[Transcript of interview with Allin Chandler by Claytee White, February 5, 2013]. Chandler, Allin Interview, 2013 February 5. [Transcript.] Oral History Research Center, Special Collections & Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.
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AN INTERVIEW WITH ALLIN CHANDLER An Oral History Conducted by Claytee D. White The Boyer Early Las Vegas Oral History Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas i ©The Boyer Early Las Vegas Oral History Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2012 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV - University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Editors: Barbara Tabach, Joyce Moore Transcriber: Kristin Hicks Interviewers and Project Assistants: Barbara Tabach and Claytee D. White ii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of Dr. Harold Boyer. 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 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 Boyer Early Las Vegas Oral History Project. Claytee D. White, Project Director Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University Nevada, Las Vegas iii ORAL HISTORY RESEARCH CENTER AT UNLV Boyer Early Las Vegas Oral History Project Rancho High School Class of *62 Use Agreement Name of Narrator: •^LL I K I 0 . QHI FC. Name oflnlcrvicwcr: filree J) l/\lu-ire Wc, tlic above named, give to thd Oral History Research Center of UNLV, tiie recorded intcrvicw(s) initiated on J- jl) f 0 13 along witli typed transcripts as an unrestricted gift, to be used tor /ucli scholarly and educational purposes as shall be determined, and transfer to the University of Nevada Las Vegas, legal tide and all literary property rights including copyright. This gift docs not preclude llie right of die interviewer, as a rcprcscnladve of UNLV, nor die narrator to use die recordings and related materials for scholarly pursuits. I understand diat my interview will he made available to researchers and may be quoted from, published, distributed, placed on die Internet or broadcast in any medium diat die Oral History Research Center and UNLV libraries deem appropriate including future forms of electronic and digital media. There will be no compensation for any interviews. Signnaattuurree of Narrator Date I Library Special Collections 4505 Maryland Parkway, Box 457010, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154-7070 (702) 895-2222 1 Preface Another member of Rancho High School's first graduating class of 1962, Allin Chandler charted a course that took him from school football to a distinguished career as a teacher, principal, and Executive Director for the Clark County Association of School Administrators. Allin moved to Las Vegas from Texarkana, Texas with his mother in 1958, joining his father who was serving in the Air Force and stationed at Nellis AFB. Starting 9th grade at J.D. Smith Junior High and continuing on to Rancho the following year. Still actively involved in school athletics, Allin quickly discovered his talent and love for maths and science and eventually earned his degree in math and education. The stories Allin shares in this interview paint a vivid picture of how an intelligent and motivated young man can succeed - and how the class-free world of Las Vegas in the 1950s and 60s offered opportunities that he would never have had in class-conscious world of the South. 2 This is Clay tee White and I am with Mr. Allin Chandler in his home here in Las Vegas. How are you doing today? Very good, thanks. It is February fifth of 2013. So Allin, first, after you spell your name for me, can you tell me a little about your early life? Sure. My name is Allin, A-L-L-I-N; Chandler, C-H-A-N-D-L-E-R. As far as my early life, I guess it goes back to when I was born. Originally my mother and father were in California. He was in the service and my mother went to California from Texas to be with him; that's where I was born in Palm Springs, California. We lived there until I was approaching three years old and then my mother moved back to Texas. She and my father were divorced at that time and we moved back to Texas. I lived in Texas until eighth grade. I completed eighth grade in Texas and then we moved to Las Vegas. Where in Texas? Texarkana, Texas. What was that like? What are some of your memories of Texarkana? Texarkana was a nice place to grow up. It was a small town located on the border between Texas and Arkansas. My mother, her brother, her sister, her mother, her father, all lived in that town, and so I had an opportunity to know lots of my relatives while I was living there. My mom, shortly after moving back to Texarkana, was remarried and she married a fellow from New Jersey, actually. We lived in Texas, Texarkana for the most part. We did leave Texarkana for about two years and moved to Galveston, Texas. He worked in a defense plant down there outside of Houston. So we lived there for just under two years and then moved back to 3 Texarkana, where I continued to live and go to school until I finished eighth grade. When I was back there my biggest involvement was in athletics. I played football on the junior high school team. Unlike Nevada in junior high school, each junior high had its own football team and you play in the same league that