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Steve Jones and Bart Jones interview, Novermber 7, 2016: transcript






Brothers Steve and Bart Jones live and breathe Las Vegas history. Their grandparents, Burley and Arlie Jones, arrived in Las Vegas in the nineteen-teens; their father, Herb Jones; his sister, Florence Lee Jones Cahlan, and their uncle, Cliff Jones, helped form the legal, journalistic, and water policy framework that sustains Southern Nevada today. The Jones brothers build on that foundation through their custom home-building company, Merlin Construction. In this interview, they talk about living and growing up in Las Vegas, of attending John S. Park Elementary School, of hunting in the desert, of their family's commitment to cultural and racial diversity, and of accompanying their grandfather to his business at the Ranch Market in the Westside. They share their early work experiences lifeguarding and later, dealing, at local casinos as well as second-hand memories of the Kefauver trials through the tales told by their father and uncle. Steve describes mentor Audie Coker; he explains

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Jones, Steve and Jones, Bart Interview, 2016 November 7. OH-02896. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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i AN INTERVIEW WITH STEPHEN S. JONES AND BART JONES 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 Transcribers: Kristin Hicks, Frances Smith Interviewers: Stefani Evans and 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 Brothers Steve and Bart Jones live and breathe Las Vegas history. Their grandparents, Burley and Arlie Jones, arrived in Las Vegas in the nineteen-teens; their father, Herb Jones; his sister, Florence Lee Jones Cahlan, and their uncle, Cliff Jones, helped form the legal, journalistic, and water policy framework that sustains Southern Nevada today. The Jones brothers build on that foundation through their custom home-building company, Merlin Construction. In this interview, they talk about living and growing up in Las Vegas, of attending John S. Park Elementary School, of hunting in the desert, of their family's commitment to cultural and racial diversity, and of accompanying their grandfather to his business at the Ranch Market in the Westside. They share their early work experiences lifeguarding and later, dealing, at local casinos as well as second-hand memories of the Kefauver trials through the tales told by their father and uncle. Steve describes mentor Audie Coker; he explains how he named his company Merlin Construction and how he enticed his brother Bart to join him in business. Bart speaks of leaving Las Vegas for Hawaii to own and operate a macadamia ranch and factory for nineteen years before selling out and returning to Las Vegas to join Steve in building and remodeling one-of-a-kind dwellings for high-end clients. Both speak of architects, clients and spectacular building projects. Throughout, Steve and Bart Jones exemplify their family's intergenerational focus on honor and on living up to the ethics of doing business on a handshake. v TABLE OF CONTENTS Interview with Stephen S. Jones and Bart Jones November 7, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada Conducted by Stefani Evans and Claytee D. White Preface…………………………………………………………………………………..………..iv Grandparents Burley Monroe Jones and Arlie M. Jones, aunt Florence Lee Jones Cahlan, uncle Cliff Jones, and father Herb Jones; gas station in Pittman, family focus on education. Herb and Cliff Jones and Hoover Dam. Huntridge, John S. Park Elementary School, Sixth Street neighborhood, First Presbyterian Church. Herb and Cliff Jones, cultural and racial diversity, segregation, and Ranch Market on the Westside. Arlie Jones and Christian Science. Work at Anderson Dairy. Bart lifeguarding at Riviera Hotel, Pat Cross; Steve lifeguarding at the Mint. Dealing blackjack at the Sands and the Dunes. Steve, Audie Coker, Coker Construction. Merlin Construction. Clark High School. Eleanor and Floyd Lamb family and the Buckhorn Ranch. Bannie Lane. Bart, Binion's Horseshoe, and the Dunes. Bart and Steve forming a business.………………………………………………………………….……..……………. 1–21 Bart, Hawaii, macadamia nut farm and factory, and macadamia industry (1975-94); Bart return to Las Vegas, Steve and Merlin Construction, and custom homes process. Old Las Vegas and Herb Jones's "legacy of trust"; doing business on a handshake. Herb Jones, wiretaps, and Dean Nelson; Ice Pick Willie, Cliff Jones, and Kefauver trials. Custom homes and remodels in residential neighborhoods and high-rises. Dr. Tony Marlon and Renee Marlon house; building relationships with clients…………………………………………………………………………………. 