Hoover Dam

The Story of Hoover Dam - Articles

Fortune Magazine - September 1933 (continued)

Perhaps the laborer's constantly clean shirt is the most astonishing phenomenon of life in Boulder City. It is to be expected that the 200-odd white-collared upper-crust will behave themselves, play bridge and gossip and live the normal restricted small town American existence. It is not at all to be expected that a great shifting labor community of various nationalities shall persistently maintain the peace. But Boulder City police records list one major crime--a holdup. Drunkenness is virtually unknown; street fighting, ruction, and personal explosion ditto. At evening mess scarcely any can be seen whose streaked and sweaty exterior suggests the conventional labor gang. All look respectable and self-respecting. Perhaps this calm is caused by the sense of money in the pocket--the unemployed are not allowed to hang about the reservation. But there are two better reasons. One is an odd, perhaps slightly sheeplike consciousness of living in a clean shirt community. The other is Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is a Nevada town twenty-three miles away, where drinking, gambling, and all the grosser forms of self-expression flourish. It has bars with fair whisky at twenty-five cents a shot, as well as more intricate and dearer drinks. It has gambling hells where crap, roulette, bird cage, black jack, and good stud-poker games continue all night long. It has its famous if slightly sinister Block Sixteen, where life holds out smearily powdered and licensed human arms to comfort labor's loneliness. Every two weeks or once a month a man can visit Las Vegas--roar, lose money, fight, make love, even get knifed or shot if he goes berserk. Normally, however, he pilots his sagging frame back to Boulder City, where a federal ranger halts him at the reservation gate. If he is still stupid drunk he is placed in a stockade outside the gate to sleep it off. The next day he returns to work, purged, penitent, and pleased with his clean shirt.

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Last Updated: 7/13/22