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Last Chance Joe cropped

Help the Sparks Heritage Museum Save the Iconic Last Chance Joe Statue.

The Nugget has donated Last Chance Joe and the first $5,000 to move Joe to a prominent location on the front of the Sparks Heritage Museum on Victorian Ave. in downtown Sparks. With the help of Q&D Construction and a very generous gift from the Max America Foundation,the costs  associated with the move are covered. Help is still needed from the community to cover engineering at the new location, restoration of any damage caused by the move and ongoing maintenance expenses.

Last Chance Joe historical Last Chance Joe was originally installed in 1958 at Dick Graves Nugget in downtown Sparks. He was built by RH Grosh Scenic Studios in Los Angeles – a firm that also produced work for Disney. Joe was originally shipped to Sparks via train in three pieces. He has presided over downtown Sparks for 56 years and is an irreplaceable piece of roadside Americana typical of mid-century design.

You can be a part of history. Contribute to the Last Chance Joe fund.

11 Comments, RSS

  • Barbara Young

    says on:
    September 30, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Sparks Museum is honored to play a part in saving Last Chance Joe!

    • Barbara Young

      says on:
      October 5, 2014 at 9:49 am

      Please contribute to help us save Joe! Every dollar helps.

  • Rick Vawter

    says on:
    October 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    I grew up with Last Chance Joe. When I was little I couldn’t pronounce his name, it came out Lance chance Joe. So glad to see he is going to be preserved and to stand for generations to come at the Sparks museum :-)

  • Kathleen Reading Haws

    says on:
    January 9, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    I am so happy to learn of the effort to move Last Chance Joe to the Sparks Heritage Museum. My father, Roscoe “Duke” Reading created Last Chance Joe for Dick Graves and the Nugget the year before I was born. His name is on the plaque next to the statue. My father died almost 25 years ago, and I feel that he would be thrilled that Last Chance Joe is not going to be torn down.

    I last visited with John Ascuaga seven or eight years ago, and we discussed the condition of Last Chance Joe. I’m thrilled that he will have a new home at the museum.

    I have newspaper clippings, letters from Dick Graves, etc. that document the placing of the statue at the Nugget. I would be happy to provide you with copies if you’re interested.

    Again, thank you for your effort, and I have made a dontion to the fund. I will forward the information to others in our family and to those others who might be interested in supporting this worthy cause.

    Kathleen Reading Haws

    • Margaret Stewart

      says on:
      January 13, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      Kathleen, Dan and Reid:
      Absolutely “Duke” Reading should be credited for designing Last Chance Joe.
      I will send your comments on to the Sparks Museum, his adopted home.

    • Mary Kay Graves Fry

      says on:
      September 30, 2017 at 3:24 pm

      Dan, I just saw your 2015 post today, September 30, 2017. When I somewhat recently learned about the effort of save the Nugget’s Last Chance Joe icon, I immediately thought of your grandfather. My father was Dick Graves, As a little girl I loved going to ‘Duke’s’ office with my dad. I can see it as if it were yesterday – lots of large drawing paper and fabric on a variety of flat surfaces and your grandfather always there with a smile, always upbeat.

      I remembered reading about Last Chance Joe in my father’s University of Nevada 1980 Oral History for have copied it here: “The creation of Last Chance Joe was actually done while we were still in Idaho, and we had a place in Garden City, which I’ve mentioned before, called the Last Chance Cafe so we wanted to create an idea of an old miner or something like that, and I had a very good friend by the name of Duke Reading-actually his first name was Roscoe who was an artist and had a silk screen business. I sort of commissioned Duke to come up with some kind of a character, some kind of design that we could use, and he created Last Chance Joe, which we used so extensively and of course is still being used, and I guess even in Carson City they’re still using it to a certain extent. They still have the big Last Chance Joe at the Nugget in Sparks. We eventually had rubber dolls made that were about twelve, fourteen inches high and we sold tens of thousands of these dolls. It was a good character, sold for one dollar.” 1980

      I hope somehow you see this. Mary Kay

    • Mary Kay Graves Fry

      says on:
      September 30, 2017 at 3:29 pm

      Hi Kathleen, Please see the comment I just sent to Dan. I remember your dad so well, such a kind and creative man. Know he’s been remembered fondly by me for over OMG 60 years! Mary Kay :-)

  • Reid Reading

    says on:
    January 9, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    The first–and essential–step in the construction of anything is the design. It borders on insulting not to note that “Last Chance Joe” was designed by Roscoe “Duke” Reading of Reading Display, Boise, Idaho. He did this and lots of additional work for Dick Graves over several years.

    If you revise the write-up to reflect this critical fact, “chances” are you could get a contribution or two from the Reading clan. If not, well….

  • Dan

    says on:
    January 10, 2015 at 5:52 am

    How about a shout out to the creator of Last Chance Joe, my grandfather, Roscoe Reading.

  • Julia Ratti

    says on:
    January 20, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    How exciting to hear from the Reading family. Thank you! My name is Julia Ratti and I’m the Sparks City Councilmember who initiated saving Last Chance Joe when we learned he was no longer a part of the Nugget’s vision. We moved quickly to make sure he was saved before he was lost to construction. I submitted the information to the Community Foundation so we could get a fund set up in short order to save him from the wrecking ball. Unfortunately, I’m probably the least familiar with the history and was just acting hastily to make sure he was saved. Now that we have him safely moved to the museum, he’s secure but the real work begins. Joe is in serious need of a full restoration and we’ll begin the work to raise the money to accomplish this. I promise I’ll work with the museum to get a more thorough description here on this site as we start the next round of work. Know that we’re all volunteering and all acting out of love for Joe – Duke’s lasting legacy.

  • mike

    says on:
    November 14, 2015 at 12:32 am

    Worked at the pancake parlor in The nugget in1962 & last chance joe stood out front. Apparently the casino looks more impressive but I still remember the old one..with trader Vicks across the road, And the old Circus room.

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