your high school plays in. So as a seventh grader I actually traveled around that area playing football. In the eighth grade I played on the junior high school team. Seventh grade was a junior high team, too, but it was just for seventh graders. In eighth grade I played on the eighth and ninth grade team. So, I played football back there. We also played in the same towns that the high school team played; that would be Kilgore, Tyler, Paris, Lufkin, etc., Texas; those were the communities in that area. So I've heard that Texas is just crazy about football. It is. What is a Friday night like in Texas in a small town? Well, if the high school team is playing, virtually all the people in the town go to the game. The stadium there, even though it's old now, at the time was new and it was a concrete stadium that went the entire length from goal to goal. I don't know how many people it would hold. Back then it seemed like it was a very, very large stadium. I've been back to it since and it's not as large as I remembered it being. You go around the community and every store has a copy of the football schedule; they keep track of what the scores are. When the team plays out of town, lots of people go to the games. So it's the biggest thing going in the community. Great. So why did the family decide to move to Las Vegas? Well, my stepfather joined the Air Force again. He was stationed originally in Japan. When he finished his tour in Japan, he was stationed in Las Vegas at Nellis Air Force Base. So, for the first time the family decided to move where he was; we had never done that before. And that's 4 the only time I've ever lived where the Air Force base was. He was stationed in a number of other places that the family just simply didn't go. But in Las Vegas we came out here. When I got here, I was in the ninth grade and I attended J.D. Smith Junior High School. Following the one year at J.D. Smith, the whole group of students moved to Rancho High School. So any football at J.D. Smith? No, they didn't have football at J.D. Smith. And I was brand new in the community. Some of the people that I met later on did go over to Rancho and play football as ninth graders, but I was not aware of that because I was brand new in the community and didn't know that you could do that. So I didn't play. So tell me again about not knowing about being able to play. Well, as a ninth grader and we were brand new to the community, I didn't really know any of the kids, and so I was unaware that there was football available to us. And there weren't very many; there were only a couple of people who chose to go over to Rancho High School after school and play football. Where did the family live? You didn't live on base? No. No, we didn't. My dad was an enlisted person. So we lived in a trailer park out on Las Vegas Boulevard North. The first trailer park we lived in was called the Adaven Trailer Park, which was at 2905 Las Vegas Boulevard North, almost exactly where Pecos crosses Las Vegas Boulevard. Sometime after that, the family bought another mobile home and we moved to a place called Rose's Red Top. That's where I lived through high school until I graduated. So that put you in the area to go to school at Rancho. At Rancho, yeah. 5 So in the ninth grade you started meeting some of the people that you would go to Rancho with. Oh, yes. Yes. Do you remember some of those early friends, who they were? Yeah, I do. There were a number of people that were friends of ours there at the school. Probably my best friend was a fellow by the name of Merton Canady. Merton was one of the smartest guys I'd ever known. He and I both were fairly good at mathematics; he was probably better than I was. But we did a lot of studying together. We were both interested in algebra, which was the math course that we were taking. So he probably was my best friend, but there were a number of other friends. Kent Farnsworth went to school there. Nancy Anderson went to school there. Gordon Smith, Eddie Phillips, a number of people. Wonderful. In the ninth grade what were some of the entertainment-type things that people here in Las Vegas were doing? Anything surprise you? I guess the thing that surprised me most—in Texas it's a very different society; there are the haves and the have-nots unless you're an athlete. And fortunately, I played sports. So I was able to be accepted into a group of people that without athletics they probably wouldn't have spent any time with me. Things like country clubs and belonging to it, those were important things back in Texas. Families that had a lot of money, those were the important things. When we moved out here no one seemed to care whether you had money or whether your family had money. You could be friends with anybody. If you lived in the trailer park in North Las Vegas, that was okay. So how did that make you feel? Well, it was certainly easy to make friends and I liked that. The fact that I ended up playing 6 sports here, too, helped me to make friends who were athletically inclined, but it also allowed me to have friends that weren't athletes. So tell me about the math. What teachers do you remember at Rancho that were good and that would mentor that kind of math ability? Well, the math that we were talking about originally was at J.D. Smith. There was