Submitted by Karl Breckenridge
When sending early columns for the This is Reno website, I included a couple standing head photos. One such was a 1946 shot of a little waif standing by a tree in Whitaker Park. The tree and the house in the background are still there, on University Terrace just west of Ralston; (the house in the background is the Eickbush Mansion – the best-kept secret in Reno).
There’s kind of a story behind that photo. Just after WWII my family moved back to Reno and bought a little home at 740 Ralston Street across from the park, so I played there a lot as a five- or six-year old.
One day a car drove up and a guy got out with a camera – not a box camera like Dad’s but a pretty nice one at that. He started taking pictures around the park, and asked me if I’d like to be in a picture. Now, in later life we told our children to run the other way should this ever happen to them, but this was 1946 in the halcyon days of America after the war and that sort of child abuse hadn’t come into being in Reno, Nevada – yet.
So I stood by the tree and he took the picture. Then he asked where I lived. I pointed to our house across the street – the first one down the hill from the Nutty Professor on the corner – and he got into his car and left. I forgot about it and went back to my playing in the park.
A week later our doorbell rang and the nice man with the camera who took my picture was at the door. Dad came to the door and soon I’d never heard such laughing and hollering in my short life – from both Dad and this stranger at the door.
The men knew each other from childhood, but had not seen each other since before Pearl Harbor! They had grown up together; didn’t live that far apart and had played together as children, gone to Reno schools together and then, like so many other friends, been separated by the war. Taking my picture was a total serendipity coincidence.
The man’s name was E. Frandsen Loomis, but everyone called him “Bud.” He was a young attorney in Reno, who had been a Naval attaché during the war and prior to that an envoy to China, where he acquired a lot of artifacts. Dad and Bud had about a dozen beers while yakking about the old days, and then he left.
And they remained friends for life. Bud and his wife Cebe had a son Drew (Andrew) and a daughter (Del) my age and we were all friends – I think I’m the last one alive now.
But his family has provided fodder for about a dozen columns over the years. Bud’s grandfather was Andrew Frandsen, who emigrated here from Denmark and built up a sheep business over the years – starting with bummer lambs from the sheep ranches around northern Nevada – and into a million-dollar business in the 1920s, surely the biggest sheep man in the state. He endowed Dania Hall on north Sierra Street which many readers of this piece have visited – they knew it better as the former and original Reno Little Theater, which Frandsen made possible through an extremely favorable purchase circumstance.
Andrew’s daughter Anna Frandsen married Mr. Loomis, a man with no first name, a photographer for Time, Life and other magazines, and they lived for many years in the Caribbean, having three children in the process. Bud was the son between two sisters, Maryalice (husband Bill) and Inez (Scoop). The late Maryalice and Bill Blakely’s older son Jim remains one of my lifelong and closest friends. Divorcing, Mrs. Loomis (Dosh!) returned to Reno and taught foreign language at Reno High School for many years.
A staunch Christian Scientist, she hired the renowned architect Paul Revere Williams to design her Loomis Manor Apartments on Riverside Drive. Then she endowed – basically built – the Christian Science Church on the Truckee River, for the past score of years lying fallow as the Lear Theater. Bud and Cebe lived across the Truckee from that church on the familys’ land, in what was built as a carriage house for the Reid mansion on the bluff above the river – the stairways from that site down to the one-time carriage house are still visible.
Her other vital contribution to Reno society was taking me to get my driver’s license on my 16th birthday – my parents were out of town and thus she told me to drive her to motor vehicle and I took my driver’s test in her 1952 Cadillac. Successfully.
Back briefly to Bud and Cebe – Bud, in his tenure as an envoy to China – until being excluded when China closed its borders to Westerners in the mid-1930s, managed to, ahem: acquire, huge quantities of stuff and displayed it in their carriage house-turned residence on the Truckee. But he and Cebe wanted more people to be able to enjoy it, so to display it he built a high-end lounge called the Bundox and a fine motel called the River House, on a triangle of land bounded by Lake and East Second Streets that had been given to the local Chinese as reparation for their exploitation by the American government and which Loomis, as their envoy, ahem: counseled them to sell to him.
Now, you came here to read of the photo of the little kid accompanying this piece, and wound up reading, if you made it this far, of some of the Loomis/Frandsen family, the early Reno Little Theater, the Christian Science Church, the Bundox and the River House and to make it totally ridiculous, my driver’s license – but when you coop a writer up for this long God knows what you’ll read.
But I‘ve enjoyed the isolation with This is Reno’s readers, and hope you have as well. See you back here tomorrow, and, 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.
Submitted opinions do not represent the views of ThisisReno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article here.