Mario Recanzone Oral History

Dublin Core


Mario Recanzone Oral History


Mario Recanzone Oral History


Churchill County Museum Association


Churchill County Museum Association


April 10, 1994


Analog Cassette Tape, ,Doc File, MP3 Audio



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Eleanor Ahern


Mario Recanzone


73 North Maine Street, Fallon, Nevada




an interview with

Mario G. Recanzone

April 10, 1994

This interview was conducted by Eleanor Ahern transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norma Horgan; final by Pat Boden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project, Churchill County Museum.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.

Content Warning: Brief mentions of various crimes committed, including murder and sexual assault, and suicide.


I met with Judge Recanzone in his chambers and found him to be unpretentious and friendly.

His goal early in life was to become an attorney and one feels great admiration for him when one learns of his determination and tenacity in reaching that goal. He spoke freely, and with considerable wit and humor, of working his way through college, serving in the military, graduating from law school, and establishing his practice in Fallon.

During his many years of law practice in Fallon, he was city attorney for twenty-seven years, served as hospital board trustee and now is District Judge of the Third Judicial Court.

It is Fallon's good fortune that he and his longtime partner and friend, Jack Diehl, chose to reside and practice here. They have served with honor and distinction throughout their entire careers.

Interview with Mario Recanzone

AHERN: This is Eleanor Ahern of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Project interviewing Judge Mario Recanzone in his chambers at 73 North Maine Street, Fallon, Nevada. The date is April 10, 1994, Monday. This is tape 1, side 1. The time is 10:10. Good morning, Sir. For the records, would you please give me your full name and address?

RECANZONE:     Mario Glavanne Recanzone. My office address is 73 North Maine, Fallon, Nevada.

AHERN: Your residence?

RECANZONE:     1999 Rio Vista.

AHERN: Could you tell me where you were born and the year?

RECANZONE:     I was born in Paradise Valley, Nevada--that's in Humboldt County--and the year was May 2, 1921.

AHERN: You were born on a ranch. Were your parents always ranchers?

RECANZONE:     Well, my father Immigrated to this country when he was thirteen years old, He was born in 1871. He came here in 1884 to join an uncle who was in ranching in Paradise Valley, so he stayed with him and became a rancher, and he also became a miller. Made flour and bran and the like, and then when he was thirty-seven years old, he went back and married my mother. Brought her to this country, so I was born on a ranch, and they were ranchers from that time on, although my mother had been raised in a large city in France, actually. She was Italian, but she was raised in France.

AHERN: What was this uncle's name that your father…?

RECANZONE:     Batiste [Recanzone]. That's his picture up there.

AHERN: What’s his full name?

RECANZONE: Batiste Recanzone. He came here in 1864. He and his partner were stone masons, and they had been in Africa working at their trade, and then they decided to immigrate to the United States, and they went through Panama. At that time they had to walk through Panama and get a ship on the other side to come up to San Francisco. They got in San Francisco, and they were advised that they needed stone masons in Paradise Valley, They were building an Indian fort up there, so they went up there and worked on the fort during the day, and then they'd go down in the evenings and work on the ranch. At one time they owned a good part of Paradise Valley.

AHERN: Do you recall the name of the fort they helped build?

RECANZONE: I can’t remember right at this moment. Maybe I’ll remember as we go on.

AHERN: You said your father arrived here when he was thirteen. Did he then go to the public schools in Paradise Valley?

RECANZONE:     No, his uncle sent him down to St. Mary's which, at that point, apparently had a grade school and a high school and a college.

AHERN: Where?

RECANZONE:     St. Mary's in California. It was a college that we now refer to as St. Mary's. He didn't have a lot of education there, but he had enough to make himself fluent in English and read and write. I'm not sure how many years he did spend there. Probably three or four.

AHERN: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

RECANZONE:     I have three- two brothers and one sister. I have a brother who is still ranching in Paradise Valley. and a sister who is married to a rancher in Loyalton, California, and then I have a brother in Yerington who is retired now.

AHERN: When your mother arrived from Italy, do you recall if she already spoke English or had to learn how to speak it?

RECANZONE:     No, she had to learn English. She spoke French. French was her primary language because she was raised in France, but she also understood and, I think, talked Italian, and she didn't know a word of English, and, in fact, she was very anxious to learn the English language as the children went through school. All of Us from my oldest brother through me. She studied with us when we came home. She wouldn't allow us to speak anything but English around the house because she wanted to learn English. She said, “This is America, and English is the language, and that's what we'll speak." I'm sorry that she didn't teach me the Italian, but I'm kind of proud of her to have that attitude.

