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A few days ago I found myself in Fernley, the new colossus of Lyon County.
You probably already know that Fernley is the fastest-growing community in the fastest-growing county in the fastest-growing state in America. Pahrump is bigger, better-known, and has been on the fast-growing list longer, but Fernley is now growing twice as fast (18.7% vs 9.1%), with population passing 17,000 on its way to the moon. Until recently the biggest attraction for travelers in Fernley was a tank of gas and a burger to go, but that is changing now.
The Fernley and Lassen Railroad was built between 1912 and 1914 to serve the lumber industry in northeastern California, extending from the main line of the SP at Fernley to Westwood, near Susanville. By 1918 two passenger trains arrived daily, along with freight and logging trains, and by 1934, the Lassen Lumber & Box Co. and the Fruit Growers Exchange had built branch lines from Westwood into their timber forests. Local business slowed when the Western Pacific RR extended its rails to establish service in Westwood and by 1934 F&LRR passenger service to Westwood was discontinued. Seasonal logging trains continued until the end of 1952 but in 1978 the SP finally abandoned the Fernley & Lassen RR right of way.
In 1985 the SP gutted its old depot,
hauling its furniture and appointments to the dump and planning to dismantle the structure. Historical-minded citizens managed to persuade the railroad to sell them the depot (for $2), on condition that they remove it from railroad property within a year. This they did, but the structure suffered severe damage from vandalism before it was moved to its present location on east Main Street in 1990.
A $40,000 grant permitted exterior repairs to the roof, siding and lights, and a $400,000 grant has been approved for restoration of the interior. The work is proceeding under the direction of Steve Knowles, who was instrumental in preserving the Gold Hill Depot, and he expects to have four rooms open for visitors by next summer. By that time also work may have begun on the Fernley Town Square mall, a shopping mall built to suggest a 19th century community, with a restored antique calliope at its center and a mile of standard gauge railroad track around it to accommodate F&LRR trains.
Until then, Fernley’s main attraction for the casual visitor is the collection of Native American stone-, bone- and beadwork displayed on the walls of The Wigwam Cafe. The artifacts are arranged in their frames with creative flair, which is interesting, but presented without any information, which is frustrating.
Fernley’s recent growth has been stimulated by the growth and rising home prices in Reno, 30 miles west, and by industrial development which has attracted major companies: amazon.com and Wal-Mart both have major distribution centers here, and Trex, the company which transforms recycled and reclaimed plastic grocery bags, pallet wrap and waste wood into composite decking, has a plant here.
Fernley’s quietest secret: It’s 100 years old this year.
Fernley’s most embarrassing secret: No-one knows where the name came from.
Dennis Meyers reminds me that “The Professionals” was released on November 2, 1966 — 40 years ago and counting.
The movie starred Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, Woody Strode, Claudia Cardinale and The Valley of Fire. Sets built for the movie remained a favorite landmark in Valley of Fire State Parkfor many years.
Dennis also confides that this was Abbie Hoffman’s favorite movie.
Sheriff Stone writes from Gold Point that work has begun on renovation of another cabin in that historic collection of sun-fried shacks south of Goldfield. “The man
who previously owned it was John Cook. So, after a little thought we came up with the name, ‘Cook’s Shack’. It’s quite the shack now but it has lots of possibilities.
“We took most of the junk lying on the ground around the shack and screwed it to all the outside walls for decoration and a place to put it rather than throw it away.
“We’d been slowly cleaning out the cabin over a years time or so. You could hardly walk through it at the beginning, only aisles from one room to the next. Underneath the old linoleum floor in the living room were newspapers from 1937, mostly from the San Francisco Examiner. The best finds were a special edition of the Golden Gate Bridge with a picture taken of the bridge without cars taking up the whole front page, taken the day before it opened for traffic. Inside had pictures and stories of how the bridge was built. We will put some of the real good ones in picture frames and hang throughout the cabin when finished.”
