Joe Page a quiet man on a quiet street
Joe Page lives in a refurbished Victorian home tucked neatly against the hill in Virginia City with his daughter, Carol, and a beautiful parrot named Johnny.
The street he lives on now bears his name, a gesture from the town to this soft-spoken man.
But, he said, the city fathers had an ulterior motive.
“It use to be called Hickey Street, but kids kept stealing the sign,” he said with a gleam in his eye. “They haven’t put up the new sign yet. I don’t know if it’s going to be called Page Street or Joe Page Street.”
Filled with elaborate woodwork, knick knacks, elegant wallpaper, art, antiques, and Oriental rugs, the home is a project Page and his late wife, Carol, worked on for years. It was built in 1864, and one of the few that survived a fire that devastated the town in 1875.
“I told Carol she married me to get the house,” he said. “She was from Berkeley, and she always wanted a Victorian mansion. She spent four or five years working on it. For a time, she didn’t go out without bringing an antique or something home.”
The home seems to hold a special memory for Page, 79. He said it will go to the Fourth Ward School Museum after he dies.
Page first moved West with his father when he was 15 to escape the poverty in his hometown of Columbia, Tenn.
“I got tired of being poor,” he said. “Two weeks after I left my hometown, I was driving a laundry truck on Rodeo Drive in Hollywood.”
An electrician by trade, he traveled to many parts of the West and, in 1942, wired the first telephone exchange for Stead Air Base north of Reno.
He worked on all of the local hotel projects prior to 1980, including Harveys, Harrah’s and the MGM Grand, now the Reno Hilton. He also was assistant business manager for the local electrical workers union.
He was living in Carson City in 1951 when he began visiting Virginia City.
“Not a week went by that I didn’t come up here. All the bars had music, great jazz and piano,” he said. “Virginia City was a 24-hour town during the ’50s and ’60s, and it was hard to come home. The Silver Stope had wonderful jazz with Michele and Merle Koch. He was a piano player, and all the musicians playing in Reno used to come up to jam with him.
“Things started waning in the ’70s, and by the ’80s, it had all gone by the wayside,” he said.
He still enjoys an evening at Virginia City’s Gold Hill Hotel.
“The whole town used to be just like the Gold Hill, but more so,” he said.
Page also has a son, David, who is an electrician in Douglas County.