AHERN: I was just going to ask you If she had taught you phrases in Italian.

RECANZONE: No, she didn't. I learned Spanish later when I was in school, but I never did learn Italian or French.

AHERN: You spent your formative years in Paradise Valley. Did you finish high school in Paradise Valley also?

RECANZONE: No, Paradise Valley is a small community, and for most of the years that I was there, they had two years of high school, and then we had to go on to Winnemucca. But in the year that I finished my sophomore year, they had one further year. They had the junior year, so I went the junior year in Paradise. Then I finished up in Loyalton, California, where my sister was, and that's where I graduated. That was the Depression days, and it was darn tight to get any money. I don't think I'd have gone beyond my junior year in high school if it hadn't been that I had my sister in Loyalton, and I could go over there and finish up.

AHERN: I assume that she had left home and had a family in Loyalton?

RECANZONE:     She had a family in Loyalton at that time.

AHERN: After Loyalton, then…

RECANZONE:     Then I went on to the university [of Nevada, Reno]. In fact, there again, I finished [high school] in the spring of 1939 and the Depression was still going in good shape, and I told the folks I wanted to go to college, and they said, "Well, we just can't afford it We had a Farm Bureau agent who knew my desire to go to college, and he said, 'Well, I'll get you a"--it was called a NYA, National Youth Authority. I think we got fifteen dollars a month for working. I think I worked for two afternoons a week for three hours in the agricultural department at the University. That, of course, couldn't support me, but it was enough to get me saying, -Yes, well I'm going to go." So, I went up to the University, and I got a job baby-sitting, house tending, yard tending, and I had a basement room and breakfast for that, and (laughing) plus that I was working on this NYA job, and I got another job with JC Penney as a stock boy, and I'd work during the week. Saturdays I was on the floor, but most of the time I was working down in the stockroom. I worked my way through college. All the way through college. I have some problems now with kids saying, “I can't go to school because I don't have any money."

AHERN: Did you always have an idea of what you would major in in college?

RECANZONE:     I always wanted to be a lawyer. I had an uncle that was killed in the early 1900's, and there was always a lot of talk about that around the home, and then Mom and Dad had a close friend who was the clerk of the court in Winnemucca, and he used to come out a lot, and he'd tell about what was happening. Of course, from the time I was a little kid, I had the idea I wanted to be an attorney, but I had to wait until after the war to do that.

AHERN: You mentioned your uncle being killed. Was there anything in the circumstances that made you want to be a lawyer?

RECANZONE: Well, just that, of course, my mother – it was her brother that was killed – she felt that the system hadn't done right on that. He [The killer] was found guilty by the jury of second-degree murder and went to the Supreme Court and reversed, sent back for a new trial, and that just irritated her no end. He was found guilty again of second-degree murder, and I think he stayed in prison longer than any man had stayed in prison up to the time he got out. He got out sometime after the war.

AHERN: This would be the person that…

RECANZONE: Killed my uncle. She talked about it a lot. She was upset with the fact that they made the second trial necessary. It was just a legal question, and I've read the case, of course. They did exactly right. Some evidence was let in that was not proper at the time.

AHERN: Even though you grew up on a ranch, did you really participate much in the ranching business?

RECANZONE: Oh, yes. From the time I was a kid I was working on the ranch, and this was the time we had, the same way in Fallon at that time, horses. We didn't have tractors and pitched our hay. I remember we used to have an old sulky rake that after the hay was cut with a horse mower, we'd go out with a sulky rake and rake it, and then we bunched it by hand, and then we'd drive down those rows and pitch the hay onto the wagons by hand and go into the stack yards. We had derricks and an old--they were called Jackson forks that we would stick in and it'd take it over onto the stack. So that was all hands-on work. Later, we became very advanced, and we had what we called a buck raker. It made big bunches. Instead of having to pitch it, we'd put it on a net and take it up that way. I'm kidding when say we advanced a lot. It was still very hard work. That was the way hay was put up. But I worked through my junior year. When I finished my junior year in college, I worked on the ranch that summer, and that was the last year that I worked on the ranch. When spring came, when I finished the University, then I went in the Army, and I was in the Army three and a half years. Then when I came back, Dad had sold the ranch because He hadn't been able to get any help during the war time, so when I got back I worked out at Herlong for a year. I had a wife and a child by that time. Just didn't know how I was going to go on to college, so I worked there for a year, and then we went on back to law school in 1947. When I finished I came out to Fallon. Practiced law with my partner, John Diehl. You probably heard of him, or, maybe, even taken his oral history.

