A lesson from Joyce Mack

One must be a curious listener to be an oral historian. You must respect the narrator and value the responsibility of what is shared with you.  We are not reporters looking for the “story”. Instead we see ourselves as historians seeking to learn about a period of time, a geographical area or a social occurrence from the perspective of individuals who may have experienced it or learned about it through their ancestors. Thus, it is my great honor and responsibility to gather the stories of Las Vegans of Jewish ancestry who helped build this great community over the decades.

When I met Joyce Mack the first time, I could I cherished how others around her valued her contributions to Las Vegas, to UNLV, to her family and friends. The day she sat for an oral history we sat at her kitchen table that overlooks the golf course at the Las Vegas Country Club. As she recalled the past, I could only imagine what it must have been like to have lived in Las Vegas during those early days.

At the end of the interview, she gave me a copy of Quiet Kingmaker (by Jack Sheehan). She was resolute that I would value reading this story about Parry Thomas, her husband Jerry’s best friend, business partner and a Mormon. It is my practice to read any book that is given to me. I soon understood why Joyce felt it so important to this project. Through a series of oral histories, the reader learns the importance of Nate Mack, Joyce’s father-in-law; the tremendous manner in which business people of various backgrounds forged friendships and successfully impacted the growth of Las Vegas. 

So it is that I am seeing that the story of those of Jewish ancestry is not solely about being Jewish. That there is an ecumenical history in Las Vegas and many lessons yet to be learned. The Mack family is a cornerstone to this story.