a fellow named Mr. Smith who was the algebra teacher. But when we went to Rancho, as luck would have it, I ended up having the same math teacher for a good share of all my math. She was excellent, as a matter of fact. Her name was Dr. Virginia Gilbert. I took geometry from her. I took solid geometry; analytical geometry. But I took trigonometry from a fellow by the name of Mr. Deaton, I believe his name was. But she was my favorite and I ended up taking the senior math class with her. I went away to school after graduating from Rancho. I went to school back in Texas, Texarkana again. They have a junior college back there. The junior college had a football team. So I was going to go back there and play football. Of course, I didn't know any of those people anymore or at least I remembered them, but we hadn't maintained a friendship. So when I got back there, basically they were two weeks into football, and so the team had already been determined. But I did go ahead and work out with them for that year and was going to play in my sophomore year. Then I ended up just about a week before the season started getting injured and ended up not playing even though I had made the team. But did you finish school back there, anyway? I went to school there. I ended up one credit short of getting an associate's degree. But that really wasn't my intent anyway. I ended up not taking an English course I believe it was, and so I didn't get my associate's degree. But when I finished back there, I came back to Las Vegas and 7 started going to school at what was then Nevada Southern. Ultimately I graduated from there, but it was called UNLV when I graduated. Did you stay in the math/sciences area? When I was in Texas I was majoring in chemical engineering. My intention was to get my degree in engineering, specifically chemical engineering. When I came back here to go to school, I stayed in the engineering program. However, in order to get a degree back then in engineering you had to go to UNR; you couldn't receive your engineering degree unless you went up there for at least a semester. And because I didn't have any family up there—I didn't have family living in Las Vegas at that time, either, but I had friends and I had a job and the job allowed me to continue going to school. So rather than going up to UNR and finishing my degree in engineering, I decided to stay here, change my major and graduate from UNLV. So I ended up majoring in math, minoring in chemistry, and got my degree in education. Wow. So did you teach here? I did. Oh, wonderful. We'll talk about that later. That's interesting. Getting back to Rancho, I want to know about Fremont Street, the Blue Onion and what kids did on the weekends; those kinds of things. Well, in high school I played football and I played baseball. So there were always activities associated with sports. I didn't play basketball, but some of my best friends did play basketball. So I went to all the games. So most of what we did during the school year was associated with sports. Now, we would go to the games and we would always after the games go and eat. I say eat; we'd go have pizza usually. Where did you have pizza? 8 I believe it was called the Venetian. Okay, yes. I've heard that name. I believe that was the name of it and it was one block up from the Blue Onion. So we would go there and eat. But we'd also go to a place called Blacketts, which was kind of a fast food place. What was the name of it? Blacketts. Would you spell that for me? B-L-A-C-K-E-T-T-S, I believe is how you spell it. Tell me about that place. No one else has. There were two of them. One of them was right on Charleston about a block from Maryland Parkway. There was a Community Chevrolet right there on the comer and it was right directly behind that. The other one was on Las Vegas Boulevard South. It was almost to Sahara. So it was just north of Sahara on Las Vegas Boulevard. It was just a hamburger, taco, enchilada place that was inexpensive and a good place to eat. Could you eat inside? Did it have seating? You could eat inside, but it was just really a fast food place. It had tables and chairs in there, but it wasn't a place you ever took dates or anything. So that was a place we would go frequently. We'd go to the movies a lot. If there wasn't a game or something that we were going to, we would go to the movies. There were a number of movie theaters back then. There were two on Fremont. One was the Fremont Theater and the other one was the El Portal. There was another one just off of Fremont called the Guild, which showed a lot of different kinds of movies. It was a very small theater. I remember seeing "Exodus" there. That's the movie I remember seeing there. 