21–33 Employees, health insurance, 401(k) policy, recruitment, and mentoring. Irwin Molasky, Park Towers, Leslie Parraguirre, and high-end, high-rise condominiums. Surviving the recession and flexibility. Wealth and moving up: Tournament Hills, The Ridges, and Summit Club and Discovery Property. Architects Swisher and Hall, Carpenter Sellers Del Gatto, Swaback Partners, Mark Johnson. Roger Thomas, architects Mark Mack and Eric Strain, and Roger Thomas's house. Jones brothers' personal homes. Good architecture…………….……………………………33–48 vi vii 1 Good afternoon. It is November 7th, 2016. Stefani Evans and Claytee White are with Bart and Steve Jones. May I ask you both to spell your first and last names, please? Sure. Stephen, S-T-E-P-H-E-N, Jones, J-O-N-E-S. And Bart; B-A-R-T, J-O-N-E-S. Thank you so much. So let's begin by talking about how your family came to Las Vegas and when they came and what it was like growing up here. Well, I can start. Grandma and Grandpa Jones were headed back to Sumatra, where he previously had worked for...Dutch Shell [The Royal Dutch Shell Group], right? Yes, Dutch Shell. Actually, our father and aunt and uncle were part of that process I think in '14, somewhere in the early twenties. Anyway, just as the depression hit they were going back to Long Beach to get on a ship to go back to Sumatra to work for the Dutch Indonesia company, Dutch Shell. Grandpa heard about this new town and the dam as they were traveling to Los Angeles. So they took the ferry across, which was the Jim Cashman Ferry. Jim Cashman had the ferry, the only way to cross the river. This is coming from Flagstaff. So they're coming from Arizona, and they had to cross the river; that's how you got across the river. So they detoured across the river on Jim Cashman's old ferry and came to Las Vegas and thought, well, you know what? There's lots of opportunity here with the dam starting and maybe we don't need to go back to Sumatra. So that's how they ended up settling here, Burley Monroe Jones and Arlie M. Jones. I guess Aunt Flo was the oldest—Florence Lee Jones Cahlan—then Clifford Aaron Jones was the second; then our father, Herbert Monroe “Herb” Jones, was their 2 third child. He was the baby. They were still back in Missouri going to school, the three kids. So it was just Burley and Arlie that were heading back to either Sumatra or Long Beach to the oil industry. Fortunately, he [Burley] had some capital; he had some money. And he saw Vegas and they were about ready to start the dam. He invested in a gas station in Pittman, which was halfway between Boulder City and Las Vegas at that time. I am sure there's still a Pittman on the map, but you'll see it on old maps. Pittman was a township actually, wasn't it? Yes, just north of Boulder Highway and just north of downtown Henderson. Sort of like where Sunset [Road] comes in or just a little north of that. Yes, about right. So Burley was the father? Grandfather, our grandfather Your grandfather and the father of the three kids. Correct. What was the grandmother's name? Arlie. So they settled here. I don't remember then. You were right. Did they bring the kids out right away? No. I think both Auntie Flo and Uncle Cliff were both going to University of Missouri, Columbia, and our father was still in high school in Columbia. So he stayed with friends there. And the two of them stayed until Auntie Flo graduated from Columbia with a degree in journalism, which was the best journalism school in the country at the time. She came here, followed her parents here, and was able to secure a job as the first female journalist in Southern Nevada with the 3 Review-Journal. CLAYTEE: Give me her name again? Florence Lee Cahlan Jones. She was, I think, the first UPI [United Press International] reporter in Las Vegas. The news service group. So why do you think the family encouraged this daughter to go into journalism? That's so unusual for that time. Well, Grandpa Jones had an eighth-grade education. They both came from...Where, Missouri or Arkansas? Missouri. So they both grew up on small farms in Missouri. Grandpa Jones had an eighth-grade education and went off on his own to work. And Grandma, the way that we heard the story was basically Grandma was like number seven [in her family]; there were seven boys and then Grandma showed up on this farm. She was always very intellectual, always a big reader, always all of that. Her father was always going to send her to college. She was the first college-educated child. Then she fell in