Rick, Russ, Ron, Rodney, Ralph, and Randy: apparently the “Rs” were very popular in my extended family. Oh, I forgot Rex, so that makes seven of us with first initial R, last name Hilbig. You can only imagine our mom’s keeping us all straight, let alone how emails could get messed up!
In the 1950s, my birth decade, Rs weren’t as popular as I had thought. Both of my brothers’ names were more popular than mine. David ranked 5th, Richard ranked 7th. Ronald was 15th. You can find your own ranking online here: https://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/decades/names1950s.html My honor is redeemed knowing that my middle name, James, actually ranked first during the 50s. In the top 100 popular names, Rs placed 11 times. Sorry Rex, you are 198th! A decade later, Ronald had dropped five positions to 24th.
I only caught on to this confusion of names recently after an email never arrived in my in box. Check your spam folder (I had) was the sender’s suggestion. His email had not bounced back so apparently someone, a recipient, had read it and discarded it— or it ended up in his spam folder.
Emails are tricky that way; they aren’t case-sensitive but they do require a level of accuracy that my spelling can seldom attain. I’ve been plagued by the curse/blessing of auto correct on my iPhone. The “suggested” spelling can be over ridden, but I’m not always aware of it when it happens. (Shakes his cane)
I had given what I assumed would be an adequate amount of time to receive a letter. Four days had passed after a Monday holiday so I wasn’t too concerned not having received the expected correspondence. Luckily the sender reached out to me via text wondering about my reply, or lack of one as it were. He had asked for my home address and I (naturally) thought he had sent the information we were looking for via USPS. But I was wrong.
The postal service will make a best guess and deliver your mail regardless if the address is missing a digit or the street name has been misspelled. But email doesn’t work that way.
He had sent it thru email to my gmail account. Not “my” gmail account, as it turned out, but perhaps one of my relatives. There are quite a number of us whose first name begins with R. So I am guessing that one of them has received an unexpected and unsolicited correspondence. I have a thought to email him, or her, and find out. I’m not sure I want to learn if there are more of us Rs out there that I haven’t met! I know there is another Ronald Hilbig, who lives in Canada. We had already confused people on Facebook. Glad that was straightened out, though he could be a clone. I’m not doubting anything anymore.
“What are we going to do with all of these pictures?”
“What pictures, which ones?” I replied.
“All of them: all of the pictures, photos, albums, frames, paintings, prints, just everything.”
Well, I hadn’t given it much thought, but really, what are we going to do with all of this stuff? We had downsized and moved from our single family home to a smaller townhome several years ago. In the process of getting that home ready to sell, I had taken down all of our pictures, photos of family and family vacations, and packed them away in plastic bins. Now nearly four years after that move we are still wondering what to do with many of these mementos and memories, most of them still packed away.
When I was younger and first started taking photographs, I concentrated primarily on landscape photography. Years before digital cameras became popular I would shoot slide film in my Canon AE1 and occasionally have enlargements printed, many of which I framed and decorated my apartment. The prints are long gone but the slide film still looks great, beautiful rich colors after more than forty years.
I switched to a digital camera, also a Canon, when they came out and began taking more pictures of family and friends, documenting our trips and vacations, birthdays and holidays. And that introduced the beginnings of what would be a lifelong challenge: how to share and display, or store for posterity, the many, many images a digital camera produced.
When I got my first iPhone I was all set. Whereas before, one had to remember to bring the camera (or leave it in the car, always at the ready) an iPhone was the perfect accessory: I never went anywhere without my phone and consequently my camera was always with me.
Still the problem remained, what to do with all of these images? Before cloud storage enabled us to archive unlimited amounts of data, and images, I would back up my digital images on the computer and eventually transfer them to CDs. Great for storing photos, not so great for sharing them.
I’ve since been uploading many of my photos to Shutterfly. They have sharing options and also print capabilities for cards, enlargements, even photo books. I have friends who use digital frames that act like mini slideshows; the newer frames allow uploading the images to the internet (cloud servers!) and as long as the display is connected to the internet, any family member can view the display. Bluetooth or wifi-enabled devices are another option.
