July 1, 1958, at about 4:30 in the afternoon Merle and I drove into Reno from Wichita, Kansas with our two young daughters, Valerie and Dana. I was to take a new job as announcer/salesman for KDOT Radio. We figured to stay in northern Nevada a couple of years, then move on to a larger market to further my career in the broadcast industry. We never got out of Dodge.
In 1958, the state of Nevada was quite a bit shy of a half million people. Reno, at an estimated 60,000 souls, was a little larger than Las Vegas. Plumb Lane was at the southern end of town and extended east beyond Virginia Street about a block and a half and that block and a half was not paved.
The Riverside Hotel, the Mapes Hotel and the El Cortez Hotel were the best hostelries in town. In fact, other than a group of motels they were the ONLY places in town to stay overnight. The Mapes was the tallest building in town at 10 stories, followed by Harolds Club at seven stories.
One of the biggest discussions occupying the citizenry was what route the proposed I-80 freeway should take.
Entertainment was very big in Reno with Riverside and Mapes featuring acts such as Betty Grable, Jimmy Durante, Sammy Davis, Jr., the Will Mastin Trio and Liberace. At Lake Tahoe, Harrah’s at the south end of the lake was bringing in names like Red Skelton, George Burns, Judy Garland, and Bobby Darin, while across the street at Harvey’s Elvis Presley and Tom Jones were featured. And all these acts played for a full two weeks, not just one or two nights on the weekend.
In 1960, the Reno/Lake Tahoe area really became of international significance with the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley. Vice President Richard Nixon was on hand to officially welcome the representatives from around the world, and, miracle of miracles, the United States hockey team defeated the Russian team to win the gold on an outdoor rink on the Squaw Valley grounds.
Reno and Sparks were delightful communities in which to live and raise a family. You were never more than fifteen minutes from any place, and if it took longer than that you were either lost or had a crooked cab driver.
Obviously much has changed over the years. Some would argue the changes are for the worse; others for the better. But we feel the area has survived well up until the 2008 downturn. Up until then we had been pretty impervious to the ups and downs of the national market place. However we have come through it and the future holds a cautiously optimistic outlook. Time will tell. But regardless of what happens it’s been a helluva ride.