Ghosts of Carson: Children’s Home Cottages

Cottage #3

Cottage #3 stands out even today because it is painted with a bright teal trim. It is also built on the central courtyard floor plan.

I lived at Sunny Acres from 1961-64. I graduated from CHS while I was there and attended UNR on a scholarship awarded to the graduate from the Home with the highest GPA by the Carson Nugget. I remember rolling green lawns (Dad Trimble or Mr. Patterson mowed them on a riding mower usually with one of the smaller kids hitching a ride), plenty of good food, caring cottage parents and administrators. I had never had a Christmas before or since like the Christmases we had at the home. Nat and Jody Goldman from Las Vegas and others provided major Chistimas gifts such as stereos and clothing. We permitted 3 major requests and usually got all three from Nat and Jody as well as many other things from other generous individuals and groups who also hosted holiday parties. The atmosphere there was so festive during the holidays. The highlight of Christmas Day was a grand banquet in the main dining hall, where all of us gathered with our cottage parents. –Madelyn Colautti-Leonard

Although my stay at Cottage was a rather short stay 2 years from 72 – 74… It blesses me that those who did stay there are reaching out. Although no one ever knew what terrible things were going on at home except maybe the state. I made for the first time in my life “friends”. I actually was able to eat 3 times a day… and although Mom and Dad Head were not always the easiest to get along with… i will remember them until the day i die. I remember the Rex’s, I remember the New tennis court and when they made it, the Bowling alley, and i loved playing in the Gym and the outside basketball court. All the good food, and i also remember the incidents that scared me too, the wrestling of boys to the floor, boys too young smoking, and the unbelievable activities that took place between the children… But in retrospect there wasn’t a person there that i didn’t care about and found that as an adult its a part of my life that i treasure… only because i came to find out what it means to really love and be loved. My home was filled with violence, beatings with 2x4s mercilessness, Whitenburg Hall was a refuge from that violence, Mom and Dad Head proved that they not only cared for me but every boy there.
I had my “first” kiss there i played baseball, and football, smear the Queer, went fishing in the Carson river, but the reminder of what could lie ahead was down the road at the state prison. I remember it well… –Steven Doherty

The “Rex’s” were mean, nasty, abusive drunks. I was in cottage two for a couple of years. I got to NNCH in December 73 and Don and Mary Smith were the cottage parents. The Rex’s came back to work in cottage 2 when the Smith’s left. Don died soon after from cancer, I loved them very much. I then went to cottage 3. Funny thing though, I haven’t heard from all the girls that were basically gang raped by 40 messed up boys there. I think back on some of the shit we did and it makes me sick. I remember being beat like a man from the social worker dude named Carter and the dad from cottage 6 Richards for much of nothing. One summer I was out mowing lawns with my buddy Russel Smith, he had a brother named Rod and a sis named Tasha, anyway Russell cut his toe off via the lawn mower, poor guy never could break dance after that. I went to work for the Department of Prisons in 85 and saw way to many homies locked up. That sucked. –Daniel Brough

Next Page: Cottage #4


  1. I think it is a horrible idea to demolish part of Carson City’s history. So many buildings have been lost to demolition and fire. I can’t believe something can’t be done to renovate these buildings back to some sort of useful purpose for our community. How about asking your readers what they would suggest if we could save them?

  2. Have you seen the book..”my life as a home kid: Nevada State Orphan/Children”s Home” ?The author Bonnie Boice Nichkawa lived there from the age of 3 till she was 18.

  3. This is a much needed home again for children can’t we keep it for children in need again. No matter how but it should be kept for kids. The foster care system in this city needs to be expanded there is so much need how can we use this property to help somebody.

  4. I grew up in Carson City, I had a lot of friends from the home. I Loved them all. we all need a little love and friendship from time to time. I wish I could find some of them Like Kenny Medeiros he was a great friend, who taught me how to walk again after falling off a horse, he got me through a really hard time and I would love to say thank you after all this time. Great People came from this place. I think is should still be open for the children.

  5. I would love it if they could restore them, but the cost is so high to remove the asbestos. It is hard to see them rot and will be sad if they tear them down. So many of us in the community are connected to these cottages. Mine was cottage #4 and am so thankful for the love and care I received!

  6. I agree that these homes should again go towards troubled youth in Carson City!! I grew up here, and I still live here now and i see homeless people with young children all over! Can’t we maybe use these homes for those families if not for the kids in general?? Why do they insist on destroying everything around here?? We dont need more office spaces…there are buildings with space open for rent all over town we need to fill those first!!

  7. The last stop in my time as a ward of the state was cottage 6, with Mom and Dad Gay. They were really good people, who did right by me. I wish I had given them the thanks they deserve.

  8. I’ve got so many memories from here. Met a lot of friends living at the homes when I lived in Carson City. I wish I could reconnect with everyone.

