I am Kathleen “Kay” Kelly Winters, and I was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1920. My parents were R. Lester and Ruth Kelly. I attended local schools in Tacoma, Washington and the University of Washington. I married the senior class president in 1941 and moved to his home in Carson City, Nevada, which had a population of about 1500-plus people. His family had the Ford car dealership in Carson City. Our first home was an old granite block house built by Abraham Curry on Nevada Street. It had been divided into two units, which was perfect for a young married couple.
Suddenly we were faced with World War II, and as a naval officer, my husband, Archie Pozzi, Jr., was sent to the South Pacific. While he was gone, I became active in the local war effort of collecting tin cans, aluminum, gum wrappers, tires and old tools all to help the war effort. I also taught knitting classes daily at the Civic Auditorium (now the Children’s Museum). Due to the rationing, the government supplied me with khaki colored yarn to create caps, gloves, scarves, helmets and socks for our armed service personnel. Luckily for me, the one paid employee at our Curry Fire Department knit in his spare time and showed me how to “turn the heel” on socks.
My son, Bruce “Misty” Pozzi was born in 1942, and soon after my husband was sent east for his Naval training and then on to the war in the South Pacific. After he left I lived with my in-laws in the Bender-Pozzi home across the street from the Governor’s Mansion.
During those war years many women took over the working force of our state government as Carson City was the state capital and the smallest in the Union. This also happened throughout our country and changed the work force throughout the United States.
Highway 50 was a Federal highway from Washington, DC to Sacramento, California, making it the first cross country highway. It ran right through Carson City and up King Street to Lake Tahoe and on to Sacramento. It enabled us to have a paved street to the Governor’s Mansion. All the other streets were dirt. Cars were few in those days and had a distinctive sound. We could tell who was coming up the street without looking out.
The Curry Fire Department was made up of volunteers and adequately handled each fire. There were no stop lights on Carson Street. We had one theatre, one grocery store which also was a bakery, one meat market, one hardware store, two drug stores and numerous saloons.
Our social life was mostly in our homes and very little of that during the war years. Since women made up most of the population, there were many bridge clubs.
Since there was only one movie theatre for our entertainment in Carson City, there was an old, active established group called “The Leisure Hour Club”. They formed a new younger group in the late 1940s, and it became our social center. They had their own club house with monthly meetings, speakers, dinner, dancing and style shows. Many years ago the club ceased to hold meetings there due to cost, and the building was purchased by the Presbyterian Church, but many happy memories remain.
In 1945, I had a baby girl, Kathie, which made me the happy mother of two children.
Upon my husband’s return from the service, we had grown apart and were divorced. I remained in Carson City and met my future husband, JohnD Winters. He was a rancher and “mother/father” to three girls. I had always wanted five children. However, I never dreamt I would get them the easy way. Our newly combined family consisted of my 3 year old daughter, Kathie Pozzi (now Gerber); my 6 year old son, Bruce “Misty” Pozzi; 6 year old, Sheila Winters (now Ward); 9 year old, Vernalee Winters (now Correa) and 12 year Marianne Winters. We both believed our feelings for family was what brought us together and so we took them with us on our honeymoon. It was quite a challenging adventure for all of us.
Returning to the Winters’ home ranch, I realized I was a city girl married to a rancher and had much to learn. Fortunately for me, his father, Ira Winters, welcomed me into his home, and I was blessed with a loving, wonderful relationship with him.
My husband’s family was Nevada pioneers. They crossed the country in 1848 on the Oregon Trail. The original John D. Winters returned to Illinois and brought his family to California possibly using the Applegate Trail through the Nevada area as he came to Washoe Valley in 1854. He was ambitious and had sons who supported him in wanting Nevada to be a state by leaving the Utah Territory. He helped found the state and became active politically and in mining. His son, John D. Winters, Jr., was a part owner of the Ophir Mine, the Comstock’s largest mine, and became foreman and owner of the Yellow Jacket in Gold Hill. He moved to California and became a partner of James Marshall in Coloma. Most of this was 150 years ago, and we are now celebrating the sesquicentennial.
We had the only dairy in town, and I often helped deliver milk as it was delivered twice a day since few homes had refrigerators.
Our home ranch was at the city/county line, and I felt our children had the advantage of city schools and life and yet lived in rural surroundings. We raised Hereford cattle, sheep, turkeys and chickens as well as a large vegetable garden. We had our own fruit orchard as well. We were eating organic food before it became popular. The children all had ranch chores from riding horses to help move the cattle and sheep to our new grazing areas as well as taking care of the chickens, the dogs, milking the cow, making butter, helping in the garden and household chores. We wintered the cattle in Washoe Valley and the home ranch as well as leasing many areas for each season. Our summer range was above Lake Tahoe at Marlette Lake and Hobart Reservoir, which supplied water to the Comstock Lode in Virginia City and Carson City. We had a cow camp in the mountains near Marlette Lake and Hobart Reservoir, and I rode several times a week checking on the cattle.
