Statue for Bill Stead?
Every September when the Air Races come to town, I am reminded of the founder of the inaugural races.
His name was Bill Stead, who happened to be a very close personal friend of Charles Mapes and he was an avid private pilot and hydroplane driver. Scion of a large ranching family, I had first met Stead at the Thomas C. Wilson Advertising Agency when it was handling Stead's cattle trucking company and where I was a University of Nevada Journalism intern.
As to the initial Air Races, it happened this way. One morning at my office in the Mapes Hotel, I received a phone call from owner Charles Mapes saying that he would be sending Stead down to discuss a rather interesting idea for a special event.
When Stead showed up, he settled down comfortably and began to discuss his plan. He said that he felt that since there were no national air races scheduled at that time, there would be a good possibility that he could get some of his fellow Hydro drivers, who were also accomplished airplane pilots, to participate in an inaugural race that could be staged at the Sky Ranch Airport on Pyramid Way. He added that he had already convinced Mapes that the headquarters for the race would be his hotel. He also noted that his next stop would be to see Roy Powers, who was the PR man at Harold's Club.
I asked him how many planes he anticipated attracting and he said he could probably get a half dozen or so. I remarked that didn't seem to be much of a show and he replied that he had also contracted a number of hotair balloonists to put on a demonstration. He went on to say that there were several service-related flying demo teams from which he might be able to attract one to appear in Reno. When he ticked off the names of those teams, the one that struck me immediately was the Air Guard squad. I told Stead that a previous client of mine, US Senator Howard Cannon, was highup in Air Force matters in DC and that he could probably help us. We immediately placed a call to the Senator and relayed our request to him. He asked for the dates of the event and said he would get back to us in a couple of hours. True to his word, he called back and told us that the team was available and that their contact person was one Ed Mack Miller, who resided in Denver. Miller's name came as a pleasant surprise to me, because in my previous work at the Nevada Catholic newspaper,Miller had been my contact man at the national Catholic printing press which was located in Denver.