When I walked into the Capitol Press Room for the first time as the new Associated Press (AP) correspondent in January 1962, the first person I met was my friendly competitor, Robert "Cy" Ryan, the United Press International (UPI) correspondent, who died at 86 on Feb. 4.
Cy and I spent a lot of time together in the 1960s and I have many tales to tell, some of which I can't relate in a family newspaper. But first, I want to pay tribute to Cy as a journalist's journalist. Cy wasn't an actor, but he could have played the Walter Mathau role in "Front Page" to perfection because he was a fiercely competitive ink-stained wretch who lived to report the day's news first, which he did from his grubby basement office in the Capitol for nearly 60 years, first for UPI and later for the Las Vegas Sun. The legendary newsman didn't write columns or "think pieces," he just reported the news accurately and fairly.
Back in the 1960s, before there was a Legislative Building, the Press Room was on the second floor of the Capitol next to the Senate Chamber. Because lawmakers had no place to hang out, they often strolled into the Press Room and looked over our shoulders as we punched our stories into teletype machines; we literally "punched tape." When a lawmaker got too close, Cy, usually told the interloper where to go in no uncertain terms, but his bark was worse than his bite.
After normal working hours, Cy and I sought out lawmakers and state officials at local watering holes like the Embers, Melody Lane and the Music Box, which later became Adele's. We found GOP politicians at the historic J-T Basque Bar and Restaurant in Gardnerville, where we encountered the Laxalts and their fellow Republicans. At that time, the handsome and popular Paul Laxalt, who later became Governor and Senator Laxalt, was the Carson City district attorney.
When Cy Ryan and I weren't chasing the news we were playing town team basketball and softball. One year we won the basketball championship as Morris Motors, defeating Roger Murdock's "ringers." Cy and I were animated benchwarmers as we watched the Allison brothers, Ed and George, lead us to victory, aided and abetted by talented teammates like Chet Wood and Joe deArrieta.
A crazy sports story I remember is that shortly before one of our softball games Cy showed up with cuts and bruises on his face and body. He had rolled his VW convertible on Duck Hill coming down into town and walked to the baseball diamond ready to play ball.
My late wife Consuelo and I were very close to Cy and his first wife, Barbara. Consuelo started a very informal Spanish class that included the Ryans along with two top staffers in Gov. Grant Sawyer's office, Bob Faiss and Chris Schaller, and their respective spouses. Cy spoke bad Spanish loudly as we drank beer and enjoyed our rowdy language classes.
One of my most exciting Cy Ryan adventures occurred when we flew to Las Vegas to cover some Japanese governors invited to Nevada by Gov. Sawyer, known as Gallivantin' Grant because he had traveled to Japan to promote tourism. Cy somehow obtained the keys to "Nevada One," the Governor's big, black limousine, and we waved to Sawyer and his Japanese counterparts as we raced up and down the Vegas Strip with Cy at the wheel. Needless to say, a good time was had by all.
On our return flight to Carson in a state airplane, a moaning and groaning Cy, wearing a paper bag with eye holes over his head, sat down next to a perplexed Bette Sawyer. the governor's wife. How does this story end? Don't ask.
Consuelo and I left Carson in 1967 after I signed on with the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) but we returned here every two to four years on "home leave." I could always find Cy having morning coffee with Clark Russell and Guy Shipler at the Carson Station. On one memorable occasion Consuelo commented on a "Snoopy" sweatshirt that Cy was wearing – no fancy duds for an Old School newsman. Cy immediately took the sweatshirt off and put it on Consuelo, literally giving her the shirt right off his back. So he was a hard-nosed journalist with a heart of gold.
Cy would be embarrassed by this column, but I don't care because I want to pay tribute to one of the greatest Silver State journalists ever. I hope my friend Cy, a devout Catholic, went to that Great Newsroom in the Sky.
Guy W. Farmer has worked in and around journalism for more than 50 years.