love with Grandpa. And the deal that she made with her father was “I will do a college degree on my own; I will do study as if I'm going to college; even though I'm married I'm just going to still continue my education.” And she was also to be the first—both of them were Southern Baptist originally and Grandpa Jones was always a strict Southern Baptist. Grandma at an early age found Christian Scientists, which in Missouri was like a radical religion—this is in the turn of the century—but a very intellectual-type religion. So she became a Christian Scientist and was for her entire life. So education was what she was all about. She actually sent all three of their children through college. 4 Well, they all worked their way through college. Yes, they all worked their way through college. Completely, yes. So what did they do while they were in school? I'm not sure about Aunt Flo, but Dad and Cliff—and Dad, I think he figured he was the youngest guy on the dam. I think he was seventeen; he lied about this age. They would work a year on the dam and save money, and then they would hitchhike back to Missouri. In fact, Dad had to graduate high school, I think, still, and then they went to college for a year, and then they'd come back and work on the dam for a year. And Dad did talk about waiting tables during the depression. He was waiting tables while he was going to college. He said the best thing about working that job was, "We got all the crackers we wanted; we got soup. So dinner was free soup. We got all the crackers we wanted and all the ketchup we wanted." So he said, "My soup was loaded with crackers and ketchup." What kind of work did he do on the dam? He worked in the mess hall to begin with, waiting tables, and then he graduated to...He mucked forms, the concrete forms, which was a higher paying job, out on the dam itself, on the face of the dam, very, very difficult. He claimed that he and his crew were the world's champion muckers; they mucked more forms in one day than anyone ever mucked before. He [and his crew] had the international, like the record, of doing whatever, twelve by twelve by three foot form, sand blast it, clean as a plate, in the least amount of time. Cliff was a crane operator. So can you explain what mucking a frame is? Form. 5 So basically the form, they form these cubicles to pour concrete in, and then they would pour the concrete in them. They would then hoist the wet concrete by cable and drop the concrete into the form. Once the concrete set up, they would pull the forms off and then set them up someplace else. It's done today in construction. There's nothing new. It's been done forever and forever. If you see the pictures of dam, you'll see this weird stacking. So when they pulled the forms off, there was all the little dust and dirt and chips and pieces. Dad said they'd have a sand blaster and they would literally sand blast it and sweep it clean. Then the last little bit in the corner and they would blow it up over the side. So he said every surface before the next load of concrete was clean enough to eat off. Otherwise it adheres to the forms, concrete does, and then you can't break them apart. And they still do that. It's still done today. So they held the world record. Well, Dad and his crew did, yes. So where did the family live as far back as you can remember? I remember 13th [Street] and Fremont [Street], and I can't remember any further back. They had a great house just one lot off of... it would be the southeast corner of Fremont and 13th Street. There was actually two little houses; there was a little house in the front and then their house. They had the bigger, nicer house in the back and they had a carriage house or a house for the garage house and Tamarisk trees in the front, big, beautiful Tamarisk trees for the shade. And our parents, our mother’s parents, Clyde and Grace Sanders, were married in in Tulsa, Oklahoma. That's where they lived, our parents lived at first. Then the house you were born in... That was on Maryland Parkway and Oakey [Boulevard]. Do you remember the address? 