JohnD and I were both involved with the children’s activities in 4-H and Boy and Girl Scouts. I was a 4-H leader for 15 years and also a Cub Scout and Girl Scout leader. I served on the Girl Scout State Council for three years. The girls all sewed, cooked and often raised a heifer. Our son was involved with forestry and soil conservation and also raised several heifers. My second daughter, Vernalee, became a national contestant in “Making it yourself in wool.”
We did not have a TV, but our Governor, Charles Russell, had brought one to the mansion when he moved his family to Carson City from Washington, DC. It was the only one in town at the time. A quick call from his wife, and I was able to proudly watch my daughter model her lovely outfit on their TV.
The girls attended Girl Scout Camp, and Misty attended 4-H Camp. Misty and Kathie both went to Galilee at Lake Tahoe. They all were involved with the Nevada Day celebrations and helped make and rode on the floats.
A friend brought Red Cross to Carson City, and I became involved with this new organization to Carson, as they offered swimming lessons and my five children participated. Having been a skier in my youth, I wanted my children to also enjoy that sport. I often picked them up at school with skis clothes and skis on the car roof. They would change in the back seat of the car. We skied at White Hills at Spooner’s Summit. There were other families that wanted their children to ski so several other mothers and I took our children to Sky Traven at Mt. Rose as it was only place available to us on Sundays, we filled our station wagons full of children and skis. There were no seat belts in those days. Before we knew it many more wanted to participate, and Dick Graves, who established the Nugget casinos, generously supplied a bus. The following year a group of Carson mothers formed a ski program. It was very successful, and we had an adult for each bus adding more buses as the program grew. It is active today. An interesting side story is that we had quite a few Catholic children in the ski program, and they needed to go to mass on Sunday. We talked to Monsignor Wientjis at St. Teresa’s, and he said he would have a short “skiers mass” before they boarded the buses.
At the time Carson City did not have a hospital. When Dr. Richard Petty returned from World War II duty, he said he loved Carson area but would go elsewhere if Carson didn’t build a hospital. The town turned out in force to build a hospital. The Richard Waters family gave the land and Major Max Fleischmann, who lived at Tahoe, said he would match the money raised in the many events staged in Carson to raise funds for the hospital. Both my husband and I became active in making this happen. In 1946 JohnD served on the Board of Trustees, and more doctors were encouraged to come to Carson City. In 1952 a group of women met to decide how they could help with the new hospital and the Carson Tahoe Women’s Auxiliary was formed. Originally the membership was made up of two groups, an afternoon and evening group, for working women. Later it became one with 122 members. I was a charter member and the first membership Chairwoman. We took a very active part at the hospital making infant layettes, taking blood to Reno and also bringing it back to Carson as we had no proper storage facilities for the blood. We helped to furnish the rooms, making a gift cart, establishing Gray Ladies and Candy Stripers for teenage girls.
In early 1950 there was a garden club called “Mark Twain”. They invited a group of Carsonites to visit and become familiar with their purpose of beautifying Carson City. In turn they helped a group of interested ladies to form “Desert Gardeners” in 1952. I was a charter member and am the only one left from the original group. It is still very active today and has sponsored two more clubs, being “Sage Brush” and “Sierra Desert”, who helped to beautify Carson’s parks, capital grounds, Governor’s Mansion and Mills Park.
In 1952 we leased what is now called the Santa Maria Ranch in Dayton and purchased it in 1954. We grew alfalfa hay and wintered our cattle there because it is often referred to by the locals as a “banana belt”, warmer than the harsh snows of Washoe Valley.
Our children helped driving tractors, racking hay and having additional chores with the pigs, turkeys, pheasants, peacocks and rabbits plus another large vegetable garden and several acres of potatoes, which were considered a cash crop.
A dear friend introduced me to American Field Service. They had a program for high school age boys and girls throughout the world to come to the United States for a year of study. Because JohnD and I felt it was a valuable opportunity for our children to meet students from around the world, I took an active part in the American Field Service. At the completion of their year, they gathered at our Carson City home for a week to ten days staying with various families in Carson before leaving the US for their respective homes. We took them to Lake Tahoe, Virginia City and each day had games, music and a meal at our home.
One year our oldest daughter, Marianne, was being married the week of their arrival. I asked my Rotarian husband if he thought the club could host the group. Many of the Rotarians had already housed some of the teenagers. He suggested I attend the next meeting and ask them, which I did and they accepted.