I’ve been printing photobooks now for years. They have taken the place of photo albums in our home. But like albums from our past, they have started to take up room on the book shelves. We visited friends recently and enjoyed looking through one of their old leather-bound albums, many of the photographs in black and white or sepia-toned. One could almost imagine the passage of time slowing down for a bit as we leafed-through and commented on their old family photos. It doesn’t feel quite the same when you scroll thru endless images on your phone!
I still don’t have a solution for the boxes of photos and albums we have accumulated through the years. We have thought about scanning all of the “pre digital” images. I am a little distraught over having lost or misplaced the CDs I used for “safe secure image storage” in the past. I have found several of the CDs I created have not held up well: the data has either become corrupted or otherwise unreadable. Perhaps storing the images on a DVD would work better. At some point I will probably upload all of our images to Shutterfly or some other third party service. I’ve put many images on a small external hard drive, not sure if that is my final answer yet or not.
What about you all? Is this a problem you have faced before? Any possible solutions you have tried successfully? If so, please share your success stories in the comments below. Love to hear from you!
Magic Kingdom opened October 1, 1971. EPCOT Center opened on October 1, 1982. Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened May 1, 1989 and was the third of four theme parks built at Walt Disney World in Orlando FL. Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened on Earth Day, April 22, 1998, and was the fourth–and to this date the last new theme park built at the resort. They have expanded and added on to their existing properties, closing some or adding on to favorites.
My first visit to Disney’s Magic Kingdom came during the summer of 1976 during my month-long bicentennial bus tour of America. DisneyWorld had opened just five years previously and at that time, only one park was completed. I remember the weather in June was hot and wet. The park was fun, affordable and my friends and I enjoyed it for the day before we took a bus to Cape Canaveral and the Space Center there.
Over the next 21 years three more parks opened, the final one, Disney’s Animal Kingdom opening in April of 1998.
My wife and I stayed at one of the resorts for our honeymoon in January of 1998. We only have few pictures from that time, and truthfully my memories are somewhat dim, but I know we had a great time visiting the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood-MGM Studios (as it was named then). I remember there being virtually no crowds in January of that year.
For our 25th anniversary we went back to DisneyWorld. Much has changed since our first visit and, due to their new reservation system, we weren’t able to visit two of the parks. We did enjoy Epcot and the Animal Park.
In 1997-98 DisneyWorld was celebrating their 25th anniversary; it’s a bit of symmetry that our 25th was celebrated while the parks were still decorated for their 50th anniversary, our silver and their golden. This time I took plenty of photos and we brought home an assortment of mementos and commemorative knick-knacks. Added them to the box labeled “wedding stuff” but I guess I need to update the label.
We’ve visited the parks twice before with family, for my 60th and then my 65th birthday. In 2017 Pandora-the World of Avatar had just opened and we were able to experience an area that looked remarkably like the landscape from the movie Avatar, as if the movie set had been brought to stunning life. When we visited again this year, the wait time to ride either experience (Flight of Passage or Na’vi River Journey) was two hours. We had dinner in the canteen, shopped the offerings in Windtraders store.
I have seen and read so much about the Star Wars-themed area in DW Hollywood Studios (Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge) and the new Galactic Cruiser immersive experience (hotel) I was really excited to see them. However, Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios remain their two most popular theme parks and reservations were not available during our stay. Just as well: when I saw the cost of staying in the Galactic Cruiser for two days, I was pretty shocked. It seems like it would be a fun place to bring the grandchildren, very immersive experience. But as I talked it over with my friend Dave later, the family could spend a week at a “fully immersive” Dude Ranch in Colorado for half the cost. Something to think about when planning our next adventure. Galaxy’s Edge, or riding the range in the mountains of the Old West? Got plans for the summer?
Harry Potter, A Forbidden Forest Experience is currently engaging fans and friends of the Wizarding World at Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia. It’s hard to imagine the scale of the amount of effort that has gone into this production, from creating the animated props to laying gravel paths lined with Bose speakers, fog machines, and theatrical lighting through the forest of the park.
