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The Oasis of Nevada

Steve Ranson
sranson@lahontanvalleynews.com
A new book of Fallon and the surroudning communities gives a glimpse into a prized slice of Americana.
COURTESY OF CHURCHILL COUNTY MUSEUM |

Both Michon Mackedon and Valerie Serpa display a love for Fallon’s historical background and how people make a community in “Images of America: Fallon,” a historical account mostly of the area’s early days beginning with the early settlers and moving toward the mid-20th century.

Their work comes to fruition when the book goes on sale Wednesday for $21.99 at four locations — Churchill County Museum, Churchill Arts Council city of Fallon and Red Zinnia — with all proceeds going to several nonprofit groups. A book signing is planned for Oct. 31 at the Churchill County Museum.

In Mackedon’s introduction, she says, “Fallon’s history is especially colorful and unique. There has, for example, always been a central artery, Maine Street, named for city founder Warren Williams’ home state of Maine. … Maine Street became a leg of the Lincoln Highway, a new kind of overland trail. Since 1929, a 50-foot Christmas tree has reigned over the Maine Street scene during the Christmas season, erected right in the middle of the street, challenging cars to swerve around.”

Mackedon continues to tell of Fallon’s mixture of city and county life, which is part of this area’s uniqueness.

“Images of America: Fallon” has been a labor of love for both ladies when they began the project late last year. Originally, though, the project did not begin as a project to honor Nevada’s sesquicentennial.

Mackedon said it was almost coincidental that Arcadia Press contacted her in December about putting a book together on Fallon’s history.

“They said Fallon was on the radar for several years, and they had talked to the museum about on book on Fallon,” Mackedon explained. “I thought it would be a great sesquicentennial project … the opportunity was right.”

Mackedon, a retired English professor at Western Nevada College, spearheaded the drive to select about 200 historical photos in the book. She received most of the help from Barbara Hodges, the museum’s curator. Other photos came from the University of Nevada’s special collection and from the Nevada Historical Society. Once the pieces were in place, obtaining the photographs was the easy part. Now, Mackedon and Serpa had to select photos that represented Fallon and Churchill County the best.

For two months, Mackedon and Serpa selected photos and wrote descriptions, and then Mackedon penned the introduction and each chapter’s synopsis.

“Piecing it together was real fun. We had the education, culture, community endeavors cement us together as a community,” Mackedon said, adding it was an interesting look at its development. “This is one of the unique places on earth.”

Serpa used her background in the visual arts to find companion photographs for the chapters.

“It had to be a balance of historical content and visual excitement,” she said.

Serpa, who grew up in Fallon, said she learned more about the community and that there is so much more to discover. For the book, both authors wanted to show the interest in the area’s culture and fellowship that was derived from the schools, clubs and churches.

“These are the same activities represented in the photographs,” Serpa added.

Mackedon, Serpa and Hodges spent countless number of hours pouring over old black and white photos. Hodges searched the museum’s archives to select what she thought would be representative photos.

As for the area’s background, the authors relied on the museum’s Bunny Corkill, who is a walking encyclopedia of Churchill County’s past and present.

“Bunny was very helpful with her deep knowledge of the people and landscape,” Mackedon added. “Bunny is a Fallon treasure. We couldn’t have done it without her.”

Serpa felt each photograph should tell a story without much narrative.

“What we wanted is how the people tell the story and how they are involved,” Serpa said.

In chapter four, “The Social Fabric,” Mackedon wrote how the nation fought wars in several decades of the 20th century and passed Prohibition in the 1920s.

“If someone were to peer into the Lahontan Valley on the eve of the Roaring Twenties, he or she would see the same optimism that characterized earlier times. Yet, most of the dreams of agricultural and business wealth remained elusive.”