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Loreta C. Monson interview, March 1, 1979: transcript






On March 1, 1979, Jon J. Howard interviewed Loreta Monson (b. April 10, 1904 in Egypt, Idaho) about her life in Las Vegas, Nevada. Monson speaks about coming to Las Vegas, the layout of the city and Fremont Street. Moreover, Monson talks about the Mormon church in Las Vegas, politicians and Nellis Air Force Base. Lastly, Monson discusses leisure activities, recreational activities such as fishing, and the Old Ranch.

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Monson, Loreta C. Interview, 1979 March 1. OH-01315. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 1 An Interview with Loreta Monson An Oral History Conducted by Jon J. Howard Ralph Roske Oral History Project on Early Las Vegas Special Collections and Archives Oral History Research Center University Libraries University of Nevada, Las Vegas UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 2 © Ralph Roske Oral History Project on Early Las Vegas University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 2020 UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 3 The Oral History Research Center (OHRC) was formally established by the Board of Regents of the University of Nevada System in September 2003 as an entity of the UNLV University Libraries’ Special Collections Division. The OHRC conducts oral interviews with individuals who are selected for their ability to provide first-hand observations on a variety of historical topics in Las Vegas and Southern Nevada. The OHRC is also home to legacy oral history interviews conducted prior to its establishment including many conducted by UNLV History Professor Ralph Roske and his students. This legacy interview transcript received minimal editing, such as 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. The interviewee/narrator was not involved in the editing process. UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 4 Abstract On March 1, 1979, Jon J. Howard interviewed Loreta Monson (b. April 10, 1904 in Egypt, Idaho) about her life in Las Vegas, Nevada. Monson speaks about coming to Las Vegas, the layout of the city and Fremont Street. Moreover, Monson talks about the Mormon church in Las Vegas, politicians and Nellis Air Force Base. Lastly, Monson discusses leisure activities, recreational activities such as fishing, and the Old Ranch. UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 5 Okay. I'm interviewing Mrs. Loreta Monson. It's 11:30, March 3rd—March 1st, 1979. We're at her house at 712 North Nine. I’m Jon Howard at 4779 Randall Drive. And this is the Local History Project. Okay. Mrs. Monson, how long have you lived in Las Vegas? Forty-one years. What made you come here? My husband's work with Swift & Company. Where did you come from? Ogden, Utah. How long did you live there? Oh, about fifteen years. Fifteen years, long time. Okay. What was Las Vegas like when you first, first moved here? What was Las Vegas like when you first moved here? The— The valley itself. What did it look like? Pretty desolate. Were there any casinos? Just a few little honky-tonks. No major names? No. What did—how has this area you’ve lived in now changed? Oh, a great lot. Like Ninth Street here, has it changed a lot? Yes. UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 6 What was it like before, you know? There was about three houses up this street and the school was across the street. And that's all that was here? That's all that was here? Okay. What did the Strip look like when you first moved here? The Strip. There was no Strip. (Laughs) No Strip at all? Nothing? No Strip, it was all desert. What’d Fremont Street look like? Well, it wasn't very large either. You’d come to Fifth Street and that was just about the end. Was it paved yet? Yes. Mrs. Monson, can you tell me what the first hotels were on the Strip? The Last Frontier and El Rancho Vegas. Okay. Could you tell me where they were approximately? Oh, they were out a couple miles on the Los Angeles Highway. And do you remember what came after that one? After those two hotels? No. I mean, were there any other houses or anything past that or was that toward the end of Las Vegas? That’s about as far as I can remember. They just popped up everywhere after that. Do you remember what, what hotels or casinos were on Fremont Street? Apache Hotel. And what’s that other one down there, it’s still there, across from (unintelligible). El Cortez or Las Vegas Club? UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 7 Well, the Las Vegas Club was here. Were there any others down on Fremont Street? No. If there was, I can't remember their names. What was—what did the whole Fremont Street look like? Was there shopping or just casinos? Yes, there was shopping all the way down. Was that like the center of town? Mm-hmm. How did your family get into gambling? Were they involved in it personally? No. We didn't go in for that. Did any of them work in a casino or with a casino? No. Okay. Did anybody work with the hotels? Or for a hotel? My husband called on some of ‘em for meat orders. So he, you know, he was more involved with the culinary part of it? Yes. Has the valley