Submitted by Karl Breckenridge | Feature Image: Ty O’Neil
For almost a month now we’ve been in the grips of the quarantine, and I’m going to write something right here that I’d like all to know: I like Steve Sisolak, our governor!
I thought yesterday at his press conference where he took the shelter-in-place down, or up, another notch – I’m glad we have him – especially the segment about barbers, when he admitted that the First Lady has noticed his locks becoming a bit shaggy – only in Nevada would a governor become that candid with the populace. And he initiated a new campaign and named its first nominee – we’ll meet her toward the end of today’s comments.
You’ll read today, if so you do, the beginning of a column written a while back – in the early 2000s I think, that never saw the light of day. I’ve a score of half-written columns like that and dug around to light this one up – it’s about neighborhoods; that’s all I remember.
Where is a “neighborhood,” anyway? Boxing the compass is obvious, but I retain a love for our old geographical designators. I wrote once of a U.S. Air Mail plane that crashed a block north of Whitaker Park in 1924. The late Don Small, a friend since my childhood, contacted me through his son-in-law the live Ty Cobb Jr., with eyewitness news of the crash. “I lived up in the two-four near the Piazzo brothers (Chet and Link), and remember the impact…”
“You lived where?” I asked. “Oh, the two-four – you don’t remember that, do you?” I grew up on Ralston Street, but no, I didn’t remember the two-four. But it developed that a lot of readers did when I refrenced it in a later column.
You see, in 1891 our Reno Fire Department, then a volunteer force, installed a Gamewell alarm system on street corners around town. Tripping a handle set off a series of bells that could be heard around our little hamlet, calling the volunteers to come destroy what the fire itself didn’t. Pulling the handle at Ralston and Eighth Street, as Don did when the plane crashed, set off a series of two bells, then four bells so the volunteers would know where to congregate. “Two” put the fire north of the river, “four” aligned it east-to-west. A single bell would locate a fire on the east border of the town, then somewhere near Surprise Valley, later Valley Road; additional bells worked the location to the west.
Other, later neighborhoods needing no compass points but known to most of the populace were Meyer Meadows, for the builder Meyer Homes near the post-war Veterans Hospital. The 1920s Academy Manor, occasionally Academy Heights remains north of West 11th Street and west of Sierra Street, streets named for mossy old colleges, like The Strand and Citadel and Codel.
“I live up in Sproul,” was universally understood in the 1960s to be Sproul Construction’s homes west of Keystone and north of West Seventh Street (the same contractor developed the Queen Way homes in then-growing Sparks.) While in Sparks we think of Conductor Heights in then-western Sparks, bordered by 17th Street – now Rock Boulevard – and by Hymer and Shaver and the streets south of the freeway. That name’s still in common usage.
Westfield Village – I’ll stick my neck out and call it our first subdivision, at least post-war – was a stand-alone neighborhood. Newlands Manor and Greenridge, ditto prior to WWII. “Up by Sterling Village…” would be easily comprehended, as east of the university campus at the north end of Valley Road, a hot little neighborhood with a bowling alley, a first-class grocery market and a strip center, one of the first shopping centers in Reno.
Falling flat was an airhead debutante I overheard a while ago in a supermarket line, “Oh, we live in the ranch…” Turned out she meant Caughlin. Not yet, cupcake; “ranch” is still a salad dressing in these parts unless she runs sheep in her back yard, then maybe it’s the ranch…
And phone numbers made geography easier – I’ve about 172 pages of Reno and later Nevada Bell from telco retiree George Phelps that I’m trying to do something with before we both go to our reward. His history includes telephone prefixes coming to our area – FAirview (32)to Reno, ELgin and FLeetwood to Sparks and FIreside to Stead, which offered some geographic help (Carson City was Tuxedo or GRanite and early Lake Tahoe was Liberty.
I do want to pay proper homage, and start a new tradition here on the This is Reno’s website column: Governor Sisolak’s “Hero of the Day” award, I guess a gubernatorial award for service above-and-beyond durng the pandemic. (Every time I see that word I recall Dan Rowan’s comment on TV’s Laugh-In 40 years ago: “We elected a goober?”)
Back to work: Yesterday’s nominee is actually a Heroine-of-the-Month; her name is Julie Danner, a Las Vegas gal who gets the tip-of-the-hat today for her outstanding service during the coronavirus kluster. I’ll meet all here tomorrow morning for a Herb Caen-themed column: The This is Reno Friday Fish-Fry. And as we say, 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.
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