It’s surprising how the discovery of an inanimate object from decades ago can trigger a flood of memories.
Such was the case when I recently came across a pristine copy of the official program of the 1960 Winter Olympics that were held in nearby Squaw Valley, California.
My chief interest in that long-ago Olympics was due to the fact that I was appointed to take charge of the International Olympic Press Club, which was located on the top floor of the Mapes Hotel. As such, it was my prime duty to see that the name of the Mapes was included in as many Press reports, both national and international that emanated from that room. To that end, we had installed closed-circuit TV sets tuned in to various events at Squaw.
Below the TV sets, we had tables containing a row of typewriters and telephones so that members of the Press Corps could actually cover the games from the comfort of the room. Also, we had several Western Union runners that would carry messages to their office a block away for reporters that wished to use that medium. Main attraction of the Press room was the fact that it had an open bar. Oftentimes, when I opened the room in the morning, I would come across several recumbent figures who had spent the night on the upholstered couches. They were reporters who may have over-imbibed and didn’t want to chance the rugged trip back to Squaw.
Several highlights that occurred in the Club during its three weeks of operation were the successful transport of the Russian Press Corps from the Reno Airport to the hotel prior to their going to the Squaw Valley billets, visitations to the Club by entertainers appearing in the Sky Room including Debbie Reynolds, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Mickey Rooney and movie stars such as Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. During the Sammy Davis appearance, he also used the Club to screen unreleased motion pictures that were sent up from Hollywood.
Getting back to the program itself, it was 124-page item and it sold for the pricey sum of $1.00. There are many prominent pictures of Squaw, its terrain and major Olympic venues. One of the largest is the one on page 23 of the Olympic Ice Arena. This shot evokes many memories. Chief among them was witnessing the US Hockey team defeating the Russian squad prior to the US team capturing the Gold.
After that historic match I was able to escort hotel owner Charles Mapes into the Russian dressing room via a back door entrance. This came about because I had previously toured all the venues of the games, prior to their opening, with good friend Gordon Butterfield who had a high-ranking position on the Olympic Committee. During that tour he had alerted me to the back door passageway. Mapes and I made the trip because we had a bag full of goodies in the form of handsome collapsible binoculars to give to the Russian players.
That long-ago program included messages from President Eisenhower, Avery Brundage, President of the IOC, Governor Edmund G.“Pat” Brown of California and Governor Grant Sawyer of Nevada. Another prominent photo was of Walt Disney and Art Linkletter who were responsible for the opening and closing ceremonies and also Linkletter who handled the nightly entertainment for the athletes at Squaw. Of the two, I spent the most time entertaining Linkletter, who was a constant visitor at the Mapes prior to the official start of the games. Taking him around Reno to such places as Harold’s Club, I was amazed at the number of fans that the popular TV personality had.
Many historic events occurred that February 18-28 of 1960, as the VIII Olympic Winter Games was one of the most publicity-oriented events in the history of the Reno/Tahoe region.
Harry Spencer is a 75-year resident of Nevada and a freelance writer living in Reno.