changed as far as money? You know, have prices gone up a lot? Outta sight. (Laughs) Outta sight. Well, what were they like when you first got here? Well, we rent an apartment for $30 a month. But you couldn't even blink at it today. Okay. Have food prices going up a lot? Yes. They're out of sight. Okay. Have people changed a lot? Has their attitude? UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 8 Well, I don't mix much with too many of ‘em, only my church people and they're not—no different. Like the people—like when you go shopping and such, do you find that supermarkets the attitude of the checkers is different? Are the people still friendly? Yes, the clerks are friendly. Mrs. Monson, how many children do you have? How many children do you have? Two. Two girls. And what are their names? (Laughs) Stacy (unintelligible) and Sue Ellen (unintelligible). Okay. Where did they go to school? (Unintelligible) Do you know where they went after that? Well, Rancho and Las Vegas High School. Okay, where do they live now? Where do they live now? Stacy lives in Richmond, Utah. And Sue Ellen lives here. Do you know if the schools have changed much since your children first went into school? Yes, they teach different now. I think lots of things that parents don't approve of. And lots of things that are good form, I think. So you think the schools have changed for the better or worse? Well, I won't say because I'm not involved with the school now. Oh yes, I see. Okay. Mrs. Monson, what church are you a member of? The LDS Mormons. Okay. How have they affected Las Vegas since you've been here? UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 9 We have about forty-five boards now. When we first come, there was one. Where's that located? On South Ninth. Has the attitude of the people changed with the growth of Las Vegas, as far as the church? Well, we've had an awful lot join. So like, the church is getting stronger in Las Vegas? Yes. That's unusual even with the increase in gambling. (Laughs) Well, I think that there's certain amount of gambling goes on behind hidden doors at other places, where it's open here. You can take it or leave it. We believe in leaving it. Okay. How, do you know how politics have changed in Las Vegas? How politics changed? Politicians, since you first got here? Well, I don't know too much about ‘em. You never know who to vote for. But you have to vote. You think it's the right one and you do the best you can. Okay. Has there been any one particular person that’s helped Las Vegas more than any other politician? Well, I think they all vote for Las Vegas for a betterment. Mm. Now, like, how has the Lamb family helped Las Vegas? Or have they? I think he's done a lot of good. Is that Sherriff Lamb or Senator Lamb? Well, I think they're Mormons too. And I think that they were all right. Like, how has the attitude of the politicians towards Las Vegas? Are they getting too “big city” or like trying to keep the small town atmosphere? UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 10 No, I think they're broadening out, because there is a great population. When we first come, there was ten thousand, forty-one years ago, so you can tell. I don't know the exact amount today. but— It’s about a three hundred and sixty percent increase. Okay. Do you remember what Henderson was like when you first moved here? There was no Henderson. There was no Henderson? No. They built that big plant out there after we came. Do you remember what the dam was like when you moved here? Well, they were still working on it. Was Mr. Monson—had anything to do with the dam or was he just—? No. Strictly with (unintelligible)? Was your family in any way involved with the dam? No. Do you know what source of power they drew from for the dam? They, when we went out they had five generators going. And I know they’ve increased since then. Do you remember anything about the construction of the dam? About, you know, how long it took, people lost in it or the stories out there they have? That happened before we come, the deaths. Oh, were they just finishing up the dam when you got here? Just finishing it up? No, they went for several years after. Could you tell me how like the development at the dam changed Las Vegas? UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 11 I think it (unintelligible) had to. I think it brought a lot of people here for work. Do you know what Boulder City looked like when you got here? Well, it was—wasn't too settled either. There was not too many stores out there. It was more of a (unintelligible) or was it just getting on its feet? Well, I think that mostly. It wasn't like Egypt, Idaho, huh? Wasn't like Egypt, Idaho? No. Reckon, well probably a lot. Do you remember like where—what did Las Vegas consist of? What were its boundaries? Where did the city run from? Like, was there a West Charleston then? Was it just basically around Fremont Street? Well, it was almost just Fremont Street. No traffic? Oh, out in there was all desert. It was all desert. How’d the desert look in its natural state? Pretty? Hm? How did the desert look its natural state with no buildings? Pretty? Well, just like you go out here and see. It all looked just like