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Transcript of interview with Don Laughlin by Stefani Evans and Claytee White, October 10, 2016

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2016-10-10
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Minnesotan Don Laughlin landed far from the land of (more than) 10,000 lakes. His office 90 miles south of Las Vegas in the eponymous town of Laughlin commands an unimpeded view of a very different landscape from that of his youth. Here, where the Colorado River flows south through one of its narrowest channels, Laughlin arrived in about 1966 and purchased what would become the Riverside Resort Hotel and Casino. The endeavor was so successful that the then-settlement of 10 to 15 people at that tiny spot on the river grew to be an unincorporated town housing more than 7,000 people in 2010. Today, Laughlin the man continues to promote and support Laughlin the town via flood control projects and infrastructure development. In this interview, Laughlin sits amid the antique slot machines in his office and enjoys the view as he recalls his childhood on the family farm in southern Minnesota, and talks about leaving the farm in the late 1940s for nearby Owatonna to do watchmaking and watch repairing while simultaneously running a slot machine and pinball parlor. After visiting Las Vegas on vacation, he arrived permanently in 1952 and bartended at the Thunderbird Hotel until he bought his own bar and restaurant in Downtown Las Vegas, which he named Laughlin’s Made Right Café. After selling the café, he bought the 101 Club in North Las Vegas. He began searching for a casino for a casino to buy, seeking only those located on the border of a state that did not allow gambling. When he found the small hotel/casino on the Colorado River he purchased it. He talks of building an airstrip across the street and making daily trips to Las Vegas to buy groceries, beer, and toilet paper-essentially, everything one would need to run a hotel, restaurant, and casino-sometimes making three trips in one day. He continues to own and manage his hotel/casino at the age of 85, and he is in his office every day, all day, seven days a week. He gave up flying last year because he claims he’s too old to pilot his own aircraft. So is especially advantageous that the town that bears his name can now supply almost everything that he and the Riverside Resort Hotel and Casino need.

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Laughlin, Don Interview, 2016 October 10. OH-02858. [Transcript.] Oral History Research Center, Special Collections & Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

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i AN INTERVIEW WITH DON LAUGHLIN An Oral History Conducted by Stefani Evans and Claytee D. White The Building Las Vegas Oral History Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas ii ©The Building Las Vegas Oral History Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2016 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Editor: Stefani Evans, Franklin Howard Transcribers: Kristin Hicks, Frances Smith Interviewers: Stefani Evans, Claytee D. White Project Manager: Stefani Evans iii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of the UNLV University Libraries. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank the University for the support given that allowed an idea and the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader’s understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Building Las Vegas Oral History Project. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University Nevada, Las Vegas iv PREFACE Minnesotan Don Laughlin landed far from the land of (more than) 10,000 lakes. His office 90 miles south of Las Vegas in the eponymous town of Laughlin commands an unimpeded view of a very different landscape from that of his youth. Here, where the Colorado River flows south through one of its narrowest channels, Laughlin arrived in about 1966 and purchased what would become the Riverside Resort Hotel and Casino. The endeavor was so successful that the then-settlement of 10 to 15 people at that tiny spot on the river grew to be an unincorporated town housing more than 7,000 people in 2010. Today, Laughlin the man continues to promote and support Laughlin the town via flood control projects and infrastructure development. v In this interview, Laughlin sits amid the antique slot machines in his office and enjoys the view as he recalls his childhood on the family farm in southern Minnesota, and talks about leaving the farm in the late 1940s for nearby Owatonna to do watchmaking and watch repairing while simultaneously running a slot machine and pinball parlor. After visiting Las Vegas on vacation, he arrived permanently in 1952 and bartended at the Thunderbird Hotel until he bought his own bar and restaurant in Downtown Las Vegas, which