Woman’s life an example of old-time Dayton values
November 9, 2005
The house she lives in on River Street is 62 years old, but Victoria Della Santa Pradere has 20 years on it.
Believed to be the oldest Dayton native, Pradere, 82, thinks people today are moving too fast to appreciate things.
She recalls how, when she was young, a neighbor invited her along on a trip to Reno to see the airplanes.
“We jumped at the chance,” she said, adding that when she saw the planes, they were flying just about as high as the rooftop of her one-story home. “I was amazed that they were not falling,” she said. “I was so scared they would fall, but intrigued too, that they were not falling.”
She also remembers boiling clothes to clean them before her family obtained the modern convenience of a wooden washboard, later upgraded to a glass washboard.
Pradere was amazed when her father purchased the next clothes-washing invention – the wringer washer.
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She said inventions today don’t have the same effect on people.
“So many things now we take for granted, that we didn’t have in the old days,” she said. “People are doing such tremendous things, but they’re so complicated that you don’t want to think about it. We’re going so fast that we don’t even think about it.”
Pradere lives with her cat, Bello, in the four-room home with the recently added garage. She still drives herself around town in her 1999 Grand Am.
“I had to wait until I was 82 to get a garage,” she said. “I was so happy I kept playing with the garage door opener, opening and closing the door.”
When she was young, her family owned a grocery store a few doors down from where she now lives. She helped out in the store and did the books, later running a service station on River Street, which was once part of the old Lincoln Highway. She spoke Italian until she went to school at age 6, where she first learned to speak English.
She later taught her parents the language, so they could become American citizens.
“In the old days you had to know all about America, all about the wars,” she said. “The judges spoke to you in English and you had to answer them in English.
“They passed their tests on the first try,” she said proudly.
Her parents ran the store and she ran the service station for many years, until Highway 50 was built and the state imposed a sales tax.
“When they did the tax, it meant more work, and after they put in the highway, it took a lot of business away,” she said.
Pradere married twice, the second time for 36 1/2 years to Camille Pradere, also a Dayton native who owned a ranch along the Carson River. Her three children and his two helped create a close-knit family.
Her husband died five years ago and a stepson, Russell, was killed in an accident in his 20s, but her remaining children check on her daily and all live fairly close; daughters Delinda of Fallon, Duana of Carson City, son Victor Kirby, who lives a few doors away and stepson Michael, who inherited his father’s ranch just across Highway 50. Pradere said her stepson owns the last remaining ranch on that stretch of the highway and is under pressure from developers to sell it
“They say that should be for building homes,” she said. “But he wants to leave it to his children.”
The recent changes in Dayton from a ranching community to what planners now call the ex-urbs is new, she said, adding that all of her children had the same primary grade teacher that she had – Elva Calhoun. She admits those days are long gone.
Pradere suffered a mild stroke in July, but has recovered, save a little difficulty finding the right words when she speaks.
She keeps busy doing two things she has done for more than 30 years: writing a column for a local newspaper and volunteering at the Dayton Senior Center. There she does the books and on the once-a-month birthday dinner nights she leads the room in “God Bless America” and recites a prayer.
“I pray that God helps me never to judge anyone, to remember that everyone has a good side, to help other people, even those who have hurt you,” she said. “To treat others like we like to be treated.”
n Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.