that. How’d the lake change Las Vegas? The fishing, did it bring people—? (Unintelligible) Well, you used to could go out and fish from the bank anywhere. Now you have to go by boat mostly. Hm. The fishing’s changed a lot? Yes, very much. Was there any pollution then? As far as the light goes, any pollution problem? UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 12 No. Lake was just clear, huh? Mm-hmm. Okay. Let’s see. Like, did they used to have that same air problem here? As far as they get that black cloud that hangs. No, we didn't have that. Were there, were there any cars or automobiles in Las Vegas then or were horses still much in use? No, they had cars. Was—were the streets okay? Were they all paved? Were they still running on dirt streets? Or is it just, more or less, Fremont Street? (Laughs) Well, they wasn't too, too lush. No. Just sort of existed? Mrs. Monson, now what did your husband do when he was working here? He sold meat. He called on all the stores and markets. He sold meat and that was his line of work. How did he wind up in Las Vegas? Well, we were sent here to take another fellow’s place. Okay. How long had Mr. Monson been working for this company? Well, ever since we moved to Ogden, and then—I'd say (unintelligible) fifty years. Anyway. (Unintelligible) Did you have any occupations? Well, we bought some apartments and we billed them over and I tried to keep them going while he kept his job. UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 13 Was it successful? Yes. Where are these apartments located? At 120 North Eighth. Okay. Have they changed much since you ran them originally? No. They had added a swimming pool then. What—were they apartments or like a motel? No, it was a big building, a two story building. And you just rented these out months like (unintelligible)? Mm-hmm. Okay. Mr. Monson's work. He did deal with the hotels, right? Yes. Were they a major part of his work or? Yes. And you had no dealings with the hotels at all? No. I took orders if they phoned in and he wasn't there. Where did he work, more or less? Out of the house for his business or just? He had his office right in the house. Can you tell me anything about your house when you moved here? This house. This house? Yes. Well, it’s just we build on. We built a bedroom for the girls and a bath and the washroom. Has the church been a major part of your life? UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 14 Yes. In what way? Well, Mr. Monson went on a mission in his early life and we pretty much kept in the church ever since. Let’s see. Can you tell me when Henderson started to develop? Henderson. What? Can you tell me when Henderson started to develop? Well, it was soon after we moved here. What was the first thing that they started out there? Was it the plant? The chemical— The big plant. Did it start to build rapidly? Or was it just a slow process through the years? No, it was built sort of rapidly. Do you remember Nellis Air Force Base when it first opened? Yes. What was it like out there? That was all desert too. Like, did the military help the town? Did the military personnel add to the town? Or did they just sort of keep to themselves? No, they built it up and sent men in here and airplanes. Okay. Do you remember the first atomic test on a test site? No, I can't remember that. I know it’s been there for a long time but. Has the test site in any way affected you or your family? No. UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 15 Just sort of—just been there? Been there. Okay. Has the weather changed since you moved here? In this last couple of years, it sure has. In what way? Well, oh I don’t know. This last year especially it seems like the—. Winters are colder now. I’ve seen snow. (Laughs) Well, we've had snow other times. We've had a snow (unintelligible) every five years. But—it's more like a cycle then? Yes. Do the summers seem to get hotter and colder with the, the snow cycle? Oh, it don't matter, just a hot climate in the summer. And it's nice to live here in winter. What was it like when you first moved here as far as the summers went? How did you get along with the heat? Not very good. I had trouble. Like, what did you do to keep cool then? We had an old water cooler they used then. You had a box that was fit over one of your windows, and a fan and a pipe that runs the water in. Keep this fan going and that way it—. It was like a swamp cooler then? It was (unintelligible) a swamp cooler. How did they develop like (unintelligible) air conditioning? Do you remember when air conditioning started to get into Las Vegas? Well, I think that was just about twenty-five years ago. UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 16 So you lived about fifteen years here with just that swamp cooler method? Mm-hmm. Was it tough in the summer? Yes, it was. How did Mr. Monson put up the heat being in a truck all day? Well, he had a job and that came first. Okay. What did you, Mr. Monson, and the children do with your leisure? Do for what? Leisure. Your spare time. Well, if he had any time off, we went fishin. Anything else? You know, as far as— No. More or less how you spent (laughs). It was at the lake, huh? We'd stay home