Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hoover Dam Stories: It Takes a Village

I'm often asked, "Why the Hoover Dam?"  So I thought I would share how I first became interested in the subject.  It all started with a one room schoolhouse I learned about in an archeology class ten years ago:

In the early 1930’s, construction plans for the Hoover Dam brought thousands from across the country in search of jobs.  This resulted in the appearance of “shanty towns” or "Hoovervilles" in and around the area accessible to the dam.  One area that was home to several of these camps was called Railroad Pass, located just south of the current day Henderson, Nevada along Boulder Highway. 

Those seeking jobs brought their families. By the end of 1931, several of the residents of the camps felt a school was needed in the area. Although some monies were supplied by the state and the county toward the establishment of the school, it was the efforts of the residents of the Railroad Pass community that had the actual schoolhouse built and running by January, 1932.  Through the use of volunteer labor, and loans for supplies, the schoolhouse was built: a dirty white, one room schoolhouse, approximately 14’X16’ (before the expansion), with two outhouses on the north side of the building. 

The small structure filled quickly.  Within two months, the need for an addition was apparent. On March 12, 1932, a School Benefit Dance was held at Railroad Pass Casino to help raise money to pay off the existing debt and to allow for expansion.  The dance was met with an overwhelming response, with assistance from several Las Vegas merchants who donated prize merchandise and the Las Vegas high school whose band played in the streets of Las Vegas to sell tickets and distribute handbills.  
By December, 1932, there were approximately forty-five students enrolled. At one point in the mid 1930’s the number of students reported at the small school was seventy-two.  They ranged in age from six to sixteen and resided in the various camps around the Railroad Pass area, which included Texas Acres, Dee’s Camp and Showwalter Camp. 

The words of one of the teachers at the school, taken from an unsigned letter archived at the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association, best describes the conditions under which she worked:

“The people were rough and tough and so were their offspring.  Upon our arrival the first day, it is very hard to guess who was the most curious, the children …or us; I know we were the most frightened.  When we arrived with the wind and dust all 72 of the kids were lined up to look us over.  The biggest one stepped forward and told us that a couple of dames were not welcome.
In the midst of our first day, Mr. Greenwood and Art Klinger, school board trustees, came along to protect us just in case.  Mr. Greenwood (was) equipped with a gallon jug of home-made corn squeezings and Klinger with a baseball bat.”

While this story may seem to many like just a tale of how a school was built in the desert, it affected me a little differently.  The people who lived in these camps were representative of the most desperate our country had.  They had nothing, many living openly on the desert floor with their children: no shelter to protect them from the unbearable heat, barely enough food to fend off starvation.  But regardless of their economic situation, they wanted, needed to provide for the education of their children.  They understood the importance of an education and as a group, this ragtag community came together to build a school.  

The stories I share about the Hoover Dam aren't as much about the construction as they are about the people who built it.  After learning more about the school, I continued to read about these people, our grandfathers and grandmothers, who persevered during hard times, and still maintained the values they considered important, such as the education of their children.
While the dam itself is a grand structure, for me it is a testament to the strength of a generation.  A generation whose story deserves to be told.  


Natalie R. Kenney said...

This is so interesting, Kel. I can't even imagine what teachers must have faced trying to wrangle a bunch of starving, displaced kids. Perhaps we should look to this as a means of what we can do today, since there are so many places where this is still the norm. Thanks for sharing the research!

Loree Huebner said...

I love your calling.

Desperate times yield interesting and inspiring stories.

Anonymous said...

You the woman, Kellinator. Excellent ... and good for you for telling their stories.

- Shunned no more!

Erica Lucke Dean said...

I really can't wait to read your book. You have done such an amazing job with the research. You're my research hero.

Dr olivia Alexander said...

DO YOU NEED FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE? Contact PCM FINANCE GROUP! for any kind of financial needs! Are you an investor, business minded, worker, student or do you need startup funds? We offer low interest rate (3%) annual, 1 to 25 years duration and easy access of loan funds within 24 to 48 hours. Minimum amount $10,000.00 to $100,000,000.00 maximum (USD, EUR, GBP). E-mail {}We Offer Loan At A Very Low Rate Of 3%. If Interested, Kindly Contact Us us now reply to email {}

Dr Purva Pius said...

Hello Everybody,
My name is Mrs Sharon Sim. I live in Singapore and i am a happy woman today? and i told my self that any lender that rescue my family from our poor situation, i will refer any person that is looking for loan to him, he gave me happiness to me and my family, i was in need of a loan of S$250,000.00 to start my life all over as i am a single mother with 3 kids I met this honest and GOD fearing man loan lender that help me with a loan of S$250,000.00 SG. Dollar, he is a GOD fearing man, if you are in need of loan and you will pay back the loan please contact him tell him that is Mrs Sharon, that refer you to him. contact Dr Purva Pius,via email:{} Thank you.


1. Name Of Applicant in Full:……..
2. Telephone Numbers:……….
3. Address and Location:…….
4. Amount in request………..
5. Repayment Period:………..
6. Purpose Of Loan………….
7. country…………………
8. phone…………………..
9. occupation………………
11.Monthly Income…………..

Email Kindly Contact: {}