As we walked thru it, all I could think of was, hats off to the designers and other creatives (and the IT Department!) who had managed to produce something this massive, involving so many people and cross-disciplines, during the time of Covid.
The Forbidden Forest Experience operates on two entirely separate levels for me. There are enough vignettes—Hagrid looking out into the dark night with his dog Fang next to him for instance— that a fan of the books will be happy, lead along the trail hoping to discover what’s next around a bend or over a hill. But I’m more drawn towards the production side of the experience. LED lighting in the trees, gobos along the paths, the enchanting lighting effects of the field of mushrooms for instance.
Walk-thru experience have become more common recently. Christmas lighting displays are hugely popular and have grown in complexity the past few years. And really, aren’t we all fans of dinosaurs and the recreations of them? The Jurassic Encounter (https://nova.thejurassicencounter.com has plenty of dinos but they are the main attraction, not the environment.
The aspect that sets the Forbidden Forest Experience apart from any other outdoor adventure I’ve experienced lately is, literally The Forest. There are activities, vignettes, owls, spiders, centaurs and unicorns placed along the trail for everyone to enjoy. But it is the forest that becomes the main character in this drama. Dark, spooky, mist-shrouded or brightly lit in reds, greens, and blues, fallen trees or clustered oaks, white sycamores etched against the moonlit sky: the Forest is the King here. Playing throughout the experience is music from the movies and it really enhances the overall effect.
After searching online for the design group responsible for this adventure, I came across Thinkwell Group. The tagline on their website really spells it out, “creating custom, content driven experiences in the physical world.” Lighting effects were created by Adam Povey Lighting. I was surprised to learn that there are several other locations of the Forbidden Forest Experience currently available to see, one in Westchester NY; one in Cheshire UK at Arley Hall and Gardens; and one in Belgium.
There is food available and a merchandise tent at the end of the trail— it is Harry Potter and Warner Brothers after all. This isn’t a recreation of the Harry Potter World at Universal Studios (no theme park rides) but you can get butterbeer and a souvenir mug, t-shirts and hoodies, and of course adorable stuffed animals. We took home one of the Nifflers; keep an eye on your jewelry! If you consider going, ticket prices seemed a little high for what we are used to, certainly cheaper than Wicked tickets at the Kennedy Center, but more than what you would expect for an experience where you are doing most of the work, or at least the walking. There are family ticket prices. Take a lot of pictures: many of the participants came in costume and really added to the excitement. It is a non-cash event (credit only), something they do announce on their website. The parking lot as well as the road leading into the event area was well marked and well lit. Parking was an additional fee.
When we were there the evening temperatures couldn’t have been better. It was the day before the full moon in early November and a light jacket (wizard robes) was all we needed. The flashlight I had brought was unnecessary and the path could easily accommodate strollers.
My Dad loved to hunt, that’s for sure. The earliest photos I have of him on the Whitbeck Ranch in Smith Valley show him proudly holding up two pheasants on display for the camera. He is dressed in khakis (seldom wearing jeans) and a plaid woolen jacket. I found the photo several years ago in a box of memorabilia from my Mom, that and a slew of photos of my older brother Dave on the ranch. There is a photo of Mom as well, her arms wrapped tightly around her from the cold, standing in front of the foreman’s cottage they were living in at the time. Over the picket fence is a set of deer antlers.
Dad loved to hunt. Whether it was pheasants, or geese out in the fields near Fallon, Nevada, or deer in Elko County: he loved the outdoors and getting away with a few of his hunting buddies. It’s October now, deer hunting season in Nevada, and I’m taken back to those years in the 1960s by a sudden memory this week.
I went deer hunting with my Dad only once that I can recall. It was local, the pinion pine-covered mountains outside of Virginia City. It’s where we would go each year to cut our Christmas trees. The photo of us with that year’s tree shows my younger brother Rick, one of his friends, and my Grandfather, along for the ride. But the climb thru these mountains wasn’t anything compared to the mountains in Elko County that Dad and his hunting buddies would head to in the fall. I can imagine that my complaining about the hiking, and the sitting quietly, and the waiting…would be the reason I didn’t go again. My brothers don’t hunt either so maybe it wasn’t just me, who knows now.