he named Laughlin’s Made Right Café. After selling the café, he bought the 101 Club in North Las Vegas. He began searching for a casino for a casino to buy, seeking only those located on the border of a state that did not allow gambling. When he found the small hotel/casino on the Colorado River he purchased it. He talks of building an airstrip across the street and making daily trips to Las Vegas to buy groceries, beer, and toilet paper—essentially, everything one would need to run a hotel, restaurant, and casino—sometimes making three trips in one day. He continues to own and manage his hotel/casino at the age of 85, and he is in his office every day, all day, seven days a week. He gave up flying last year because he claims he’s too old to pilot his own aircraft. So is especially advantageous that the town that bears his name can now supply almost everything that he and the Riverside Resort Hotel and Casino need.vi Table of Contents Interview with Don Laughlin October 10, 2016 in Laughlin, Nevada Conducted by Stefani Evans and Claytee D. White Preface……………………………………………………………………….…iv Don remembers his childhood on a farm in Owatonna, Minnesota; describes owning slot machines and gambling in Minnesota; worked as a watch repairman; repaired slot machines; moved to Las Vegas, Nevada; tended bar at the Thunderbird hotel and bought a restaurant and bar he called the Made Right Café. Explains process of getting a gaming license from the Nevada Tax Commission; remembers Jim Tatum, his restaurant partner; and recalls Jackson Street in the 1950s. Discusses buying and operating the 101 Club in North Las Vegas. Describes search for a club at the border of California or Arizona; describes flying to Las Vegas daily, obtaining a gaming license, starting his Laughlin, Nevada, club, and marketing his new hotel/casino. Recalls the growth of Laughlin………………………………………………………………….1-10 Describes the process of building his club and renovating the hotel; describes future plans for the property; and recalls the growth of Laughlin services and infrastructure as well as the amenities he provided the community. Talks about problems of utilities in such a remote location, recalls disruptions by motorcycle gangs, and describes a day in his life. Notes the lack of labor unions in Laughlin, describes South Laughlin and downtown, and compares Laughlin’s population to that of its neighbors. Describes the riverboats, shares how the unnamed settlement came to be named Laughlin, and shares his vision for Laughlin’s future and talks of his children and family…………………………………11-20 Don describes tourists who visit Laughlin, talks about the restaurant business, and notes where Laughlin residents work. Compares drawbacks, like lack of local hospitals, to advantages of living and doing business in Laughlin. Explains his competition and remembers other clubs in Laughlin; describes how technology changed the gaming business; explains the process of winning a jackpot and casino security. helped create flood control measures; explains the impact of economic recessions; discusses dams in the area of Laughlin; built a bridge in Laughlin; describes the difficulties of owning a casino; discusses holidays; remembers infrastructure development in Laughlin; remembers his political and celebrity connections; recalls the last time he visited Las Vegas…………………………………………………………………..……21-38 1 S: Good afternoon. This is [October 10, 2016, and] Stefani Evans and Claytee White are in Laughlin [Nevada] today talking to Don Laughlin. Mr. Laughlin, will you please pronounce and spell your first and last name for the tape. Donald J. Laughlin. In most countries they pronounce it Locklin, but in this part of the country they pronounce it Loftlin. As long as they write it right on the check I don't care how they pronounce it. S: And how do you spell it? L-A-U-G-H-L-I-N. S: Tell us about your early life. Where you were born and raised and what that was like. I was raised on a farm, seven miles northeast of Owatonna, Minnesota. My dad was a farmer and a trucker. He had several trucks. Southern Minnesota is a big corn crop area. He did custom shelling as well as ran the farm and had several trucks to support the corn sheller. S: Did you work on the farm? I worked on the farm but I was never too interested in farming. I was always a small guy and everybody else was bigger and I didn't figure I could do as well with the heavy work, as well the average person. S: How long did you live on the farm? I lived there until I was about 18. Then I moved to Owatonna and worked as a watch maker, a watch repairman, and I had some slot machines. Later they made them illegal but they were tolerated. S: What years are we talking about? I left the farm in 1947 or 1948, I don't remember exactly. S: But in the late [19]40s you had slot machines in Minnesota? 