  9. I was in Cottage 5 from 1965-1978. My first cottage parents were the Lennox’s but not for very long. We then were blessed with Ad & Stew Osborne, what amazing people. My sister, Kay, was in cottage 5 as well and my brothers, Dale, Carl & Jay were in cottage e2with the Rex’s then the Smith’s. We had Hattie Becker loved her, hated that vacuum. I remember the Christmas dinner that the Harold’s Club employees did every year, Jack Kogen & Wilber May’s generosity. Two weeks at the 4-H camp every summer. Vacations in August,going to Europe. But mostly I remember the kids. Katy, Peggy, Diane , Gayle, Sandy, Debbie, Chris, Erin, Sarah & Cheryl, Rusty, Eugene, Jimmy, Zephas, and so many others. And some not so fond, Pat Reddick, but mostly I have great memories. I hope when some start to think only bad thoughts that they remember what their lives were like before they ended up at NSCH. Find the good stuff and let the rest go. ( well, except for Pat Reddick😉).

  10. The long building in section 11was the original commissary. The wood building was the new commissary. The old commissary has a side door where we took all our sheets on Saturday to be sent to the prison for cleaning.

  11. My sister worked there when 1 house was used for an emergency shelter for kids thru Volunteers of America. I agree they should not be destroyed wish they could be used for the homeless or someone in need. I wish they could remodel them and use them for a service for people. Not for office building.

  12. The seetest thing in the world to me at that time lived in cottage 7. My father a very predjudiced man even to this day says horrible things about the Native American indians in particular the Piaute Indian. But i really love one her name “Jennifer Zuniga” she was beautiful and soft spoken. There were a few times I tried to let her know , but this blond haired blue eyed kid well just wasnt her type lol. I have told my father about her in the most possitive way I could , but he is old and set in his ways.

  13. I lived in this cottage for 2 years 1972 -1974 directly accross from cottage 7. We used to store our bikes on the patio, and I also remember the year they put in that stinky tennis court. Used to play every hour imaginable in the basketball courts up near the main office, and remember the commissary, the special suckers on the sticks that we used to be treated to. My trips to my best friend Rico james’s home down the road. jumping kids with our bikes and make shift ramps. I believe jumping 6 was the limit for me. the baseball field, and the little playground is gone. I had my first french kiss on that baseball field lol. I forgot her name she was sweet but myself a little scared of the whole thing. Going to the public pool in the summer where I learned how to swim after almost drowning in the Carson City River with the guys looking on stunned because i didnt come back up after falling into a fish hole lol. The trip to San Diego, the Worlds fair in Spokane Wa. The trip I took with Mom and Dad Head to san francisco with their two grand daughters. I missed my brothers and sisters at home but I didnt miss the abuses. If i had had it my way . I have pictures of me outside of Cottage one back in the day. A blonde haired blue eyed kid with leathery skin from all the time spent outside. I have a good memory and i can recall many things about being there, just as if it happened yesterday. Like the time I got caught by motorists fro throwing snowballs at traffic. I in my big old snow boots just couldnt run fast enough to get away lol. But i never told who was with me when we were diing these kid things lol !!!

  14. My heart breaks to know the cottages will be destroyed. Although they are old and it is not cost effective to restore or remodel them…the children’s home was my safe place growing up. I lived in Cottage 4 with all my cottage sisters and Mom and Dad Rowton. So many good memories. I hope they make a park there so us NNCH kids can still revisit our childhood stomping grounds.

  15. I enjoy coming back to this site to see who has commented and had to laugh at Susan Manning’s comment about Pat Reddick. I think he was the one who was beating me up the day a giant crow swooped down from the trees next to Cottage Two and bird-pooped his head. It dripped right down his forehead all over his face, and he hit me harder and harder – I was pinned to the ground – but I couldn’t stop laughing. Some people! I’ve never really known who that meanie was, but I am guessing now that it was Pat.

    But all said, I am still grateful for having had a home. As others have said, for many of us this was a big step up from where we came from.

    I If anybody from NSCH wants to contact me I can be reached at michael dot corrieri at gmail dot com.

    Peace & Love – Mike

  16. I almost forgot to mention these jewels:

    “Ruby Station” is an interesting name for Cottage Two now. Because Mrs. Rex’s real name, was Ruby Golding Rex. Her and William Jay Rex (aka Bud), were Mom and Dad Rex. They were both from ranch families in Southeastern Arizona. After they were married they spent some time as pack guides in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Bud Rex ran a ranch in California during WWII, and Ruby was loved by the townspeople as a socialite, artist, and pianist. They had foster children then on their ranch, raised with their own son, and they even rescued miners from a collapsed vanadium mine. All of that before “retiring” to be cottage parents at NSCH.

    There are articles about both of them online, including a great write up about Ruby in the Los Angeles Times during the war, and their remains can be visited at the Yerrington Cemetary.


