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Ely Nevada Online 2015
|Ely Nevada Online is a product
of Clark Publications
Ely Nevada Online
|Welcome to Ely Nevada
We are glad you are here!
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Ely Nevada, as everyone knows; is just a small town out
in the middle of nowhere. A respite along the World’s
Loneliest Highway and a place to wet your whistle while
discovering the Pony Express Trail. But all of that has
changed now, as Ely Nevada was officially named the
first winner of the Tour Around Nevada 2015 contest,
and will be featured in the January/February issue of
According to Nevada Magazine’s Meg Meuller (see
Nevada Magazine article here) there was an
overwhelming response from the people to name Ely
Nevada a winner in the first round. The comments from
readers ranged from humorous regarding our extreme
isolation to awe inspiring recapping our natural beauty
For many, it is the history, the whispers heard in the
winds of the canyons and the occasional pink capped
mountains reflecting the success of a days’ hard work.
When so much is changing around us, Ely is blessed
with the magic formula of longevity. The people, who
live here, love it. And those who have moved away over
the years, always long to come home.
Over the years Ely has changed a bit here and a little
there. Most of the buildings are still the same and there
are some wonderful new buildings too! The family
names that were here 100 years ago are still here. People
are proud of their family history and are always willing
to share their stories.
The people of Ely have taken on projects of love to
make their small town more inviting to all who stop on
their way through, and those who have never left.
Maybe it is because we sit on the 39th parallel, but the
art here is fabulous! Murals dot the town telling the
stories of those before and the history of our town.
Museums are inviting and anxiously waiting each who
enter the hallowed doors. And of course, the rhythmic
long lonely whistle of the Nevada Northern engines year
round inviting you to ride and learn!The Nevada
Northern Railway offers a dream come true to railroad
officianados, and a magic place to visit for all.
Activities are year round from hunting and fishing to
riding the trails and exploring the Great Basin National
Park. There is just so much to do! And hey, if it is a
slow night, we still drag main here. Seriously though,
we are waiting for you to come and visit us in Ely, any
time of the year!
Ely Featured in Nevada Magazine
by Patricia Fua
The Silver State Restaurant
by Lorraine Clark
The Silver State Restaurant, located on Highway 50 in
Ely, Nevada, has been known for years as the place to
stop for good, home-style meals. This is the place
where locals eat several times a week and everyone
knows both the customers and the staff. There is
always a friendly face to greet you.
The restaurant can trace its roots to the mid-1960’s
when the eatery was owned by Bob Hettinger and
featured a spudnut shop selling homemade doughnuts.
One of the workers, Donna Cobb Ward purchased the
restaurant in 1972. Her daughter Julie Ward Adair began
washing dishes there when she was ten. Donna Ward’s
friend, Violet Grubic worked there, along with her
daughter, Luanne Griffiths. All of these people were
good friends and the daughters Julie and Luanne
attended school together in the early 1970’s. They
worked for $1.25 an hour. A fire in 1976 forced
remodeling with the spudnut shop being added to the
Donna Ward passed away in 2001and the Silver State
was run by Bill and Julie Adair from 2002 until 2011. In
2011, the restaurant was leased by Don and Luanne
Griffiths, continuing the connection to the early years.
In addition to the locals, celebrities often stop in. A
shadow box on the wall features items from the Kyle
Petty ride which the Silver State catered a few years
back. Several movies have been made in the area,
including Cherry 2000, Rat Race, Blueberry Knights,
and others that feature a glimpse of the interior and
outside shots of Ely.
Snowbirds traveling Highway 50 from east to west and
Highway 93 from Canada to the south, often stop for
the home-style cooking and the chance to visit with
friends. Truckers know this is a good stop for tasty
food, including elk burgers and the best French fries in
town. Ask about the special of the day.
Beautiful pieces of wood work done by local artist
Clyde Drake featuring native wildlife add to the
character of the restaurant which is done in an outdoor
theme with camo-covered booths.
When traveling through Ely, be sure the Silver State
Restaurant is one of the stops along the way. Great
food at good prices served in a friendly location make
this a place to remember.
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A Winter that Was!
Ranching, the “good old days” and the power of the human spirit, were the
evident themes of the evening at the Ely Renaissance Society's Celebration of
Operation Haylift last year. It seems that locals have a strong memory of this
event, and were willing to share their anecdotes of the “saving” of livestock
during the harshest winter ever experienced in Northwest Nevada.
Dave Tilford was there to record the memories of the audience members after
the movie, many of whom were only small children back then, but one long
time Lund resident had a different view of the event. Mr. Phil Carter was there
to watch the movie, and share his experience. Phil was one of the brave men
who risked their lives throwing the bales of hay out of the back of the flying air
What made this “Ely”effort different when previous drop plans had failed? A
sense of community. This is what held the ranchers together, and what still
holds us together as a community today.
Consider this excerpt from “Nevada's Operation Haylift saved marooned
and starving herds in 1948 – 49” by Mark McLaughlin
“In Ely, the rescue was a community effort. While loading hay in sub-zero cold,
one Ely local told a journalist, “You can’t just let those animals die without
trying to do something about it.” The Ely National Bank funded the hay
deliveries for ranchers, whether or not they could pay. Gordon Lathrop, vice
president of the bank, told the press, “The ranchers will pay us back when they
can — if not this year, perhaps next year. I know them all.”