2 Yes. C: How did you get into that business? I bought one because I use to watch people play them. They were pretty much all over, gas stations, restaurants, bars. I thought it looked like a lot of fun, so I bought a machine. I found out that it is not any fun to play them if you are winning your own money back. I had a friend who had a little store out in the country, so I put the machine in there and started making money. Then I bought another machine and another machine. I also operated pinballs. In those days you could gamble on the pinballs. S: How did that work? It would take me a long time to tell you. You shoot the ball and if it goes in the right number you are a winner, or you are not. C: How did you bet on that? You put money in the machine and you could win games or you could cash the games in for money, depending on what the law was. Some of them were just free play. In most places they cashed the games out for money. S: That was in southern Minnesota? Yes. S: How long did you do that there? Three or four years. I repaired watches at the same time. You are not going to believe this, but when you have a thunder storm, the old watches, the high frequency of the lighting breaks the main spring. After a thunderstorm you get a lot of people who need their watches repaired. It is very simple to take the back off and take the barrel off of the main spring and change the main spring. I also did general watch making. 3 S: Were you also able to repair the slot machines? Yes. If you use the repairman you are out of business. I had an immigrant guy that helped me a little bit on it. He had worked at the factory prior. If I got stuck on something in the beginning he would help me with it. S: When did you come to Las Vegas [Nevada]? In [19]52, and I moved permanently to Las Vegas in [19]53. I liked Las Vegas because it was wide open; you could do whatever made sense if it was legal. I always thought gambling should be legal. Now it is in almost every state. Back then it wasn't. C: Why did you come here in 1952? Because I had heard about Las Vegas and I was curious. C: Was it a vacation? Yes. S: Where did you go in Las Vegas? I stayed in a hotel on the Strip. I think it was called the Holiday. It is real old now. I think I stayed for a week. It was a small town then. There were only four hotels on the Strip. S: Did you decide then to come back? Yes, a little less than a year later I moved back. S: Where did you live when you first came to Las Vegas? I worked at the Thunderbird. C: How did you get the job? I walked in the door and applied for it. S: What did you do there? I tended bar. Bar back first. Then bartender. 4 S: Tell us what that was like. Who you worked with, who came into the bar. Rio Quindel was the head bartender; Jimmy Skylar was the bar manager. Maryanne Hicks was one of the owners. The Deer brothers were some of the owners. Some of the other people I rather not talk about. S: What about people that came into the bar? They came in for a drink. They didn't all drink, but most of them did. S: How were they dressed? They dress better then than they do now. Most of them at night wore shirts and ties. Women had fur coats in the winter time. C: What was the entertainment like? When I started at the Thunderbird the Mills Brothers were entertaining there. I knew them all because I worked in the back room area. Les Compaino d' La Sang Song was a group out of France. There were numerous entertainers, I can't remember all the names now. S: Did you get to know any of them? Yes, briefly. For a week or two or a month, for how long they were there for. S: How long did you do that? I worked there about a year and then I bought a little beer-and-wine bar and restaurant at 410 West Bonanza [Road] from a man called Jim Tatum. He was one of the biggest men I ever saw. Very mellow guy. He had a barbecue there. I bought him out. It seems it was around $3,000. It was a lease, I had to pay rent. After I was there a month so many people came in and wanted barbecue I made a deal with him. I told him that I would give him the barbecue. He came back and we worked together for a couple of years until I sold it. He was probably close to seven feet 5 tall. He was from Oklahoma. To look at him was scary but he was a very mellow guy, very nice. S: How long did you have that business? Couple of years. It wasn't liquor. It was just beer and wine and food. S: What was it called? Laughlin's Made Right Cafe. We had a franchise on a hamburger called a Made Right. That never went over that well. The regular food and the barbecue went over real well. I owned the machines, and the machines were what made the money. S: The slot machines? Yes. I think we had eight to start with. C: Did you have to get a gaming license? At that time there was no gaming commission. It was the Nevada Tax Commission. I had a license. C: Can you tell me how that process worked at that time? You just filled out a paper and took it down and gave it to them. They would send you the license. I am sure it went before a board. I never went to the meetings. They never asked me to. If they asked me I would have went. C: Mr. Tatum, did he sell beer and wine before? Yes. C: Did he have a license before? I am sure he did. S: Did he have slot machines before? 