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.


A 1960 Chrysler 300 and a website you’ll enjoy


I’ll never understand the World Wide Web – several years ago I posted a long tale of old Reno car dealerships and how they morphed around the valley. Later, I took the site down and it went to neverland somewhere never to be seen again.

This morning I get an e-mail from a friend in Texas, with THAT website, now under a different URL (web address). It still exists! The car above (a 1960) is one once owned by Andy Drumm, who many readers will remember as the predominant state highway contractor from Fallon (Silver State Construction) who could get anywhere in the State of Nevada in about three hours in his series of Chrysler 300s, all black with a white trunk lid. Those was cars, boys and girls, a fur cry from Chrysler’s wussy 300s of today – these were the muscle cars of yesteryear, when men were men and ships were wood, and sheep were scared. I thank my friend for the website; here’s the address, click on and enjoy a trip back in time in Reno

And if you see a black 300 in your mirror, get the hell out of his way! (Bill Harrah had a fleet of them also, for his execs – a half dozen, I’d guess, in the early 1960s) The car you see in the photo is one of Drumm’s cars that now belongs to my friend, now hauling-tail in the Lone Star State.

Cal Pettengill in Venice


Possibly inspired by an earlier post about Greco’s Reno Accordion Band, we see here a 1958 photograph of Cal taken in Italy when he spent a summer away from the University of Nevada and Sigma Nu fraternity, to labor as an accordionist for one of the larger gondola operators in Venice, performing, and occasionally singing, in weddings, bar mitzvahs and funerals held on the canals, many all on the same afternoon and in same venue, a characteristic of Italian celebrations.

Cal was the musical director for the old Blue Plate Special and may again take up those duties if I can figure out how to put music on WordPress. He remains available for private parties on a limited basis

The ol’ Pony Express Lodge


With great fanfare this motel opened in the years after WWII, at the confluence of Prater Way, El Rancho Drive and B Street in Sparks – the first animated neon sign across the street above Cal’s Drive-In (the animation being an arrow flying off the Indian’s bow in the direction of the motel.)

And what a place it was! Ballyhoo-ed all over the West Coast, with the cachet of a Harolds Club organization. (As I type this I get an error message for not using a possessive apostrophe in “Harolds” – Reno advertising wizard Tom Wilson steered the club’s owners away from an apostrophe, and writers have been screwing it up ever since. The club’s advertising never used one, so we won’t either.)

The Bishop’s Bendix

bishop's bendix


Seen above is St. Mary’s, on the corner of Gough Street and O’Farrell in San Francisco, its full moniker the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. It was completed in 1971, to replace an earlier cathedral on Van Ness Avenue that was destroyed by arson in 1962. This structure is technically known as a “hyperbolic paraboloid,” and was designed to emulate a Vatican “miter,” which to us Christian Scientists is known as a “hat.” We will not include in this website that it has been dubbed variously as “the Bishop’s Bendix,” for its resemblance to the tumbler on a washing machine, that appellation given by who-else, Herb Caen. It has been also expressed as “Our Lady of Maytag.” Due to my vow not to trash this website with a bunch of inanity like I did the last one, these facts shall go unreported.

An unintended consequence of its unique design is that the, well, chest, of any maiden in San Francisco, and probably elsewhere, is represented on its walls. That actually is not the building design itself, but the sun’s shadow on the two southern walls of the building. On those walls, on sunny days, the shape of any woman in The City, large or small, Catholic or Protestant, may be seen, at some hour on some day of the year. A gentleman might say, “My lady appears on St. Mary’s on April 14th, at 1:57 p.m.,” for on that day at that hour the shadow might perfectly represent her, over two hundred feet high for all the San Franciscans to view and applaud.

Caen discovered this, popularized it, and for many years it was a sort of local joke with San Francisco residents. And damn few of the visitors. I have not heard the thought expressed for many years. But while looking for the picture of the Queen Mary 2 in my “SF” photo file, the Bishop’s Bendix appeared and the devil made me post this. One wonders if even Pope Benedict himself is aware of it, and our thoughts of having two Popes with the same robes and hats loose upon the world, each given a certain degree of sense of authority, will go for another column.