AHERN: Did you always know that you were going to come back to Fallon after your education?

RECANZONE: No. In fact, after we finished law school, Mr. Diehl and I and my wife--his wife had just had a baby, so she couldn't go along with us--took a tour of the northern part of the state. We knew we didn't want to practice in Vegas, and we just went around to see where we would like to practice. We didn't want to practice in the big city. We didn't want to practice in Reno which was a big city. I think they had about thirty thousand people at that time. (laughing) But, anyway, we took a tour up through Winnemucca and Elko and down through Ely and went across the state, We got in Elko--Grant Sawyer was the District Attorney there at that time. Grant Sawyer had been a fraternity brother of mine in school, and he'd been a close friend of Jack's as well, so we stopped in and had lunch with Grant, and he said, "Well, you can come up here. There's room up here, but," he says, '. I tell you, we'll go to lunch, and I'll have Mr. Reinhart,"--he was a member of the firm of Vargas and Reinhart. At that time Mr. Vargas in Reno, and Mr. Reinhart was in Elko. We had lunch with him, and he said, "Now, I'll tell you fellows.           If I were a young attorney, there would be one place that I would go because it's going to boom. You can just be assured of it.” He says, "That's Eureka." You been to Eureka?


RECANZONE: So, that was his advice to us (laughing) to go to Eureka. So, as I say, Grant Sawyer said, "You come in here I think that you'd find it nice," but then he told us that his dad lived in Fallon-that was Dr. Sawyer—and Andy Haight, one of the attorneys that had been the premiere attorney for so many years had died in the spring of that year, and he said, "I think it'd be a good place for you to go into." So, we went on down to Ely. It was in September, and we got. in Ely and stayed overnight and got up in the morning, and there was about six inches of snow on the ground, and we didn't even look around. We pulled toward the west, (laughing) and we got in Eureka, and we couldn't understand what Mr. Reinhart had suggested (laughing) Eureka for, but, anyway, we came on into Fallon and talked with Dr. Sawyer, and he said, “Oh, yeah, you gotta come in here." He was probably the strongest Democratic voice in the State at that time. A very powerful old guy. Great guy. But, he kind of took us under his wing, and we negotiated for the purchase of Mr. Haight's library and furniture and his files that had been amassed through the years. He'd probably practiced forty years and had them very well indexed, and he was a great pleader. He had wonderful pleadings in his files, so we, in effect, practiced with Andy Haight for the next ten years, and we'd go into his files, being able to retrieve his papers. So we bought that whole works. I think we paid twenty-two hundred and fifty dollars for it, Bought it from the bank who was the executor, and they gave us five or- six years to pay that off.

RECANZONE: First couple of years we didn't earn very much. I think one thing that might be interesting--it was probably in our first year of practice. Judge Guild was a wonderful guy, but he had a thing about young attorneys, and he was going to teach them what it was all about, and he was pretty nasty in some of the ways that he would teach them. But, anyway, in those days, if you had a defendant who was a client, you'd go into the jail--that's the old jail that's sitting back here now. The old gray building. Went upstairs and he came in, and you'd talk with him, and if he told you about some witnesses or about some evidence, the only way you're going to get it is go out and find it because the State didn't help you at all. This was still in the days when they put the guy under the hot light bulb and question him until he said, "Yes, I did it," But, anyway, we were appointed in this one case, and at that point we didn't have any public defenders, and on occasion, if the judge felt like it he'd appoint an attorney to represent the defendant, so we were appointed to represent this man. He was about fifty-five years old. Had been in jail for most of his life since he was twelve, and he had been accused of grand larceny on some property that was on a mine over off I-80, so Judge Guild appointed us to represent him. We talked with the guy, and he says, "I didn't do it, but I'd plead guilty to petty larceny just to get it behind me," and so we talked to the District Attorney who was Mr. [James] Johnson. He said, "Sure, that's good. We'll do that," so we go in and the judge asked for the plea, and we said we'd agreed that we'd plead guilty to petty larceny, and he said, "Dammit, when you're appointed, that's for the purpose of bringing him in and disposing of the thing." In other words, plead guilty. So, he says, "I won't accept that,' so we went ahead and pled him not guilty. We were very poor at that time. As I told you, we didn't have very darn much. We both had children and wives and had no income. We got out of law school, we felt we were really fortunate we didn't owe anybody. Money was very, very tight. Anyway, we went over to the mine and made our own investigation. Got what we considered our own evidence, and we tried the case to a jury for three days. The jury came back with petty larceny. Just what we had pleaded guilty to, so the judge was furious, and the defendant, as we went out, said, "My God, you're not going to appeal this, are you? I can do this standing on my head." (laughing) So, we went back for a hearing on our fees, and we asked for an award of fees, and they gave us fifty dollars. We would loved to have framed it, but we couldn't afford it. (laughing) We had to use it. That was kind of interesting.