Ely automobile dealer George Hawes hired a private pilot to fly him over some
of his customers’ remote homes in case they needed help. On the way he
discovered many residents were struggling in isolation. Restocking the plane, he
dropped emergency supplies to as many as 30 families and sheep camps.
“It’s costing about $50 a day,” Hawes said, “but it’s darn well worth it.”
Arctic air and frequent snow showers dominated the weather throughout
January. Nevadans hoping for a break in the crippling cold wave were
disappointed when the biggest storm of the winter slammed the region on Feb. 6.
Snowfall was light, but 70 mph winds picked snow up off the ground to create
blinding blizzard conditions. During the next two days, drifts blocked
virtually every road in Northern Nevada. One National Guard unit was trapped
in their vehicles by drifting snow as temperatures plummeted to nearly 30
degrees below zero. All aviation operations were suspended because of
impossible flying conditions. Ely rancher George Swallow told the papers,
“The situation is desperate. Right now, we’re in the worst condition
we’ve been in since the emergency began.”
The celebration of this event was held for the second year at the Ely
Renaissance Village on September 22, 2011. The Hollywood docu-drama called
“Operation Haylift ” was shown. This movie is based on the events of the US
Air Force acting in a joint effort with the National Guard and local firefighters,
law enforcement, ranchers and volunteers, to save cattle and sheep herds
threatened with starvation when crippling blizzards struck Nevada in January
Included in the movie “rescue” story is the created story of two brother
ranchers who stand to be ruined by the disaster. One brother was committed to
saving the ranch, and even expanding, while the other brother was drawn to
serve his country as a pilot. This story may have been a Hollywood invention,
but ranchers of Nevada have experienced younger generations who have chosen
not to carry on the family tradition of ranching. ( See part 2 of this series next
The production of this movie benefited from the full cooperation of the Air
Force, which loaned numerous planes and equipment for use in the film. Several
Air Force servicemen fill roles in the film, which was shot entirely on location in
Ely, Nevada. The producer and director was Joe Sawyer, who had appeared in
many films throughout the 1930s and 1940s, usually as a villain, although in
this movie he plays local resident George Swallow.
In the movie the character of George Swallow, worked feverishly to materialize
his plan of how the livestock could be saved by the use of the large planes
dropping bales of hay directly to the areas of highest need.
In real life Mr. Swallow served in leadership positions for many agricultural
organizations, a few of them being: the Nevada Wool Marketing Association,
the California Range Association, and the United Stockman's Association. He
lobbied professionally for these organizations in Washington, D.C.. George was
the organizer of Operation Haylift, which saved many ranchers' cattle and sheep
during the record blizzards of 1948-49. George was raised on the Swallow
Ranch located in Shoshone, Nevada.
The movie of course, didn't contain all of the facts. A wonderful passage is
included below from the book , Beltran Basque Sheepman of the American
West ( available from UNR Press ).
( from Chapter 12 )
On the third day they were going like that and then they heard an airplane. At
first they dldn't pay any attention but it came in so low that Eldon started
shouting,"Look out, it's gonna crash!" Pete saw it was a U.S. Air Force plane
and there were hay bales hanging out of it. The plane turned around and came
back and Pete took his coat off and started signaling, and they dropped the hay
by the caterpillar. That morning Pete had to leave one cow behind on the trail
because she was too weak to follow. Pete told Eldon that he would give a five-
dollar bill if they would drop a bale for that cow. By gosh the pilot must have
seen her because he flew back and put a bale right there. Pete went back
and broke it open for her, but she died anyway. It took them a few more days to
get the cows to the ranch and every night three or four died. But finally they
made it, and they had plenty of hay there.
Well, then Pete got scared because he didn't know anything about the haylift. He
thought he had stolen government hay from a government plane and maybe he
was in for big trouble. The county road to Cherry Creek was still open so
right away he jumped into a pickup and drove to Ely. He was so nervous he
didn't stop to shave or take a bath; he just went the way he was after that cattle
In Ely he found out about the haylift so he knew it was all right. He heard that
every night there was a meeting at the Collins Hotel with the Air Force captain
and if you wanted hay you had to go there. There wasn't enough for everyone so
they had to divide it into shares. Pete went there all dirty and everyone else was
dressed in suits. The other ranchers were asking for hay and Pete was too
shy to say anything; he just sat there. But then somebody introduced him and he
had to say something so he told his story about offering a five-dollar bill for one
bale of hay for the weak cow. One of the other guys said, "Where is your
money, then?" Pete took out a bill and offered it to the captain and everybody
laughed. Well, the captain just said, "That's enough boys, this is serious
business. I think this young man has got the most need right now, so tomorrow's
hay is for Mr. Paris. "
What are your memories of Operation Haylift? One of our readers Mary
Blackham Perez wrote...
”I just saw your post, and thought I would share this with you. My Dad was the
Industrial Relations Director for KKC. And he and his men were instrumental in
getting Operation Haylift off the ground. Such an amazing thing. We had a
ranch up Mattier Creek and had horses, ponies, lambs and pets. Our hearts
were breaking knowing how hungry those beautiful majestic horses were...such
a life saving thing those men did...I'm so proud of my Dad, today is his birthday
and I just know he is looking down from heaven on those beautiful mountains
and seeing those creatures running free. Thanks so much for that post."
Join us in a few weeks for part two of Operation Haylift!