  17. Hi everybody I really love reading your story about the children’s home I miss all of you guys this is Tanya hooks Frida z e p h a s hooks little sister me myself I think we should all get together and just buy the children song it’s very heartbreaking to see where we grew up as one big family go to hell like that anyway if anybody remembers us you can call me at 916 470 six zero four five much love Tanya hooks and Frida z e p h a s

  18. I am one of the ghosts. Cottage 2 was my home from 74-75 until I graduated from CHS.
    I don’t know how I got to this site. Devine intervention, I suppose. I have visited this place several times since leaving, tho I have carried these memories my entire life. A lovely lady greeted me when my plane landed from Las Vegas. With her were two boys I later learned, my cottage brothers.
    I arrived at cottage 2 as the boys were getting home from school. I remember sitting in the living room and thinking were the hell am I, but something strange was about to happen. I heard loud voices as two HUGE MEN stormed past me to a bedroom in the back of this house. I had no idea as to what was happening, I sat watching as they soon left. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. Funny how things stay in your head. I’m just this 5ft6 little Italian kid.
    Out come these 2 boys, Danny and Tim I believe. The men, a Mr. Carter and the other I can’t recall. They had just taken these boys and beat them like they were men. To this day… I’m still sorry to you, Danny and Tim
    So, welcome Bob. Cottage 2, Home.
    One of the many memories I have of NNCH. All of you, sharing your stories, I Thank You.

  19. I guess some wind up feeling like we should give something back. My life has taken me into the field of Early Child Education and am presently employed with the Head Start program in the county in which I now live. It is my privilege to work for one of the agencies that serves underprivileged children in my area. Guess it takes one to know one.

  20. I lived in cottage #5 with my little sister, Kevan Opatz is my brother. We were moved there from Child Haven,Las Vegas back in the 70s My name is Kandy and my sis name is Desiree. I remember being scared too death. Wondering what was gonna happen to us. But as time went on the feeling left me and I excepted it as my home. My cottage parents were the Osbournes. When I look back now I believe that they both had geniune love for all of us girls..considering there was 10 of us and I am sure we were a handful. They were not a young couple and they still did an awesome job! Especially when some us started sneaking out at night…me, Jessie, Erin, Vicki.. crazy but fun times! The worst part was getting caught and the duties lined out for us to do. I remember having to do all the windows inside and out and scrub and polish all the pans in the kitchen and getting grounded. But I deserved it! Today I am married to my awesome husband 33yrs raised 4 kids and have 3 gran-kids..I am greatful for the friends [sisters] there with love and the important life lessons I learned from living at NNCH I am also a registered care giver and daycare I do believe you can become a blessing no matter what your circumstances were, its a choice we can all make..forever greatful for the experience.

    • Hello Kandy
      Your brother and I were good friends when we lived in cottage 1 with Mom and Dad Head. They were strict with us but they had alot of compassion. Kevin and I talked for many hours about your life when you all lived with with your parents.
      And many of the children who lived in the childrens home were quite the handful, and reasonably so, a lot of us came from very disturbing and difficult situations that no child shouldve never gone through. I remember all of you Opatzs’ All of that blonde hair LOL
      It makes my heart happy to know that you have had a very wonderful life after all the things you and your siblings endured. Through out my life i have often wondered whatn had become of you and your brother and little sister. I remember Kevin always talking about joining the Military , and when I saw him again , once as an adult, that is exactly what he had done. I was in NNCH for only two years and I had alot of friends in and out of the home , and that was a new experience for me !!!! I excelled in my grades and also learned how to write poetry with the English teacher Miss Smith at Carson Middle school in the seventh grade. I never thought that would lead me anywhere at that time , but it has with myself becoming not ony a musician but a song writer :). Kandy I am very happy for you and how blessed your life has become. All of my best regards to you , your Husband and all of your children and grandchildren.

      Sincerely: Steven Doherty

  21. I too am very saddened with prospect of the NNCH being torn down. There must be something that could be done. I visited there in the
    90’s and found the people working there to be very accommodating by letting me look around the cottage. It was like that sort of thing happened all the time. I believe it is important to have a childhood home to go back to sometimes, since most of us lost that through circumstances beyond our control.

  22. Such a long time ago ………… I believe I took a young girl named Misty out a couple times. Once to Lake Tahoe. It was there that I realized she was only going there with me because she had a crush on Bob Dagget. ( this could totally be a figment of my blurred memories ) It was ……………a very long time ago but I was friends with several of the kids there. Just seemed like houses full of life with kids everywhere.

  23. It’s so strange to see the cottages now abandoned and neglected. In 1961, most of them were state of the art brand-new. My sister and I were among the first to occupy it: 10 girls and and a house mother to move into the brand new cottage on Stewart Street. It was beautiful with, if I remember correctly, 5 bedrooms, the largest being occupied by three residents, three double occupancy, and one single. I had the single my senior year as the student with the best grades. There was an apartment for the house parents. We had a housemother, which I thought great. Since all of us were girls, a man in the house would have been awkward. As it was, we could watch TV and do homework in nightgowns or p-js. There was a fully equipped kitchen with state of the art appliances, a dining room with a nice big table to eat at and to do homework, A big living room, a sitting room for visits with family or friends. and outside a patio where we could barbecue. Each of us took a day of the week to prepare dinner.
    What a shame they have been neglected and allowed to be boarded up. I saw that for a time they were used by the Boys and Girls Club. The state should renovate them and open them up as affordable housing or temporary shelter for children awaiting permanent. placement.

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