6 He had a couple in there, but they were by an operator. He didn't run the machines. He had an operator in there. Of course I put in my own machines. C: Describe Mr. Tatum to me. He was one of the biggest people I ever saw. We became good friends. He was a black man. He came from Oklahoma. He used to deliver barbecue out to the Strip and downtown. A lot of people would come and get it to go, and some people would eat it there; mostly to go. S: What was his first name? Jim Tatum. C: What was the name of the place before it became your place? I don't remember. C: Do you remember the cross street on Bonanza where it was located? No. The streets are all like G, H. There was a Gilbert Brothers' grocery store on the corner and then we were in that same block. C: You were in a community that was predominately an African-American community at that time. Yes, probably 60 to 70 percent. C: Did you ever go to any of the other locations in that community on Jackson Street? Yes. C: Tell me about Jackson Street? That is going way back. I am trying to think of the main club. I knew enough people over there; I felt comfortable. The Brown Derby. There were only two or three clubs over there. I don't remember the names of them. If I heard them I would remember them. You are going back about 60 years. 7 S: What made you come out here? After I sold that club I went back to work at the Thunderbird for six months to a year. Then I bought a club in North Las Vegas. S: Where was that? About 2550 Las Vegas Boulevard North. I had that club, I'm estimating, from [19]56 to [19]64. S: What else was around there at the time? There was a lot of apartments and housing. S: Any other clubs? Yes, there was Bunny's Bar north of me. Rustic Inn south of me. Bonanza Club. But they were a couple of miles from me. There were a half dozen bars on either side of me. S: What was yours called? 101 Club. The previous owner called it the 101 Club because he had a previous club in California, and I couldn't afford to change the name on the sign so I just called it the 101 Club. S: When you sold it did the next owner keep the name? Yes. I sold it in 1964. In 1960 I bought the land across the street and moved the license across the street. It wasn't in the same location. It was the same club but I got permission to move it across the street. C: Going back to that first club on Bonanza. That was 1952? No, that would have probably been [19]54 or [19]55. C: In 1955 the Moulin Rouge opened. They opened up shortly after I sold out. I saw Joe Lewis in there. I met him and shook his hand. S: You were in the Moulin Rouge when you shook his hand? Yes. He was the host. 8 S: In 1964 you sold the 101 Club? These dates are all estimates. S: And then what? I looked around the state. I was looking for a better location, preferably on a state line, because back then there wasn't gaming in California and all the other states, so people would drive 200 to 300 miles just to play the machines. We had machines here, and before the Indian gaming and all the other clubs came here, we were the only one here. I bought this place in 1966. S: Was this place already built? There was just a little one-room building with a bar and restaurant in it. It was a mess. S: What was this town like? Was there a town? No. There were about 12 people that lived here, maybe 15, in little houses along the river. S: Why were they here? The same reason I was: they liked it here. S: Where did you get groceries? I had to haul them in for the first four or five years. I built a little airstrip across the street and I used to make trips to Vegas to get everything from groceries to beer to whatever we needed—toilet paper, anything. I made as many as three trips a day to Vegas, but usually just once a day. S: How long did it take to fly? About 25 minutes to Vegas. S: You had your pilot's license? Yes. S: When did you get your pilot's license? 9 I think I officially got it around 1962. I don't remember. I still have it in my pocket, but I quit flying about a year ago. I am getting too old. C: Why Laughlin? Because it was located on a state line and that was what I was looking for. I looked in northern Nevada, western Nevada. I would go up and spend a couple of days in each town to see what was going on. S: There was a club here that you bought? There was a club here that had gone out of business and the people that subsequently wound up with the property lived in Scottsdale. They were investors, old people. They were not interested in operating a casino. There were quite a few people looking at it, and I think they picked me because I had been licensed before. Generally, if you have been licensed a couple of times before they know there isn't going to be a hang-up. S: Was there a gaming control board at that time? Yes. That probably happened in the late [19]50s. It was controlled by the Nevada Tax Commission and subsequently it became Nevada Gaming Commission. C: What was the process of getting the license this time? I think we went to Carson City [Nevada] for the meeting that approved us. They had no problem. Having had a license before factored into their decision to approve. S: When you opened how many machines did you have? I am going to guess 20 to 25. S: And tables? 