Word came last week that one of the most recognized personalities in the Reno area during the last half of the past century had passed away.
His name was John Paszek and he was ninety-two years of age when he departed in Kila, Montana.
He is most well-remembered during his time in Reno as an officer of the law since he had a thirty-plus year career with the Nevada Highway Patrol, the Reno Police Department and the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department.
I first met John at the old YMCA on Foster Drive. He was one of the top-ranked handball players during that era. A sturdy individual, standing a shade under 6 feet and weighing over 240 lbs., Paszek was more than a dominant figure on the handball court. In fact, the word around the Y was that if you ever engaged him in a handball contest and had a choice of hitting the wall or hitting Paszek, you should always choose the wall.
Although I had started my own career at the Y in handball under the tutelage of Dick Munn and had played mostly against Dick Trachok, when I met Paszek I had already switched to Squash as my game of choice. Our motto at the Y was that “Truck drivers play handball and gentlemen play Squash”.
My first encounter with Paszek in uniform when I was racing home late one night along South Virginia, I suddenly saw the flashing lights of a squad car in the rear view mirror. Pulling over, I was relieved to see the stocky personage of Paszek approaching. Since we already had a pretty good relationship, he asked me, “What’s the hurry, Harry?” I replied that I liked to run my car a bit fast on the long trip home. He stated, “Well I won’t give you a ticket this time but I’ll have to have you follow me to your house.” We proceeded the rest of the way at a legal rate of speed. Since those were the days of no electronic transmissions, many speeding tickets and other infractions of the law were never posted. In fact, if you were a good friend of the Muni Judge, you could even get printed notices of violations quickly cancelled.
The last time that I had a great deal to do with Paszek was during his unsuccessful bid for sheriff against Kirkland. During our many meetings, fundraising events and advertising sessions I got to know more of the character of the man. In his civilian duds he was less of a frightening figure than when in uniform. Actually, he said that his philosophy when apprehending a miscreant was to use psychology rather than brute force. He would tell the law-breaker, “Please do not resist me or try to get away because I am bigger, stronger and faster than you.” He noted that this procedure usually worked ninety-nine out of a hundred times. When he had to resort otherwise, he used his skill as a Black Belt and previous professional boxing experience.
Down Memory Lane
With the NBA Finals in their final throes, I recall a famous basketball game of decades ago. It was in the late 40’s during a Reno City League contest. In those days of yore, the Nevada State Journal’s Sports Page devoted a lot of ink to goings on in the City League, even to publishing box scores of all the games. This particular ancient clipping was authored by the late Ray Gardella. It starts off with, “In one of the greatest comebacks ever witnessed in Reno City League Basketball, McCaughey Motors-after being able to tally only 9 points in the first half-came back sensationally in the second period to score 40 tallies and hand mighty Roy’s Clothiers their first defeat in 36 starts, 49-43. It was a great reversal of form for the Motormen in the second half that turned the trick as McCaughey boomeranged back from a 25-9 half time deficit”.
For senior readers who followed sports in that era, some recognizable names appeared in the box score. For McCaughey; the writer, Bissett, Brown, York, Dunn, Holmes, Johnson and Siler. For Roy’s; Subda, Beasley, Loftus, Wilson, Knudson, Snider and Larson.
While the Roy’s team was comprised of numerous individuals in the 6’4” range, the star of the game was McCaughey’s Earl Dunn, who was the highest scorer in Nevada High School history (46 points). A diminutive 5’10”, he was as deadly a shooter as Steph Curry of today’s Warriors.