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Pack rat’s memories going into museum

I recently spent part of a perfectly good Saturday in a futile effort to thin my ever-expanding collection of documents, stories and personal memorabilia.

As usual, the effort began like a guard dog and finished like a lap dog. I managed to make it through a couple boxes of positively priceless stuff — decade-old day planners, sports columns written in the ’80s — that might one day come in handy. Then I collapsed in frustration.

A few pages wound up in the trash can. The rest returned to storage.

My work was done. And I took solace in a personal credo: I am a pack rat, and history needs pack rats.

Longtime Pahrump Valley High teacher and baseball coach Rod Poteete knows where I’m coming from. He is a pack rat par excellence.

Now retired, Poteete taught at the school 35 years and coached a competitive Trojans ball club a dozen of those years.

Poteete’s dedication to his Pahrump students is all the more impressive considering he and wife, 38-year Bishop Gorman educator Jean Poteete, lived in Las Vegas throughout his teaching career. (He calculates his commute put 750,000 miles on various automobiles. Believe him when he says he kept track.)

Until he retired in September 2009, he kept scrapbooks of major and minor events associated with the school. His teams were chronicled. He shot photographs and produced collages of student events. And he saved all of it and preserved duplicate copies.

“It’s just a passion,” he says, knowing that readers would suddenly be wondering what’s in his garage. “Usually when I do something I go overboard.”

What’s even more remarkable is that he not only did this on his own time, but he kept at it for nearly four decades.

“Through my years at Pahrump, I kind of became the Pahrump High School historian, which is kind of unusual since I never lived there,” Poteete says.

Unusual, and invaluable to the Pahrump Museum, which celebrates its 10th anniversary on Nevada Day, Oct. 31, by opening a section devoted to the high school’s history using portions of Poteete’s collection, which will be named in his honor.

He is providing the museum approximately 1,000 photos of Pahrump High teens, some of whom are now entering middle age, at events ranging from homecoming dances to football games. He has helped to preserve the history of a Nevada small-town high school during the better part of a four-decade span.

“For years my wife has said, ‘What are you going to do with all this crap?’ ” the 66-year-old says, laughing. “Now I’ve got an outlet.”

Poteete suspects he inherited the pack rat gene from his mother, who “always saved stuff. When I was away at school, she could clip out stories from the newspaper and save them for me. I think that’s kind of what started me with the saving. It just became a real passion.”

After attending a small Lutheran high school in Southern California, Poteete attended Stanford and became a standout pitcher. He later played in the Dodgers’ minor-league organization.

With that sports background, it only seems natural that Poteete would collect baseball cards. And he does.

Most recent estimate: more than 500,000.

He also collects Stanford and USC sports yearbooks and memorabilia. And he owns every Dodger yearbook program since the team moved from Brooklyn.

The Pahrump museum is scheduled to open its new high school wing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 2. Hot dogs and refreshments will be served.

Poteete will give away special packs of trading cards to the first 75 visitors.

Which by my unofficial count will leave the pack rat with at least 498,500 cards left.

“Just don’t tell my wife,” the pack rat says, laughing again.

Nevada native John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or at 702-383-0295.

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