But last week I was given a frozen slab of venison. And Dad’s old recipe for venison stew was what I made. He always used a pressure cooker to start the process and tenderize the meat. I just left it in the pot to cook slowly for several hours before adding the potatoes, carrots, onion and green peppers. Dad like stewed tomatoes but I didn’t have any so, we left that out. Plenty of salt and pepper. Bay leaf of course. It could be my Dad’s recipe, or it could be my Mom’s beef stew recipe that Dad repurposed. We always had venison in the freezer and truthfully, I only remember Dad cooking it.
I saw online recently that The Sportsman in Reno had published a cookbook. The recipe might have come from it, we loved the Sportsman and would go there for everything: fishing and hunting licenses, all our gear, or just to hang out with old guys talking about the weather. It was that kind of place, years before Walmart or Dick’s Sporting Goods took over the sporting goods retail industry. (photo courtesy Karl Breckenridge)
I texted a friend of mine while I was thinking of the past and deer hunting. Pat is an avid bowhunter and I thought it would be great to hear from him, how his season was going. He texted back from his hunting cabin that he hadn’t seen anything yet, and though not as enthusiastic as he had been in the past, still he goes out every season. I can’t remember a year when my Dad didn’t come back with a deer. The mule deer in Nevada are huge compared with the whitetails here in Virginia, but their numbers don’t compare.
I frequently see deer in my backyard here in Virginia (eating the hostas!), but I doubt whether I would have had the patience to hike, sit, sit some more, and eventually hike back down the mountain with a 200 lb deer, especially in that crisp mountain air. I’m more the camera guy, sit back in my recliner, have a hot cup of coffee while I reminisce. But thanks for the memories, Dad. And a love of plaid shirts.
I’m living between two worlds these days. Our present, which includes Starbucks coffee, Korean BBQ restaurants, and trips to our local Saturday Farmers Market. But I’m also drawn towards my — mostly reimagined — past and it’s rural roots. Pickup trucks, country music on that truck radio, home-canned foods and venison stew.
Our life on an actual ranch was brief; I was born in a small hospital in Lyon County not far from the ranch on which my Dad was forman. We moved into town later that year when the ranch-owners son returned from the Korean War.
Dad’s college degree was in animal husbandry. He must have been preparing for the country life even then, though he seldom spoke about it years later and he seemed content with how his change in careers turned out. But we were in the mountains outside Reno whenever possible, either after firewood during the summer, camping, or deer hunting in the fall. I never took to hunting, Dad would go for a week to Elko and the Jarbidge Mountains with several of the men he worked with. That’s Phil Martinelli’s jeep next to my Dad’s chevy pickup in the photo below, their camp gear spread out in the foreground.
I spent most of the day yesterday cutting up tree limbs and wrestling with logs too heavy to lift, sections of three trees we had taken down back during the summer. The leaves are all off now and it’s a little easier to see what I’m dealing with: these things are a lot larger lying down than they first appeared! Too close to the house, my concern was that they would come crashing through our roof in the first winter storm. So I had the experts come in and take them down.
But I had been overly confident in my ability to limb branches off walnut and tulip trees with my little electric chain saw. I’ll have to wait until I get a bigger chain saw before I can cut the trees into smaller sections, until then they can lie where they fell.
I’m wearing a plaid long sleeve shirt today with imitation pearl snaps, two pockets; wrangler jeans from Walmart. No boots, sneakers from our local Sketchers outlet. I drive a grey pickup truck: it’s a Nissan, not a Chevrolet. Probably underpowered if I were to ask Dad. I’ve tried my hand at canning recently (mostly jams and jellies, a few bottles of pickles) but we haven’t been too successful yet in growing food. The neighbors have chickens who have stopped by. I’m hoping they will have enough eggs to sell. Dad often wore plaid “cowboy” shirts. Jeans of course, and boots. It seems we are more alike than I thought.