9 Now, did you ever go to the Huntridge, as well? Yes, we went to the Huntridge, as well. The Huntridge was over on Charleston right at Maryland Parkway. The same people owned some of these movie theaters? I understand that they did because some of the girls in our class worked in those theaters and they would sometimes work between different ones. They would work in one and then go to the other one. Although they were typically assigned to one specific one, they had to sometimes fill in someplace else. Great. Thank you for that. So we would go to the movies. Back in high school there was a professional baseball team that played at the old Cashman Field before there was a new Cashman Field. They were called the Wranglers I believe. So some of the guys would go to the games. They played pretty much every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. So we would go and enjoy some baseball games. We just sort of hung out with our friends a lot. So it was good. So did you go to the proms or to the Sadie Hawkins Dance? No. I think the only prom that I ever went to was senior prom. Now, was it the senior prom or the senior dance? I think it was the senior prom. We got dressed up. Where was it held? Oh, it was held at Rancho, at the school. And afterwards where did the kids go? Well, Jimmy Keys and myself had dates, we went with—I'm almost reluctant to say who—I think he was with Pat Sturm, but I'm not sure. I was with a girl named Laurel Hatch. We went 10 to the place called The Flame. Where is The Flame? It was just off the Strip, a restaurant off the Strip. It was a steak place, very good, one of the good places to go and eat. So you didn't actually go into a casino? We didn't, no. Did you hear other kids talk about being able to go into the casino and have dinner in a casino at that age? I imagine some did. We didn't. We chose not to go there. We liked that place to eat and so that's where we went. Wonderful. I didn't go to the Sadie Hawkins Dance or any of those. I really wasn't much into dancing. The only dances I'd ever go to—usually we'd go to the dance after the football games where you go to the dance for a while. Sometimes we might have danced a little bit, but most of us didn't dance a lot. We would stay there for a while and then decide what we were going to do and we would leave and go do something else. Okay, great. At this time—we're talking about early sixties—did girls dance with each other? Yeah, they did. We were talking about dances and I was about to say that now, again, it's easy to go into a place where there's dancing and for women to just get up and dance. We don't have to wait anymore to be asked [laughing]. I think if girls waited to be asked, they would have probably been sitting there as long as we 11 were. I think it wasn't uncommon to have girls dancing with girls. Okay, great. I might add one of the other things that we did, too. There were a number of us who played in the same summer league baseball team. The reason I wanted to bring that up is because our sponsor was Gragson Furniture. Shirley Gragson was a member of our class and her dad was the mayor and he owned a furniture store, which was right next to the Huntridge. He sponsored our baseball team. We all had shirts that said "Gragson Furniture." If we needed additional money to buy bats and things, we would go over to their house and get some more money and play. Anyway, that was another thing; a lot of us played summer league baseball. So did you work? I did. Actually, I worked every year. My family really didn't have very much money and my dad was in the military. So initially I had a paper route for the Re view-Journal back in the old, old days; that was my first job. From there I got a job working at a gas station and the station was called the Stinker Gas Station. Where was it located? It was out on Las Vegas Boulevard North. It was probably about halfway to Nellis out on the left-hand side past Pecos, out in that area. So I worked there. I'd go there after school some and in the summer I'd work long hours at seventy-five cents an hour; that was the pay. I worked hard and they kept me around. I did that for about a year, I guess, and then I went to work for a store called Vegas Village. A number of my friends worked at Vegas Village. They worked in the grocery department. They bagged groceries and some of them actually did work putting stuff on the shelves. But I worked in the snack bar. It was actually a very nice little snack bar in there. We used to have barbeque chicken and ribs. That was my job; I was the barbeque guy. So I did 12 the barbequing of the chicken and ribs. I actually did that job my sophomore, junior and senior year and then I came back one year from college and continued to work there. During the school year I worked there just on the weekends on Saturdays and Sundays. If I had a football game, they would let me off at two o'clock in the afternoon so I could go home and get ready for the game. They were very good to me. The managers there were Bill and Muriel Elliott, nice people. He had retired from the Air Force and had gotten that job in retirement. So I worked there up until I went away to school. Everybody worked. Everybody on this list that we're interviewing for this project, everybody had a job. Well, I think most of my friends had a job at some point. There were a few of them who didn't. But most of us were just pretty much if we wanted to have any spending money, we had to have a job to have spending money and we did. I love it. And I love the way that the town treated everyone. What you just talked about, them being very conscious of you being a football player, allowing you to work around that schedule, it seemed to be the case with almost everybody. Why do you think the town was so supportive of the young people? Well, I think actually it was very supportive for all people in the