Submitted by Karl Breckenridge
Welcome to This is Reno’s version of a Herb Caen ‘Out-of-my-mind” column, where we try to see how far off the mark our words can take us.
Yesterday we were reading of early restaurants on West Fourth Street and through a strange set of circumstances reader Red Kittell – one of my oldest friends – said at a coffee klatch meeting that that topic – early restaurants – suggests a story of the Circle RB Restaurant, now the Micasa Too on Stoker Drive, which leads us naturally to attorney John Robb Clarke, who had a daughter named Reno Browne, for which a restaurant named the Circle RB was named, and who married a man named Lash Larue – isn’t the street named for him (No!) but they lived at 25 Bret Harte.
Thus a column was borne, by its usual convoluted logic…
In a probably futile attempt to salvage some sense out of all that, I’ll scribe that Clarke, a prominent barrister in pre-war Reno, did indeed have a daughter and he named her Reno (actually he named her Josephine but that’s complicating my story). Where the “Browne” came from I can’t say, but Clarke did open a restaurant a way out on the Verdi road named the Circle RB, so far west of Reno that one needed to pack a lantern and a lunch to get there. And next to it, in case one met a person whom he or she wanted to get to know better at the Circle RB restaurant/bar, Clarke built the Tumbleweed Lodge – a motel.
Reno Browne fancied herself an entertainer, a singer and actress primarily, but not averse to occasionally breaking into a bit of Terpsichore. To this end, her father and biggest fan John Robb Clarke had a grand home built at 25 Bret Harte Avenue in the Newlands Manor to Reno, designed I think by Faville & Bliss Architects in San Francisco, but I yield to those who anoint Frederick Delongchamps with that honor. The home was completed just prior to WWII in late 1940.
Dad built the home to showcase her talents – with a room suitable for dancing. My grandmother resided one house to the north, and I recall in the early 1950s what I and many of the neighbors thought was a panoply of sheer terror that if it was to be heard in Little Italy where we lived, Dad would have called the cops but in Newlands Manor they called it “music.”
To the delight of many, Reno Browne/Josephine Clarke both moved to Hollywood where she became the go-to cowgirl for B-movie producers. And if memory serves, she took up flying somewhere in this period of time. And, became the go-to girlfriend of Lash Larue, the cowboy actor whose major talent was his expertise with the bullwhip, Pardner.
The question has been posed to me and others whether Larue Street was named for Lash. The street was around long before the cowboy, but sometimes, when backed into a corner, it’s easier to just say, sure it was, and get the conversation over with. But my initial response is always, no. But yes, Miss Browne/Clarke eventually became Mrs. Larue.
And Dad? John Robb Clarke eventually became the local owner and operator of the Nevada Credit Rating Bureau, and upon his retirement moved an incredible number of cases of NCRB files to the house, which a subsequent owner of 25 Bret Harte – OK the late Mike Norris – hauled away. The Circle RB Restaurant – built before Stoker Drive existed – became briefly the Chinese Pagoda, the mention of which is how this column sadly came to be, and now is the home of Micasa Too.
All save for the home’s present owners – fine friends of mine – have gone to their rewards. And This is Reno readers who can tell us where the original Micasa was get a Gold Star. The residual of all this is one of the prettier and most desirable homes in Reno.
Take a ride by it, but meet back here for a Friday-morning tale, and ‘til then, be safe, huh?
Submitted opinions do not represent the views of This Is Reno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article here.
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.