AHERN: You mention your partner, Jack Diehl. Were you classmates together in law school?

RECANZONE: Jack and I had spent a couple of years at the University together. He was from Winnemucca, also, and I was in Paradise Valley just above Winnemucca, so I'd known Jack, and then he went in the service in, I think 1942. I went in 1943. He was a year behind anyway, but he got out and he finished up the University that year that I spent in Herlong, he was finishing up at University. Then he went on to law school the same year that I did, and I didn't even know he was going until I got down there, and there was Jack, and we studied together. There was Jack and myself and an attorney by the name of Bill Morris. He was from Las Vegas who also had been in school with us, and we had a kind of a study group, so we got very close during the three years in law school, and then we decided we'd practice together, so we went out and found our spot.

AHERN: What year was it when you start practicing law in Fallon?

RECANZONE:     We started in November 1950. In fact, it was the day after Thanksgiving. The way I remember that, I had been to my sister's in Loyalton with my family to have Thanksgiving, and I came back. Jack and I had been in the process of setting our office up. We'd repainted it and cleaned it up. Vacuumed the books and so forth, getting ready to open up. We hadn't even got our license yet, and so I came in, and he was all excited. He says, "I'm going down to the"--he'd unpacked one of our typewriters--he says, "I'm going down to the Eagle." That was the Fallon Eagle which used to be down here across from the liquor store on [40 E.] Williams, and he said, "I'm going down there to get some legal paper, and you go over and get our license." So, I went over to the clerk's office to get our license, and he went down to get the paper, and our first client was a person who wanted a deed, so we got a deed out of Mr. Haight's files so we'd know what we were doing and drew up the deed, and then we didn't know what to do with it. We got it all signed and everything, and we went to George Kenny who was on the same floor as we were. That was the old bank building that's a two-story building on 131 S. Maine, and we were upstairs in that building. Went to see Mr. Kenny who was on the same floor as we were. He says, "Well, you got to get yourself a revenue stamp and get that thing filed." So, we did (laughing). We learned as we went along. But that was our first client. We got five bucks for that.

AHERN: When you first came to Fallon to practice law, would you tell me about the town itself?

RECANZONE:     Sure.

AHERN: Was it a large town?

RECANZONE:     No. Fallon was about nine hundred people. The town itself, and the community, I would imagine, under ten thousand. That's your entire area. There may have been a few more or less. I think it was about nine hundred people in here, and the town ended going west. Do you know where that Farmer's Insurance is? I think it's on Richards Street [719 West Williams] Avenue, and there was a house west of that, and that was the end of Fallon. And then there was that little block building out on West Williams before you get to Tony's [1350 West Williams]? Anyway, that was the last house there. Everything from there on the left-hand side going toward Reno was a ranch and on the right-hand side they had a couple of houses way out there. Kind of rural. I mean, they were out of town.

AHERN: So that means that beyond that point was still open?

RECANZONE: Still open country. And then going south, you know where West End is. All the area west of West End [School, 280 South Russell] and south of West End was a ranch. That was Mori's ranch. Then it went all over to one block off of Taylor where Kendrick's home is, if you know where that is [485 West 4th]. That was, again, part of the fields, so everything in that area in the west and south was a big field. Going east, where we have the school on [750] East Williams, that wasn't there. That was a field, of course. The older part of town pretty much the same as it was. Then the ranching community was still going full blast at that time. We had plenty of water and things were in great shape.

AHERN: Did you have to go out and drum up business or did people just kind of check into you?

RECANZONE:     Well, at that point, there was a lot of restriction on lawyer advertising. We were taught that it just wasn't professional, so there wasn't a question of our going out and drumming up business. We didn't do it. It wasn't the type of a situation that you see on TV now. 'Come in and see me if you've been hurt or your boss is not treating you right." Whatever the case may be. "Come in. I'll get you all kinds of bucks." We didn't do that. It was professionally improper to do that, So we had our office, and people knew we were here, and it just took years to build up, The first couple of years were very, very difficult, and then we started to practice. People started knowing us and having faith in us, and our practice upgraded and things were very good.

