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Senior Spectrum Newspaper
October 2018
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Senior Spectrum Publications

BIGGEST little City
by Harry Spencer
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Memories of Paul Laxalt

Harry Spencer
Harry Spencer

The recent passing of Senator Paul Laxalt was well documented in the local press. For me, my first meeting with Laxalt was on a basketball court in Carson City. My town team, in the Reno City League, McCaughey Motors was playing his Carson City town team. I was warned that Laxalt was a star player, so I elected to guard him. Fortunately for us, we were able to defeat Carson by double digits.

Over the ensuing years I would see Laxalt frequently, mostly at social functions and political soirees. At one point in time, during a hot political season, I met with him and his cohorts at the Governor’s Mansion. The day started off with breakfast on the back porch, followed by a three hour meeting, which terminated with lunch being served.

Nevada Governor Paul Laxalt
Nevada Governor Paul Laxalt

Paul and I met once again in an athletic contest. On that occasion my father-in-law had somehow inveigled Paul to challenge me to a tennis match. As I was a neophyte tennis player at that time I approached the match with a sense of trepidation. I met Paul at the mansion where he showed me to an upstairs bedroom where I could change into tennis togs. When I asked him where we were going to be playing he responded that he had a tennis court at his private residence. This added to my dismay. We played the match and he succeeded in drubbing me. When I asked him how he learned to play tennis so well he said that when he was a teenager a top female player had come to Carson for a Nevada divorce and somehow he wound up getting lessons. I asked her name and he replied Helen Wills Moody, who was the number one player in the world in 1927 and she won a total of 19 major titles from 1923 to 1938.

Following the match, we repaired to the mansion where we showered down and went to the back porch for a sumptuous lunch. During that time, I asked Laxalt what he had learned from Mrs. Moody and he said she always taught me to hit deep to the corners.

Watching today’s professional tennis, it is interesting to note that many of the top players such as Federer and Nadal are most effective when they also hit deep to the corners.

In addition to Paul Laxalt, I was close friends with his three brothers Bob, John and Mickey. Of the three, I knew Bob the best as he was a fellow journalist and a coworker on numerous political campaigns.

Paul Laxalt

The most time I ever spent in Governor Paul Laxalt’s office was when I motored to Carson City with Bill Raggio and Frank Peterson. We spent the entire morning asking for Laxalt’s endorsement of Raggio to succeed him in the governor’s chair. Laxalt spent most of his time telling Bill how unglamorous the governor’s job turned out to be.

He told Bill that most of his time would be eating rubber chicken dinners and kissing babies. Laxalt finally ended his discourse by saying that it was Lt. Governor’s Ed Fike’s turn (Fike lost to Democrat Mike O’Callahan). The meeting wound up with the four of us having Chinese “takee outee” at the Governor’s conference table. On the return trip to Reno, both Peterson and I urged the downcast Raggio to run anyway.

Later, Laxalt convinced Raggio to run against U.S. Senator Howard Cannon. Despite Laxalt’s help, Raggio suffered a crushing defeat against Cannon. Bill later resurfaced as the longest serving Nevada State Senator.