You might recognize figures like these – amazing old-west wood-carvings with slot machines from the 1950s. Not that you are that old, but hey, they’ve been around since then. You can still see them in some vintage settings like Virginia City, NV (near Reno).
In the late 1940s, Frank Polk began carving the first of 92 wooden western figures to fit slot machines, and they were sold to casinos in Northern Nevada, as well as other places.
Originally produced for Harry Skelly’s Character Manufacturing Company of Reno, the sculptures held both post-war Pace machines as well as the preferred Mills High-Tops. Skelly’s also produced twenty-one plastic cocktail waitresses, each holding a Pace BELL, for the Golden Casino in Reno. Those machines graced the lobby of the Golden Bank Club when it was still owned by Bill Graham and Jim McKay.
In 1979, Master woodcarver Mannie Sanchez (Trinidad, Colorado) produced 15 old-west figures (shown in the photo above) using the same care and precision that went into Frank P0lk’s carvings. These newer figures were fitted with re-manufactured Mills High-Tops, and have been in private hands ever since.
Mannie is an amazing artist and now dreams of teaching others to do the kind of work he has spent a lifetime doing. A few years back, it appeared we would be working together at a new equestrian center in Raton, New Mexico.
Unfortunately, the deal for the center fell-through, but Mannie continues to do wonderful work. The circus wagon he made for the town of Raton (same link as above) is just beautiful. One of his students, Rose Cozzettte, of Canon City, CO, has a number of examples of her work on the web, and her work reflects his deep belief in high craftsmanship.
Anybody own one of Mannie’s slot figures or one of the original Frank Polk’s?
Thanks for reading – Al W. Moe