AHERN: During the lean years, did you ever do any outside job other than practicing law?

RECANZONE:     No. We just stayed right with our practice. We were busy. When we started, Jack and I had been taught in a very highly professional school, and we were of the opinion that if a person had something coming to them, regardless of what it was, they were entitled to it and we would take the case, and we did that for years.   A person would walk in, a woman walk in, and she wanted a divorce. Her husband was mistreating her and the kids, whatever. We'd tell her what the fee was and tell her what the costs were, and we'd know right then we weren't ever going to get a cent, but we went ahead with it, and I think that probably for many, many years half of our practice was uncompensated because if a person needed help, we'd help them. I think it's a little bit different now than it used to be. At least, I see it as being different because we had a real commitment to our profession, and that was more important than the money was. Had we had a little different idea we'd probably have been a lot wealthier, but we wouldn't have been as happy.

AHERN: The cases that came through your office, were there a variety of cases?

RECANZONE:     Everything. At that time, practicing in a small community, it wasn't that easy to run into Reno and get an attorney or a doctor or whatever. They relied on you, and so you took whatever came in, and it was across the board. We had a very varied practice. Mining, negligence work, and just about anything you'd want to talk about we practiced that type of law. What we'd do if a client walked in and told us the story that, say, was involving mining, and we wanted to brush up on that a little bit, we had background in it, but, of course, as you go along, unless you're doing it everyday, you get a little rusty, and we'd say, "Well, we're really busy right now. We got the facts, you come back." You'd give them a date to come back, and "we'll talk a little further. I've got other clients waiting. I can't do it." In the meantime, we'd look it up (laughing) and find out what it was all about. But, you practiced. It was a very varied practice. Anything and everything, and we did a good job. interesting. It wasn't the kind of practice that got dull. I think I'd gone crazy if all I was doing was say corporate work, or all I was doing was negligence or just criminal or whatever the case may be. We practiced across the board. Every facet of the law we did.

AHERN: Did you ever turn down a case?

RECANZONE:     Oh, I think we probably did. I don't recall any off-hand. If we didn't feel that a client was honest when he came in--you have to have a lot of confidence in your client before you can represent him--and if we felt that he was not telling us the entire story or telling us the truth, we wouldn't take him. [End of tape 1 side A] You’d asked me if I’d ever taken any-

AHERN: This is tape 1 side 2

RECANZONE:     You’d asked me if I’d ever taken any cases I don’t want to take. I'm sure that we have. In the criminal law, every defendant is entitled to representation whether he's guilty or not. So many things can enter into it. Maybe the bare story doesn't tell the whole story, or maybe there are certain factors that should be brought up at the time of sentencing that he can do by himself. And, later on, of course, the Supreme Court has said every defendant has to have an attorney if he wants one, but, anyway, there are certain times that you'll get a defendant that his crime disgusts you. You just don't like the guy. You don't like his crime, and you don't like any part of him, but we represented him. Another thing that an attorney doesn't do if he knows that his client is guilty he can use whatever evidence would be in his favor, but he certainly wouldn't put him on the stand and have him testify because he would be lying and you don't support perjury. But, you still help him the best you can, and even though you know he's guilty you try to give him the defense that he's entitled to. So there are cases like that that I'm sure we've taken that we didn't like. I don't think I ever took any civil matters, because civil matters are a little bit different. They're a question of money, not of freedom and life, and if I didn't like it, I didn't take it. I'm sure I did that.

AHERN: Is there any case here in Fallon that's stands out in your mind for one reason or another?