41 perhaps. S: And there were 12 houses here? 10 I don't know how many houses. I would say there were four or five houses and 12 to 15 people living on the Nevada side. There were quite a few on the Arizona side. There were probably 4,000 to 5,000 people on the Arizona side. S: How did you get your customers? Did you advertise in Arizona? California? I didn't need to. They found the gambling. We had a big, high sign. It has moved to the RV park across the street, but it use to be right in the parking lot. You could see if from across the river. Back then there was no bridge; I built the bridge. Back then they had to drive up to the dam and back down on the other side. That was a 10-12 mile drive. We opened the bridge in [19]86. S: When did the town really begin to grow? The clubs started coming in about three or four years after I was down here. I would say within two or three years there was the Monte Carlo, the Nevada Club. They probably built about one a year. I think there are nine here now. S: Who built this one? Who was your contractor? I have been under construction ever since I have been here, which has been over 50 years. S: Which construction company do you use? We use several. My favorite is Perini. They are a big contractor out of the East Coast. They have built a lot of hotels in Vegas. S: What about an architect? The first big addition we used Homer Rissman. He has passed away. He was an architect out of Vegas. I got connected to him through Bill "Wildcat" Morris. He was my lawyer, and he was a football player for the University of Nevada back in the late '40s, before I knew him. S: What other architects have you used? I can't remember. 11 C: How tall is your building? I think this one is 320 feet. C: And this is the second one? I built the tower over there first [gesturing], in [19]84. Then we built another tower connected to it. You can't tell unless you know. In [19]95 we built this one. S: Where is the original building? It is gone. S: Where was it? I would have to guess that it would have been between these two towers. I don't know exactly. S: How many hotel rooms did you have originally? Eight. I had three kids, so we could only rent out four of them. We lived in the hotel rooms for a couple of years. S: What was the first addition you did to those 8 rooms? We got a loan from Bank of Nevada for under $2 million and that is the money we used to build 48 rooms and enlarge the casino. We ran out of money and we couldn't open the restaurant, so we ran with just a sandwich shop for about a year until we got the money to build the restaurant. I didn't have the money for the restaurant equipment. I don't have a definite date on that. I think it would probably be around 1970. S: That was your first addition and then you had those 48 rooms until you built that first tower? Yes, that first tower, and then in [19]86 we built onto that tower, and we had several additions. We built 48 rooms out here. We are talking about tearing them out. They are right on the river. Those rooms were reserved for people that had animals. Now the law has changed and you have 12 to let them in every room. All hotels do. You have to let animals in the rooms. It is a federal law. S: Really? In every room? C: If I show up with my Pitbull you have to let him in? Yes. S: If I am allergic and I am next door, that is too bad for me? It is the same way everywhere. It is a federal law. S: I never knew. Interesting. I don't like the law because it causes some problems. Makes an awful job for the maids. S: You are thinking of tearing that down. Would you replace it? My grandsons are working with me now and we are thinking about tearing that out and making it against the low building that you can see—it is called the Loser's Lounge—we are going to blend that in with the pool, like they do in Vegas, and get rid of that building. That building is 52 rooms. It was built in [19]75. It is over 40 years old now. It is a wooden building. It has sprinklers but it is getting old. I don't really like it there because I think it affects the appearance. [Colloquy not transcribed.] I worked 12-14 hour days, still do once in a while, seven days a week. I like to work. I don't feel like I should be someplace else. C: The 48 rooms. Were you afraid that you weren't going to be able to fill those rooms? No. I didn't know, but I am a gambler. You never know when you build if you are going to fill the rooms. S: Did anyone else in your family become gamblers? No. I have a son who works here, but he is not a gambler. He is the purchasing director. S: I meant your siblings. 