Submitted by (little) Karl Breckenridge | Feature Image: Ty O’Neil
Well, I can tell all you This is Reno readers and ships at sea that we went to the football game Saturday at the University of Nevada, and Nevada won the game, playing a team from the Chico State University. We’ve walked from our house on Ralston by Whitaker Park a couple times now – Nevada has won both home games already this year. Dad says it’s because they’re in a good conference where all the teams are about even.
I talked Mom out of making me go to church yesterday, down where Ralston Street dead-ends into the Truckee River. Dad’s childhood buddy Bud Loomis’ mother was pretty much the founder of that church, and her family owned the land that it sits on. I got on my new bike and rode down Vine Street because Grandma Gladys gave me a silver dollar. I went to get an ice cream cone at the Hale’s Drug store down on the Lincoln Highway.
Vine Street is about the last street west in Reno, with just a bunch of fields on the other side. Mr. Weichman and Mr. Probasco are starting to build some homes along Eighth Street, which most people now call University Terrace. And Mr. Novelly is also building on some new streets that he named after himself, Novelly Street and Raymond Drive. So I ride west along Whitaker Park and down the steep hill west of Washington Street. At the bottom of the hill is Vine Street, which goes south to the Truckee River and north to a big ranch owned by Dr. Raphael Herman. He came up from Los Angeles and named it Rancho San Rafael for himself.
I ride toward the Truckee, where there are mostly just houses where some of my friends live like Bob Broili and the Burr kids and Dr. Reno’s kids. He’s not from here but came here after he graduated from the doctor school. His wife’s name was Rhoda – she was a good friend of my mom’s and Mom was really mad at me when I said that her last name was Hogg before she married Dr. Reno. I paid for that until Mom died in 2004. But it was worth it.
I should have mentioned that at the bottom of the Washington Street hill there was a service station and a little market called the Quality Market, but everybody called it “Quilici’s.” It had a gas pump outside that the men pumped by hand until they could see the level of gas on a big round glass dome. When they got it up to the number of gallons they wanted to buy, they would call Mr. Quilici and he’d come out and see for himself how much gas was in the dome, and they’d pay him. Then the men would put the hose into their cars, open the valve and let the gasoline drain into the cars. It was fun to watch. My mom didn’t shop there because she didn’t speak much Italian and that’s about all anybody spoke in that store (most of the patrons came down the hill from Little Italy).
The other market that I rode past on Vine Street was at the corner of Sixth Street. It was a hot little after-school place for the kids who went to Mary S. Doten elementary school like me or the older kids who went to Reno High three blocks to the east on Fifth Street. It was called the Santa Claus Market because it was the only market that stayed open on Christmas Day! It was made of river rock and painted silver. I wish Dad or somebody had taken a picture of it but I never found one.
Pedaling now further south on Vine Street, I get to Hale’s Drug Store in a brick building on the northwest corner of West Fourth – the Lincoln Highway. Dad’s friend Mr. Locke opened that Hale’s Drug in a little two-story building that was owned by Chester and Lincoln Piazzo who had a sporting goods store called The Sportsman. They charged all the kids about double what Mr. York and Mr. Burke charged for a jock strap at Mt. Rose Sporting Goods or Reno Sporting Goods on Plaza and Virginia, but that’s where the schools made us buy our stuff. Had it not been for the cashier named Swede Christensen none of us would have ever gone in there.
Hale’s had one of the most popular lunch counters in Reno. In a couple years Dad’s friend Mr. Ramos would move his drug store from downtown to across from Dad’s office on California Avenue, but right now Hale’s was THE place to go. I ordered my ice-cream cone. And got a lot of change back for the silver dollar (Dad calls them “Cartwheels”) that Grandma Gladys gave me.
I walked down the short block to the train tracks, and sat on the curb. Sure enough, an SP train came in with one of those new-fangled “diesel-electric” locomotives pulling it. I read later in the Nevada State Journal that the last steam engine in revenue service went through Reno in October of 1949, so I was lucky to remember seeing (and hearing!) them.
There’s one more street beyond Vine to the west, called Keystone, but it’s a short little street that only goes from the south side of the SP tracks down to the Truckee River, where it dead-ends into Riverside Drive by McKinley Park School. There’s been talk of extending it north of the tracks to connect with Peavine Row, but Dad says that’s about ten years away.
Right now the only businesses west of Vine are Mr. Caton’s Reno Press Brick factory and Keystone Fuel, and the Union Ice plant. Bob & Ray’s Chevron station is across from Hale’s Drug. In a few years the Piazzo brothers will build the Plaza Shopping Center on the northeast corner of Fourth Street and Vine, and Mr. Parker will build the Gold ‘n Silver restaurant on the southeast corner. To the west of Vine Street are mostly auto courts, which they’re starting to call “motels,” and some of the nicest apartment houses in Reno.
So, it’s a happenin’ little corner. But I’d better walk back to Hale’s Drug Store and start the ride up the hill to home – we’re going to the Toscano Hotel downtown on Lake Street with the next-door-neighbors, the Salas! Their little red-haired daughter Michelle is a hot little number. They just had a newborn son, named him “Mike.”
C’mon back in a day or two and well ride from 740 Ralston to somewhere else! But, in the meantime, 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.