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History and serendipity
by Andrew Barbano
May 31, 2008 | 475 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Just a few times in your life, several good things will come together at the same time. This week is such a week for me.

On Saturday, the Atlantis Hotel will host the 63rd Annual Reno-Sparks NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet, the venerable organization’s major fund raising event.

The lineup of local and national notables would be enough to pack the house, but I found a superstar.

If you’ve lived in these parts for any length of time, you’ve heard of Pat Baker Park in northeast Reno. Pat Shannon Baker spearheaded the construction of the “instant park” by using her position as editor of Sierra Pacific Power Company’s in-house newspaper to rally support.

“Legendary Reno photographer Don Dondero chronicled the park from its inception,” she told me.

“SPP executive Jim Sale narrowed the time frame to a weekend,” she wrote from the wilds of Montana. “Leroy Badie, a resident in the park area, signed on as chairman of the action group. Preparation for the park took two months.”

“The instant park became the Pat Baker Park at the close of a marathon three-day building spree. Contractors, nurserymen, an architect, residents from all over Reno, men from the National Guard, boys and girls labored around the clock for free. Work began at 7:35 a.m. on Friday morning, July 17, 1968. It was completed Sunday afternoon, July 19,” she recalls.

Shannon majored in journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. She spent the 1960s working in advertising and public relations in Reno and Carson City and currently lives in the Big Sky state.

She will not only be recognized as a special guest at the NAACP dinner, she does not come empty handed. She is bringing a box full of park construction memorabilia to donate to the Nevada Historical Society. She will also present a five-minute video anchored by the late CBS legend Charles Kuralt, who came to Reno to chronicle the event after learning of Pat Shannon’s motivation: the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., earlier that year. I am also working on getting her interviewed by the UNR oral history project.

The park area fell on rough times in recent years. The city of Reno acquired and bulldozed several storefront buildings that were attracting crime. A celebration of the park’s rebirth will be held in August, led by a one-time skinny teenager whom Kuralt filmed working on the construction. That teenager, Lonnie Feemster, went on to a 27-year career at SPP, is now a successful realtor and twice past-president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP.

Tickets and tables are still available. Call Lonnie’s mom, Dolores, at 323-3677 for reservations. Hurry. They will go fast as I send this story out during the week. For pricing info, go to

There won’t be another evening like this one.

Good news, part deux

After 15 years and a couple of recent delays, my new TV/webcast show is set to launch this week. I was really excited as we tested the system and got broadcast-quality 30 frames per second video over the Web.

Barbano on the Barbwire will air 2 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday on Charter cable channel 16 with a Web simulcast. I will have to prove that I can type and talk at the same time, as I will be able to interact with live phone callers and chat crawlers all on the same screen. We plan news and public affairs programming in the afternoons, led by veteran radio journalist William Albright.

The rest of the clock will be webcast radio (until an over-the-air FM station is launched) with programming by students and a surprising number of old pros you’ve enjoyed in Reno for many years. So, anyone who has talked with Mr. Albright about doing a show on the new KJIV, get your radio game face on.

The gateway to my show will be Barbwire.TV. Watch the site for announcement of a mid-week dry run webcast as we debug the system. Write if you want an e-mail notice of the time. The show will launch on Friday, June 6, D-Day. My first guest will be (surprise, surprise) Pat Shannon herself.

Adios, August

It hadn’t needed a tuxedo in more than 30 years. When my stint as emcee of this year’s César Chávez Day event came up, my first thought, of course, was where is August Ceccarelli when I need him? The longtime master tailor and proprietor of Ceccarelli’s Formal Wear passed away on May 27. I was a regular customer back in my scuffling days.

The first time I met August, he asked me if I was related to some friends named Barbano he had met in Buffalo, New York. I sent a letter to the Barbanos at the best address I could find, but never got a response.

Decades later, thanks to the Internet, I found the New York Barbanos. One is an MD in the neurology department at the University of Rochester. I never got a chance to tell August that the search finally bore fruit, but someday I will.

The father of seven, native of Veroli, Italy, and veteran of the D-Day Normandy invasion was 85. Services were held at Walton’s in Sparks yesterday.

Requiescat in pace, old friend.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan, editor of and a board member of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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History and serendipity by Andrew Barbano

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