community; I don't know that it was just tied to young people. I was willing to work the weekends where a lot of people like to have the weekends off. In order to play sports, which they knew how important that was for me, they would allow me to leave early so I could go to the game. I can't answer the question, I guess, in terms of why. But it was a good place to grow up. I mentioned before in Texas if you were going to be accepted into the group of people, your parents had to be doctors or lawyers or business people or their parents had to belong to the 13 country club unless you were an athlete. If you were an athlete, you got invited to the dances and so on and the parties and so on because you were involved in athletics. When I came out here, it didnt matter whether you were involved in athletics necessarily or whether your parents were doctors or lawyers. Interestingly enough, as I went through high school—I can't really tell you who my best friend was, I had lots of best friends. But one of my best friends was a fellow by the name of Lyle Norwood. Lyle Norwood's father was a dentist here in town, Dr. Norwood. His mother was an attorney here in town. Their home was located next door to the mayor's house, the Gragsons. I would leave my house in North Las Vegas, get in my '49 Chevrolet and drive over to their house, and they were very accepting of me being there and having dinner at their house. The Norwoods were very involved in athletics, but they also were involved in hunting and fishing and things of that nature. They had come here from the Midwest. I remember one of the trips we took. We left here and went somewhere up in Southern Nevada. I can't remember where it was, but it's a place where people go frog gigging. We went up there. And I don't know how many frogs we got.their frog legs. We brought them back and we had a big party at the Gragsons' house. They fried the frog legs and the French fries and we just had a big party over their house after having done that. Now, growing up in Texas you didn't want to get into that water because there was always water moccasins and things like that. So how do you do it? What is it called, frogging? Frog gigging. Frog gigging. So explain it to me. You actually get into the water. Usually you're up to about your chest. And you got this pole with a gig on it. It's got like a three-prong gig on it and a flashlight. And you shine it and you 14 actually see the eyes of the frogs. Then you go over and you jab them. You cut off their legs and you take them back. I only did that one time with them, but it was fun. But when you jabbed them, you killed them. Well, if that didn't kill them, cutting off their legs did. Oh, my god, ugh. So this three-prong thing has something sharp? Yeah, it was pointed. Okay, I see. Whew. All right. I can't tell you that was necessarily a favorite thing of mine to do. But the Norwoods enjoyed doing that. So they invited me to go with them and I did. I'm glad I did it. I never did it a second time. But still, it was an experience. The important thing was that the Norwoods, if they lived in the South they would be in the higher society and probably would not have had much to do with me, except for Lyle played football and I played football. We were friends on the football field, but we were friends outside of it, too. Thank you for that observation. That tells a lot about this early city. I think that was the thing that I thought was the most different about living here and living in Texas; nobody cared what your parents did and nobody cared whether your parents had money. They just liked you for who you were. So I liked that about this community. So what is the biggest change that you've seen over the years, from the time you came— eighth, ninth, tenth grade—until now? When I was in school this was a very safe community. I felt very safe. We would go to the movies that we talked about. We'd go downtown. There wasn't parking garages at that time. 15 You found a parking place in the alley or someplace like that and you'd leave your car there. And with one exception nobody messed with it and nobody messed with you going to get in your car after the movie was over. I remember one time that Lyle Norwood and I, we actually had gone to a dance and we left our letter sweaters in the car. And the dance was down at the National Guard Armory right at the corner of Stewart and Eastern. It's not there now, but there was an armory there. We left our letter sweaters in the car and we came back and they were gone. I don't think we locked the car; I think we just left them there. So we kind of put the word out that somebody had taken our sweaters. Could you turn this off for just a second? [Pause in recording] We were told who had taken them and they were returned. So tell me about being a principal of a high school in Las Vegas. I wasn't principal of a high school; I was principal of an elementary school. Oh. Which one? Well, I was principal of several. But the first one I was principal of was Jo Mackey Sixth Grade Center. I was there for two years. The first year I was there as an administrative assistant and the next year I was there as the acting principal. So what is an administrative assistant? It's like an assistant principal, but they don't put you on the administrative