Dennis Cassinelli: A tribute to our mothers
On this Mother’s Day, we will have a family barbecue to celebrate and thank all the mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers among us. This will be a time for appreciation of not only those with us today, but a remembrance of those who have passed on and left us with wonderful memories of the past.
As I think back about all the wonderful mothers in our family, I can’t help but admire the strength of character that each of them contributed to their offspring. The influence a mother passes onto her children defines and molds the character of a family as a whole.
I remember stories of my great-grandmother, Theresa Cassinelli. She raised 12 children in Dayton between 1890 and 1910. My grandfather, Pete Cassinelli, told me when one of the kids was born during potato harvest, she went into the house to have the child and before the end of the day, she was back out in the field carrying the baby and helping pick potatoes.
Later, after the family moved to Reno, the family made their own wine during the prohibition days. This was a cultural tradition among the old Italian families in those days. It was a matter of survival during the Great Depression, but wine making for profit was still an illegal activity. On March 29, 1931, the Reno newspaper reported Theresa was arrested when the Reno prohibition force apprehended her for bootlegging and confiscated 100 gallons of wine she had in her possession. She did get off for the offense, since it was legal for families to make 100 gallons of wine for their personal use.
By my calculations, 100 gallons of wine amounts to just more than one quart per day in a year’s time. I don’t have 12 children, but I can easily see where a quart of wine per day would disappear quickly if there were more than a few wine drinkers in a house.
Theresa was once seriously injured on our ranch in Sparks when she was struck by lightning as she was walking near a well at the corner of 21st Street and Glendale Road.
As a young child, I spent much of my time in the care of my two grandmothers, Edith Cassinelli and Ida Baugus. My mother, Phyllis, and her sister, Clare, were among the first female blackjack dealers to work in Nevada. To support their children, they worked at Harold’s Club and the Palace Club in Reno. We kids were always in the care of a loving mother or grandmother.
During World War II when the Reno Army Airbase was in operation, “Pappy” Smith, owner of Harold’s Club, wisely made the unprecedented decision to hire women as blackjack dealers. This became a major attraction to military personnel and other male gamblers from around the country. Harold’s Club became the most successful casino in Nevada during the 1940s and 1950s. Las Vegas casinos didn’t allow female blackjack dealers until 1962.
My wife’s mother, Mary Murphy, was an exceptional example of what a good mother should be. Any family led by a strong and caring mother figure such as Mary Murphy is truly blessed.
On this Mother’s Day, be thankful and grateful for all the wonderful blessings the mothers among us have bestowed on our lives.
Dayton author and historian Dennis Cassinelli can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his blog at denniscassinelli.com. All Dennis’ books sold through this publication will be at a 50 percent discount to reduce inventory and Dennis will pay the postage