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A good life is what you make of it

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Merry Christmas, and to all a good life.

After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? I believe life is what you make of it. You can make your self miserable focusing on all the bad, or you can choose to find opportunities.

Eileen Cohen, a Northern Nevada resident for the past 15 years, has found a multitude of opportunities in her life and continues each day to find more.

I have no idea, and I won’t ask her, how old she is. She’s done more in one lifetime than I can imagine doing in two.

She’s president of the Carson City Preservation Coalition, a group of residents bent on protecting Carson’s history. Through her association with the group, she has written 20 oral histories in the past three years.

Working with the coalition in conjunction with the Carson City Library, she is trying to preserve Nevada’s and Carson’s pasts one interview at a time.

Over the years, she’s been everything from an environmentalist to a teacher, an antique dealer to an activist.

Her oral histories can be found on the shelves of the biography section at the Carson City Library, the Dayton Library and Historical Society, at the Basque Studies Center, in the Holocaust section of the Northwest Reno Library and at the Jewish Federation in Las Vegas, with the Nevada Women’s History Project and in your home library if you like.

You can call Eileen at 267-2507 and order one of the oral histories, or write the Preservation Coalition at P.O. Box 2358, Carson City, NV 89702. Prices, range from $75-$55, depending on the size of the book, the number of color photos included.

The prices cover the cost of producing the books. A soft-cover version can also be ordered for less.

Eileen has done interviews with John and Kay Winters, William “Bill” Goni, Gertrude Gottschalk, Alice Gottschalk Downer, JoAnne Smokey Martinez, Jim Thorpe, Nancy Bowers, Muriel Batsel and Muriel Darling to name a few.

Imagine having 20 life stories in your brain at once.

The Winters told her of the time John was serving as a volunteer firefighter, and a house caught fire in Washoe Valley.

He fell down at the fire and pulled some ligaments. They were running the sanitary dairy at their Richmond Street home at the time and John could drive the truck, but he couldn’t deliver the milk. So it was up to Kay to make the deliveries for the six weeks or so it took him to get well.

In addition, the oral history tells of the horse-racing track at the Winters’ ranch in Washoe Valley and of Kay’s involvement in the Carson-Tahoe Hospital Auxiliary, how she knitted socks for the American Red Cross during World War II and how she began the student exchange program in Carson City.

Margaret Gottschalk was the leader of the Democratic National Committee in the 1960s and met with greats like Bobby Kennedy in Carson City.

Muriel Darling’s family ran the Mexican Mill back in the mining boom of the late 19th century.

“It try to intertwine the history of Carson City and Nevada with the people,” Eileen said last week.

Eileen chooses people of varied backgrounds to add to her cross section of history, and quizzes them about people they knew, the different ethnicities who lived in Carson City at different times in order to get a true look at their role in place and time.

An oral history is a transcribed interview. The interviews reflect the interviewees’ language and character. Eileen then adds photos of the people, the places and some genealogy.

“There is so much history here that a lot of people don’t know about,” she said.

To that end, Eileen will teach research and Carson City history to budding historians as a professor this spring at Western Nevada Community College. I’m thinking of signing up, but I’d hate to fail publicly.

Kelli Du Fresne is features editor for the Nevada Appeal. Reach her at kdufresne@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1261.