I’ve been watching carefully, noting the approaching birthdays on the calendar, celebrating holidays and vacations away, attending ballet lessons and cheer practice. But somewhere, at some point, our first granddaughter seems to have grown up.
This year she turns 15. I don’t think we will celebrate a quinceanera, we will likely wait until next year and celebrate that Sweet Sixteen party. But at some point between this fall and next spring, she will likely begin driving lessons.
The thought is at once intimidating and liberating.
I was 15 when I began learning how to drive. My Dad had a 1960 Chevrolet pick up truck, three speed manual transmission on the steering wheel column (remember those? Classic H pattern). I doubt that it could do 60 mph on a good day but it was a work horse. When it wasn’t outfitted with the camper shell, we would use it to haul firewood back from the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains. Long stretches of gravel roads were an opportunity to learn how to steer a truck without the distraction of other vehicles on the road.
We practiced parking in the vehicle storage lot that my Dad had access to on the weekends. That, and driving in circles to kick up a little dust really was the extant of my supervised learning. Again, no distractions and I seriously don’t remember if the truck even had a radio at the time. I never took a driver’s training course in school since that would have been an elective. And who had time for that?
My older brother Dave purchased and drove a Corvair after high school graduation. Later, after he had joined the Army, he left us the vehicle. It’s unclear whether or not we were “gifted” or sold his car; I don’t believe money was ever exchanged but I drove that car throughout our high school years as did my younger brother.
Reno didn’t have any freeways back in the mid-60s. Heck, we didn’t even have an overpass until 1968 from what I remember. But somehow I learned enough to be able to negotiate the mountain roads around Northern Nevada, the long empty stretches of desert highway out to Pyramid Lake, and eventually the freeway traffic of Sacramento and San Francisco in California. I survived all those miles, and years, with a minimum of tickets and I believe only one minor traffic accident. But the traffic here in Northern Virginia? Oh that is something else.
I’m looking forward to one day being driven around by our granddaughter, my sitting in that copilot’s seat watching her take the curves. I no longer have the PT Cruiser convertible but I think we will find something fun to drive. Somehow it feels like I’ve come full circle.
“What do you want to do when you grow up?” Or maybe the question was, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?”
Thinking back on our conversation, I’m not really sure I heard the question correctly, or maybe I just heard what I thought was being asked. Nevertheless, I found it an odd question to ask someone who had recently turned 70. So I answered as truthfully as I could, that I am who I wanted to be when I grew up.
So is the question, if asked of a much-younger me, what do you want to Do with your life? Or should the question more appropriately be, what kind of person do you want to Be when you’ve “grown up,” at whatever age that seems good to you?
A Fireman. A Doctor or Lawyer. A Soldier. A Pilot. A Pharmacist. A Cowboy. A Rancher. A Teacher or a Counselor. We have at least one of these professions represented by someone in my extended family. But that really isn’t the question to ask anymore, is it? Because we all know that these professions don’t often last a lifetime, that our career paths may change at some point, and that wanting to be a Fireman as a young boy might actually lead one to a career as an EMT.
But what do you want to Be when you grow up? that is really the question we try to answer for ourselves if we are at all self-aware.
Recently my wife and I took a communications course through our church. If you haven’t been exposed to the temperaments vs. personality discussion before, I can not more highly recommend this course. Information about the workbook along with accompanying videos are available online here, but I would say, take it with a group through your business, church, or other social group.
“I Said This, You Heard That” really helped me begin to understand some of the differences between personality (that which is changeable and often what we present to the world) and temperament, that which is hard-wired in and not changeable.
I bring this in to the discussion because what we do, and who we are, flow from our temperaments more than our personalities. So for instance, I am sanguine: I am an extrovert who enjoys people more than tasks. But for a great deal of my career I was employed in creative, yet very task-oriented professions. For years I had thought that the “what do you want to be” question could only be answered with a “what do I want to do” statement. I want to Be an Artist is not the same answer as I want to do art.