6 No, I never knew the address. Dad couldn't remember it either, and no one ever remembered. I believe it was on the north side of Oakey and on the west side of the street. So was that considered Huntridge or John S. Park? Huntridge. That's right. It was a new subdivision. Huntridge had just been built. So Steve was born in '49. So we all went to John S. Park [Elementary School]. We walked to school. But we moved to Sixth [Street] and Oakey [Boulevard]. That's where Bart was born in 1951. So I know that house, 1805 South Sixth. And it's still there, looks pretty good. Yes, little three-bedroom block house, nice. Is it now an attorney's office? No. It's further down. It's further down Oakey. It's further down Sixth Street on the south side of Oakey. So it's over by St. Louis [Avenue], towards St. Louis in that part. Which was the last houses going south, and then there was desert. Right. It was the latest subdivision at the time. So when Steve and I would go hunting as kids, lizard hunting, we would walk to the end of our block and from [that point it] was desert to Los Angeles. There was a couple of hotels still out there. A couple of hotels, yes, a little west of those. So how far out would you go? As far as little kids could go in a day and get back for dinner. We took water and we had a hat. Just as far as we wanted to walk. Which is probably what the cause of it is. Yes. As long as you got home by dinnertime, it didn't matter. So I guess we—who knows?—we thought it was miles and miles. It probably wasn't that long or that far. 7 And just the two of you or did you have...? No, just the two of us. Maybe another buddy or somebody on the block. It was a wonderful block to grow up in because Sixth Street had tons of kids. It was all the fifties. And Seventh Street behind us, which is to the east, had tons of kids. What was fascinating about growing up in Vegas, at least on our street... What I loved about our street is to the left was a Jewish couple. They didn't have any kids, but we still called them Aunt and Uncle. They were very close to us. We were raised Presbyterian, [and we went to] the First Presbyterian Church [now Grace Presbyterian Church, 1515 W.] Charleston [Boulevard]. Harry and Becky Lahr. He was a hotel executive. L-A-H-R? Yes. And then across the street was the Catholic family, the Nagles, and they had kids. Then a couple of doors down was Jimmy Jimmerson's house. He's an attorney here in town, a pretty high-ranking attorney. He's my age. Then we were very close with the Griffith family, and they were LDS [members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]. So it was this incredible... And the kids didn't care, whatever. We all played together, and we were in each other's houses, and we ate together. So it was a wonderful time. And our parents didn't put any...whatever. There was no stigma. It was like, okay, these are the kids. We were blessed with that. There was no anything going on in our family, racially anything, or religious-wise; that was forbidden. So we were blessed with progressive parents that didn't see value in... But they were all raised in the Midwest, I guess. So there was no Little Italy or there was no... They were small-town people. Like being raised in a big city, they didn't have those [prejudices]. 8 And I think the exposure—and I think about it, too—the exposure that Grandpa got because when he went to Sumatra it was in the 1920s. So somebody from Missouri—there weren't many people that got out of the county, let alone leave the state, let alone go across the Pacific and actually work in the middle of Sumatra. The closest non-native person was a hundred and fifty miles down the jungle river. Grandpa went there for a year [by himself at] first, set up the camp and set up the home, and then Grandma and the three children came—followed all the way there—and lived there for a year or two. I thought it was longer than that. So they lived there. It was their home. So consequently, they had lived around all kinds of different people with different cultures. In fact, Steve has some knives and stuff in his office today that Uncle Cliff was given because the local chief thought Cliff was a reincarnation of one of his dead sons; he gave him some ceremonial knives that you just don't get unless you're part of the family. So Steve has some of those. So I think that maybe just that exposure that Grandpa and Grandma had of different cultures and of being a minority in the middle of the jungle with just the local people was different. One of the blessings that I remember closely was—I don't know. How long have you been in Las Vegas? Since '92. A long time ago, back in the fifties, there was a little market, the only market on the Westside called Rancho Market. Rancho Market was sort of the only little store in the Westside. The way that I remember hearing it was Dad was hired by the owners— Definitely segregated at that point. Oh, it was horribly segregated. Dad was hired by the owners, who were black men that were the butcher or whoever it was owned Rancho Market. He was hired to be their attorney and asked if 9 he wanted to participate and be one of the partial