Charlie White – Donner Lake Specialist
Charlie White is able to describe a time when there were no fences on West End Beach, when a family named the Jamesons ran a concession there.
A 45-year resident of Donner Lake, White recalls coming up from the Bay Area with the Oakland Ski club as a kid. The drive took eight to 10 hours. “After you passed the signal in Fairfield, it was an isolated trip up Old Highway 40 into the mountains,” he recalls.
He saw Interstate 80 go in, and recalls a fire that burned from the Donner Lake interchange to Verdi. He remembers traveling up a dirt road over Brockway summit, the now paved Route 267, to evacuate the area. A fire was burning in Foresthill at the same time, and White took a picture from the top of Brockway summit of two separate smoke plumes rising up and meeting each other.
White is able to rattle off a number of jobs he’s held locally, claiming to have had fun at most of them including working as a dishwasher at Donner Lake Lodge which stood at the current site of Donner Lake Village. He dug ditches for water lines for the Donner Lake Utility Company, and fed logs into milling machines at the old lumber mill. White also worked for three days at Smart’s Cafeteria, where Zano’s is located. The walk between Smart’s and the west end of Donner Lake proved more than White was willing to do at the time.
A competitive skier for Sierra College and Chico State, White later worked as a ski instructor at Squaw Valley and Boreal. For a short time White also worked as a laborer for Sierra Pacific Power Company putting in poles from Incline to Donner Summit. On more than one occasion he used a Snow Cat to rescue stranded customers.
From the stories White is able to tell, it’s obvious he fully enjoyed his years spent at Donner Lake as a teenager where he water skied with the Donner Lake Water Ski Club in the summer and in the winter, he charged $1.50 to chain up cars or 50 cents to take them off.
For a time he also worked at the Truckee Tahoe Airport, which later led to a position serving on the board of the Truckee Tahoe Airport District. A licensed pilot, White started flying soon after the airport was dedicated in the 1950s. White also enlisted in the Army where he served two years in Korea as a company commander and signal specialist, setting up radio communication with the States.
Most locals nowadays know Charlie White as the owner and broker of Donner Lake Realty. Charlie White’s father Carson White started Donner Lake Realty in 1973. White and his wife Diane took over the business in 1986. Their son Chris, who is a student at the University of Nevada, Reno, has ambitions to take over the family business.
White supplies another memory of a lost era as he recalls how he met his wife Diane who worked at the Beacon Hill Lodge in Soda Springs which has since burned down. An ad in the Sierra Sun invited readers to “Come on up for Happy Hour during the game and get your 50 cent hotdog.” White went up for his hot dog and at 6 p.m., when Diane told him that happy hour was over, he told her he didn’t think so. Since he was the customer, Diane allowed him to be right. Consequently, they must have hit it off. They have been married almost 30 years.
Charlie White has been involved with the community serving as director of the Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce during a time when locals considered forming their own county.
White is also the current past president of the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors, and has been active with local scout troops, and more recently, has worked with the Civil Air Patrol, a youth cadet group of which he now is deputy commander.
A discussion of development at Donner Lake caused White to break out a 1970s era Donner Lake Development Company map showing plans for extensive subdividing and development of the area ” most of which never came to fruition.
Full of information, White can also recall a time when a pipeline was installed in Donner Lake which ran straight up the hill to Tahoe Donner. A committee with the motto “Plug the Pipeline” formed and eventually the developer of Tahoe Donner was forced to remove the pipeline.
White claims he doesn’t get to ski or water ski as much as he used to, but he keeps track of Donner Lake’s temperature, noting that 2005 marks the warmest the lake has ever been, 74 degrees.
Charlie White has spent a lot of time here, digging ditches, washing dishes, rescuing power customers, skiing and waterskiing, serving on committees, flying airplanes, selling real estate, growing up and raising his own. It’s no wonder Charlie White cares so much about Donner Lake.