Submitted by Karl Breckenridge
One of the more accomplished and undersung historians of Reno in my, humble estimation, has always been Don Drake, the owner/president of the established Baker & Drake Taxi Company in Reno, which operated DeLuxe and Yellow cabs. Don ranks right up with a couple other guys we hear little of, but if they say it, believe it! Their names are Michael Fischer, a retired dentist now residing in Gardnerville, and Neil Brooks who gave us Neil Road. (Another such was the late Gordon Harris.)
Don saw our tale of Ludovica Graham a couple mornings ago, and sent this recollection along. I sought and received his permission to use it, so away we go.
Ludovica Graham lived at 1075 Ralston Street. Her family had been in the shipping business and had stock holdings in many large companies world-wide. The huge home located at the southwest corner of 11th and Ralston Streets is now the Sigma Nu fraternity house. As big as that house was it only had five rooms when she lived there. She had to be in her late 70s; she was a real eccentric. Her family had a ship building business and she had all kinds of money.
She had a business manager that was living there and also a maid. The business manager was an odd little fellow, but he kept track of all her holdings. Miss Graham owned a 16-cylinder Cadillac touring car. Wherever you took Miss Graham, as a driver you could only make right-hand turns, even if it meant driving completely around the block, and the driver could not exceed fifteen miles per hour! As long as you drove in the ‘correct and accepted manner’ you would receive a substantial tip.
I once took Miss Graham to Palm Springs in her Cadillac. That Cadillac was in perfect shape, however, it sat in the garage for years. When we got down to Independence, the radiator became plugged with rust and we blew a hose. When the hose blew rusty water went all over everything. We got it repaired and finally cleaned.
Miss Graham was a stock-broker. She would ride DeLuxe Taxi exclusively from home to work, return home at lunch time, back to the office and then home in the evening. At the time taxi rates were on a zone basis. Any trip in the downtown area was 40 cents. If you left Zone A, the fare was a flat 60 cents. Her home at 1075 Ralston was in the B Zone, or outer zone. Miss Graham would always give the driver a silver dollar which was the fare and a 40-cent tip. In those early days I would both drive and dispatch eight to ten hours. We would try to dispatch each driver to pick Miss Graham up on her trips about town. In the 1930s that tip money was ‘eating money’ for the driver and his family.
Note: The address of the mansion was 1075 Ralston. There was a small cottage for the caretaker on the corner of 11th and Ralston, inside of the green lattice fence. When we were picking up the caretaker the address was given out as 1095 Ralston so the driver would go to the cottage and not the main building.
Thanks, Don. We’re beating this story to death, I fear, but some morning if this isolation continues we might reopen the Graham file and bore all a bit more with a continued story of the house, of its sale to the Werner family on the corner, its use as the Jack & Jill Day Home, of Ragnhild Tonneson, Ludovica’s BFF and finally in 1951 its sale to the Sigma Nu chapter.
In the meantime, thanks for reading and we’ll meet right here tomorrow. Stay safe, huh?
Karl Breckenridge was slowly going nuts. So he decided to help out This is Reno by writing a daily out-of-his-mind column for the duration of the coronavirus shutdown. Now that it’s over he’s back to his usual antics, drinking coffee with the boys at the Bear and, well, we’re not sure what else. But he loved sharing his daily musings with you, so he’s back, albeit a little less often, to keep on sharing. Karl grew up in the valley and has stories from the area going back to 1945. He’s been writing for 32 years locally.
Read more from Karl Breckenridge
Karl’s pal Jody shares the rich history of bootlegging, decorating, and engineering within the confines of the Truckee River’s banks and its picturesque islands.
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