Generations gather for dedication of benches in Carson City
December 21, 2016
Regardless of the light snow and haze, the Carson City community welcomed 36 benches dedicated to local organizations and individuals throughout the downtown Carson Street corridor Wednesday.
But for four generations of one family, dedicating a bench was more of a celebration and gathering.
The celebration was the family of Robert Harold Berger, whom was heavily involved with the Carson City business culture and community. A total of 18 relatives honored his bench on the corner of Carson and Telegraph streets.
"It's a real tribute to him," said Nina Barry, his daughter. "This is a community he was active in."
For 50 years, Harold ran businesses on Carson Street where Cactus Jack's now stands. When he bought the building in 1927, he made it into a barber shop, bar, restaurant and a pool hall — until he changed it into Berger's News Stand.
His son, Bill Berger of Elko, has the fondest memories of his father when he visited him at the newsstand during his childhood. Harold operated the business until the early 1960s and retired in 1964.
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Bill was only 8 then.
"I'll never forget the old wooden glass counter," he said. "He would give me a candy bar and a nickel for soda pop. I would sit there and read a comic book."
But even then, he wasn't the only kid who stopped by the newsstand when it was in business. Mayor Bob Crowell made frequent visits for candy and the bowling alley, owned by Harold's brother Frank.
Former Nevada Gov. Paul Laxalt also stopped by, Bill said, as the newsstand remained as a pool hall.
"I'll never forget the smell of tobacco every time I walked in," said Bill's nephew, David Berger.
Harold's other brother, Clarence, worked at the Paul Laxalt building when it used to serve as the United States Post Office. His late sister, Emma, operated and owned the Dutch Mill Restaurant on Carson Street with her husband, Francis. That building now serves as Heidi's Family Restaurant.
Bill's grandfather, Joseph, was the water master in Carson City and lived in the white house on Lakeview. From there, the water system was fed into Virginia City. Harold was born there, at The Tanks house on Lakeview, in 1901. Bill moved to Elko in 1982, a year after Harold died in April 1981.
On Wednesday the family reunited and joined in on the event's reception in Rinckel Mansion, sharing memories of Harold with Mayor Crowell.
"We're proud to have this for him," David said. "We have generations of stories to share, but we can't get them all in."
The bench dedication event lasted five hours with family members and couples honoring benches to late loved ones, or just to the local community as a whole.
Benches were dedicated in memory of Deputy Carl Howell and Judge Michael Fondi.
Some local indivduals — such as Oscar and Frieda Ford — dedicated a bench for fun, with messages engraved on plaques encouraging walkers to sit and rest. The Fords' bench, which sits in front of the legislature near the corner of 5th Street, read "To them we hold dear — Please take a moment and rest your rear."
Advocates to End Domestic Violence decorated each bench with red ribbons, as well as dedicating a bench of their own.