Surprise today… Received two champagne glasses from Reno’s Mapes estate sent to us by fellow Reno divorce era buffs, Deb Wiger Geraghty and James Stavena. As Bill and I toasted each other with sparkling rose, and wondered whose lips – famous and infamous – had sipped from these glasses, Bill once again told me his story about being at the Mapes Hotel on opening night…
Flashback to December 17, 1947.… “I was in my second month of working as the head dude wrangler on the famous Flying M.E. dude ranch, twenty miles south of Reno.
“The newly-completed Mapes hotel, overlooking the Truckee River, was twelve stories high, the tallest building in Nevada at the time. Until then, the El Cortez Hotel was the tallest at seven stories. The Mapes changed the Reno skyline.
“On opening night, Reno society, the divorce colony, and Hollywood celebrities turned out en masse. Emmy Wood, the Flying M.E. proprietor, Allie Okie, the ranch hostess, and I escorted two carloads of guests to the event. When we arrived, Allie and I stayed in the cocktail lounge and casino with the guests who wanted to drink and gamble. Emmy took the others up to the Sky Room on the top floor. Reservations were not taken for opening night, but Emmy was a legend in the Reno divorce ranch business and had pull. She and her guests were escorted to a nice window table. Joe Reichman, billed as the “Pagliacci of the Piano,” and his orchestra were playing. Emmy said the dance floor was crowded and the views through the large picture windows overlooking the lights of Reno and the surrounding foothills and mountains were magnificent.
“In the casino, Allie and I spotted actors Bruce Cabot and Johnny Weismuller, boxer Maxie Rosenbloom, and other familiar faces. Johnny Weismuller had just begun his six-week residency at the Donner Trail Ranch in nearby Verdi to divorce San Francisco socialite Beryl Scott. Weismuller was easy to spot with his long hair, dark glasses and unmistakable physique. During the next six weeks, he spent so much time at the Mapes gambling, drinking and dining, a newspaper reporter dubbed him ‘Tarzan of the Mapes.’”
The Mapes became a favorite place for Reno society, East Coast divorce seekers, and Hollywood celebrities. The Sky Room became a Reno showplace featuring famous entertainers. It was a favorite destination for Flying M.E. guests when they wanted to dress up for a night out on the town with cocktails, dinner, dancing and a show.
Sadly, with the growth of Reno and the competition of newer hotel/casinos, the elegant Art Deco-style Mapes fell into decline. In January 2000, the much-loved hotel was imploded, after many failed attempts to save the building.
(Bill’s story excerpted from The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler. The bronze horses, also a gift from Deb and James, are circa 1940s and found in a Reno antiques shop. Deb and James are still looking for the sterling silver cocktail shaker with the Flying M.E. brand.)
(Bill’s story excerpted from The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler. The bronze horses from the 1940s, also a gift from Deb and James, were found in a Reno antiques shop. At Sandra’s request, Deb and James are still looking for the sterling silver cocktail shaker with the Flying M.E. brand.)