Hoover Dam

The Story of Hoover Dam - Articles

Fortune Magazine - September 1933 (continued)

The gang on the job varies with the various steps in the dam's progress. The maximum estimated, but never reached, was 4,000. Less than 3,000 are at work this summer. This horny-handed army enjoys a tidy comfort that seems luxury compared to army camps of 1918. They eat and sleep in Boulder City, built on a U.S. reservation. Nobody call build houses or sell so much as a radish without a U.S. permit. And 80 per cent of the workers must live on the reservation.

A community of some 5,000 is the result, with 1,050 houses on as parched and barren a patch of wind-swept rocky desert as could be found if one were seeking an ideal spot in which not to live. But the married men have trim cabins; bachelors live in huge refrigerated dormitories, each man with a seven-by-ten room for himself. Bachelors eat in a mess hall excellent food, including iced tea and ice cream. The food is cooked and served on contract by Anderson Brothers, caterers who feed thousands of western laborers a day, including some workers in the rich vineyards of the movie locations. The quality of the food is guaranteed by a twenty-four-hour cancellation clause in Anderson Brothers' contract. The quality of the housing was dictated by the discovery that the better the workers' conditions, the faster they dug the dam. For their first-rate food and private rooms, plus transportation eight miles to the job, the construction stiffs pay $1.60 per day.

Photo of Boulder City housing.

In Boulder City beer is for sale--but no hard liquor. Today no chickens, hogs, or horses are in evidence--due partly to the lack of feed. But the city has wide, paved streets, green grass, gas stations, a sumptuous movie house, excellent cement tennis courts (lighted for night play), a baked mudpie golf course, an American Legion Hall, a hospital, and four churches--Catholic, Community (Protestant), Episcopal, and Mormon. The upper-crust employees of the government and the Six Companies live with their wives and young in tidy bungalows. Four tables of bridge of an evening strains the capacity of the largest. At the American Legion Hall dances remarkable democracy prevails, with the slippers of boss engineers' daughters tripping around to be stepped on by the best number nines of a $5-a-day laborer. The latter, however, is particular to come bathed, shaved, and with a clean white shirt.

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Last Updated: 3/13/15