Mormon the Explorer

When I was a wee, baby, barely-adult person, I wrote a silly story called “Mormon the Explorer” about the exploits of Mormon and his bestie monkey, Manywives, and their attempts to thwart the evil Logic the Fox who was always trying to explain away their religious beliefs (“Logic, no explaining! Logic, no explaining!”). Of course, there was an accompanying song, set to the tune of the Dora the Explorer theme, that contained memorable lyrical gems such as “Grab your ten speed, let’s go!” Not my most shining literary moment, probably. Later on in life, I met actual Mormons, who are mostly pretty cool people. Or, maybe I should say that I met some pretty cool people who are also Mormon. Like, I’m not an actual fan of the Mormon belief system, or any organized religion (especially ones that consider LGBTQIA+ people to be sinners), but I’m definitely interested in Mormon history – both large picture and small. And I’m lucky enough to live in an area (Las Vegas) near the Western frontier of Mormon settlement.

A couple years ago I read Recollections of a Handcart Pioneer of 1860: A Woman’s Life on the Mormon Frontier by Mary Ann Hafen. It’s a really short read chronicling Mary Ann’s life as a child in Switzerland, her family’s conversion to the LDS faith and subsequent immigration to the US, their journey across the plains in one of the last waves of handcart pioneers, and her life on the Mormon frontier, first in St. George, Utah and then in Bunkerville, Nevada. She wrote the book with the help of her son, LeRoy Hafen, who was a well-known historian and a professor at BYU. Mary Ann’s granddaughter was Juanita Brooks, another notable Mormon historian who is one of my history crushes. She was the first Mormon historian to write extensively about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which caused a lot of tension between her and the church. She feared she would be excommunicated for the book, but she chose to tell the story anyway.

If you’re interested, this is a really interesting paper about LeRoy Hafen and Juanita Brooks. It’s really long, though. I also recommend this biography about Juanita, I’m reading through it right now. I currently have a quote from that book as my Facebook cover picture.

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Hashtag relatable.

Anyhoo, when I first read Recollections, I noticed that Mary Ann married a guy named John Reber (he died a couple days after their wedding in a tragic carriage accident). It just so happens that my bestie Crazypants Clems is a Reber by birth and comes from that area, so I got all excited about that connection (she’s descended from John’s brother, Samuel). Whenever I visit her, she indulges in my insane thirst for the history that she probably gets tired of hearing old people talk about at family reunions and whatever.  I’m very lucky to have friends that put up with my insane passions. And hopefully blog readers that put up with them as well because I’m gonna be writing about this stuff a lot cos I have several trips planned this summer to do some Mormon the Exploring.

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Crazypants Clems and I. We’re even happier to see each other than we look. I ❤ her.

It just so happens that I went to Mesquite on Wednesday to see Crazypants Clems and the entire Clems family (minus the eldest child who is fucking married already wheredidthetimego???). She took me out to lunch at Peggy Sue’s, showed me the new Mesquite Library, and took me for delicious cookies and soda at The Splash Pad. But, just in case I doubted how much she really loved me, she also took me to the Virgin Valley Heritage Museum in Mesquite. She really does love me.

I highly recommend visiting it if you’re ever in the area. 10/10 would recommend. Not only was the museum pretty cool, but the museum administrator was super-nice and willing to answer all of our questions. Even the ones we didn’t ask.

One of the first things that the Clems kid noticed was that there were pictures of her ancestor, Samuel Reber, hanging up by the door. One of the first things I noticed was that there was a freaking whiskey still in the very first display. It surprised me because I don’t know a single Mormon that drinks (do they even exist?).

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Y’all!!!

The first room of the museum housed a collection of items that were used by pioneers and early settlers, mostly arranged in glass cases. Along the back wall was a cowboy exhibit with pictures of the Bundys and other (in)famous area ranchers. The museum used to be a hospital, and there was a cool exhibit of medical stuff, including a list of babies that had been born there. Crazypants knew half of the people on the list (and is probably related to half of the people she recognized). We also noticed a smallish exhibit of Native artifacts, but I’m planning a trip to the Lost City Museum very soon so I’ll learn more about Native culture there. There was also a really cool film projector that had come from the old movie theater, as well.

I’m just gonna do a photo dump.

We saw a lot of cool things. We also saw some not-so-cool things.

I guess blackface was a popular design motif in Mormon pioneer culture. And contemporary white culture in general, if we’re gonna really be honest.

We got to see a picture of Mary Ann Hafen’s family, as well as an antimacassar that Mary Ann (or her daughter, Mary, it wasn’t clear) crocheted.

There were probably 40 photos along the wall of life in the Virgin Valley from pioneer times through the 1940’s or so. I found this awesome picture of Juanita Brooks among them. I had a historygasm when I saw it.

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Behind the main room were several rooms that were set up like rooms in a pioneer home – a kitchen, a bedroom, and a sitting room. The sitting room was where I found the antimacassar. It was on a couch near a record player that played these thick, hard rubber records. The lady working in the museum (I didn’t get her name but she was really very awesome) even played one for us. Behind the museum was a little outdoor area with a family outhouse that had three seats, including a small seat for little booties. A path led to a shed-type building that housed exhibits on ranching history and military service.

Of course, my favorite room in the museum was the library/archives, so I wanna talk about that for a minute. It was just a tiny room with a few books and a whole lotta binders of stuff. Two filing cabinets in the corner caught my eye because they were labelled “to be digitized” or something like that. When I asked about them, I was informed that the majority of their collection was digitized online and accessible to the public. Be still my fucking heart. That’s not the norm for museums here, and certainly not the norm for these kinds of small-town museums, so I was pretty surprised. Oral histories are my jam, and those of you who don’t do much historical research have no idea what a fucking pain in the ass it is to deal with them sometimes. It takes hours to listen to something that you could read in literally minutes. And transcribing them – well, I’m fairly certain that’s the punishment in one of the levels of hell. There’s something Sisyphean about the constant cycle of listening, typing, and rewinding with no end in sight. So I’m always super fucking stoked when I find oral history transcripts online.

You can check out their archives here. Their larger website is here. While you’re at it, like their Facebook page here. They post mystery items every week, and it’s fun to guess what the stuff is.

I’m gonna come back to this museum later in the month. My platonic polycule is letting me take them on a Mormon history trip, and we’re gonna start in Bunkerville with Mary Ann Hafen’s grave, see the Dudley Leavitt monument, hit the Virgin Valley Museum, and then head up to St. George for the Brigham Young Winter House and Juanita Brooks’ grave. We’ll top it off with a visit to the Mountain Meadows Massacre site.

Stay tuned.

Oh yeah, you can read my other post about Mormon History here: First! And Mormons and Stuff..

 

 

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History Is My Love Language

I’m typing all this on my iPad because I can’t find the cord to my laptop. I think I left it at work, but who knows. Yesterday my friend, Lipstick, and I went on an adventure. This is us:

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The Vulgar Historian and Lipstick Go on an Adventure.

She took the picture. She’s the pretty one. I’m the one with the awesome hair.

We did a lot of talking and driving, and one of the things we talked about was our love languages. We both have the same love language – cuddling and history adventures. Lipstick called it something else, like, umm, quality time and physical affection or something. But she prolly read the whole book. I only read about four pages.

We also discussed a much better book, Anne of Green Gables, which we both love with all of our wistful little hearts. And we vowed to be bosom friends forever since we are such kindred spirits. Hopefully that means plenty more adventures ahead!

Yesterday, we kind of had a vague plan to do history stuff since Lipstick likes that kind of thing as much as I do. We heard there were some old buildings in Searchlight, but we didn’t see much interesting. We stopped in and got jerky at Gus’s Really Good Fresh Jerky, which definitely lived up to its advertising. The brisket was amazing. The Searchlight Museum hadn’t opened yet, and we were hungry, so we decided to head down to Laughlin for lunch,

Unplanned trips are the best, and I had never been to Laughlin before. Apparently, it was named after this dude, Don Laughlin, who saw the potential for tourism in the area, and bought up some property and opened the Riverside Resort. Most of Laughlin looks like it was built in the 1980’s, but that’s just a visual observation and shouldn’t be taken as a fact or anything. There was a statue of Mr. Laughlin in town that we got out of the car to look at. The statue had cobweb boogers that needed to be cleaned.

 

Lipstick was in charge of finding a place for us to eat lunch. She chose a place called Bumbleberry Flats, and I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. But she liked the name and it was close, so away we went.

The restaurant was in a place called Pioneer Hotel and Gambling Hall, which actually was built in the 80’s.

When we pulled up, I was even more skeptical. It was very old-west-saloon-and-brothel themed. It had that kind of western Main Street false storefront thing going on. The casino itself was actually closed, but the hotel and two restaurants were open. River Rick is the casino mascot (known as Laughlin Lou by some), and he’s pretty much the same dude as Vegas Vic of the Pioneer Hotel here in Las Vegas. I didn’t get a picture of the sign, but they have a weird rock art landscaping portrait that I did snap a pic of.

 

We went inside, and it was a 20 minute wait to be seated, which was surprising since it was a Monday afternoon. The hotel sits right on the river, so we went outside and looked around while we waited. It was gorgeous, y’all. The river was a beautiful blue-green and there was a cool breeze coming off the water. Lipstick and I sat on a bench and just soaked it all in.

After some time had passed, we went back inside and were seated after a couple of minutes or so. I have never been so happy to be proven so wrong about a place. The food was fucking amazing. We shared a bowl of chicken pot pie soup that was so creamy and buttery that I could barely stand it. And it had a little square of puff pastry on top that was like two orgasms in a row. I ordered the pecan french toast which was just about as perfect as it could be – crunchy on the outside and creamy and buttery and cinnamony on the inside, covered with pecans and maple syrup. Lipstick got cheddar bacon waffles with chicken and Louisiana honey hot sauce. Hers was pretty good too. If you’re ever in Laughlin, stop by Bumbleberry Flats, you won’t be disappointed. While you’re at it, stop at the hotel gift shop on your way out. They have candy cigarettes for fifty cents, which were somehow the perfect end to a perfect meal (since I gave up real cigarettes back in 2012).

After lunch, we headed back north and ended up in Nelson, Nevada. We stopped just past Nelson and did some hiking up through an area that was pretty much a tin can graveyard. We saw some cool stuff – giant sheets of metal on the ground, something that looked like a furnace, and a lizard that was too quick for me to get a picture of. We had so much fun that I forgot that I wanted to visit the graveyard. I’ll have to save that for another day.

 

After we hiked around Nelson, we went a couple miles down the road to the Eldorado Canyon where they have all this old stuff rusting in the desert. They do mine tours and rent kayaks too. It’s private property, but they let you go out and explore if you want. You just hafta stay out of the restricted areas and you can’t take professional photographs or go in the mine without paying.

Signs in the parking lot direct you to check in to the general store before doing anything. We needed water, so that was gonna be our first stop anyway. The lady at the counter was super-awesome. She was really friendly and knowledgable and funny. She told us to watch out for rattlesnakes because they had caught 16 so far this season. She also showed us a binder of pictures of dudes who didn’t listen when she said not to touch the cacti. Yup, she had “binders of men” – XD. She said that women never seemed to come in with cactus spines stuck in them, but it seemed like the lads couldn’t help themselves. For the record, here’s the cacti she was talking about.

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Don’t touch me or the cacti.

The site had also been used for a bunch of films and stuff. There was a book of pics from movies shot there, as well as musicians who had performed there or visited there. There were even a few shots of models from ads that were shot out there.

I don’t really know how to describe what the place was like. Like if the stuff on the walls of Cracker Barrel took steroids and started a resort for other old oddities, it would be this place. It was really jarring and surreal and completely fucking awesome. Lipstick said she could envision an entire season of American Horror Story shot there, and I completely agree. We’ve vowed to return to do the mine tour.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures because I was looking at everything with my for-real eyes, but here are a few.

 

There was this one weird marker that told the story of Queho who was a murderer who had somehow escaped justice and had been found dead in a cave some 20 years after his murder spree. So of course that piqued my interest and I wikipedia’d it when I got home. Queho was apparently a mixed-race Native American who either killed, or was blamed for killing, several people in the Eldorado Canyon area, including his half-brother, between 1910 and 1919. Prospectors found his mummified body in a cave in 1940. I guess the Elk’s Club thought it would be totes cool to exhibit the body one year at Helldorado Days (WTAF Elk’s Club?!?!), but the District Attorney at the time managed to get hold of the remains and give them a proper burial. Here’s a pic of the marker that tells a little bit of the story. Which is interesting for another reason that I’ll get into in a sec.

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Satisfactory! is the best I can hope for.

If you look at the bottom, you’ll see that the marker was placed in 2006 by The Queho Posse Chapter 1919, E Clampus Vitus. Well, friends, I’ll tell you, I didn’t know what in the fuck that meant. So I turned back to my good friends wikipedia and google and found out a little more.

So E Clampus Vitus (ECV) is a historical fraternal organization dedicated to the study of the old west, particularly mining. They call themselves “Clampers.” I got all this info from wikipedia, and you can read it yourself, but here’s the short version… The order started sometime in the 1800’s and a whole bunch of notable white dudes were members. Currently, they all wear red shirts and more pins than a TGI Friday’s waitress. The group seems to be a mixture of serious historical inquiry and drunken mirth-making. It sounds very much like a white-dudes-with-beards thing. I’m not a dude, but drinking and history and fucking around are my jam, so I’m curious. These kinds of things fascinate me, but I’m planning adventures at the moment so I’ll have to come back to this. If you, dearest reader, know anything about it please post in the comments.

The Queho Posse Chapter is the ECV chapter in Las Vegas. They’ve done a shit-ton of historical markers, which you can look up on their website. I peeped their fb group, and the only name I recognized was Mark Hall-Patton, which surprised me not at all as MH-P is a mirthful, bad-assed white dude historian with a beard. Fun fact, I met MH-P through church. Another fun fact, Lipstick had Mrs. H-P as a prof at uni. Isn’t the world small and weird and just as lovely as fuck-all?

Anywhoo, I didn’t mean to make this entire blog post about ECV. I just happen to get distracted rather easily.

After we were done in Eldorado Canyon, I took Lipstick to the abandoned pet cemetery in Boulder City. I’m not going to go too much into detail about that because I’ve previously written a bunch about it here. It was just as hard to find and just as big as it was last time I was there, and we explored a section that I didn’t get a chance to see last time. Here are some pics:

 

I want my grave to read “Fatums” when I die.

If all of that isn’t creepy enough, this grave has a fucking hole in it. Katie Dog, where are you? That’s a good girl….. aahhh fuck, it’s a zombie.

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So, um, yeah, we saw that movie and we knew it was time to nope the hell out of there. Lipstick said she was glad I hadn’t taken her out to the desert to kill her and make her into delicious blood sausage. I could never do that. She’s like one of those really pretty desserts that you can’t take a fork to because you don’t want to mess it up. However, I don’t think she was reassured much by Katie Dog’s possible resurrection, so it was definitely time to go home.

We’re already making plans for a return trip to Boulder City to check out some museums, and I want to show Lipstick the abandoned airport. And of course another trip to Nelson for the graveyard and the mine tour, plus our friend Chewie was talking about an abandoned boat dock which sounds kinda cool too. And we have trips to Lake Mead and LDS Dixie coming up as well. This is gonna be the summer of historical adventure, so buckle up dear reader, it’s gonna be an amazing ride.

History really is my love language. I’m lucky for all the beautiful souls in my life who fill that bucket. ❤

Segregation in Neon

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I haven’t posted in like a year because I’ve been living this rich, full, super-busy life. By “rich,” I mean we’re always broke. By “full,” I mean I have three kids who always want something. And by “super-busy,” I mean that those Facebook games are demanding, y’all.

I realized the other day that we’re living on borrowed Vegas time. We were supposed to leave a year ago. We got an extension so DivaTeen could graduate (she did, today), and we are supposed to be leaving for the great unknown this fall. We’re hoping we can stay here for a bit longer, but nothing is certain. And there is a lot that I want to get done while we’re still here. So I’ve got a couple of trips planned and I’m gonna be blogging about them for my entire 2 or 3 readers.

While Diva Teen was applying for scholarships, she had the opportunity to do some community service. We prefer to do things for organizations that benefit local people and don’t get a lot of money or funding elsewhere. We try to stick to smaller, community-based organizations. She does a lot of volunteer work already, but we aren’t great about keeping track of what we do. And the scholarship wanted like actual records and signed sheets and other unreasonable, boring shit. So, we reached out to a couple of friends in the community and were directed to a group called the Rights Society that was working on a community garden project. She also did stuff with Food Not Bombs, Showing Up for Racial Justice, and Nevada Desert Experience, but I wanna talk about the stuff she did for Rights Society today.

The Rights Society is a local Human Rights group that works on a variety of projects here in Vegas. They’ve worked with voter education, criminal justice reform, mental health issues, food distribution, and direct action, just to name a few. I peeped their website and they do SO MUCH STUFF. The folks we met were really great, too, so if you haven’t checked them out yet, do so immediately. They have a website, and they’re also on Facebook.

 

We spent two days at the garden learning how to lay irrigation pipe and filling up planter boxes with soil. It was a lot of fun, and I feel like we learned a skill that will be helpful in the future. The guy who taught us how to lay pipe could probably have done it a thousand times faster without our “help” but he was really patient and just super freaking awesome. Biggest thanks to everyone we met there!

The place where the community garden was being installed was Harrison House in Historic West Las Vegas. In its heyday, Harrison House was a boarding house for Black entertainers during the 1940’s and 1950’s. At this time, casinos on the Las Vegas strip drew high-profile Black performers, such as Pearl Bailey, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, and Sammy Davis Junior. However, the strip was segregated, and Black performers were not allowed to stay on strip properties. After they finished their performances, they would come to the Westside, relax at one of the Black clubs and stay in boarding houses such as Harrison House. Fun Fact: Las Vegas was referred to as the “Mississippi of the West” because of segregation. Which is not a fun fact at all. It’s a super-shitty fact that’s all-too-common in our country’s racist history.

 

In June of 1955, the Moulin Rouge casino opened in the Westside. Its hotel was the first integrated hotel in Las Vegas. It was extremely popular and drew many notable performers, both Black and white. Unfortunately, the owners filed for bankruptcy after about six months. The Las Vegas strip, itself,  remained segregated until 1960, when widespread threats of protest forced hotel owners, city officials, Black civic leaders, and state politicians to meet together to discuss desegregating the properties. In March 1960, the then-closed Moulin Rouge casino was the site of the Moulin Rouge Accord, which ended segregation on the strip.

There are tons of great articles on the Moulin Rouge Casino. Check out this one from Smithsonian, this one from LasVegasNow, and this one from the National Parks Service.

Another fun fact (this one is actually fun): The Moulin Rouge sign was designed by Betty Willis, a designer who worked for Western Neon. During her time there, she also designed another famous sign, the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign that stands at the south end of the strip. The Moulin Rouge sign currently lives in the boneyard of the Las Vegas Neon Museum, which I happened to visit with my parents just yesterday. It’s hard to get good pictures of the sign because it’s SO HUGE, but I managed a few shots. You’re welcome.

 

After segregation ended in Las Vegas in 1960, Black boarding houses like Harrison House became unnecessary. Genevieve Harrison, who owned Harrison House, died three years before the Moulin Rouge agreement was signed. The home fell into disrepair in the decades after her death and was ordered to be demolished by the city in 1983. Somehow, the demolition never occurred, and it was purchased by Katherine Duncan in 2011 who deeded it to Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce. Harrison House is now a community center and a museum – with a garden.

You can find out more about Harrison house on their website or Facebook, or go in and talk to Ms. Duncan if you get a chance. She is an absolute treasure trove of information. I can’t find their hours online, but their contact info is on their website, and I know they are open most days for tours.

I write these blog posts and I try to wrap them up with some kind of little message or insight or whatever, but I’m kind of struggling here. It’d be really cool if I could be like, “And that’s why segregation is bad, thank goodness it’s over.” But I can’t. Because this shit is still happening today. Like right now.

I mean, sure, people of color can legally go places and rent rooms (unless it’s an Airbnb, I guess, then the neighbors might call the cops on you if you’re not white enough). They’re allowed to go into cafes and eat with their friends (but not Starbucks). Neighborhoods have been desegregated for years, so it’s totally normal to see a mixture of folks in your average suburban neighborhood (okay, maybe not in Las Vegas neighborhoods). Recreation segregation is definitely a thing of the past – people of color can absolutely have access to public recreation spaces (oops, not in Oakland).

And that’s the point, you know. We don’t really have de jure segregation anymore. Like, our laws don’t typically mandate segregation (although I would probably argue that our entire fucking country was founded on white supremacist ideas, which is woven into all of our societal systems, including our system of laws). So instead of saying, “It’s illegal for you to be here, non-white person,” we just say, “You don’t belong here. You don’t belong in our restaurants, or our public spaces, or our neighborhoods. And if you are here, we’re gonna call the police to make us feel safe. Even though it might mean that they kill you. Because we don’t even really mean ‘All Lives Matter.’ We just don’t like it when you say ‘Black Lives Matter.'”

I don’t really know how to wrap all of that up into a neat little message, you know?

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The Damn Airport, the Damn Pet Cemetery, and the Damn Dam: Part 2

You can read about the damn airport here.

At the airport, we got a text from Crazypants Clems that she was coming into Boulder City, so we headed towards the Hoover Dam to meet her there. On the way, we stopped at the Memorial Bridge, or as I like to call it, the Bridge of Nope. Because there was no fucking way I was walking out on that thing. The kids did, however, and took this pic of the dam.

View from the Bridge of Nope.

 We hiked back down and Middle Little checked out a neon green Corvette and a white Ferrari in the parking lot. The white Ferrari was most definitely NOT a Porsche as I was very not-so-kindly informed by Middle Little who seriously and rightly doubts my intelligence when it comes to motor vehicles. We met the Clems family at the bridge and then headed over to the dam. After we peed in real bathrooms (not the kind that were basically holes in the ground) we went down and paid for the $30 tour. Splurge, baby. You gotta treat yourself to the finer things every once in a while. We had an hour and a half to look around before our tour group got together so we hung out in the visitors center.  I also may have played a little Pokémon Go.

The first thing we did was watch a movie. I don’t remember a whole lot about it except for some line about touching the calloused concrete skin of the dam and watching the water sparkle like jewels behind her crown. I’m pretty sure that the script was written by a romance novel writer. However, I tried the “touch my sparkling jewel with your calloused concrete skin” sexytalk with my husband when I got home and he was not. turned. on. at. all.  

What a diverse group of white people!

One of the things I noticed about the visitor’s center, and it carried throughout the tour, was that everything was presented from a really Eurocentric point of view. It was all about taming the raging wild river with American ingenuity and making the desert bloom. As if nobody was here and there was all this wasted water and then white people came and made everything better. Yay white people! The presentation reminded me of when I visited Little Bighorn in the eighties and it was all like CUSTER! CUSTER! CUSTER! oh yeah and some Indians too. Except here there were no “Indians too.”  From a public history standpoint, I found the presentation extremely troubling, particularly given the history of the struggle of Native Americans for access to water rights to the Colorado River. Struggle that is still happening today. Not to mention sacred spaces and other lands that were covered by lake water as a result of the Hoover Dam and other dams on the Colorado River. The story of American ingenuity and engineering is great and all, but why are we not also exploring what the cost is and who pays for it? 

So it was kinda fucked up.

After going through the visitor’s center, we took the tour through the dam and power plant. I’m not going to bore you with all the details, but there were a couple of things that I found interesting.

Oh look, here are the Native Americans. Appropriated in the floor designs.

The floors were fucking amazing. They were made of terrazzo marble or some shit. The marble was black and white in the power plant and pink and white inside the dam. 

Straddling the power plant and the dam.

They used a designer named Allen Tupper True to help with the interior, and he designed the Native American themed (but still very Art Deco-ey) floor inlays. You can read more about the design here. The Hoover Dam wasn’t the only thing True did. He was pretty well-known for his murals, his design on the Wyoming license plate, and his Native American inspired artwork. He made quite a bit of money selling paintings that depicted Native American life before contact with whites. No, I’m not kidding. He’s actually kind of an interesting guy, and if artwork of the American West is your thing, you can check out this website

Another thing I really loved about the dam tour was being inside the engineering hallways inside the dam. It was cool because you got to see marks in the wall left by the inspectors and how the concrete blocks that make up the dam were grouted together. As cool as the marble floors were, the cramped little tunnels felt more real.

Math is only cool when it’s graffiti.

Ventilation tunnel created by pouring concrete over a cypress wood mold.

Where two blocks come together. Brass tacks inserted to gauge alignment upon settling.

After the engineering part of the damn dam tour, we went to the top via the crowdedest little elevator imaginable. Everybody else looked around. Being afraid of heights, I mostly freaked out while everybody laughed at me. Then we went to the old visitors center and watched the presentation there which consisted of a really fucking cool papier-mâché-or-something topographical map with lights narrated by someone in “booming nineteen-sixties authoritative male” voice. It might have been my favorite part of the whole damn thing.

What is this? Why is it so awesome! Where has it been all my life? AND IT HAS LIGHTS THAT LIGHT UP!!!

 By the time the last presentation was over, our sore-assed feet were ready to walk the fuck back to our cars. So we did.  And we grabbed lunch. And laughed a lot. And talked about cat hair pie. And hugged. And made plans to meet in a couple of weeks to hike out to a concrete arrow and I’ll tell you all about that later. And I’ll tell you about the awesome freaky pet cemetery tomorrow. 

Also, I’m sorrynotsorry for all the damn/dam jokes. They’re kind of like penis jokes – when you come (heh-heh) across one, it’s really hard (ha) not to say it. Plus, they made me laugh when I was like seven and visited the dam the first time and they still make me laugh all these years later. 

The Damn Airport, The Damn Pet Cemetery, and the Damn Dam: Part 1

I haven’t been blogging for a long time, and I felt bad about that.

Then I came on here and saw a post that I had started and never finished, and I felt bad about that.

But this month is my birth month, and I feel good about that. I’ll be 40 in a couple of weeks, and I feel really good about that.

My Mormon bestie, Crazypants Clems, wanted to take me out for my birthday and she asked me what I wanted to do. I told her I wanted to do something history, and she suggested the Hoover Dam since it is an hour away from me. And I loved the idea. We planned to meet up there early-ish so we could do the Dam Tour .

Of course, I immediately planned a couple of side trips to see what else there was to see in and around Boulder City. I especially love what I call “Dirty history,” which is history that isn’t yet museumized. You know, those funky little places that are kind of off the grid and don’t show up in glossy brochures? Those places make my heart happy.

I found this cool little blog called Places that Were and decided that I was gonna check out the abandoned airfield in Boulder City and the Pet Cemetery just south of town. The website was super-awesome in that you could look up shit on your phone and then just click on the map of the location to get directions to where you were going. Which was really helpful because the pet cemetery was in bumfuck nowhere and really hard to find. Using the map on that site allowed me to know exactly where to pull off the road onto the shitty dirt road street that led to the field of death pet cemetery.

There’s a lot to get through here, so I’m gonna just give my basic impressions and then link to sites where you can get more information.

We visited Bullock Airport first thing in the morning. It’s right off the main highway that runs through town (93?). You wouldn’t even notice it if you didn’t know it was there. It’s behind a trailer park and some buildings on the side of the highway. I turned in at the back of the old hangar and parked there. In front of me was one of the old runways (above right) and then across the runway are a bunch of concrete slabs where buildings used to be (above left). The runway is pretty much dirt and gravel now. with some more solid asphalt or concrete in the center. Which is appropriate since it started out as a packed-dirt runway and it’s pretty much returned to that state. The only people who are using now it are the people who are dumping old TV’s, shopping carts, and whatever in the grass and whoever was camping out on one of the concrete slabs (we saw remains of a camp fire). It’s not super junked up, but I’d recommend wearing boots if you go out exploring. Same goes for the pet cemetery.

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X marks the runway.

The airport, named after Noel Bullock, was built in the thirties and ran continuously through the late 40’s, with TWA providing commercial service. It was also used by the Navy during WWII and had an ammo depot onsite. After TWA stopped running service, the airport was under intermittent use by local flying clubs and whatnot until 1990, when the new airport was built further South. When I was reading about the airport online before actually going, I thought it was weird that TWA provided service to Boulder City into the late 40’s. Like why the fuck are so many people going to Boulder City in 1945? But then when I took the dam tour, they mentioned that today the Hoover Dam is considered a side-trip to a Las Vegas visit. But in the immediate years following the 1935 completion of the dam, it was the primary destination for many travellers. In fact, the airport offered flyover dam and Grand Canyon tours as soon as it opened. In the 1940’s, people came to Nevada to see the dam, not Las Vegas. In that context, it makes sense why there would have been a commercial airport in Boulder City.

There are a couple of buildings still standing. One is the terminal, in use by the local Elks Lodge, which I did not get a picture of. The other is an old hangar bearing a plaque honoring Paul Fisher of the Fisher Space Pen for donating funds for the hangar’s restoration.The Fisher Space Pen was used by NASA because the pen can write in space. It can also write on butter, which is far less impactful, but also far more interesting. Paul Fisher lived in Boulder City towards the end of his life, and died there in 2006.

The hangar was locked up pretty tight, so we didn’t get to see the inside. Sadface. But if you’re in the area, then I think it’s worth stopping by and taking a look. It’s kind of neat to see the bones of the buildings and the runways and imagine what it was like when it was bustling with people coming from across the country to see the dam.

I’m going to take a break today and write about the Boulder Dam tomorrow, probably. If you’re interested in reading more about the airport, check Paul Freeman’s Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields site (scroll down) or Boulder City’s Lost Airport on Places that Were.