March – April 2018
Betty Snyder was born in Manhattan in 1925, in a house that still stands today albeit looking a little different. Her life may seem ordinary, but the stories this Nevada native tells of living in some of central and northern Nevada’s most iconic towns are the stuff of legend. Her fierce love of the Silver State brought this notable Nevadan to the attention of our Carrie Roussel, who sat down with Betty at her residence.
The Q&A session with Betty Snyder was anything but typical. Not a series of questions and answers, but instead 90 minutes of engaging, Nevada-steeped tales of Betty’s life.
Born March 3, 1925 in Manhattan, her life took her on a journey through Gabbs, Belmont, Reno, Babbitt, Hawthorne, Las Vegas, Yerington, and eventually the Carson Valley, where she has lived for 44 years. Betty’s roots come from Belmont. Her grandmother, Elizabeth Noonan Goldbach, lived in England and had to have her right arm amputated due to an accident as a young girl. The doctor who operated on her hired her to do tasks around the office, and when he moved to New York with his wife, Elizabeth stowed away in the rope barrel on the ship on which they traveled. When she was found, the doctor paid the 12-year old’s fare and let her live with them in New York a while. Nana, as Betty knew her, ended up taking two covered wagon trips back and forth from New York to Nevada before settling in Belmont in 1881, where she met and married Charles Goldbach.
There they raised their children, including Betty’s father, Harry. Harry met his wife, Hazel, while driving stagecoach from Tonopah to Manhattan. Betty was born in Manhattan, and the family settled into a homestead in Barley Creek, near Belmont. Harry was well-liked by the Shoshone Indians and spoke fluent Shoshone. The Shoshone helped him re-route a creek through his land and would bring the family pine nuts. As a jack-of-all-trades and a miner, Harry had to follow the work, and the family moved to Round Mountain. They ended up back in Manhattan, and when Betty graduated high school at age 16 there were just three people in her class; one was her cousin.
Shortly after graduation, Betty moved to Reno to live with her sister while attending Reno Business College. Her friend was the top secretary in the class (Betty claims she was the class clown) and directly out of college nine of the graduating class traveled by bus to Las Vegas where they were hired by Basic Mining Manufacturing. They all lived together, and had no air conditioning, but Betty says they didn’t know any differently. They had cold water, and took salt tablets due to the amount of sweating. Betty worked in Las Vegas for about seven months, which she says was enough.
She was glad to move to Hawthorne where her brother lived, and ended up moving to the old townsite of Babbitt. Betty worked as the secretary for the Adjutant General of the Hawthorne Naval Base and reminisces, “He thought I was crazy. I was so full of life and had so much fun.” Betty met her husband, Roy Johnson, in Hawthorne. They married in Fallon in 1943. Following the work, Betty and Roy moved to Yreka, California, for a year while Roy drove logging trucks. Their son, Gary, was born and they moved back to Hawthorne, where daughters Bonnie and Donna were born, and then the family moved to Gabbs.
“We knew everyone in the state of Nevada at that time,” Betty remembers fondly.
In Gabbs, Betty’s dad, Harry, worked for the mine while Nana worked at the diner and Betty did the laundry for the diner. Harry was also the garbage man, the barber, and the local car dealer, which meant the family always had a new car. Betty found a spring in the hills, and she and her father buil
t a structure so they could bottle the water and began selling it in town to replace the town’s fluoride-saturated water.
From Gabbs, Betty and Roy went to Hawthorne for another year, and then Yerington. Betty was the head office gal at Grulli Motors for 10 years. After Betty and Roy divorced, Betty married Tom Snyder and moved to Minden, working for Dan Flammer Chevrolet Pontiac for 21 years. She always had a brand new car there, too, and says she always enjoyed her jobs in Nevada. As for her favorite thing about Nevada, Betty turns to the history as well as the pride of being a Nevadan.
“There isn’t an ‘if’ we like it, but a sense of ownership for all that Nevada has been through,” she says. “There are so many things to tell people about Nevada, but I would emphasize the beauty. The blue skies, even on windy days, are just so beautiful.”
It’s no wonder that when asked about a favorite quote or motto, Betty beams as she slowly says, “Home Means Nevada.”