Submitted by Karl Breckenridge | Feature Image: Bob Conrad
I awoke this morning in my lonely writer’s garret with weasels tearing at my flesh and a great overpowering feeling: “What the hell am I going to send in later this morning to This is Reno’s Kristen Hackbarth, waiting so diligently to turn my pathetic lingo into something vaguely resembling a column?”
Last night I came up with about four notions of this with a couple more added in this morning’s email, a message from Greg Torvinen, Buildings & Grounds water-guy at the U of N for a zillion years with the most salient flash of the morning: The Mighty Orr has not yet been turned on! That happens around the second week in May, so don’t go running up there just yet as nada is happening.
I promised Greg a virtual burger-and-a-beer in return to some more dope about the Orr – (it was managed, while crossing University property, by Buildings & Grounds generally and him in particular, so he’s the go-to guy). And I also received a PDF written by my old classmate Dick Dreiling of the Sparks Heritage Museum about it. Dick is probably the best writer of northern Nevada lore in our valley, so I’m grateful for his help.
I also received a photograph last night of Larry Devincenzi so I can commence the Dueling Banjos that Larry and Don Hartman started on Facebook, concerning choo-choo trains and many associated topics, like the run on narrow gauge from Sparks to Laws and Keeler and about everywhere else the SP went. I enjoy getting two friends who didn’t know they were friends together in these columns, and just letting them open up with stuff I’d have no clue about but is enjoyable to readers, especially right now in today’s panicked media climate. That column will arrive on your screen later this week.
And my ol’ buddy Lew Carnahan, himself a retired Washoe County District Court Judge, sent in a wonderful and insightful read about Bruce Thompson, the federal judge we profiled last week. You’ll read that this week.
My final task – which I undertake with great glee – is introducing to readers a lass named Jody Rice, who’s been around Reno her whole life so far, grew up in the shadow of Swope Middle School on Mayberry Drive; has been writing for several local papers following being graduated from UNR in journalism, has raised a couple kids through Reno schools with one now in college at Santa Clara and is married to a retired investigator with the D.A.’s office.
I’ve been looking – hoping – to find a person of her background, born in Reno or Sparks and having an appropriate personality, which is to say not to take writing too seriously ‘cept for its accuracy and response to readers – to take my lifetime of local photos, documents, trivia and collectible BS and perpetuate it in print and write the stuff of all the superstars of our town, but to a younger generation and to chronicle their antics before we all go to our graves.
We are all leaving the planet, one-by-one, and I’d like to leave as a legacy all my stuff, and a Jody to keep it going. One of the saddest days of my life was when I wanted to do an oral history of a good friend named Clayton Phillips, only to be told that I couldn’t do it for the University because I didn’t have a master’s degree, yet being told by Clayton that if anyone was going to do his, it would be me. Then he up and died, taking a lifetime of history with him. Ridiculous, and unnecessary….
I’ve known Jody for a long time; she’s paid a ton of dues at the Nevada Historical Society when I was still allowed to go there. I offered her my own research room up there, six floors under Virginia Street accessed through a rock-lined shaft with a wrought-iron circular staircase, dimly illuminated by sconces burning whale oil on the mossy walls. With an alternate exit to the Little Wal across the street…
When I learned that Jody Rice was one of the three non-Basque people in the valley who could spell “Joanie Arrizabalaga” on the first try, I signed her up. So if you see a story with a byline by a pretty lady with red hair it’s hers – you’ll enjoy it! (I’m but a guest columnist with This is Reno so I can’t say if Jody will appear here. That’s for another morning…!)
So – it’s a feast-or-famine morning – lots of new information arriving from Don Hartman, Larry Devincenzi, Larry Champagne, Dick Dreiling, Greg Torvinen and Lew Carnahan – with a new (to here) writer coming on board – I’m plumb tuckered already an it’s not even noon yet! So c’mon back Tuesday morning, we’ve much to read. And, be safe, huh?
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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.