Berger clan returns for matriarch's 90th birthday

The Berger family of Carson City used to hold a big picnic every summer up at Lake Tahoe, gathering in all the relatives from the area to eat, play games and share stories.

But the family members scattered across the country over time and summer reunions fell to the wayside.

Saturday, though, 96 members of the Berger clan trooped into the Carson City Eagles Hall to honor the 90th birthday of matriarch Emma Nevada Berger Slade.

Emma was born Feb. 2, 1910, in the white frame house that still stands on the west side of Highway 395. Her father, Joseph, was water master of the Virginia City and Gold Hill Water Company, Emma recalled Saturday, and the big pipes that carried water from reservoirs above Lake Tahoe ran right beneath her home, which was owned by the water company.

Emma's children, Barbara Hawley of Carson City and Bud Miller of Reno, spent several months putting together Saturday's birthday luncheon and party.

"We've got them coming in from Iowa, Elko and Idaho as well as from around here," Barbara said. "There's us two kids, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, plus nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles and all the folks they married."

The connections among them all are so varied that each received a tag at the door showing not just their name but how they fit into the Berger family tree.

Emma joined a group looking at a display of several photos, including one of her parents, Joseph and Parnie, who grew up near each other in Washoe Valley. A picture showed Emma at 17 months old, another when she was on the Carson High School girls basketball team. Yet another, taken by photographer Charles Powers who came to Carson from time to time, shows a kindergarten-aged Bud and even younger Barbara with mother Emma.

"I've seen all these pictures before, of course, but now my eyes aren't so good - they're the only things that have gone," Emma said.

"Some of the family has moved away, but many are still close," Emma said. "I think we've now got five generations that have attended Carson High School."

Emma worked as a deputy county clerk, then went to work for Governor Edward Carville from 1942-45.

In 1945, Emma and her second husband, Francis Slade, married and became partners with the Jack Dixon family in the Dutch Mill Restaurant, now known as Heidi's. A few years later, they bought out the Dixons, who were Francis's sister and brother-in-law, and ran the Dutch Mill until 1960, she said.

"We didn't even have a key for it. We were open 24 hours," Emma recalled. "I'd go to work at 7 a.m. and get home at 1 a.m."

After they sold the Dutch Mill, Emma went to work in the Department of Motor Vehicles registration section, from which she retired as a supervisor in 1971.

"We did everything on paper with typewriters. All those titles were done on typewriter and we girls got them out on time," she said. "I count myself lucky I retired before the computers came in."

Emma still lives in the Musser Street home she and Francis built in 1950, Bud said.


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