and read or play the radio. We didn’t have TV then. Has radio changed much in Las Vegas? Yes. Great lot. What was it like when you first got here? We had a little set. You could pick up stories. You could imagine the pictures. They’d have plays on the radio. Okay. Did Las Vegas have its own radio station? Or were they picking up a Los Angeles station? I don't know where it came from. UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 17 How has, say—well, do you remember when television was introduced into Las Vegas? Has the, has the city become more, say, more active than when you first come here? Yes. Yes. Like, on a Saturday night in Las Vegas like, say, when the Cowboys would come in. What was the city like on Fremont Street? I don't know. We didn't visit it very much. We went to ball games a lot. Where did they have the ball games? Well, they had a city park over here back to the Post Office. Do you remember the original springs of Las Vegas? The oasis, the original oasis here. Was it still here when you moved here? There was one down here. The Old Ranch they called it. What did it look like compared to the rest of the desert? Well, there was water there, trees and grass around. Was it a popular spot to go away take, like, time off? People would go there? (Unintelligible) Lots of people would go down there for picnics. What was the Old Mormon Fort like when you got here? Well, they improve it each year, do a little work. But they try to keep it just about the same to—. Keep the old effect? Mm-hmm. Okay. So like Cashman field, and now that it's gone. What was it used for originally? The what? Cashman field. UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 18 Oh, they had all kinds of recreation there. We had our Helldorados. They had ball games. Okay. Do you remember when I-15 was built and how did it, how did it help Las Vegas? The what? Las Vegas, I-15. The what? The interstate. The highway there that they built? Oh. You mean the freeway? Yes. Oh (unintelligible). All you had to do was get out on it and you can see the people going. (Unintelligible) Okay. Can you tell me how like the Second World War affected Las Vegas? Well, I don't know too much. I know my husband had to take a physical and he passed and then they got word that they didn’t have to go because he was in the First World War. But like did it bring in a large influx of military? More than before with Nellis? Oh yes. What were they using Nellis for? Do you have any idea? No. Do you remember like, say, the beginning of Craig Road Speedway? When these were built? I don't know anything about that. I have—I don't even know where it is, I don't think. Okay. Have any of the laws changed drastically in the city? The what? The laws. Laws? UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 19 Yes. Oh, I think they change them every so often. Like has the law enforcement changed? Has the police department changed? No, I don't think so too much. Like this—when they joined the sheriff's office and the city police. I know when we first came here and that, why, you were safe to go anywhere. You didn’t have to—many a time I walked my aunt home at two o'clock in the morning. (Unintelligible) And it was safe. Now you can’t go to your door hardly and open it. But how far did your aunt live from you? Oh, I guess a mile and a half. Okay. Where were you living now—at that time that you’re speaking about? We was living at the apartments. And where’d she live? Down on South Second Must’ve been nice to walk down there. Do you remember like the development (unintelligible) railroad and how’d that change Las Vegas? Well, the station was down at the end of Fremont Street. (Unintelligible) Plaza is now? That’s before the Plaza Hotel was built. It kind of took the ground where—. Was the railroad real important to Las Vegas? Very. In what ways? UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 20 Well, it brought a lot of people in. Took a lot of people out. We went down there for every night to mail his orders. Catch the train as it pulled out. Do you remember when McCarran Airport was built? (Unintelligible) I don't remember. It seemed like it's been a long time. Okay. Do you remember—can you tell me how Howard Hughes affected Las Vegas? Was he important to it? The airport? No, just Howard Hughes himself living here. Oh, I think anybody is. It's important how things are (unintelligible) live here. Can you tell me any important events that happened to you that you remember? Towards famous people? No. Not right off hand, I’d have to think a little bit. If you want to think it's fine with me. (Laughs) Well, (unintelligible) long time ago. Well, did you and Mr. Monson see a lot of the shows? Not too many. We've seen several. Like when you went to see, what—who would you go see? Oh, I couldn’t tell you that. (Unintelligible) (Tape one ends) (Unintelligible) How do you think Las Vegas has changed totally? Oh man. I guess that sort of sums up my tape. I want to thank you for being a part of my interview. Okay. Goodbye. UNLV University Libraries Loreta Monson 21 While I was changing the sides of the tape Mrs. Monson asked me not to continue to interview because she was starting to feel ill. Thank you.