Ah, Reno......my birthplace, looking here in this old postcard like it did when I was born and not all that much different than it looked when, in high school, we'd "drag main" right up Virginia Street after school games, flirting, smoking, hollering at tourist jay-walkers as they crossed the street in the middle of the block without the slightest consideration of this being our town, that we were born here, that we'd just won State for god's sake.
There's Harold's Club where my mother dealt 21 for 17 years. It's as familiar-looking in this shot as my local grocery store is to me today. When I was a kid Harold's Club replaced the glass doors with the amazing air curtain that meant the front entrance to the casino was miraculously wide open to the elements without letting the elements affect what was beyond the constant warm blast of air.
Dreamland was inside. Children accompanied by adults were allowed in the restaurant on the third floor, which meant that after walking through the warm swoosh and inhaling the first heady smells of cigarette smoke and alcohol, money and makeup, we could walk a short distance to the escalator that crawled to the floors above. Harold's Club restaurant was known for its bakery and I loved their banana nut cake. As a college student I worked in a savings and loan just about one block up and one block over from the top of this view and we ordered Harold's Club cakes monthly to celebrate all staff birthdays in a month. When my turn came I requested banana nut cake (my mother had long since left "the club" and was excelling at a change in career so this meant our steady supply of said cakes had gone dry).
An excellent source of information about Harold's Club lists what was special about the place, including (read the full list at the link):
* Casino gambling's first national and worldwide advertising campaign placing 2300 billboards featuring a covered wagon and "Harolds Club or Bust." A world map was hung in one of the casino's hallways, sprouting a veritable fur of little red pins representing the location of a Harolds Club or Bust sign.
* They introduced "mouse roulette," with a mouse released into a cage onto a circular board with numbered holes. The mouse would eventually go into one of the holes, and the number on the hole would be the winning number.
* They were the first casino to hire women dealers.
* The Children's theatre, the forerunner of the requisite arcade for player's children.
* A sign was placed near the escalator leading up to the bar with the gun collection meant to attract all the potential gamblers. It read
"Gambling is a game of chance. We advise you to wager no more than you can afford to lose.
* Harold's Club was the first of the modern themed casinos.
The famous Reno Arch, first erected in 1927 with different wording to commemorate an exposition held there, was reconfigured into the one shown here around 1935 and didn't change until 1963. I hated the one that replaced it. As a native Renoite I absolutely loved reading this short but excellent history (with photos of each of the versions) of the Reno Arch.
See that signage painted on the building in the left foreground? There's a personal story linking me to a later-generation male of that family. Could I have attended grammar school with him? Could we, years later but still way too young, have coupled for one night only but in the first-time way that binds us in one way forever? Could he have introduced me to marijuana later on in college, we listening to a tape by Taj Mahal while parked up on Peavine Mountain, looking down at the twinkling lights of the town we'd known all our lives?
At the end of the street in this shot, on the left, stands the Mapes Hotel (she writes with a lump in her throat) that is no longer. The same people who did such a nice job with the history of the Arch share the so very poignant history of The Mapes. The authors note that The Mapes was Nevada's first highrise.....hard to believe given all the construction in Las Vegas and Reno since that time. A Reno landmark from 1947-1982 (and finally demolished in 2000), I remember it for these things:
- the giant standing polar bear (a taxidermy specimen) that greeted us at the front door, a marvelous huggable someone that I didn't identify with death, and certainly couldn't have imagined being representative of a species that would be in a dire struggle for survival within four decades
- my occasional lunches with Silas E. Ross, the benefactor of my studies at the University of Nevada in Reno, who was a true and great Nevadan I was richly blessed to know; he had a regular table in The Mapes main floor dining room and would be seated before my arrival but always stood at the table when the hostess escorted me there
- Thanksgiving Dinner in 1975, my first as a married woman, and I chose to break away from family and to instead have dinner with ex-husband, Jack, and some of our friends in The Mapes Skyroom on the top floor overlooking Reno and the valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains; the next night we couldn't get over to my mother's house fast enough for real leftovers
- the last time I saw the old crumbling and boarded Mapes Hotel, when Mike and I were in Reno for a high school reunion in 1999; I recalled these stories, took pictures, waved my fist in the air...............and did not say good-bye