PECANZONE:     There's been a lot of them. We had one case that-my partner Mr. Diehl was the DA at that time, and the man was the manager of Safeway store, He took this little girl for a flight in his plane and molested her while in the air and came back and this little girl told on him, and he was prosecuted and spent some years in prison, but that was one kind of an odd case. We've had lots of killings but they never really generated into what you'd call an exciting case because most of the time they came in and pled guilty. I found--I think you've been around here for awhile now--the last few years we've had five or six killings, but in almost every case with a couple of exceptions, Allred and Regan went to trial, but the rest of them seem to come in and either plead guilty or commit suicide, so (laughing) that took care of them. They didn't generate into a six-week show like some. I can't think of any others that really impressed me. They're all interesting while you're In them, but not to the point where you think, "Boy, that's a great case." I tell you one case that's kind of fun. They had this hitchhiker that came through. He was really what, I guess, we'd call "people of the street," nowadays. He hadn't worked for years, and he had a family, but he abandoned them, Just kind of a ne'er-do-well. He was walking east on Highway 50 out by Salt Wells, and this car corning down the road, speeding, went completely across the road and killed him, and so we represented the heirs in that case. Gordon Thompson, who later became a Supreme Court Justice, was a practicing attorney at that time, and was a defense attorney for the insurance companies involved. Great guy. He was representing him, and his closing argument, and there was absolutely no evidence to this; he says, "How do we know? He may have run across the road and threw himself in front of that car!" Well, the jury bought it. (laughing) We ended up getting a new trial and a settlement, but, that's some of the things that happened in jury trials. Of course, it was kind of an interesting case.

AHERN: Throughout your practice in Fallon, was there a lot of controversy about the water between the farmers and the Indians?

RECANZONE: No. Early on there wasn't. The government took that into consideration when they passed the act that created Newlands Project. They knew what was going to happen, at Pyramid. They just felt the water could be put to a lot better use raising some food than going into a lake that was dying. I mean, Pyramid Lake is the tail end of the stream. It's the tall end of old Lake Lahontan, and it's going to die one day whether we take the water or take it upstream, or whatever the case may be. So, they passed that law, and they instituted the Newlands Project, and Newlands Project, of course, was using water. Had a beautiful lake up there that people were using for recreation, then went through the agriculture and had a lot of crops, and then it went on into the wetlands, and we had every kind of bird and fish and wildlife throughout the entire system, so it was, actually, a multiple use of water all the way through, and people acknowledged that. Everybody did. We didn't have any problems until about 1967, and that's when the Endangered Species Act was passed, and overnight, the cui-ui was an endangered species. It was on the list. To my knowledge, there's absolutely no proof that it is endangered. It was placed on the endangered species list and became an endangered species. Of course, from that time on, [Robert] Stitser, who was their attorney at the time, became a millionaire and retired, and Pelcyger, who's their' attorney now, is going through the same process becoming a millionaire. He'll soon retire, but he's being paid by the Federal Government to fight the people who are paying him. That's my feeling on it. But, we didn't have any problems until then. I think that the farmers nave always been willing to work with everybody to try to work a better system if they could. I remember when we used to have a generation of power at the Dam. Winter water would go through that. Of course, all through the year when they were releasing water, that power plant was working and then in the wintertime they also released water that went through the power plant and produced a lot of power and then went on down into the Stillwater Marsh area. It's been some number of years ago that the Federal Government came in and said, "We'd like you to discontinue the use of the water, "I'm sure this was after the water war started. "We want to discontinue the use of that water and hold it and not release it for power, and in exchange for that, we'll come in and we'll help you line the canals so that you get more efficient use of water," and they never did. They took away the use but never came in and helped us as they promised. Then there were seven acres of land – I think it was seven acres – up around where Lake Tahoe discharges into the Truckee, that was owned by Truckee-Carson Irrigation District. Very valuable land, and, again, they said, "We're going to take this land, but we're going to compensate you. We'll come down and help you line your canals." Again they didn't do it. The government established the Project. Brought the people in here. Made all kinds of promises to them. Then and as they went through the years, they've reneged on all of it. It's a shame what's happening to our valley because of the fact that our government no longer can be trusted. Obviously.


AHERN: When you were living in Fallon in the early 1950's and 1960's did you think that it was basically an ideal place?

RECANZONE:     Oh, yes. It was a beautiful little town. Very rural. It was agricultural base, and we had very few people living in town that weren't employed. I don't think we had any of them. They all were employed, one place or another. It was just an ideal place to raise a family. Still is, but it's just changing. Not as ideal as it used to be. When I first came here, the base was still closed down. It was a field more than anything else. During World War II they were training, and they'd come out here and they would fly, and they had a landing field near Austin. Had one at near Silver Springs, and it was a training base, but as soon as the War ended they shut it, down, and I think they gave all the buildings to the Indians so they could take them off and use them, and the only thing that was left when we came was the old hangar, I think it's still out there beyond the south side of the ditch, the old section. All the tile had been chipped out of the swimming pool. I think it was 1951 it opened up again as a field, and I think the first commanding officer was the commander, and that was that way for a period of years before it gained the status of a Navy auxiliary station and then finally became a full-fledged base, but it was nothing out there when we came. It was all shut down. So it was agriculture that was our livelihood.