owners. So he put in some money. Meantime, our dad was raising five kids, and I don't think he had a lot of money to spare. But he put a little money in Rancho Market. Unfortunately, the two guys ran up some bills, left town with the store's money, and all the sudden Dad is the only owner in town, and there's all kinds of bills to pay. As Dad tells the story, he didn't know what to do. His whole life was all about integrity. So he talked to all the people—the guy that supplied the milk and the butter, et cetera, et cetera—and said, "Listen, I can't pay you but ten cents on the dollar every month. I'll pay you and it might take me a few years, but I'm going to pay you back." So Dad ended up owning the store, Rancho Market. He asked our grandfather, his father, who was retired and basically kind of managed real estate, to go run the market for him. So Grandpa Jones went to run the market. But I can clearly remember going there on Saturdays and Sundays when sometimes Steve and I would stay with our grandparents. We were the only white kids—and little, four, five, six, seven—the only white kids that I knew that were even on the Westside of town. We would just hang out in Rancho Market because Grandpa had to run the store. It was just a normal thing for us. It was really great. So it was kind of a unique experience at that time. Do you remember where the market was located? No. No. I'm sure it's on a map. [Ed. Note: In 1961 the business was called the Ranch Market, Inc. H.M. Jones was president; B.M. Jones was vice president, and C.L. Stucki, secretary-treasurer. Ranch Market was located at 611 W. Van Buren Avenue, at the intersection of F Street. As of 2019, the property is a vacant lot.] I can picture it. Yes, I can too. 10 I can picture it. There was a big Chow dog across the street. A big what? Chow dog. You know what a Chow is? Oh, a big Chow dog? With a blue tongue, yes. Those are really bad dogs. Don't go into that guy's yard. It was one of those things. Yes. All I remember is the counters were kind of like tables on those. The counters were just kind of... I remember watching upstairs from the window and saying, "Grandpa, that guy's putting something in his bag." He looked down. He goes, "You know what? That's okay." That was it. So did you ever work in the market? No. We were little kids. No. We just were hanging out. We were elementary, little, little. I don't know. We were just being stashed there. Grandpa had us and that's where we had to go and so we were there. It was Grandpa's day care. Exactly, yes, and we would have to be there. I'm going to find out where the market was. Oh, good. Rancho Market, yes. It probably closed in the fifties. Yes, it didn't last. By 1960s I think it was probably gone. Yes. Dad paid everybody off. He did; he paid everyone off. He sold it at a no profit. He said, "I just sold it. I was happy to get out of the deal." To a black butcher and I think a black...He said two black men bought it. One 11 was a butcher and the other one was maybe the bookkeeper or somebody else. But those two gentlemen ran it for a couple more years. But he sold it to them and they took it over. That's a great little vignette of history. We're in the process of doing an African-American documentary 1955 to about 1975. I've never heard that piece of history before. Yes, it was the market. Also, he owned a bunch of real estate on the Westside and most of the churches that are on the Westside, he donated the land to the churches. Oh, really? Yes. That's the story I remember. Right. Oh, yes. Especially, I imagine, if they're a Baptist church; Grandpa owned the land and he donated it to the church. And Grandma as a Christian Scientist, she was very much into Bible study big, big, big time and did lots of Bible study. I can remember growing up there was quite often a black women at her home and they would Bible study together at Grandma Jones' home. So she was very connected. But for Christian Science? No, they were not. No, I don't think they were. No, they wouldn't have been. But she was very practical. So if you cut your hand off, she would send you to the doctor. I love that. Yes, Grandma wasn't going to let somebody bleed to death. She always said, "You know what? I'm a practicing Christian Scientist. If somebody gets sick, they're going to the doctor." 