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Audio clip from interview with Milton I. Schwartz by Claytee White, May 4, 2004

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Download jhp000709.mp3 (audio/mpeg; 9.97 MB)

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Date
2004-05-04
Description

Part of an interview with Milton I. Schwartz on May 4, 2004. In this clip, Schwartz discusses his life after the military and working in Las Vegas.

Digital ID
jhp000709
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Citation

Milton I. Schwartz oral history interview, 2004 May 03. OH-01651. [Audio recording]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada. http://n2t.net/ark:/62930/d1n58gb75

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00:10:31
14,076,240 bytes
Language

English

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University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Libraries
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audio/mpeg

[PAGES 2-6] So tell me what it was like when you got out of the military service in 1946. What had the experience done for you? The experience, you can't wait to forget about it. It's not a pleasure trip. And I went right back to work as a refrigeration mechanic, which was what I did before the war. I was making $1.75 an hour, which was journeyman's wage at that time. I saw an ad in the paper that if you're the best refrigeration mechanic and can prove it and are willing to come out at your own expense and you want to work a lot of hours, we'll pay you $11 an hour and $22 an hour for overtime. That was from the Flamingo Hotel -- Bugsy Siegel. I came out by train. Of course, it was cheaper. Three and a half days. I knew I'd get the job, which I did. Interesting story. At that time the Strip was called Fifth Street. You know that? And Tropicana was called Bond Road. What is it now? Bond Road. There was no Sahara. It was called San Francisco Avenue. The owner of the hotel that I stayed at -- there were two hotels on Fifth Street, the Last Frontier ~ a different hotel than what's there now - and El Rancho Vegas. I stayed at El Rancho Vegas, six dollars a night. If I gambled, it wouldn't have cost anything. But I wasn't gambling. And Beldon Katleman liked me because I worked 6 days a week, 16 hours a day. Well, the reason they paid that kind of rate is because they were behind on their schedule and Bugsy Siegel was afraid he was going to get killed, which later on he did. I'm sure you know that. Yes. I'd have dinner after I'd get off work, eleven o'clock at night, and have to be back at work at seven the next morning. I'd eat at the ~ they call it buffet now. They called it Chuckwagon in those days. Both hotels had Chuckwagon [diners]. So Beldon Katleman said, "I know why they call your boss Bugsy." I said, "Not to his face." He said, "Everyone knows this town cannot support three hotels." And we were building the third hotel way out of town. Do you want to hear these little stories? Oh, yes, please. Yes. This is the reason. Incidentally, if my eyes are tearing, I told you I had drops so that it looks like I'm crying. I'm not. Okay, good. I don't want to make you cry. No. So I'd like to hear more about both Beldon Katleman and about the employment process once you got here. What did you have to do in order to get the job? Nothing. I never met Bugsy Siegel, ever. I met Virginia Hill. Ooh, was she gorgeous. Please tell me about that, as well. I can never understand why a gorgeous lady like that became a prostitute, which she was. I just can never understand that. She was absolutely - when she would pass, men would go like this. Now, I thought she was his girlfriend ~ And remember, I was 25 years old at the time and single. Now, I thought she was his girlfriend. She was his girlfriend, but she was a prostitute before that. Prior to, okay. In any event, the job foreman had me braze some copper together, had me put on a pair of gauges on a compressor, asked me some questions, silly questions, and he knew that I knew my stuff. And he hired me immediately. Okay. So how did you get to know Katleman so well? I'd come there every night. He was the boss of the hotel. And he was always there at night watching the casino. And I'd come in every night and eat at the Chuckwagon. Occasionally, we started to talk. He liked me because I was a poor schnook working so hard. So I can't say I knew him so well. I knew him well enough to talk to him. And he used to talk to me. Good. Now, did he have any connections, as far as you know, with the families? As far as I know, I don't know. But I must tell you that everyone in those years was connected with the Mob. Many people say to me, "Why didn't you ever get into gaming?" And I would tell them what I'm telling you. If I have a dispute with someone, I'm going to call my lawyer. If you have a dispute with one of them, they take out a gun. I had just left the Army. I saw enough of guns. I have never, in all the years I've been here, because of that, ever been involved in a casino business. There are some people, whose names I will not mention, high-ranking people in the casino business today, who are still paying tribute to the Mob. And I know who they are. And we still have those connections today? Only a couple that I know of. But it would be surprising who they are. Okay. That, you're not going to get from me. Okay. I won't even ask. Tell me how the businesses were run at the time as far as you know. Did Siegel have someone here doing all of the work, all of the legwork, or did he come in and out of the town? How did he put all of this together? He came in and out of town. I'll give you an example of how the Mob worked. When Caesars Palace was built, there were three partners: Jay Sarno, Stan Mowen, and Nate Jacobson. The head of the casino representing the Mob was a guy by the name of "Luttie" Zarowitz. Is that name familiar to you? Yeah. I was present when he said to Jay Sarno, the boss, "See this color carpet? That's where you walk. See this colored carpet? This is the casino carpet. That's where you don't walk. If you ever step over the line, you'll never get back to the other side." Right out in the open. And Jay Sarno couldn't walk into the casino in his own hotel. So who actually operated it? The Mob. And it was that blatant? Oh, absolutely. How did the people who lived here accept that? How did they feel about that? Many of them were connected with them, a lot of them. So after the job of building the Flamingo ? We were finished ~ I think they opened Christmas Day of 1946. Incidentally, a lot of people don't know that three months later they closed. You do know that. And then, of course, they opened up again. It's probably one of the most successful casinos in the city today. Did you continue to work there after it opened, after construction? No. I worked there from August to December. So by that time, did you have a little nest egg with the kind of hours you were working? I had a little nest egg. I brought it back to New York where my father was still alive. We were in what was called the fixture business. We used to make walk-in coolers and display cases for butcher shops. And then we branched out into supermarkets. This was '46. Ten years later, I had sold my company for a million dollars. I was a millionaire at the age of 30 whatever, 1956. And then what did you do? I worked for the company that I sold out to and invested some money. I had some good investments. I went into a lot of other businesses. I've been in over 200 businesses. Wow. What brought you back to Las Vegas? I bought a company in California called DEC, Design Equipment Construction. They did a lot of work in Las Vegas. So that's what brought me back. When you left, did you ever think you would move back? I don't remember what I thought at that time. So that company was already investing and you were already working in Las Vegas as a result of that company? Right. So tell me what you did at that point. Did you start buying a home at that point? No. In 1970, a few partners and I bought a nursing home on Shadow Lane, closed it down, and built it into a hospital called Valley Hospital. We bought some homes in the area, and I lived in several of them until '76. Then I built a home, where I live now. Is that in that same area? In the Scotch 80s.