In 1960 we had our first Rotary exchange student, a young man from Gmunden, Austria. He was chosen to come to Nevada by the Rotarians from Innsbruck, Austria. There had been an International Rotary meeting there, and several years earlier it was announced that Squaw Valley, California had been chosen for the Olympics over Innsbruck, and the Carson City delegation told the disappointed Rotarians that they would support a student for a year in Carson City and make sure he/she would see all of the events in Squaw Valley. I have often thought that this was the beginning of the successful exchange program which is so popular today.
Our second Rotary exchange student was from New Zealand, and since her father raised pure breed Hereford cattle, they wanted her to spend the summer with us on our Dayton ranch.
As time went by, the city grew around our Carson ranch, and we decided to move to our Dayton Santa Maria Ranch in 1965 as all of our children had left home with the last one still in college. JohnD was at the ranch daily since it was an alfalfa ranch so it was a natural move for us.
At first we lived in the small four room house until we built our home on a far hillside overlooking the ranch and the Carson River in 1967. This view brings me joy every day.
We wanted to support the small town of Dayton and before we knew it we were involved in many activities. JohnD was asked to serve on the Dayton Regional Advisory Board. Being a strong water advocate, he served on the Carson Truckee Water Conservancy Board, the Western Nevada College Board and rode the first Pony Express reenactment.
I became the local representative on the County Park and Recreation Board. Being on the Park Board, I had observed a small piece of land abutting Highway 50 going into Dayton. I applied to the State for creating a park. It was granted and called “Our Park”. An active group of volunteers built barbeques, picnic tables and benches as well as planting trees amongst the lovely old cottonwoods already on the property. They fenced the area and put in swings and play equipment. The county now has taken it over. Some new play equipment has been donated by a group of enthusiastic supporters. It is a very popular spot and is busy daily in the spring, summer and fall. At Christmas time it is attractively decorated making such a nice entrance to Dayton.
I applied to the BLM for some of their land near the schools to put in a little league baseball field and again volunteers built the field and facilities. Since the sport is so popular, many other areas have been added.
North of Dayton on the Carson River was acreage in litigation with the State of Nevada. It would make for a wonderful State park. I lobbied at the legislature and thanks to our Assemblyman, Joe Dini, we obtained the land for that purpose. It has RV camping, a wonderful roofed pavilion with barbeques, picnic tables and grassy areas which is used all year around. Across the highway approached by an underground tunnel are the remnants of the historic Rock Point Mill. I served on the Park Board for 10 years and then felt it was time to turn it over to a younger person with fresh ideas.
Shortly after resigning the Park Board, I was asked to be the County Bicentennial Chairwoman for Lyon County. I could see that each community would benefit from federal funds so I accepted and was rewarded by getting to know my county. The county seat was in Yerington and the other towns bordered the perimeters of Lyon County. Each town had a successful project and benefited from their endeavors.
I served on the Lyon County Library Board hoping to get a library for Dayton. It took years to accomplish, and thanks to Trina Jacobsen who took my place on the board it finally happened.
In 1980 I was asked to be on the Advisory Board for Arts and Science for the University of Nevada Reno. I served ten years, and it was an enlightening part of my life. Our main purpose was to unite the business community and legislature with the university, which was successfully implemented. In 1987 I was awarded the University of Nevada Reno President’s medal, and in 1989 I was the recipient of the university’s Distinguished Nevadan award. I truly felt like a Nevadan at that time and have ever since. Several years ago I became an Emeritus of the Liberal Arts College.
Not long ago I took part in cutting of a beautiful large Nevada shaped cake as 50 years ago I had been Chairwoman of that event, and my committee all were members of pioneer families.
I felt blessed to have been a city girl married to a rancher and having a wonderful family to watch them grow up and enjoy their children. I loved ranch life, working with my husband, cooking for ranch hands, enjoying the many activities of my children and grandchildren, riding with the cattle, learning to irrigate, bale hay, rake fields, brand cattle, ear mark and de-tail sheep. It truly was a wonderful way of life.
We always felt our communities gave so much to us and our children that in turn we could give back to them, which we were able to do by giving some of the Carson ranch property on King Street for a high school (now Carson Middle School) as well as property adjoining the city golf course for a second one. More recently we were proud to give Centennial Park property for recreation.
My life has been full. I had a wonderful husband for 59 years and a fine family of 5 children, 15 grandchildren, 29 great grandchildren and 5 great, great grandchildren. How blessed I am as I know each one of them well.
Having watched Carson City and Dayton grow in my 73 years of being a Nevadan has brought back many memories of a small town where we knew the Governor and called him by his first name including the city officials and sheriff. School personnel answered their own phones whenever you called and were always available when you needed them.
As the years passed by, many people moved to Nevada for our wonderful open spaces, the mountains, the desert and lovely Lake Tahoe. There was a friendly atmosphere all of which I enjoyed.
I was fortunate to have wonderful friendships and the kindness of many young friends who have become my guiding light. The state song says, “Home means Nevada”, and that is what it means to me.