Sparks history lives on

Les Ede

Photo By Jimmy Boegle

Les Ede, 59, is the president of the Sparks Heritage Museum. Ede, a Sparks native and a 1960 graduate of Sparks High School, retired as a captain from the Sparks Fire Department in 1994 after 30 years with the agency. The Navy veteran lives in Sparks with his wife, Coleen. The couple has two children. The Sparks Heritage Museum, 814 Victorian Ave., celebrated its grand re-opening Aug. 9 after a $100,000 renovation. The museum can be reached at 355-1144.

So, tell me about the Sparks Heritage Museum.

It started in 1985 when a group of Sparks residents got together and saw that a lot of the history of Sparks was being pitched out. The group came up with bylaws and articles of incorporation [for the museum]. They talked to the city manager and got a small office to start with. They started collecting things. In 1988, they moved over here into a storefront. That was 1,250 square feet.

Then what?

The site here was the senior citizens’ center. When they moved out of here, the museum moved in. When the county moved out of the [adjacent] library and justice court building, the museum twisted the county’s arm into placing the building under historic preservation and donating it to the city of Sparks. The museum’s now more than 6,000 square feet.

What part of the museum’s collection are you proudest of?

We have a lot of railroad stuff here, and I lean more toward that end. I’m a model railroader. We just acquired a pre-World War II Lionel train set in nearly mint condition. I’m really proud of that. We have a really nice operating player piano. You’d better be in shape before you play that thing, because you have to pump it. We also have a bellows pump organ from the Baptist church [that used to be] on 12th and “D” streets. It’s still in working condition.

Why is preserving Sparks’ heritage so important?

People are always looking for their roots. If you don’t have a museum, how can you find out where your roots are? It gives you a sense of community.

You’re a firefighter and train guy. Your feelings on the proposed trench?

It’s a fiasco. Being a firefighter, you learn that water takes the path of least resistance. If you build the trench lower than the river, then where’s the water going to go? And what’s going to happen when Reno floods? But that’s not part of the museum, so let’s get back on subject.

Sorry. What’s in the future for the museum?

One, we need more storage space. Two, we plan to add another 2,500 square feet to the back of the building. I’d like to get more people involved in the organization, because basically the same group of people that formed the museum is still on the board of directors. At 59, I’m the youngest person on the board. We need to get more people involved. It’d be a shame to see this go away because of a lack of interest.