13 No. I had a cousin who worked down here a long time. He recently died. S: You are the only one who came west except your cousin? Yes. His wife was the principal of schools down here. Gladys Laughlin. Pat Laughlin, he recently died. S: As the town started to grow, what kind of services did you need from Clark County? The road we came in on is a beautiful state road. When did that came in? I don't know, but probably about 20 years. When they built the dam [here] around 1950, as I understand it, since I wasn't here yet. They blacktopped the road from Searchlight to down here. Before the bridge was built there was a two-mile dirt road in here. S: Did you have to pave that? No. The county paved it. S: What about other things like libraries? Do you have a library down here? There is a library in South Laughlin. We are unincorporated. S: Are you part of the Clark County Library District? I am sure it is. S: Do you know when that library came in? No. We have the only post office here also. They are both down in South Laughlin now. For several years we had a contract post office here, but subsequently they built the one in South Laughlin. I assume that the federal government built it. S: What is a contract post office? That is where we pay for everything, furnish the post office for the public. It is a convenience and also an incentive to come in the door. People came here to get their mail. S: What other services did you provide that weren't here in the town? 14 We still have a free courtesy bus service. If you want to go down the road or somewhere locally we have courtesy buses. S: Did locals use your bus service? It is for everybody that is a customer. We have a 740 space RV park across the street. That is almost like extra rooms. S: You rent out the RVs? Yes. S: I don't think I knew that. It is not just for people that want to park RVs? No. We charge them. If they are a good customer we might comp them. C: You might comp the cost of the space? Yes and the utilities. S: As the town started to grow other clubs started popping up. You said that the Monte Carlo is no longer here. Did other clubs come and go? Yes, there have been several. I can't remember the names of some of them. Today I think there are nine of us. S: Are some of the clubs here affiliated with clubs in Las Vegas? Yes. S: But you are not? No, never have been. S: Your son is working with you? I have a son who runs the purchasing department. He does all the buying. C: Tell us some stories about being out here. What are some of the interesting things that have happened along the way, interesting customers? 15 We have had a lot of characters. For the first five years we were down here, when it would rain, the lights would go out. There was a company called California Pacific Utility. They are gone; they serviced Henderson, Searchlight, and Needles, I believe. When the power went out, three or four days later, we were the last ones to get electrical service, so we had emergency lighting. For example, if the lights went out at midnight, nobody left; there was nowhere to go. Nothing was opened on the Arizona side. So we would stand and deal [cards] and be wringing wet with no air conditioning. We would just keep right on going. S: In the dark? No, we had emergency lighting. S: Who were some of the characters that came in here? We had a lot of business out of the Phoenix area and the L.A. [Los Angeles] area. I can't think of anybody outstanding. We had entertainers that would come in here for a week or two. I can't even think of their names. C: Who are some of the entertainers that you have now? I don't know. I don't go to shows. I am not interested in them. I would have to look it up. S: A couple of years ago or longer, there was a motorcycle gang problem here? We have them every year. It wasn't a gang—well, there were some gangs involved. The numbers I saw were 20,000 – 30,000 motorcycles, which doesn't make me happy, but we get along with them. They had a shootout down at Harrah's—that is one of our competitors—about ten years ago now. The motorcycle people were shooting at each other. S: How did that happen? I don't know. Why would anybody shoot at each other? C: Tell me about a day in the life of Don. What happens? 