The Star of Hot August Nights
by Carole Miller –
A recently-restored Salvation Army emergency disaster canteen–in service in Reno, Nev., for more than 30 years and currently serving the Petaluma, Calif., corps was selected as one of the 25 “Celebrity’s Choice” award winners at the Reno Hilton Show ‘N Shine competition during Hot August Nights. Every year, the event draws thousands of classic vehicles from across the nation.
The white 1951 Dodge route van, with a license that aptly reads ’51 Sally, received the KRNV-TV/KRNV-FM Radio award. The 25 winners also led the parade through downtown Reno, wrapping up the week long event. Each vehicle stopped near the famous Reno Arch, where the drivers were presented with a beautiful trophy and posed for a photo shoot. The winners also will be featured in next year’s Hot August Nights souvenir program.
The Sally received media coverage from four television stations, two radio stations and the newspaper. In addition, a local classic car publication has requested an article for next month’s issue.
Research for a display to accompany the Sally turned up some fascinating photos and documents. Harold’s Club originally purchased the vehicle new and then donated it to The Salvation Army. For several years, the casino also contributed $25 a month toward the canteen’s operation. The club has been closed for some time and will be torn down for another hotel’s expansion project. But a group of former Harold’s Club employees–The Harold’s Club Pioneers–still meet on a regular basis and were thrilled when the Sally showed up at their picnic after Hot August Nights ended!
The old canteen served the Reno area from the early 1950s into the 1980s. A few of the events where the vehicle assisted include: Serving coffee and doughnuts to American troops at the train depot in Sparks during the Korean War (early 1950s); the Truckee River flood of 1955; an explosion/fire in Reno in 1957 that killed two people and destroyed four buildings; the Hotel Golden fire; General Mills flour plant explosion/fire (1961-1965).
Eventually, the van’s condition deteriorated and it sat idle for several years in a Salvation Army parking lot. Lt. Brian Hoover of the Petaluma Corps needed a disaster vehicle. He saw the truck’s potential and received the necessary approvals to transfer the vehicle from Reno to Petaluma. With help from fellow corps members and the community, the Sally was brought back to life and re-entered active service last September.