Building a community brick by brick |

Building a community brick by brick

by John Hefner

Last edition I profiled Harry Clapham. It has been said that behind every great man is a great woman. This journal I intend on profiling Vivian “Dot” T. Clapham. Dot was born in Norcatuar, Kan., on Jan. 14, 1906, and she lived until Dec. 7, 1982. She passed at the age of 76 years of age.

According to Penny Maple’s profile of Dot in December 1982. Dot was a single working mother of two young daughters Marie and Delores. She was introduced to Harry Clapham in Alhambra, Calif., and they married in June of 1929. The couple “lived in California for awhile and later moved to Idaho with her two small daughters.” The Claphams lived in Idaho for 10 years “taking work wherever they could find it to survive the great Depression.” They returned to California and then Harry joined the U.S. Army in 1943. Harry returned from service in November 1945. During this time Harry and Dot “built themselves a home and sold several other homes.”

Penny tells us that in 1950 the Claphams relocated to Nevada and they were one of the first families to settle here in what was to become Johnson Lane. Randy Slater said the couple would make several trips up from California moving a little bit at a time before buying the 160 acres and homesteading another 160 acres. Recall that Harry started a business creating concrete products such as cinder blocks. Randy says that Dot wasn’t any taller than 5-feet, 1-inch but she would help Harry in the block plant. The couple would spend their time building their house out of those cinder blocks. In the article Penny says “she worked side by side with her husband, putting in long hours of hard work to make themselves a real home here.” Can you picture doing that? Making the blocks and then building a home from the blocks you made. The home still stands at Clapham and Downs but remember those streets didn’t exist until later.

Conditions were primitive at best. There were no real streets, no phone and no electricity when they first started subdividing the acres into “Idle Acres.” Remember the times if you will. Many women were not on property titles and not long before this women had just received the right to vote. But if you look through the archives you will find one legal notice after the other that list both Harry and Vivian Clapham transferring parcels when they sold. The two were a husband and wife team.

According to Randy, Harry and Dot were the first to have electricity because Harry brought power up and posted his own pole. Every Sunday evening at 6 p.m. all the neighbors would come over and watch “Bonanza” on the new color television. At that time, it wasn’t unusual to see the actors around the Valley and Carson City.

Harry and Dot’s garden was approximately 3 acres according to Randy. It was a requirement of a homestead to have a crop but as you remember from previous journals, they grew a lot of fruits and vegetables. They also raised domestic rabbits and provided them to the community. Randy says you ate a lot of rabbit stew during the hard times. Harry and Dot’s only form of entertainment outside was to go to the Nugget in Carson City eat at the buffet and play keno.

Once Harry got the approval to build the General Store, he and Dot would again build it block by block as they could afford it. They would later sell the store to the EnEarls and then eventually the original block store was torn down for the one that exists today. I am sure both would have cried to see the original being brought down. I added this piece about the General Store because it became the sight of wonder one day. Randy says when the Post Office decided to provide service to the area the general delivery was stopped at the cattleguard. The designated location for all mailboxes moved up to the site of the store. Randy says it was quite a site watching everyone throwing dirt digging holes and putting up a variety of mailboxes.

Some years later Dot became the caretaker for Harry’s father Poppy. She nursed Poppy up until he died. Dot was a good grandmother and loved her children, grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. She was very close to her great grandson Dennis.

Dot’s youngest daughter is quoted in the 1982 article as saying “There was not a baby or child that she did not love; given a chance she would have to hold and give of her love.” Dot’s last Christmas was celebrated with both her daughters, grandchildren and most of her great-grandchildren.

Everyone in the community was very supportive of one another. I believe that had to have come from Harry and Dot’s philosophy. The coffee pot was always on in Dot’s home and neighbors visited often. Being close was more of a necessity during that period of time. We are all so self sufficient any more we rarely get to speak to our neighbors. Some would say it’s a good thing but many long for a closer-knit community like Harry and Dot established when they first settled here.

So, let’s continue Harry and Dot’s legacy and be there for our neighbors.

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