16 I like to work, so I am here from ten in the morning. I live here. I am here 24/7. I am usually up until the business dies down, about two or three o'clock in the morning. I am here if I'm needed, but I'm usually here by ten o'clock in the morning, when the mail comes in. I might sneak an hour. C: What do you do all day? Do you go out on the floor? I sit and look out the window and count the boats. We have to report to a lot of government agencies, and we have to comply with everything they want. That is done through their offices. S: What agencies do you have to report to? My controller is not here today but he would have to tell you. I don't know. Today is a holiday for him. C: Tell me about labor unions? I don't think there are any unions down here, as far as I know. S: Do people come here just to work in the clubs or are they local kids that work here? They live here. Probably half of them live on the Arizona side. There is a community south of here. I think the population is around 7500. S: In Laughlin? Yes, it is down the road about five miles. S: You referred to South Laughlin? Have you ever been here before? S: No. The post office and the library and the civic buildings are in what we call the south end. It is an unincorporated town. S: Is Laughlin incorporated? 17 No. C: How would I get to downtown? Would I stay on this street? Yes. Just get on the street and follow the highway. It will branch out down here. There are two ways. You can go along the river or you can go out on, I can't remember the name of the street. S: How does the population here compare with Pahrump? I don't know about Pahrump. I have been there but I don't know what their population is. I think we are a lot smaller but I don't know that. Pahrump is in a different county. We are in Clark County. S: How big is Bullhead City? Bullhead City is probably 50,000 plus. It is scattered all along the river as you go down towards Needles. If you go down here 20 miles you would be in Needles, California. The state line is 12 miles down the road. The Colorado River is the state line between us and Arizona. S: When we were driving in we saw some houses over by the dam. Is that Arizona over there? Yes. C: Tell me about the riverboat. Different clubs operate them. That one that happens to be coming right now is ours. They sell rides on the boat. It is very good business. The boat goes down here about five miles and then up to the dam and back. It is about an hour ride. A competitor also has a boat. C: Do they serve food on the boat? Our neighbors do. We don't. They serve liquor but not food. S: Is it just the two properties that have the boats? 18 At this time yes. There have been some that have come and went. There is also one that does tours of Lake Havasu City, which is about 50 miles down the river. S: I had no idea you were so close to Needles. Do you get a lot of people coming up from Needles? Yes, off the interstate. S: There are really three states that converge here. Tristate area. S: Is that what you call it locally? Yes. The town is called Laughlin. That was not my idea. When I put the post office in they wanted to know what we wanted to call it. I said let's call it Bullhead City, NV or let's call it Davis Dam, Nevada or let's call it Casino, Nevada because there is a Jackpot, Nevada. When it came down it came down as Laughlin, Nevada. S: You didn't have anything to do with that? Not as far as the decision on what to call it, but I got blamed for it. S: What was this little place called before you bought it? Did it have a name? Probably a vulgar name. I'm joking. S: It wasn't even big enough to have a name? No. S: Those seven houses or so, did those people work here in the clubs? I don't know. A couple of them might have worked here. I don't remember. You are going back 50 years. S: This is the oldest club in the whole area. Yes. 19 C: What do you see as the future of this town? I see it gradually growing. I don't think it is booming like Phoenix [Arizona] or Las Vegas. It is a small community. For a tourist—I hear it all the time—it is much cheaper to come here than it is to go to a big city like Las Vegas. It's maybe one-third or one-fourth of what it would cost you up in Las Vegas. That is what I have been told. S: How long is the drive from here to Los Angeles [California]? They tell me five and a half hours. S: Through Needles? That is one way. You can go out to Searchlight and go that way, too. S: That is true, and then connect at Barstow [California]. What about Phoenix? Phoenix is about 230 miles so that would be a little under five hours. S: If you have to go somewhere bigger, do you go to Las Vegas or Phoenix? We mostly get our supplies from Las Vegas. C: Do you still fly in to get them? Not anymore. I used to. The first five years I was down here I made a lot of trips to Las Vegas. I had an air strip across the street where the RV Park is. It was a short strip so you had to land with your brakes on. I would get about this high up off the ground and dump the flaps and get the brakes on. I did that a lot of time. S: Did you carry passengers ever? I didn't have room for them. I had to carry groceries. I did take passengers, not for hire. I have had passengers. Normally I would be going in for supplies so I would just fly in and pick up the supplies