Two 97-year-old great-grandmothers own bragging rights as the oldest people planning to attend the 2017 Las Vegas High School “Wildcat” Reunion. Nevada widows with spunk who are still active today and in relatively good health. Goers and doers. Delightful and charming.
Lina Pinjuv Sharp graduated in 1937, seven years after the high school was built. She became a schoolteacher after completing a two-year program at the University of Nevada, Reno. She found a teaching job in rural Nevada in 1940 in a place called Blue Eagle Ranch in Railroad Valley, about 130 miles east of Tonopah.
Nancy Marriott Austin, class of 1939, stayed in Las Vegas. The stay-at-home mom, along with her truck driver husband of 58 years, watched Las Vegas grow.
“It’s fine with me that it grew,” she said from her home about a mile from the high school, now the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts.
These two matriarchs have been the stars of the “Wildcat” Reunion for years, because they make the effort to attend. They sit together, representing Nevada’s historical royalty.
Interested in attending the Sept. 23 reunion at The Orleans? Organizer Patty Haack can be reached at 702-876-6660 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Old-time LVHS graduates are a who’s who of Las Vegas, movers and shakers, and women of substance like Lina and Nancy.
Lina’s life played out like a television Western. After a year teaching in a one-room schoolhouse, she married rancher Jim Sharp, whose family settled the area in the 1860s.
After her husband died, she remained on the ranch, raising five daughters. She retired after a 45-year teaching career and traveled the world, including Australia, China, India, Tibet, Norway and Turkey. While in Turkey, she slid on some gravel on a hill, forcing her to use a walker. It only slowed her down a bit.
“I didn’t let grass grow under my feet,” Lina said.
This year, she will hitch a ride from her ranch to Tonopah, spend the night there and catch a bus to Las Vegas in order to make the reunion. “I wouldn’t miss it,” she declared, even though she doesn’t like modern Las Vegas.
Her high school days were happy. “There was nothing to be unhappy about,” she said. “I knew we were poor, but everybody was.”
She went to the Fifth Street School, and when building a high school on Seventh Street was discussed “everybody was talking about how it was so far out on Seventh.”
Nancy met her one-and-only in high school. They looked at each other across the room and that was it.
Joe Austinwas a little older, and he would pick her up in his car after school or after her shift at an ice cream shop. They married in 1942 when she was 21 and raised three children.
“I’m in good general health, I do my own lawn and cooking and still drive,” she said, although she uses a cane. She bowled until she hit 95.
Nancy summed up the lives she and Lina have lived: “People who don’t do have a worse time than people who do do.”
These two women are definite doers.
Reunions serve an important purpose. They remind us of our youth, a time of hope when most of us had no idea what the future held.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column runs Thursdays in the Nevada section. Contact her at email@example.com or 702-383-0275. Follow @janeannmorrison on Twitter.