12 Yes. "And then they can do what the doctor tells them." So she was practical about it. In her own mind that's how she practiced her religion. She wouldn't let us bleed to death. Good to know. That's smart. Yes, yes. So what kind of work did you do as teenagers? Well, we had a pretty good life, I think. We were lucky to grow up here. I worked for Anderson Dairy every summer. What did you do for them? So I washed trucks one summer. Then I worked on the dock a couple of summers, on the loading dock early in the morning. Dad was a partner with Kenny Searles and Glen Coon. I think that business is a hundred years old now. Anderson Dairy? Anderson Dairy, yes. It probably is because— Yes. I think they're one of the few [businesses] along with Cragin & Pike that are a hundred years old. So Dad was their attorney and was part of that. So that was my job was during high school was working for Anderson Dairy. The only part I remember about that is...Because it was Vegas in the summer when he was working—it was hot, hot, hot—Steve used to come back and say, "I had to go in the freezer." And he had a big coat to go in the freezer. So everybody else is a hundred and ten to whatever and Steve's in the big coat in the freezer at Anderson Dairy. 13 It was ten below. It was a real freezer. Couldn't stay in there. It was hard work. Great, great job. But then he always got to brag about how they got to make ice cream with a higher butter fat than you can even buy in the store because they made their own ice cream for the guys working in the docks. So he had the best ice cream in Las Vegas. Yes. That's it. Oh, nice. So I think we all had good jobs. Golf course jobs, working golf courses and stuff. What did you do at the golf course? I was a laborer on a golf course, one golf course. What else did we do? So did you work, Bart? I did, if you can call it that. I was a lifeguard at the Riviera Hotel when Engelbert Humperdinck music was played all summer long. That's when I was sixteen. So when I was sixteen that was my first job really at the Riviera. One of my best friends, Carter Chappelle, his dad was the general manager, I think, at the Riviera at the time. The hardest part of that job was we had the lifeguard seat up high and at that time it looked right over—whatever it was—three-story rooms at the Sahara Hotel and it had a digital thing, which gave the temperature and the time, and the temperature and the time as I'm sitting there. Yes. It turned around. It was the temperature on one side and the time on the other side, all in numbers. Yes. And so I'm sitting there and for my two-hour shift of watching seven tourists swimming in the pool, it went twelve-oh-one, twelve-oh-one, twelve-oh-one. It was like, oh, man. So it was 14 long, but other than that it was a great job. It had the best diving board in Las Vegas, the Riviera. So we had a great...Anyhow, so it was a sweet job. Pat Cross was your boss, right? Pat Cross was the boss. Was he Lebanese? Maybe Lebanese. Interesting guy. He was the head of the...backstage. Set designers. Set designers. Backstage union. So he was an extremely powerful man in Las Vegas, because those guys controlled the shows. It was sort of like the culinary controlling. So that was another union in town that was real powerful. He was the president of that union. So his perk job was to be head lifeguard, which meant all the lifeguards, [so] the kids like us gave him all our money. He got all the money and we got a few tips, but he got the bulk of them. Mostly he took naps in the little extra room where we stored the lounge chairs. So Pat got a cush job because he was in the union. But that was how it worked. So were the lifeguards all guys? They were all guys. There was, I think, maybe three of us all the time. We all had to have Red Cross life certificates and that kind of stuff. And you never wanted to be a lifeguard? I was a lifeguard one summer at the Mint. At the top of the Mint they had a little, tiny pool, about this big. You know what I mean? Top of the Mint. That was one of the few pools, though. That was a really unique pool. Yes. So that was one summer. Unique in what way? Well, it was on the top of a high-rise. 15 A high-rise pool in Las Vegas was like, unheard of. What year was this? Oh, gosh, I don't know, '66, '67 or something like that. And the Mint was how tall? Gosh, I don't remember, maybe fifteen stories. I don't remember. Yes, it was tall for downtown. It was taller than the Fremont at the time. Yes, it was a big deal. The Mint was a big high-rise downtown at those days, that first Mint. So how do you like what's happening in that area right now? You know what? I haven't spent any time downtown in a long, long time. I really haven't. So I pretty much don't know what's happening downtown. We spent a lot of time down there. Our dad's law firm and our uncle's law firm was downtown. So we were downtown a lot as little kids. Where was the law firm? Well, the first one they had was on Fremont Street. It was on the second story close to the Fremont Hotel, second story of a little office building. We used to watch the Helldorado Parade from our dad's office window. Oh, perfect. Then they moved to...What is that? It was like Carson [Avenue] maybe. Main [Street] and Carson. What's the Bank of America street going east and west? Anyway, about four blocks south of Fremont. It's still there. [Ed. Note: The Bank of America is at the intersection of Fourth Street and Bridger Avenue.] It was on the corner. And there was a flower shop below, right? 