1950s Archive

Comstock Lode

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Ginny and Halvor were among their own most enthusiastic customers. Life at the Bonanza began to assume overtones that might have been described as Dionysiac with suggestions of Belshazzar's feast from Cecil De Mille's “Fall of Babylon.” After sampling a few spoonfuls of almost any plat du jour, the management was in no mood for sordid details of business, and guests were invited into the kitchen to have dinner on the house. You could tell it was the kitchen because there was a stove, but otherwise it might have been the bar.

This way of life could obviously end in nothing good. Breakfast at the Bonanza was mostly served in glasses, although a customer was reported to have modified this custom on one occasion by pouring a brandy milk punch over his Mother's Oats. Dudes putting up at the Inn for the six weeks which Nevada requires for “the cure” were, by the time they got their decrees, candidates for Alcoholics Anonymous. And although the owners were meticulous in paying liquor bills, they began neglecting the meat market and the poultryman.

The Bonanza Inn on the Comstock is now only a fragrant memory perfumed with Four Roses.

The next restaurant to achieve local fame, if not for its food at least for its way of fun, was the Delta, maintained by the management of the Delta Bar. which felt it might be well if the regulars could now and then be persuaded to ingest something solid.

The Delta lunchroom was and, happily, is presided over by a chef named Four Day Jack. because this is the invariable length of the toots or sprees upon which he embarks with enthusiasm and regularity. There is a well-established belief that nobody can be a good cook who is a temperance advocate, and on this basis Four Day ranks with Scotto and Louis Diat. Jack has been a chef in every bonanza town of the old West from Tonopah to Dawson City and from Rawhide to Rhyolite. His cooking is on the hearty side as a result. A two pound T-bone in his lexicon is a “breakfast steak.” and three or four fried eggs invariably decorate his hash and veal dishes. An awed newcomer to the Comstock once discovered no fewer than six eggs, one of them with two yolks, in his breakfast eggs Vienna. This son of thing meets with local approval and incurs no misgivings on the part of the management. which runs a vast saloon and gambling parlors next door.

Now and then, however, the Delia has known times of crisis. One of them was upon the occasion when a new waitress served the window display.

Four Day is inordinately vain about his window display, which usually consists of something simple and solid like a boiled ham surrounded by half a dozen apple pies. Nothing pretentious, you understand, but definitely artistic and on no account to be used for eating purposes. On the occasion mentioned Jack had wandered through the door separating the restaurant from the bar and was taking something for his stomach's sake in company with Eddie, the day barkeep, and the superintendent of public schools, who doubles as roulette dealer after scholastic hours. A new waitress was on duty when a busload of Shriners from a convention current in Reno descended upon her tables. Running short of ham and pie in the pantry, the unfortunate woman reached into the window and started serving the prize pies and aesthetic ham to the customers.

The Shriners were halfway through a nourishing lunch when Four Day returned. Horror and incredulity clouded his visage. Not since the sack of Constantinople by the Turks. Jack was sure, had such sacrilege been perpetrated. Seething with indignation and Old Overholt, the mad chef attacked the fezes and pantaloons. With screams of rage and anguish he snatched at slices of ham already partly consumed and half-eaten wedges of apple pie, trying to fit them back together as a child might attempt to repair a broken toy. With banshee screams he overset the fraternal Islamites, denouncing them the while with choice epithets from a lexicon amassed during sixty years on the frontier. Fezes, Shriners, tables, mustard pots, and the bellowing chef rolled together in a hideous farrago of confusion on the floor.

In the justified belief that riot and civic tumuli had arisen, townsfolk rushed in from the bar and had at the quivering haberdashery. In a cloud of White gaiters and red breeches, the ranks of the Shriners broke and they fled, screaming for mercy, to their bus, with on avenging Four Day at their heels. Flodden Field or Bull Run were trilling defeats by comparison, and it wasn't until the window display was replaced. somewhat the worse for wear but still recognizable, that Jack could be pacified.

lucius beebe,
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