salary schedule; you're still on the teacher salary schedule. Okay. Jo Mackey was one of the sixth grade centers. Explain to me what a sixth grade center is. Well, many years ago, in an attempt to integrate the Clark County School District, there were some plans that were put together and one of them was the sixth grade center plan. And 16 essentially what the sixth grade center plan did was that it allowed the black youngsters from the community in the kindergarten and in the sixth grade to stay at their home school, which was the school in their neighborhood. Every other year—first, second, third, fourth, fifth and then every year after sixth grade—those same youngsters ended up being bussed to another school outside of their community. But what it did was for one year, sixth grade, the kids who came from the predominately white area of town were bussed into the predominately black area of town. People thought that was fair. It obviously wasn't fair. But that was an attempt to integrate the black community and the white community. I'd have to tell you that I thought that even though it was unfair to the black community— and, of course, the white community was the one who complained most bitterly about it—but the truth is I thought academically it made sense, not the sixth grade center per se, not the location, but what made sense was that kids were coming out of elementary school where they were assigned to one teacher and the teacher taught everything and into junior high school they went to six different teachers and they did it overnight. They left an elementary school one year and the next year they were in a junior high school or a middle school. In the sixth grade center that kid spent half of the day with one teacher who taught basically the reading, writing, spelling, so on, and then half of the day they went to what were called the specialists. They went to a math teacher, a science teacher, a PE teacher, and then they would have like round-robins where it might include social studies and some other subjects. So the kids really had an opportunity to spend half of the day with one teacher where they felt pretty comfortable and then the other half day they had the ability to go to specialists, which gave them the chance to move from class to class. So were the monies put into schools here equally distributed, other than the sixth grade 17 centers, first through fifth, seven through twelve? Well, it's not equal because the amount of money for textbooks, for example, high school textbooks cost more money than— No, I don't mean that. I mean equal for an elementary school on the Westside and an elementary school— Somewhere else. —out by the airport? Uh-huh. Well, my first involvement with elementary schools was when I went to the sixth grade center. So that was a completely different concept than had been there previously. I guess I don't know for sure. I would hope they were, but probably they were not. I don't know. But I do know that when I got to the sixth grade center that was a different attempt and then the sixth grade centers ended up being changed from an elementary school— [pause in recording] You were talking about the sixth grade centers. You had asked me what schools I worked in and I told you I worked at the sixth grade center, Jo Mackey. And from Jo Mackey—because I was acting principal there; there was a principal that had taken a leave. And so when she came back, they moved me to another elementary school called Rex Bell. Now, these were the first elementary schools I had ever worked in. So I worked at Rex Bell for half a year—not even a half year and then they assigned me to be the principal at Mountain View Elementary School. Where is Rex Bell located? Rex Bell is down off Sahara, kind of behind the Station Casino there. Oh, yes, okay. It's behind there and those apartments. So I worked at Rex Bell for the rest of that year. Then I 18 went to Mountain View. At Mountain View I was there for about nine years as principal there. Then I opened the James McMillan Elementary School and I was there for about two years. And then I retired. Wonderful. But you asked the question about whether the schools were equal. I can't tell you prior to the sixth grade centers whether they were or whether they weren't because never having worked in any—that's not quite accurate. I worked at Booker Elementary School. It's what's called Booker now; it was called Highland Elementary at that time. I worked at Highland Elementary for one year, but I was a teacher aide at the time; that was before I started teaching or before I went into school administration. And that was the only elementary I had ever worked in. Quite honestly, there were a lot of people at that school that were very, very good people. I don't know if you remember a fellow by the name of Jim Pughsley? Yes. Jim Pughsley was a fifth grade teacher there. He and I became very good friends. He eventually became my boss when I was a principal in the elementary division. And when he went to Monroe, Louisiana, he invited me to come down and be a deputy superintendent to work with him down there. So he and I were very good friends. We still exchange Christmas cards. He's in South Carolina now. So there were a number of people that worked at the sixth grade center who were rea