Alan Rogers epitomized Carson City

I didn’t want the Nevada Appeal’s yearlong birthday celebration to pass without a nod to Alan Rogers, who was a columnist for this newspaper for 14 years.

It’s been another 14 years since Alan died in his sleep in his apartment on King Street, but I know longtime residents around here remember him and his weekly Street Talk column.

In many ways, Alan was my introduction to Carson City and Nevada when I arrived in 1996.

I met him on my first day on the job at the Appeal. He told me he covered boxing and chili cook-offs for the paper. I was skeptical.

“Boxing and chili cook-offs,” I repeated. “Really?”

On my second day, I was driving along Curry Street and noticed a fellow waving enthusiastically at me from a passing car.

“This sure is a friendly place,” I thought. Then I realized it was Alan, who was doing his best to welcome me to town.

Alan had his secrets and his quirks, such as writing a column about the other two men in town also named Alan Rogers without ever mentioning that wasn’t his real name. But I soon came to realize nobody knew more about what was going on in Carson City.

It was still, in many ways, a small town. And, like the rest of Nevada, had its own secrets and quirks.

Not long after we met, he invited me to lunch. He picked up the tab at the Ormsby House coffee shop, paying with a buy-one, get-one-free coupon. I still smile when I think of him treating me to a free lunch.

Alan was a funny guy in a baseball cap who could pick up the phone and call George Foreman or dozens of other celebrities. Who had once talked Jay Leno into giving him a ride on the back of Leno’s motorcycle. Who was a familiar face to Arnold Palmer when the golfer showed up to dedicate his course in Dayton.

His Street Talk column told the stories of hundreds of ordinary Carson City residents. His interview show on Carson Access TV was the epitome of down-home fare.

“Alan found something special about the people who make up our area,” then-publisher Jeff Ackerman wrote in the Appeal after Rogers’ death in October 2001. “He realized that everyone had a story to tell and he was a good listener and a good storyteller.”

He wrote as plainly as he talked, and he put people at ease. Alan was a citizen journalist before there was a name for such people — the former mailman and casino dealer who loved his adopted hometown and wanted to share it with the world.

I eventually learned why boxing had an important history in Carson City, from the Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight to the ring in the Ormsby House, and I even became something of a chili cook-off judge, thanks to Alan.

I thought of him in the context of the 150-year history of the Appeal because of the importance of the relationship between the newspaper and the community.

It’s all about the people and the stories of their lives. Alan made those connections, and we all learned from him.

Barry Smith was editor of the Nevada Appeal between 1996 and 2006.


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