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Audio clip from interview with Bess Rosenberg by Jerry Masini, November 12, 1975

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Part of an interview with Bess Rosenberg on November 12, 1975. In this clip, Rosenberg discusses her decision to move to Las Vegas and what her life was like.

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Beth Rosenberg oral history interview, 1975 November 18. OH-01599. [Audio recording]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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I'm interviewing Mrs. Bess Rosenberg, 422 Rancho Drive. The date is November the 18th, 1975. Okay, Mrs. Rosenberg, when did you come to Las Vegas? I came here in the winter of 1942. Why did you come here? My husband came here. He was employed here. He came in 1941; I followed the early part of 1942. This town was certainly a great deal different then. It seemed like the town ended about Sixth Street; there was no paving. There was the one hotel on Fifth, the El Rancho. And the Strip was a little two lane highway with a lot of dirt on each side of it. But when they did put in a big highway, they didn't have anything disturbed. There was nothing there but dust and dirt and probably some bushes and tumbleweeds or something like that. But there was a wide expanse of nothing with this little two lane highway off the path of, oh, I would imagine where that fork in the road is now where it...down by the post office, in otherwise. That isn't right. Yeah, it is right. No, that isn't right. Maryland Parkway? No, no. It's relatively from the Strip west. I can't think of the name of that street now. Anyway, but from there on it was all just highway. Some of the things I remember in later years as we were settled here and we had bought our first home is where the Frontier Savings is now in that triangular wrought iron shaped lot that is bordered on one side by East Charleston and the other side by...oh, by Garces or Gass?anyway, on the exact site where the Frontier Savings is there were electrical transformers that carried the power for Las Vegas. I said to my husband, ?I'd like to have that triangular piece of property. I think it's distinctive looking and we could put up a nice store there sometime.? He said to me, ?Way out here? Who in the world would drive clear out here?? That was just how farsighted some of us were not. And then as we were having the delay of the nuclear explosions here, it reminds me it was so funny?not exactly funny, but informative thing about the first atom bomb. At that time they called it Jackass Flats where they had the detonation. I was working the swing shift in one of the hotels as an entertainer and went to work at nine and worked till about three in the morning. So in the slack season when there wasn't too much doing and it was this type of weather from about (inaudible), there wasn't too much business. So we would sit around and visit. And we had come to the hotel, three or four gentlemen?and I understood it was hard to keep a secret in this town anyway?but there were three or four at all the hotels?at that time there were about three or four hotels?and they had stationed four or five in each hotel thinking that it would cover up their real purpose in town, which was?some of them were newspaper men, some were scientists?to cover the detonation of the first atomic blast. So they had had one before in Alamogordo, (inaudible) test here. So at that time I became acquainted with all kinds of that. The only gentlemen that were in town with a heavy, heavy sheep skin coats on and hats with (inaudible) on them and everything. You couldn't help but find out after a while what they were doing here, but it was supposed to be a big secret. So anyway, just before the big blast, Walter Winchell found out about it somehow and he printed something in the paper. Well, it frightened the citizens of Las Vegas (inaudible). So immediately they brought out a very famous PR man. His name escapes me, too, at the time. He came out to try and do some kind of an informative interview with the different scientists of the AEC to tell the people of Las Vegas that their windows were going to be broken and their mirrors would crack and everything, but to pay no attention to it; that it was in the line of defense. Well, this gentleman had a terrible hard thing to do because once people had become alarmed by the Walter Winchell radio broadcast, they turned deaf ears to anything they would say about how harmless the first blast was going to be. So this fellow was very, very busy around there. It got so that they were laughing. They'd say, ?Well, I think we're going to set off a firecracker in the morning.? So anyway, this morning it seemed like everything?they had made many trips up there in the cold, cold weather and there would be no detonation. They'd come back...another one, another time they decided to change. I guess the wind, what it is today, with the wind they won't detonate those blasts. These were not underground. So anyway, this fellow decided to write, ?I think they're really going to have one in the morning.? He said, ?Now, I'm telling you like I tell everybody else, don't turn around and face that way.? Well, I said, ?No, goodness sakes, I wouldn't want to do that.? He said, ?The sky will light up and nobody should look that direction.? So I said, ?All right.? So by the time I got home and my dad got up and we were having breakfast...and you couldn't help but see it. But I didn't mean (inaudible) when I went to work that night. Dick Porter?that was that fellow?came in and he says, ?Oh, did you see our firecracker?? And I said, ?Well, I don't know how you could miss it.? Because I was sitting at the kitchen looking out the window, just exactly what he told everybody not to do. But I really wasn't looking right at it; it's just that you couldn't...and the sky was so bright. I've never seen such brilliance. There were windows broken and mirrors and shattered. And for many years after that people, when they would have cracks in their ceiling and whether they were caused by the successive blasts we had, they would always say, ?Well, we didn't have that crack in the ceiling until we had the atomic bomb out here.? So then I don't know how many more we had after that, but the first one I remember it. After that I sure looked the other way. But I just wasn't thinking. And he looked at me with utter disgust after I said it because I knew I had said the wrong thing. But I really wasn't looking out the window; it was just that I was facing in the direction where it happened that way. And then my husband and I became very friendly with a gentleman by the name of Dr. Ralph Carl Smith who was here, oh, quite a long time. In fact, I think he married a Vegas girl, a girl that was working here. He was an atomic scientist who had a degree in law and a degree in medicine and physics. He was just fantastic. He had helped Dr. Lilienthal write the book on the atomic warfare, which I think later was issued to all troops that were in any way connected with the youth of like atomic submarines and the weapons and the whole thing on there. That was a guide book, one of the first ones. Of course, as you became progressively friendlier, he became Smitty. We were talking one night and someone said that they didn't know who he was and they said they thought Smitty was so much fun. I said, ?Yes, he is.? And (NAME?) said, ?I wonder what he does for them.? And I said, ?Well, I really don't know.? And they said, ?Do you think he ought to try for a career in show business?? He was (inaudible) man, but he was so witty and so funny. It (inaudible) because here was a man with all these degrees and everything and (inaudible) that he was really quite a (inaudible). He was a fine man. Oh, I made lots of friends in those days (inaudible). But Las Vegas was a very small, friendly, little village. I know that the wheels of progress must turn, but sometimes I look back and think that the warmth and the friendliness...was something to remember. It was great fun. Where did you entertain? Well, I worked at the Last Frontier when it was the Last Frontier. There were (inaudible) room. Then in the big room I think Elvis maybe did an appearance there and Shecky Greene. We had Freddy Martin and Merv Griffin was the pianist with Freddy Martin at that time. And Liberace, that was his first introduction to Las Vegas. While they would be playing?of course, Liberace for many years played the (inaudible)?he was playing in one room while I was playing in the other with Merv Griffin. Then the next time Freddy Martin came back, he also had a Las Vegas resident who still working here I believe at the MGM, Murry Arnold. Murry was (inaudible) for a long, long time. But, as I say, I have many fond memories of the good old days. What were you saying about if you sang while you played the piano? Oh. Well, you asked me if I sang. Well, in those days they had an entertainment?and they passed a bill?that you could have a pianist; that was all right. But if there was any singing, you had to pay a 20 percent tax, entertainment tax. So all of the hotels that had lounge entertainment would not let you sing because they didn't want to pay the tax. And in those days, of course, it would be an entertainment tax. So the singing that was done was done very late in the morning when they figured that the spies weren't out somewhere. Anyway, I'm glad to share these cute little stories with you.