: Where DID we park downtown…?
Sewell’s Supermarket opened in 1949 with a big parking lot, the east half of the block between Fourth and Fifth, Sierra and Virginia – (well, almost half; the south quarter was committed to Standard Stations and a hardware store.) But it was almost unregulated parking and we used it in synch with Sewell’s customers for three decades – I heard that the clubs kicked in a buck or two to keep their lights on at night.
In addition to the clubs, there were four movie houses, all doing a pretty good business each night – the Crest, the Granada, the Tower and the Majestic. And the State Building, later the Pioneer. All generated a need for parking.
In my wakeful night, I enumerated in my mind all the parking spaces that we locals knew of, pretty much by twosies and foursies, some by a church, others behind a retail building down an alley or something like that. And there were quite a few of those.
As far as parking spaces dedicated to a specific club, pretty darn few. At some point the demographics of the downtown visitors enters the picture. Almost all downtown motels had sufficient lots for their clientele’s cars, and we developed a “sixth sense” of where we could park on their lots, by mid-week, by weather, by time of the year. Thus quite a few became available to the locals that knew the system. Some of the bigger motels, the Continental on South Virginia and the Pony Express on the Reno/Sparks line for two, had small shuttles that ran most of the reasonable hours all year. They moved a lot of people.
The casinos started opening showrooms, and recognized a need for some sort of organized parking. Harrah’s finally built a garage, Harolds built the ill-fated pigeonhole garage but it lasted for many years. The Holiday Hotel opened in 1957 and wisely committed a huge amount of land to parking south of Mill Street, and didn’r really get too excited about policing it, and we parked there often. A serendipity moment for the Mapes Hotel was the 1953 explosion of the YMCA adjacent to it to the east, and this site was paved, never to be rebuilt upon, to the benefit of Charlie Mapes on the west and the Majestic Theater to the east. FNB opened its parking garage in 1964 and left it unrestricted in the evenings, and even the City of Reno relaxed its parking hours and enforcement – this is in a day when an entire block, both sides, was parking spaces, maybe one loading zone each side of a street, all the rest parking. The Post Office’s lot was there also, restricted but few cared!
This forms kind of a half-assed answer; the best characteristic I can venture is that if a merchant, be it a bank with multiple-stories of parking like FNB and Security on First Street, or a shoe store like Nevada Shoe Factory on Sierra with its two spaces or Montgomery Wards with about eight places on the alley, didn’t need their parking on an evening or a weekend, they left it unsupervised and available, and were never disappointed. Thus there were probably 300 places to park, plus the garages, if you knew where to look, and we did.
A final observation is that we were maybe healthier and less fearful of walking in downtown Reno, a longer distance, and might park as far south as California Avenue or as far north as the University, or west to the Gold ‘n Silver, to go downtown. Not in today’s Reno, thanks!
I hope this offers a beginning of a logical answer, but I’m not sure it will. I’m amused by the inability of the Midtown kids to figure out their parking problem. We used to go to the Sawdust Festival and Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, a tiny beach town where upwards of 100,000 people a month still visit in the summer months, brought to town by a well-organized effort using county school buses to and from pickup points. Their drivers might be costumed, a banjo band might be riding the bus with you, and you might find a cold beer or glass of Merlot under a sunshade it the parking lot when you returned. Sparks has figured that out for its special events; Reno, not so much.
I’ll probably dwell and stew on this some more, and may bore you further in the future….
Thanks for writing…….Karl
Harolds Club pigeonhole parking garage photo scanned from early Harolds Club calendar