Holiday Memories: Wild Christmas party turns out to be a gas in winter of 1968 |

Holiday Memories: Wild Christmas party turns out to be a gas in winter of 1968

Ellen Nelson

Our first holiday season in Carson City, after moving our family from California, was nearly our last. The theme for our January 1968 open house party was Christmas. Because we were busy packing for the long-distance move, we had delayed our family celebration (with our children’s approval) until after we were settled in our Ash Canyon home.

Invitations reading: “We need something wild and different to make our Christmas party really swing – so we hope you can come!” were sent to family and friends in Los Angeles and our new acquaintances in Carson City. Most were surprised at the date of our Christmas party, but agreed it was different and sounded like fun, even if some had to drive many miles round trip from Los Angeles for the celebration.

In addition to our two-story residence, there was a separate house on the property complete with kitchen, attached bathroom and a large circular fireplace in the living room. Our preteen and teenage children christened it “the party house.”

The children and I spent all day preparing the party house. In addition to our familiar decorations, Mayfair Market (now the Harley-Davidson store) donated its soon-to-be discarded holiday displays for our use. The ground was still covered with snow and, although a fire was blazing in the fireplace, it failed to heat the room. The children’s father placed a large space heater at the opposite end of the room to provide additional warmth.

Our guests soon were enjoying the food and drinks we provided. Once they had eaten, the teenagers invited their friends to the main house so they could enjoy their rock ‘n’ roll music in peace. Later, several of our California friends departed for Reno to casino hop and donate some money to Nevada’s economy.

Then the couple who had sold us the property decided to go home early because she had a splitting headache. I walked them to their car, and was heading back to the party when my head began to hurt, too. I blamed it on the frosty air, but decided to get some aspirin in the main house.

What a surprise greeted me! The kids’ loud music and laughing did nothing to ease my pain, but I was astounded to see my out-of-town guests sprawled silently in various positions … on the chairs, sofa, floor. They never left for Reno. I stumbled to the next room, where I collapsed on my bed, too weak to move.

Somehow my feeble cries rose above the din in the teens’ room. My son, Larry, leaned over me. “What’s wrong, Mom?”

“Get everyone out of the party house. Now! They’re being gassed. And call the hospital for help.”

Within minutes, the party house was vacated. Our reclining friends came to and staggered back to their motels. As the hospital suggested, I leaned out an open window and gratefully inhaled the frigid air to help clear the carbon monoxide from my lungs.

The kids and their father were the only ones spared the poisoning. All the other adults and I were victims of a failure to properly vent the space heater. Thankfully, we all lived to enjoy more conventional Christmas celebrations.

If you ask around, you may find some longtime residents who attended that “wild and different” 1968 party when we sunny California transplants nearly gassed a significant number of Carson City’s finest.