AHERN: Aside from the law practice, then, did you have any community activities to help develop the community?

RECANZONE: Well, I was the city attorney for twenty-seven years. Started in 1955 and was city attorney up until 1982, and, of course, I think I was involved in the community in that way. I was, also, as stated before, on the Board of Trustees, Churchill Public Hospital for two terms. I was active… joined the Masonic Lodge. I was a Mason since 1954 or 1955. I've been a Rotarian since 1951. So, in that type of activity I participated.

AHERN: Tell me about when you became the city attorney. How did you get into that position?

RECANZONE:     As I told you previously, Loring Primeaux had been city attorney for many years, and then he left the community about 1955 or shortly before that, so they appointed my partner as city attorney, He was city attorney, I think, for a few months, then he became district attorney, and then he resigned city attorney, and I was appointed. Then I was there for all those years after. Twenty-seven.

AHERN: When was your position on the hospital board?

RECANZONE:     Well, the hospital at the time that I came here in 1950 was only about two years old. I think it was built in 1948. It was a real nice little hospital, Willie Holmes was the administrator, and she was for many years after that, and there were Doctors Dingacci and Miller, and as I told you, Dr. Wray and Dr…. I can’t think of his name. another osteopath. I think there were four or five, and, oh, Dr. Sawyer. There were about five doctors. A very active little hospital. The thing about it, when you wanted a doctor, you gave him a call, and you had a doctor. I can remember when we were raising our kids, and Dr. Dingacci had—we became his patients soon after he came here--and then Dr. Frydenlund came in with him . . . well, a number of other doctors came in with Ding through the years, but one of the kids was sick in the middle of the night, and we were just going out of our minds. The kid had 104 temperature and was crying. We called the doctor, and, “I'll be there in fifteen minutes." You hear the car drive up in front, and you say, “Oh, boy! Everything's all right now." And that was all of them. They all did that. Dr. Wray and Dr. Sawyer and Dr. Dingacci and all of them. So, it was a different way of practicing medicine. I don't think you can begin to get somebody to come out to your house now. They say, "Meet me down at emergency.” If they say, "Meet me.” They usually say... We go down to emergency and see the emergency doctor. Those days, of course, was a lot different. We didn't have TV. We had radio, of course. I can remember when radio first came out when I was a kid. We used to have these earphones, and you'd strain to hear what was on. But, anyway, when we first came here it was all two-lane highway all the way into Reno. All the way through the canyon was real winding, winding road, and, as I say, we didn't have any TV, so sports were a real big thing for us. We watched the high school sports through football and basketball and right on through, and in the spring they would have the tournament. We would always go to that tournament and watch the Fallon Greenwave. I can remember going to Reno for one of those tournaments, and that's just the way I recall it, Going through the canyon and maybe see two or three cars between Fernley and Reno, and then we'd come home about eleven o'clock, and we probably wouldn't see a car all the way from Reno back to Fernley. Now you can go there three o'clock in the morning, and you got a steady stream of traffic. You asked about the town being a good place to live and raise a family. Sports were a big thing. The kids were good. Parents still had control of them, and the schools had control of them. They still had a little authority to rap the kid on the hand once in awhile if he wasn't doing right. Whether we believe that's right or not now, it was done, and they had control of the kids. We don't anymore. I see that now.

AHERN: While you were on the Hospital Board, what was tie incident concerning the osteopath? Would you tell me about this incident?

RECANZONE:     Well, this goes back to Dr. Sawyer who was an osteopath in Idaho, and had the same problem there that later developed down here, so he moved here--this is Grant Sawyer's father.

AHERN: Would you briefly explain "osteopath"?