So back to my friend and the question over our Starbucks. My answer to him was essentially, I am who I want to be when I grow up. I want to be kind, caring of others, not entirely focused on myself. I want to be a person who knows Jesus and the scriptures, who has a desire to lead others in their discovery of Him. I want to be a person who cares about the environment, and politics, and upcycled furniture, and flowers in the garden, who enjoys the world God created. I want to be a person who is generous with his time, knowing that all that we have is a stewardship and not owned by us.
Have you given it some thought what (or rather who) you want to be when you grow up? Where are you on your journey of discovery? Or are you at a place in your life now where you want to pivot, less doing and more being? I raise my vanilla latte to you and say, all right, let’s talk!
We have found one of our favorite past-times during traveling is to stop in at antique and vintage shops and browse around. We seldom buy anything, and very often I’ll hear others comment, “Who would buy that?” Or more likely, “who would pay THAT MUCH?!” for a certain item. My wife will always give me a look, or a shush! but I’m sure it’s a common observation over what often seems to be random pricing in the second-hand retail market.
This fall we finally stopped in at a shop we have literally driven past for years. Finders Keepers is located on Main Street in Orange, Virginia and we see it nearly every time we head down to one of our favorite vineyards in Barboursville. Their website indicates they have been in business for over twenty-five years so I am surprised to see how long it took us to stop in. Needless to say, it was worth the visit.
While we browsed their extensive assortment of items, everything from furniture to lamps, prints and paintings, and home decor, I struck up a conversation with owner Bradley Toombs. We talked about how Covid has rapidly changed the face of retail, especially small businesses. During our conversation he mentioned that they also run an estate sale business and gave us his card to check it out later. Acorn Estate Liquidators offers online and in-person estate sales providing their clients with options to liquidate their personal possessions. It turns out, as many people are contemplating downsizing or moving away from the area, one of their greatest concerns is what to do with all of our stuff.
More out of curiosity than a need for anything, I checked out one of their online auctions.
WHAT A SURPRISE!
Here’s a brief list of some of the things that were available to bid on:
Antique furniture and lighting
Clocks, collectibles, paintings and prints
China and crystal, silver, pottery
Linens, quilts, and rugs
There were hundreds of items to bid on, most of which listed had an initial bid of $2. In some cases they increased by as little as $1 per bid. I’m struck by how little some of these items eventually sold for. There was a vintage Leica camera complete with additional lenses and a gorgeous leather camera bag that topped the bidding at $3,500. But that seemed to be the exception. Most of the lots closed at prices under $50.
So I jumped right in and started bidding! I lost the auction on most of listings I bid on, in some cases by as little as that $2 increment. But a couple of things that I bid on, I won.
While I’m quite pleased with having won the bidding on this sofa for $10, I think I might have gotten carried away bidding on this vintage children’s wagon. It looks great in the garden, I plan on filling it with potted plants in the spring, but the $27 that I paid for it was probably a little high. I am surprised at how many winning bids came in under $10. I suppose with an opening bid of only $2, it can take some time to reach a respectable bid offer. Yet there are always a few items that fetch commanding prices such as estate jewelry, fine art, or some of the antique furniture. Right now I have my eye on a beautiful wingback chair in great condition ($10) and an antique Victorian walnut marble-top washstand (my bid so far: $5).
But much of what’s offered looks like will bring in far less to the family than perhaps what they were anticipating. And that’s what really has me intrigued. When I look around our own living room, for instance, and contemplate what we paid for things like sofas, side tables and lamps, and all the decorative pieces that fill our rooms, and start adding up what I think they will get at auction, I begin to get a sense of real value versus cost.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-20
Sometime back I became interested in learning a little more about our family’s heritage. Not quite a deep-dive into research genealogy but something more akin to a survey of the places we had lived, the homes and schools we attended. Along the way, the faded photographs my Mother had saved of her childhood prompted me to try and find her homes and schools.
Mom was born in Colorado and before moving to Southern California (where my own family’s story begins) she and her growing family lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado. When they moved, my Grandfather’s Aunt Belle wrote in her journal at the time “Quite an undertaking with the car, trailer, six children, goat with two kids, canary bird, and cat and dog.”
