Several years ago I was interviewed by TV news man Ed Pearce on the Center Street Bridge with the newly reopened Sienna Hotel in the background. Pearce wanted to know how Reno had changed. I pointed upriver to the empty lot where the Mapes Hotel once stood and said, “It all started right there.” Once the Mapes was built, Reno gained a patina of sophistication that had previously been lacking in The Biggest Little City.
“You might say that the Mapes became the hub of downtown,” I said. “Extending from it like the spokes on a wheel in the concentric fashion was the tiny Hall Building, the Majestic Theater and Reno Garage. Across the river was the downtown post office, the Washoe County Courthouse and the Riverside Hotel. Crossing the river again, we had the Shriner’s building, the Granada Theater, Woolworth’s, a series of boutique shops, the First National Bank, the City Hall, Western Union, the Reno Evening Gazette and the Nevada State Journal, and the Bell Telephone building.
“In addition to serving as the focal point of downtown, the Mapes attracted numerous famous personalities. Dell Webb got married in a Mapes corner suite, and Lowell Thomas broadcast his famous radio show from a similar location. The long list of celebrities that stayed at the Mapes included Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Mae West, Milton Berle, Rowan and Martin, Mickey Rooney, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh and Debbie Reynolds.
“Special events in Reno attracted other famous names to the Mapes, which included John Wayne, the complete cast of Bonanza, Jim Arness, and Richard Boone.
“You could also rub shoulders with prominent politicians like Butch Powers, the lieutenant governor of California, heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston, Nelson Rockefeller, Liberace, Shirley Temple, Clifton Webb and Avery Brundage, head of the International Olympic Committee.
“The Mapes top floor was also the site of the International Press Club in 1960. The worldwide press headed by Walter Cronkite who was for the first time televising the Olympic Games. The dean of sport writers was one Red Smith from New York. Jim Murray of Los Angeles was his West Coast counterpart. Mid-America was represented by Dave Condon of Chicago.
“Top athletes were also abundant at the Mapes. They included Joe DiMaggio of baseball, basketballer Rick Barry, Liston, boxer Archie Moore, football players Y. A. Tittle, John Brodie, and ‘Dandy’ Don Meredith. Willie Mays was also a frequent visitor to the Mapes Coach Room.
“Reno itself was a magnet for many other celebrities and famous people. You could visit with Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan.
“On the local level, there were many personalities that were Mapes aficionados. They included precocious District Attorney Bill Raggio, tough-as-nails Reno Police Chief Elmer Briscoe, Sheriff Bud Young and Nevada’s most decorated WWII hero Jack Streeter. There were also real cowboys like Harry Drackert, celluloid cowboys such as Rex Bell and Roy Rogers and drugstore cowboys that included all the members of the Reno Junior Chamber of Commerce.
“The Mapes was also a natural short cut to get to various parts of downtown Reno and the individual merchants who inhabited it. If you wanted printing you saw Harry Frost at Reno Print. George Hamilton was your eyeglass man. Lester Hilp was your druggist of choice. You got your jewelry from Sam Ginsburg or R. Herz and Bro., Herd and Short was the top men’s store while Sierra Street was home to Sears, Montgomery Ward and J. C. Penny’s. Reno Mayor Len Harris was the butcher, Hugh Rauhut was the baker and Emmett Saviers was the candlestick maker. All sporting supplies came from Chet and Link at the Sportsman and your office supplies came from Mitch Armanko’s store.
“Fine dining was also available in the four-block downtown area. You could choose between the 116, Toscano’s, the Bundox, the Riverfront, Louis’s Basque Corner, the Sante Fe, Colombo’s, the Grand Café, Bill Fong’s New China Club, and Kiah’s Squeeze Inn…
Sessions a star
for the Lakers
Last week, Nevada’s former premier point guard, Ramon Sessions, started for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Dallas Mavericks. The vastly improved Sessions finally reached NBA status with one of the top teams in the country. In the overtime win against the Mavericks, Sessions was the quarterback that made the offense tick at his position of point guard. On the other side of the ball, veteran Jason Kidd met his match in the youngster from Nevada. Ramon hit every type of conceivable shot including three-pointers, layups and mid-range floaters. He was also deadly at the free throw line.
Congratulations are due to University of Nevada, Reno baseball coach Gary Powers on reaching his 900th win. This lofty plateau is shared by only 21 active Division I college baseball coaches. Powers has all of his victories at UNR.
During his career he has sent 17 players to the big leagues and coached 14 All-Americans. Also, on seven occasions his teams have beaten the No. 1 ranked team in the nation.
Gary is the son of legendary Douglas County athlete/coach Walt Powers, against whom I played many city league basketball games.
Harry Spencer is a Reno freelance writer.