Boulder City

This is an example of the single-unit housing built by the Six Companies for its married employees.

Part of Six Companies’ contract was to provide housing for 80% of their workers. Las Vegas was out of the question because it was over thirty miles away from the dam site and Six Companies wanted to keep their workers away from the vices associated with the little town. It was decided that Boulder City would be constructed seven miles from the dam site. The government would be in charge of such things as the sewer lines as well as the construction of homes for the Bureau of Reclamation workers. So many workers wanted a Six Companies home that when the construction of the houses finally commenced, it could take up to two years for a family to move up the waiting list. Workers were eager to end their long commutes from Las Vegas or move their families out of tents.

“A nice little house, one of those what they called two-room. Of course they all had porches, nice porches, so that doubled up as another bedroom, or an extra room. They were comfortable little houses . . . " Marion Allen

For women, making a comfortable home out of these houses was sometimes a trial.

“The floors were just plain old pine wood. It had no flooring, so I had to keep the children off the floor as much as I could because they’d get slivers in their little behinds and in their legs.” Mary Eaton

In addition to housing, Six Companies also provided a company store for its employees. Whether looking for clothes are something for dinner, the store met many needs. Like many other company stores, Six Companies allowed their customers to use scrip - money printed by Six Companies that could only be used at the store. Workers could set up a tab in the store, and the bill would be paid with the next paycheck. Six Companies even issued credit cards for use in the store.

Although Boulder City was initially slotted to be only a temporary town, a sense of community quickly began to develop. Residents made friends with one another, went to dances, and even made long-term plans for the community. One of the first things community members planned was a church. Church services were originally held in Anderson Mess Hall and Wilbur Square.

"On Sunday night, they would have church services. One Sunday, the Catholic priest spoke, the next Sunday the Episcopal priest spoke, and the third Sunday the [Grace] Community Church minister spoke. That was our excitement through the week, to go to church service Sunday night." Frank Baker

In a show of multi-denominational support, members from seven different traditions cooperated to build the Grace Community Church in 1933.

Whether they wanted it to or not religion played an important part in the lives of the unemployed. Many men were still looking for work and camped out around the Bureau of Reclamations Employment office in Las Vegas. Most of these men had no idea where there next meal would come from. Some, however, found food through salvation.

"All these poor men who were trying to get work, who were sleeping on the Union Pacific lawn and the courthouse lawn, and hadn’t maybe had a meal in three days, went to hear Ma Kennedy preach. If they came to God, they also got some food . . . If they would walk up and kneel down, she would pat them on the head and pray with them. Then she’d kiss them on the head and give them a little slip of paper which entitled them to a free meal." Erma Godbey

Even in the days of Ragtown, dam workers and their families realized that a school was needed for their children. As Boulder City grew into a community, families began operating schools out of their Six Companies houses, charging up to $1.50 per child. It soon became apparent that private home schools wouldn’t meet the needs of the Boulder City children so residents petitioned Six Companies and the federal government to build a school. Completed in 1932 the Boulder City school was advised by the Las Vegas School Board. Since Boulder City was officially a federal reservation, the school was not eligible for state funds and parents had to buy textbooks for the students.

Boulder City is only 30 miles away from Las Vegas and many dam workers took advantage of this proximity. When not working, men and women piled into cars and made their way to Las Vegas on the dusty and bumpy Boulder Highway. Las Vegas offered all the things available in Boulder City plus much more. Although still a small desert outpost, Las Vegas not only provided the essentials for living such as clothes and groceries, but plenty of entertainment. During the first years of the dam construction, prohibition was in full swing throughout America, making the sale and consumption of alcohol illegal. This was widely ignored, however, in Las Vegas and its surrounding areas.

The first stop outside of the dam reservation was Railroad Pass, a casino that catered specifically to dam workers. Like many other entertainment establishments, liquor, gambling, music, dancing and prostitutes were the main attractions at Railroad Pass. Designed to fit limited paychecks, entertainment at Railroad pass was very affordable.

If Railroad Pass didn’t provide all the diversion men were looking for, they could always go to Las Vegas. Two entire blocks were reserved for prostitution – Block 17 for black customers and Block 16 for white.

For some, especially the dam workers living in Las Vegas, the temptations proved too much.

“I could drink one of those home-brewed beers, and I could sleep for the rest of the day, it seemed like to me. But finally you got two, three, and four and things weren’t going so good. So I decided then I had better move to Boulder City.” Richard "Curley"Francis.