The photo of children sitting with my Grandfather Orlo Willis in front of a small home launched my search for the house and school they had attended in the 1930s. Were those buildings still standing? Or had they been demolished only to be replaced by larger and more modern structures?
Not to my surprise, Mom remembered the street address of their home and the elementary school they had walked to. The 1930 census, available online, confirmed their street address. A quick search on Google maps revealed that the home is still standing, while further searching on Zillow showed pictures of a “charming Victorian home” built in 1892.
Writing about their mission, the organization began as “43 citizens interested in preserving (their) state’s built heritage started this organization to encourage preservation efforts statewide.” An email requesting information on the elementary school was answered cordially but proved fruitless. However that lead me to finding a small publication, surprisingly available through Amazon, entitled “A History of the Colorado Springs School District 11”, by Harriet Seibel, published in 1975, with quite a bit of information regarding the school I was hunting.
The two story brick building was originally constructed in 1898 with additions coming in later years. It was torn down and replaced with a single-story building 74 years later in 1972. No doubt infrastructure problems (heating and cooling, electrical wiring) contributed to the decision to replace rather than renovate. However, knowing that the school had been rebuilt, Google supplied the address and contact information of the school’s Principal, who forwarded my request for information on to the school’s Library Technology Director. He was kind enough to send me several photos of the old Columbia School as well as photos as it exists today.
But what has happened with those schools built in the early years of Reno where I grew up? This summer on a visit home with family, I drove by all four of the schools I had attended. And surprisingly they are all still in use! All of them were built around the same time, from Greenbrae Elementary in 1955 to Wooster High School in 1962. They all share similar characteristics of mid century modern design: single-story concrete block construction, small windows, flat roofs with protective overhang. Most are devoid of any ornamentation and look like they were designed to last for generations.
Washoe County School District published “A History of Schools from Past to Present,” with detailed information and a photograph of nearly all the schools built in the area, from 1955 until 2012. Several schools have since been opened, but the comprehensive list builds on an earlier list compiled by Rose Bullis of schools built from 1857-1912.
Reno has several school buildings of great historical and architectural interest that are still standing. One of the oldest schools built, Mary Lee Nichols Elementary School in Sparks, was built in 1917 and is still in use today as a commercial building. Robert Mitchell Elementary School in Sparks NV was rebuilt in 1937 as a single story brick building. The art modern building, still in use today, is a far cry from the original two story structure that had been built in 1906. The original multi-story building bears a striking resemblance to my mother’s elementary school: both share the same style of imposing brick edifice that was later replaced by one story buildings. (photos from 4th Street Prater Way Project)
Writing about the superiority of the smaller building style, “State Superintendent of Public Instruction reported to the Nevada Legislature in 1915 that mission architecture was chosen as it “is especially adapted to one-story buildings,” and he added “there is nothing better for school purposes than one-story buildings. The one-story plan eliminates the stair climbing so destructive to the nervous strength of pupils and teachers, and also renders danger from fire impossible.” (from Renohistorical.org) Reno built four of the Spanish Mission-style schools between 1910-12, two of which remain standing, one used as a school today (Mount Rose School)
Have you had any success in tracking down your family’s schools? I would guess that few remain from the early part of the 20th century unless they had a committed group of individuals determined to keep the buildings open, either as schools or repurposed as office space or commercial sites. In the case of the Nichols School, the fact that it was designed by Nevada’s premier architect Frederic DeLongchamps went a long way in securing its future. A 2002 Registration Form was filed with the Unites States Depart of the Interior, National Park Service, to place the Mary Lee Nichols School in Sparks on the National Register of Historic Places reads in part “Mary Lee Nichols School is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under criterion A for its role in the educational history of Sparks, Nevada, and criterion C as an excellent example of a modest educational building designed by Nevada’s pre-eminent architect Frederic DeLongchamps in the Mission architectural style.”
Any number of the schools recently opened look like they will stand the test of time, but as we all know…only time will tell.