To her surprise, she was met by hotel-casino owner John Ascuaga with a diamond-filled gold medal, news media and a grateful staff. The smell of freshly stewed seafood permeated the air, adding to the warm atmosphere.
After 45 years as a Nugget employee, one would expect something different, but for Jensen it was just another lunch-time service. As she listened to Ascuaga talk her up to a news camera, she whispered to her co-worker.
“He’s just gumming me up too much,” she said.
When Jensen started in 1967 after moving to Reno, a half-dozen oysters cost $1.85, chowder cost 35 cents for a cup or 50 cents for a bowl and gumbo cost $1.85. Times have changed in many ways, as shown on a cork board covered in old clippings from the Nugget newsletter. Not only were the hairdos different, eyeglasses got smaller and bigger, clothing changed with the times and the Oyster Bar shifted in more than a few ways. But Jensen’s smile was the one stable thing that kept its shape: bright and cheerful, inviting and warm.
“She’s an outstanding person,” Ascuaga said. “It means a great deal. She’s trying to catch up to me, but there’s no way.”
Jensen, who is in her 70s, has a loyal customer following, according to her and the rest of the staff. She might wear comfy shoes and her glasses might not be trendy, but people know who to ask for when they want a pan roast, one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes.
“She’s a lovely, gracious lady,” said co-worker Gwen Green. “She’s a good person. Most of all, she’s very caring and she works hard and she enjoys it, she really does.”
Ascuaga, who opened the Nugget as a diner in 1955, got the idea to open the Oyster Bar after visiting a similar establishment at Grand Central Station at New York, he said.
“It just happened,” Jensen said about the passage of time. “Then one year, and another year …”
Jensen lives in Reno and has two children, Carol and Rosaline.