PECANZONE: Well, osteopathic medicine is a lot--I may have this right or wrong--but, a lot of it is manipulation of the body. Much like a chiropractor only they're treating the body from the exterior by manipulation. As the years went by, the osteopaths at hospitals began to teach medicine as well as their osteopathic training. At the time that we were having this problem in Fallon, they had osteopathic hospitals throughout the country that were very fine hospitals. They had one in Los Angeles that was deemed to be as good as any medical school. It was teaching plain old medicine. It wasn't teaching osteopathy, so the osteopath would go to one of the schools, and he would have both healing arts. I think most of them had learned medicine rather than osteopathy. They'd still gone to an osteopathic school, and the osteopathic schools at that time were taking ln a lot of people that weren't making it into med school. That didn't mean that they were any less capable, but they were still not being accepted by med schools, they'd go on to osteopathic school. So, anyway, going back to Dr. Sawyer. He'd been an osteopath in Idaho, and he had problems with the medical board up there, and they came down to Nevada, and some way, and I don't know what the background of this is, he got his MD when he got here. It wasn't through training, but he got it through the State, So, then, he had a real thing against osteopaths at that point, (laughing) and, as I say, going a step further, the hospitals weren't being certified if they had osteopaths working there. Dr. Sawyer was pretty much in the background of this fight that was going on, and the community was very divided. Dr. Shambaugh – That was the other one, Dr. Shambaugh – and Dr. Wray were the two osteopaths, and they had a large following. Then there was Dr. Dingacci and Dr. Sawyer and these other doctors that came in that had another large following. Well, when we started messing around with this, it created a lot of tension in the community and a lot of people had chips on their shoulders that they never did get off. (laughing) There was a big fuss about that. Looking back on it, it probably was not worth what we went through, and it did rip the community apart for awhile. It was a small community.

AHERN: This happened when you were Trustee?

RECANZONE: Trustee on the Board.

AHERN: Did you help to make the decision as to whether to accept the osteopaths?

RECANZONE:     We did, and we rejected them at that time. But then, as I say, later on the state did resolve that by certifying them in as MD's, and from then on there was no problem with it. I think that happened after I went off the Board. Which should have happened. There shouldn't have been any distinction because their training was pretty much the same type of a training the MD's were getting. You have the exceptions, of course, and this is one of the things I think the Board of Medical Examiners worried about. There were some osteopathic schools where a person could pay a certain amount, spend six months there, and come out with their Doctor of Osteopathy. They were not certified schools, but they were coming out with a Doctor of Osteopathy. That's the thing that worried the medical examiners I'm sure, and that's been resolved.

AHERN: Tell me about your private life. You were married shortly, was it after you graduated from law school?

RECANZONE: No, I got married in 1943. I finished college in the spring of 1943, and I went into the service. I'd been in ROTC throughout my college days, but that year they quit certifying you as a Second Lieutenant when you graduated. We had to go through OCS with everybody else that went through under the same regulations. So I went into the service, went through OCS, and we were married in October of 1943, a couple of days after I graduated from Fort kenning and got my commission. She was pregnant when I went overseas, and I was gone for about three years. Came back, my kid was about half grown by that time. But, anyway, we were married and I came back. She stayed with her folks during the time that I was overseas.

AHERN: Would you please tell me her name and a little bit about her?

RECANZONE:     Marion. She was born in a little town called Weso which is where the Western Pacific and Southern Pacific join, and they’re on the same track, I don’t know if you ever knew about that, they still are. Just north of Winnemucca. They go on the same track until Battle mountain and then they diverge again. Why they did that I don’t know, but that’s the way they do. And they called this little- all it was was where they had an agent. Her father was a Western Pacific railroad agent. And she was born there, it’s only a couple miles north of Winnemucca. It’s actually Winnemucca, but Weso’s what they called it. She was born there and raised up and down the track. She lived in Gridlock for a while when she was a little girl. And then finally war came, her dad was transferred to Reno, and that’s where I met her.

AHERN: Her name is Marion?

RECANZONE:     Marion Emerson.

AHERN: How many children do you have?

RECANZONE:     I have three. I have a son [Michael E. Recanzone] that'll be fifty this year and two daughters, Lori [Recanzone Canepa] and Toni [Recanzone Caruso]. I have five grandkids.

AHERN: Judge Recanzone, can you think of anything else that you might want to add?

RECANZONE:     No, I think that about takes it. I've, as I say, been a resident of Churchill County for forty-four years. I've loved every minute of it. Great people. Great valley, I hope that Senator Reid and his compatriots don't change it drastically. I think it's a great place to live. We're growing and have our problems, but it's still one of the nicest communities in Nevada.

AHERN: I want to thank you on behalf of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Project for granTing us this interview.

RECANZONE:     You're welcome.


The following was added to the transcript: Marion and I were and are partners, as well as husband and wife. When "we" went to law school, she worked full-time to supplement the GI Bill and the money I earned from part-time work. When we moved to Fallon, she worked at the Fallon Clinic for a number of years and then as a real estate agent. Her earnings were vital in the early years of my practice to keep us from going under. In addition to her were outside the home, she had to find the time to be the main caretaker of our three children.


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Churchill County Museum Association, “Mario Recanzone Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed December 2, 2022,