The Purviance home was demolished in the mid nineteen-fifties but the church where Edna sang in the choir still stands nearby.
The Purviance home was demolished in the mid nineteen-fifties but the church where Edna sang in the choir still stands nearby.
Wikipedia’s list of ‘notables’ with ties to Lovelock includes nine people. Fame touched them all, but today many are forgotten even locally. 

Two were actors — Edna Purviance (1895-1958) and Wayde Preston (1929-1992). Purviance was born in Paradise Valley but grew up in Lovelock. She became a silent film star and Charlie Chaplin’s leading lady, making 33 movies within eight years. 

In the mid-1950s, the wrecking ball demolished Purviance’s childhood home at Railroad and 5th (now Broadway and 9th). Lovelock threw an Edna Purviance film festival a couple of years ago, but few attended. A laundromat next to the Longhorn Bar features a poster or two. The Humboldt Museum in Winnemucca displays the silk dress she wore in The Adventurers (1917).

Chaplin remembered Purviance fondly in an interview shortly before his death.

“How could I forget Edna? She was with me when it all began,” he said.

From 1957 through 1960, Wayde Preston starred on the TV show, Colt 45. as an undercover government agent in the Old West. His character, Chris Colt, masqueraded as a pistol salesman. 

Preston, James Garner and Clint Walker went on strike against Warner Brothers to protest their low wages. Preston told a Hollywood reporter, “I made 26 films last year, working 16 to 18 hours a day with personal appearances on the weekend. My net for the year was $7,200. I can make more money elsewhere.”

The actor left Hollywood to make ‘spaghetti westerns’ in Italy. Standing 6’ 4,” Preston strode into Lovelock later in life. A few old-timers remember him.

Bob Walker lived next door to Preston. Although Walker was 20 years younger, the two became friends. “He was an easy-going guy, had lots of good stories, and everybody liked him,” says Walker. Preston rests in the Lone Mountain Cemetery under his birth name, William Erksine Strange.

Joseph Lang (1911-1990), boxed in the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Lang won two matches, but injuries from his semifinal loss to Hans Ziglarski of Germany kept him out of the bronze medal match. He eventually placed fourth, narrowly missing his chance to climb on the tiered platform to receive a medal.

Robert Fleming Heizer (1915 -1979) was born in Denver, Colorado, but moved to Lovelock in his youth. He graduated from Lovelock High School in 1932, one of 11 to don a cap and gown that year. Later, as an archaeologist, he focused on the Native American people of the Great Basin.

U.S. Senator Alan Bible (1909-1988), Nevada Governor Charles Russell (1903-1989) and Congressman Clarence Clifton Young (1922-2016) each came into the world in Lovelock.

Sarah Winnemucca (1844-1891) was born near Humboldt Lake and traveled across the United States advocating for Native Americans. Winnemucca eventually founded a school for Native American children in Lovelock, the Peabody Indian School.  

Adrian C. Louis (1946-2018) was a member of the Lovelock Paiute Tribe, the oldest of 12 children. His book, Skins (1995), tells the story of two Sioux brothers, Rudy and Mogie. Rudy was a ‘rez cop.’ Mogie was a former football star, Vietnam vet and alcoholic.

Skins is a controversial story. Do not expect it to show up at Lovelock’s family-friendly Hay Bale Theater.

Film critic Roger Ebert critiqued the film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002. Ebert shouted down the naysayers who attacked Louis for not taking a more positive point of view.

“The critics are dead wrong,” he said. “They would limit the artists in their communities to impotent feel-good messages instead of applauding their freedom of expression. To see this movie is to understand why the faces on Mount Rushmore are so painful and galling to the first Americans.”

Louis wrote 12 books of poems, two novels and many short stories.

“Some people love my writing. Others hate it,” he said. “Even though I got an education and have written books, I am still a person who grew up using an outhouse. Life can beat you down, and I’ve survived my share of trauma, a lot of it self-inflicted. People can relate to that and to the fact that in a lot of my poems, I don’t take many prisoners.”

Society chooses its notables based on changing criteria. More and more we choose them on the trappings of success and look the other way when they fail to show basic human decency. 

All of the people on Wikipedia’s list have one thing in common – they’re long dead. What future notables walk the streets of Lovelock?