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Recounting tales from Banana Flats

One of the first homes in Saratoga back in the early days of Johnson Lane.
Special to The R-C

Hello Johnson Laners,

I hope each of you had a Merry Christmas and look forward to a great New Year in 2020. This edition of the journal started off with a long chat with Bob Ellison who is a long-time resident of Johnson Lane. Bob moved here in 1968 with his wife. He served as the Constable for many years and he has a wealth of knowledge about the characters who once lived here. Our discussion will continue and will lead to many more journals as I can not capture all his stories in one small article.

Bob told me how Vicky Lane used to be a horse and buggy road from Carson City and then turn up near Dennis and connect to East Valley Road. According to Bob this road was part of a supply route. An article from The Record-Courier dated Feb. 21, 1941, speaks of the McTarnahan Bridge which connected Carson City to Carson Valley. It was used by “10 and 12 horse teams engaged in transporting hay and grain, farm produce, and wood to Virginia City and Carson City”. Funny how this would have been the original bypass road instead of the current suggestion of Mueller Lane.

Bob and I spoke of how the area began as a series of homesteads. Families by the name of Clayborne, Clapham, Downs and Marshal claimed homesteads when BLM opened the area up for ownership. I did some research of The Record-Courier archives located at http://douglascounty.advantage-preservation.com/. Did you know this area was originally referred to as Banana Flats?

Harry Clapham began developing the area under the name of Idle Acres Subdivision. There are numerous entries in the archives of deed transfers etc. In the early ’60s Mr. Clapham attempted to designate a portion of the subdivision with a trailer overlay. The planning commission approved it but the Board of Commissioners denied it after numerous residents protested. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Apparently in August 1961 a group of residents from Banana Flats/Idle Acres requested the county improve services. Recall that one of the streets is called Chiquita referencing bananas. Most of the roads were not paved, there was no market and no phone service. One of the remarks referred to the consequences if residents didn’t get the word about a nuclear war. Most of the complaints were about the school busses having to drive on the dirt roads. “Traveling over roads, from one to four miles, where, in the spring and fall, there is the ever-present danger of poisonous reptiles and flashing floods, and in the winter the possibility of blinding snow storms and blizzards, constitute hazards from which small children should be protected” R-C page 3 Aug. 31, 1961. It should also be noted that up until the 1950s the school district often used students to drive the buses.

In October 1961 the “residents of the area north of Johnson Lane rejected the tentative name of “Idle Acres” “accepted instead “Saratoga” as the title for the area. So basically, we all have it wrong. This area was never supposed to be referred to as “Johnson Lane” but instead should be “Saratoga.” The name never stuck and we have always been referred to as “Johnson Lane.”

During one of his many trips to the County Commission, Harry Clapham sought to get aid from the county for paving roads etc. The commissioners at that time suggested that he create a General Improvement District to collect taxes from the residents for road repair and such. That Idea worked as well as naming the area “Saratoga”. It should be noted that many of the residents were horse owners and were against paving the roads.

Penny Maple use to write the journal, in February 1980 she explains that Stephanie Way was part of the wash. The Downs family would often repair it after a flood and referred to it as “Betty’s Boulevard” after Betty Downs. It is often thought that the street was named after Mr. Downs grand daughter Stephanie but according to Penny, it is really named after his grandson Stephen who was a student at Douglas High back in the 1980’s.

Bob took me on a driving tour of the area and showed me some the initial homesteads. According to Bob at the Northwest corner of Stephanie and Vicky there use to be a watering station for the horse teams. Apparently, this is where the teams would be changed to refresh the teams with water and hay. The source of the water was from an artesian well that filled a concrete trough. It was also used for sheep drives. Across Vicky at the Northeast corner is where Mr. Marshal would winter his horses. Mr. Marshal was the operator of the riding stables at Zephyr Cove. During the winter he would rotate the horses from Zephyr Cove and here. There were several barns as well as his home located on the property.

Bob is a great source of information. He has given me a lot to pass on to the community. So, we will get to those stories in a later column. We have to discuss the German submariner and the chairs from the gas chamber. The picture attached to the column is of Bob’s home that he purchased in 1968. It looks quite different today. I won’t publish his address for his privacy but I am sure most of the readers of old know him quite well. Thank you, Bob, for your time and motivating me to dive into the history of our unique area. Between you and me I kind of like “Banana Flats!”

Happy New Year.

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