Go see Joe to find out about Virginia City

by Sharlene Irete

People Editor

GARDNERVILLE, Nev. Virginia City has indoor toilets, computer access but no cowboy-style gunfights in the streets as were seen on TV's "Bonanza."

Debunking myths about the small town is part of Virginia City resident Joe Curtis' job.

Curtis brings a pictorial history of Virginia City and helps keep the record straight in the Douglas County Historical Society's free lecture, 7 p.m. Thursday, at the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center.

"In 1959 when 'Bonanza' was on TV, it was a business and tourism renaissance for Virginia City. To beef it up, business people made up myths to generate excitement to come to Virginia City. My parents probably made some up," said Curtis.

"People would ask, "What's the V on the side of the mountain for?' One answer would be, 'It's not a V. It's an arrow that points to where the gold is.'"

Curtis moved to Virginia City in the mid-1950s with his parents. The Mark Twain Museum was the family's business in Virginia City from 1959 until Curtis made it the Mark Twain Bookstore in 1993. Artifacts from the museum remain in the bookstore.

"My parents were interested in antiques and artifacts and I've been collecting photos of the Comstock and Nevada since I was 10," Curtis said. "My interest has always been long-forgotten little businessmen " the grocer, the cobbler, the guy at the lumber yard, the livery. The everyday business guy gives the climate of the community."

Curtis is a retired assistant sheriff for Carson City, chief of the Virginia City Volunteer Fire Department, works half-time as the county emergency manager and is on the convention and tourism board to develop business in Virginia City.

He gives historic walking tours and is involved in the project to raise money for historic markers in honor of Virginia City's sesquicentennial this year.

"If someone's coming to Virginia City, people tell them to go see Joe," Curtis said.

Curtis' presentation features photos from the 1860s many people may not have seen before. He said he will set the record straight on myths about Virginia City and the Gold Hill area.

"The big worry is that 50 years from now myths might show up as history. I like to find things out totally, otherwise it affects the quality of history. I like to think in terms of historic accuracy," he said.

"I enjoy history and sharing my knowledge with people. It's a subject I know about and like to share, so it's hard to shut me up."

Curtis presents a pictorial look at Virginia City's past, 7 p.m. Thursday, at the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center, 1477 Highway 395, Gardnerville. The free lecture series is sponsored by the Douglas County Historical Society the second Thursday of the month. The museum and the Main Street Bookstore will be open before and after the one-hour lecture. Information, 782-2555.

n People Editor Sharlene Irete may be reached at sirete@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 210.


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