16 Yes. The flower shop was below and then our dad's office, Jones Wiener Jones. [Our dad] was the last Jones. Lou Wiener? Louis Wiener. He was quite a character. He was a local. He was born in Las Vegas. Yes, he was a real character. He's one of those guys married seven times, I think, or eight times. Now, how did you end up going into building custom homes? That's Steve's story. Bart and I both dealt cards for a while when we were going to school. So I dealt at the Sands and he dealt at the Dunes, the old Dunes. And you went to UNLV? I went there, never graduated. I was like two or three classes short, maybe just one course short. Then you went up to Reno. You went up to Reno for a while. Yes, I went to Reno, yes. I'd rather not say what happened in Reno. I came back down here. So I was dealing cards for a while, and I hated it. I just couldn't stand it. This old guy from Tishomingo, Oklahoma, was a builder, and he was dealing cards there. He was only dealing cards because his wife had cancer and he needed the insurance. I wanted to build my own home. So I started working for him for free. I said, "Just teach me." He said, "I'm not paying you, kid." And I said, "Fine, I just want to learn." This is the mid-seventies. Yes. So I just kept on working for him. He finally started paying me. Then he finally made me a partner and then we started building houses together. What was his name? 17 Audie Coker, Coker Construction, Audie Coker. He's from Tishomingo, Oklahoma. In the meantime, you're still dealing full time. So this was your second job. Yes, working two jobs. He was a great guy, real honest guy, taught me a great building ethic. We started building houses. We were doing little stuff. He had been a big contractor in Southern California and he came up here. He was a real private guy. So there was something going on with the family and his new wife. I never really asked. But he had to kind of get out of California. But very successful, had a lot of money, and he was dealing cards more for his insurance until he got to sixty-two because his wife had had cancer a couple of times. So he needed the insurance. A very frugal guy. Anyway, so we built four homes. We built four homes out in Henderson by ourselves completely from the ground up. Then a whole other two or three years with it and then I said, "Well, okay, Audie, let's buy ten lots and build ten homes." Because you were buying the lots and building the houses and selling them. Yes, designing them, drawing them, everything. Then I said, "Okay, that just worked. Let's build ten." So tell me where the first four are located. They're on Chestnut and...They're right off the Boulder Highway right by...What's that old casino out there? The Relic? No. No. It's been there forever. It might have been closed down. Right off Water Street? No, no. It might be—no. So it was where Sunset spit out and just you turn right to go— The Showboat? No. It was going back towards Henderson. 18 No. Back towards Henderson. So it was right over there at Chestnut. It was on Chestnut Street. So I said, "Let's just buy ten lots." He said, "You know what? I just hit sixty-two. You're on your own." So he kind of kicked me out. Then we formed Merlin Contracting, and I built my own houses for four years. Then Bart and I owned a business (indiscernible). Well, tell the story about how you found the name Merlin, because I think that's an interesting story. You just need to be careful about all the names. Yes. Well, the kids...When I got my own contractor's license, I started connecting with material suppliers and they'd all just cuss me out as soon as I'd tell them my name. I finally figured out there was another Steve Jones in town. He had a terrible, terrible reputation, never paid his bills. So my kids were just little kids and they were all into the fantasy stuff. So I went home and they said, "Well, call him Merlin Magician." So that's how I got to be Merlin, a little hokey, but it worked out pretty well. No, it's a great name and a good st