CAROLYN JEAN ADAMS TALCOTT CARLON
The information below has been compiled from a variety of sources. If the reader has access to information that can be documented and that will correct or add to this woman’s biographical information, please contact the Nevada Women’s History Project.
At A Glance:
Born: January 19, 1925, Reno, Nevada
Died/Buried: October 9, 2014, Reno, Nevada
Maiden Name: Carolyn Jean Adams
Race/Nationality/Ethnic Background: Caucasian
Married: Donald Talcott, Kenneth Carlon
Children: Lisa Carlon Rogers and Dale Carlon
Primary City and County of Residence and Work:
Major Fields of Work: Law Enforcement
Other Role Identities: Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Foster Grandparent, Secretary
Carolyn Jean Adams, a Reno, Nevada native, was born January 19, 1925 at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Reno, Nevada. Her parents were Wayne and Beatrice Brewster Adams, both formerly of the state of New York. Father Wayne was employed as a chemist by the University of Nevada and her mother, Beatrice, was a full time homemaker. A brother, Wayne, was born in 1932. The Adams lived in what was then considered a rural area in Reno, NV, but today is a very busy part of town.
In her 2013 NWHP oral history she recalled, “I grew up, as I say, on Plumas Street, and I was given a horse by my family. We would ride all day long. We’d ride all through the hills and come back. I had a wonderful childhood.”
Carolyn attended Reno schools and graduated from Reno High School in 1942. She was a senior in high school when World War II broke out. She then attended the University of Nevada for two years but her formal education was terminated when she met and then married Don Talcott, also a student at the University of Nevada. Don was drafted to play football for the Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1947 and for the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1949. During the football offseason, Carolyn and Don lived in Reno and it was there Don was killed on April 21, 1955. He was struck by a falling boom at the Wells Cargo trucking yard in an off season work accident. He was 33 years old. Carolyn Adams Talcott was now a widow at age 30.
After his death she took a trip to Hawaii with a friend, spending six months there prior to returning to Reno. While in Hawaii she worked part-time in a men’s clothing store and upon her return to Reno, she found employment at the University of Nevada in the research library. She met and married Gene Carlon and from that union, two children, Lisa and Dale, were born. During that time Carolyn was a stay-at-home mom and only returned to the workforce when her marriage ended. She found employment at the Washoe County Clerk’s office which was located at the Reno City Jail on Second and High Streets. She worked there for about three to five years. In her oral history she recounted, “One day, the lieutenant of the jail came down and he says, “Hey, Carolyn, would you like a job?” and I said “what?” And he said “We need a matron up in the jail”.That was the beginning of Carolyn’s journey into the world of public safety. Carolyn went through the Police Academy and ultimately was assigned the position of jailer in the women’s section of the jail. Her duties were to “frisk” the women inmates when they were arrested and sent to jail. Carolyn recalls she spent about 6 months in the jail before she was eligible for street assignment.
Police work in the 1950s and 1960s was predominately male dominated work and not all policemen were happy with the thought of working with a woman. Carolyn said, “I was not well accepted. I mean, they didn’t think I could do the job, didn’t like it. And the more they – they didn’t harass me, but they weren’t very kind – not kind, but they were not helpful. Pretty soon, they got over that, and now they’re my best friends”.
In her oral interview when asked whether she felt the lack of help might have been due to her “rooky” status or discrimination, Carolyn immediately replied, “discrimination”. There was, however, no discrimination in pay. She was paid on a par with the male police officers. Once she had passed her probationary period, she was assigned to do background checks with Officer Dick Kirkland, who later became Chief of Police. The majority of background checks performed were reviews for the gaming industry where they investigated “underground thieveries” and “skimming”.
Carolyn later worked vice where she arrested and transported prostitutes and was a member of the sexual assault team. In that capacity she was on duty one night in 1976 when one of the “walking police officers’ reported a car down in the warehouse district that he didn’t think should have been there”. Carolyn and her partner went down, broke into the warehouse, and found a young woman who had been kidnapped from South Lake Tahoe. She had been held overnight and sexually assaulted. Phillip Garrido was arrested and ultimately convicted of kidnapping and rape on March 9, 1977. He was sentenced to a 50 year federal sentence at Leavenworth Penitentiary, Kansas. On June 10, 1991, Phillip Garrido, now free, kidnapped another young girl from South Tahoe, California and held her hostage for 18 years before she was found and freed.
Carolyn Carlon also worked on the case of, a young woman who was slain in the early 1960’s and dismembered as well as the case of a Reno prostitute, who was killed about the same time as the college student. Carolyn commented on the fact that murder of the prostitute received little attention in the press in comparison to the murder of the “bright, young university student.”
During her years with the sexual assault unit, she was actually assigned to the police department juvenile office where she could be easily available for rape cases. At the juvenile office she and the other officers assigned there would do the initial investigation of abuse and neglect cases, after which the cases would be transferred to social services. She was credited with developing the first Reno Police “rape test kits” which contain devices used to collect evidence such as hair and fibers from a victim, then given to an independent laboratory to be tested. The results of such analysis could be used as evidence in a court of law. This was not one of Carolyn’s favorite assignments as, “It wasn’t as challenging. And you’re dealing with parents who are mad at you anyhow”. She remembered she worked in the sexual assault unit for five or six years.
During her time on the force when asked about her own child care during the years she worked as a policewoman, Carolyn said one of the bailiffs’ wives would come to the house to baby-sit for her. The woman lived nearby and could come anytime a need arose, which made it much easier for Carolyn to work as a policewoman whose hours could widely fluctuate when she was working cases.
Carolyn retired from the Police Department in 1984 and then found work as a secretary at the Brookfield Private School. She worked there 13 years and quit only when she had to undergo a hip replacement. After her recovery, she became a foster grandparent at the Smithridge Elementary School, a job she loved. When asked what she was most proud of in her life, Carolyn stated, “I think being a police officer, because it was more helpful to the community…”.
Carolyn Jean Carlon’s 2014 obituary noted that “Mrs. Carlon was described as being an “icon of the police department.” She was loved by so many and touched many lives. Certainly this statement reflects a life dominated by community service by a woman who was thrust into the working world at a time when it was uncommon for women to have careers, and especially careers in the world of criminal justice.
Researched and written by Marcia Bernard Cuccaro. Posted to Web Site May 2016.
Sources of Information:
- Carolyn J. Adams Talcott Carlon, Oral Interview – April 16, 2013,. Nevada Women’s History Project. Interviewers: Patti Bernard and Kathy Noneman.
- Reno Gazette-Journal, 10/17/2014, Carolyn Jean Carlon, Obituary.
- 1930 United States Federal Census – Ancestry.com Carolyn J. Adams.
- 1940 United States Federal Census – Ancestry.com Jean Caroline Adams.
- 1930 United States Federal Census – Ancestry.com Donald Talcott.
- U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 – Ancestry.com Donald Talcott.
- U.S. Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963 – Ancestry.com Donald Talcott.
- http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/rgj/obituary.aspn=carolyn-jean-carlon 10/17/2014
- www.rgj.com Ask the RGJ: Who was Reno’s first female cop? 12/12/2014
- Wikipedia – Kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard