Las Vegas Roots
"When I was younger and mentioned to people that I was from Las Vegas, I would often be met with the response – “I didn’t know that anyone was actually from Las Vegas!” I hear that response less so as the years go by, but there is no denying that my family has deep roots here in Southern Nevada. I’ve seen a lot of changes here over the years, and that has served me well in forming a kinship with those other locals and businesses who have called Las Vegas home as I have. How deep are those roots? Perhaps not as deep as some, but deep nonetheless.
When I was born, the population of Las Vegas was just over 200,000. Elvis was appearing regularly at The International (now the Westgate); Evel Knievel’s jump over the Caesar’s Palace fountains was a recent event; and the very first World Series of Poker was played at Binion’s Horseshoe. My high school job was as a pool valet at the Las Vegas Hilton and after I graduated from Clark High School, I attended UNLV when the Runnin’ Rebels won the NCAA basketball championship. I remember the MGM fire, the Pepcon explosion, local news footage of mobsters blown up in their cars, and all of the casino implosions to make room for something bigger, shinier, and even more exciting. I live in a city where 10 of the 15 largest hotels in the world sit as neighbors on one street, and as I drive across the Las Vegas Strip everyday on my way to and from work I think, “Nowhere else in the world is this happening.”
Still, my Las Vegas life experience pales in comparison to that of my parents. My mother’s family moved to Southern Nevada when she was only a baby, after her father had lived in a tent in the desert, working to construct Hoover Dam along with scores of others. Once the U.S. government had built some worker housing, in what was to become Boulder City, Nevada, my grandfather sent for his family. After the Dam was complete, my mother’s family moved to tiny Henderson (now the second largest city in the state). My mother graduated from Basic High School (named for the Basic Magnesium Plant) in Henderson, spending part of her childhood playing on the shores of Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam that her father had helped to build.
About 20 miles away, my father’s family had moved to near downtown Las Vegas in 1947. My grandfather was one of Nevada’s delegates to the 1952 Republican National Convention and my father’s older brother was a football star at Las Vegas High School. According to my father, a favorite high school pastime was to drive a little north of town and park along the highway in the desert to watch the mushroom clouds as the Nevada Test Site exploded atomic bombs. They blew up the bombs on towers above ground in those days, and although “ground zero” was over 80 miles away, my father describes the “flash of light,” the “rush of wind,” and the “sound of thunder” that seemed to last forever, that made each trip out to watch the mushroom clouds so exciting. Wow . . . He then worked 40 years in the casino industry and in that time likely saw just about everything the Las Vegas mystique is built on – and probably more.
There are not many of us in Southern Nevada who share this kind of history, but for those of us who do, it helps us to relate to one another, and helps us better serve the more recent members of our communities who might benefit from the experience and insight we natives have with this unique place. I offer that experience and insight to my clients, and I think they appreciate it."