Closing Shop: The Doctor's Wives Rummage Sale
A look at how it began, and why it came to an end...
Today (Tuesday), they gave out the last checks to charity from Reno's very last Doctor’s Wives Rummage Sale. It capped decades of bargains and raised $2 million total over its 65-year lifespan.
It began in 1951, back when Reno was still the gambling capital of the United States, the original arch ruled over Virginia Street...and Harry Truman was our president. Jean Myles was here in the 50's. She told me, "It was amazing, because there were a lot of people. And at that time we had donated venues." One early year, it was inside a car dealership. Jean says, "We had to clean it up. We couldn't use the bathroom, so we had to go across the street, to the motel across the street."
The rummage sale was born out of desperation. After World War 2, the U.S. had a shortage of nurses, and Reno especially had a hard time bringing them to town. Doctors told their spouses, and Linda Smith, co-president of the Alliance to the Washoe County Medical Society, says the wives took up the cause: "They said, 'Hey, we'll have a rummage sale. We'll all go through our closets and garages. We'll bring all our stuff..."
The plan was to raise money for nursing scholarships, and graduate some homegrown medical help. They were starting from scratch. Jean says, "When we did this, there were, there was no nursing school in Nevada."
Back in 1951, the take from the very first doctor’s wives rummage sale was only a couple of hundred dollars, at most. Flash forward to 2016, and we're talking a hefty haul of over $50,000. And over time, $1.9 million. And who gets that money has changed. Linda told me, "We had enough money, that we could go ahead and support some other non-profits that needed some help too."
The doctor’s wives sale got so big, they set up a grant applications to distribute the funds. But after doing so much good for so long, the rummage sale is no more. 2016 was its last, ending a 65-year streak. Linda told me, "It’s ending because times have changed, because the need for rummage doesn't exist like it did before." Jean added another problem: "People are busy. The young wives are working. They are businesswomen. They are physicians themselves."
Jean was there for that decision. It’s hard news to take for her. But when she looks back at her own 58 years with the rummage sale, she tells me, "I'm surprised I'm still here. I think it’s a wonderful organization. It might have kept me young!”
The Alliance to the Washoe County Medical Society will continue raising money for scholarships to TMCC and the Orvis School of Nursing.