Quick notes from beyond the mountains: My note about a Speed trap listing for “Morning, Nevada” prompted this comment from Barbara Rohde at the Cathedral Gorge State Park Visitor Center: “maybe the speedtrap-lister got Mina and Luning all jumbled together. Those are definitely speed traps! And I am always confusing them as Mining and Luna — just as our visitors try to pronounce Pioche with Panaca thrown into the mix: Pinoche” . . .
They begged me not to use this headline, but how could I resist? “Man Beats Wife at Carson Valley Inn Poker Room!” Here’s the story: Laura and Greg Rooney of Gardnerville were playing in a 7 Card Stud game at the Carson Valley Inn in Minden. As Laura describes it, “Greg and I like to play with a lot of banter. I had one 9 up and two more in the hole. Greg asked if I could beat his pair of queens that were up, and when I was dealt another 9, I said ‘Now I can.'” Greg didn’t know
Laura had two more 9s in the hole, but then, as Laura continued, “I didn’t know that Greg had a queen in the hole himself.
So, I was feeling pretty confident even after Greg drew another queen. I was pretty surprised when he showed me the fourth queen!”
But the dealer eased
Laura’s pain when she explained that she and Greg had just won the major part of the Inn’s $1,000 “Bad Beat” prize. This prize pays when a 4-of-a-kind or better hand is beaten. $500 goes to the beaten 4-of-a-kind hand — Laura — and $300, plus the pot, to the winner — Greg — and the remaining players at the table split the other $200. Happiness all around . . . And speaking of Minden, with its tree-shaded streets and great grassy park, there’s no nicer place for a slow saunter around town. Now you can pick up a Walking Tour brochure at the Town Office on Esmeralda Street and inform yourself about what you see along the way . . .
Despite the occasional celebrity (Mary Pickford, Clark Gable, Baby Face Nelson), most of Minden’s past has been as comfortably pleasant and serene as its present . . . And as long as we’re in the Carson Valley we might as well register now for the Eagles & Agriculture event coming up in February — it’s a very popular event, and sells out early . . . Lovelock has begun planning for installation of a star in the sidewalk on Fifth Street, in front of the hotel/boarding house where Edna Purviance grew up. Edna was Charlie Chaplin‘s leading lady in his first hit movies, and she was his main squeeze during the early days in Hollywood, but there’s no star in her honor in front of Grauman’s Chinese. So, the folks in Lovelock are going to do it themselves (tentatively scheduled for 2008 — well, we’ve waited more than 80 years already, what’s another 18 months?), hopefully in conjunction with an Edna Purviance Film Festival . . . And why isn’t Reno installing a star for Dawn Wells, the 1959 Miss Nevada who played Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island for three immortal seasons? . . . Another native son: Perry Smith, one of the Kansas killers profiled in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, was born October 27 south of Jiggs in Elko County . . .
And what is it with those Ely girls? Everybody knows that Pat Nixon was born in Ely, and so was Helen Davis Herrick, who married Bill Knowland, the severely conservative US Senator from California in the previous century . . . And Brad Pitt has left Angelina Jolie at the altar! It happened in Las Vegas, where Madame Tussauds announced completion of a new wedding scene with wax figures of Brad and Angelina as the happy couple, George Clooney as Best Man and the Rev. Robert Shuller of the Crystal Cathedral reciting the vows. Unveiling was scheduled for 11 am November 15, but the plan fell apart when the real Brad Pitt found out about it. On the 13th, general manager Adrian Jones issued a statement: “After we announced our intentions to create what could be one of Hollywood’s biggest weddings, we were contacted by representatives of Brad Pitt who expressed disappointment with our idea. Since Madame Tussauds enjoys excellent relationships with the celebrity community, we made our own decision not to create the wedding scene. We will unveil the new Angelina Jolie wax figure on schedule, as she has been the most requested female figure, and we do not want to disappoint our guests and her many fans.” My daughter Allie is going to the unveiling to see if the wax Angelina has a real tear on her cheek. . . .
Overheard at the Silverado Casino in Fernley: “There is no God, and we are His prophets.”