Skip to main content

Search the Special Collections and Archives Portal

Transcript of interview with Mary Ann Culver by Stephen R. Johnson, March 22, 1981







On March 22, 1981, Stephen R. Johnson interviewed his friend, food and beverage cashier, Mary Ann Culver, (born on November 2nd, 1913, in Walton, Indiana) in her home in Las Vegas, Nevada. This interview covers the Union in the 1950s, entertainers, showrooms, strikes, and organized crime. During the interview Mary also discusses Elvis, shows at the Thunderbird, ownership of the Thunderbird, weather, the local bus system, traffic, and Howard Hughes.

Digital ID


Physical Identifier



Culver, Mary Ann Interview, 1981 March 22. OH-00455. [Transcript.] Oral History Research Center, Special Collections & Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


This material is made available to facilitate private study, scholarship, or research. It may be protected by copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity rights, or other interests not owned by UNLV. Users are responsible for determining whether permissions are necessary from rights owners for any intended use and for obtaining all required permissions. Acknowledgement of the UNLV University Libraries is requested. For more information, please see the UNLV Special Collections policies on reproduction and use ( or contact us at

Standardized Rights Statement

Digital Provenance

Digitized materials: physical originals can be viewed in Special Collections and Archives reading room



Geographic Coordinate

36.0397, -114.98194



UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver i An Interview with Mary Ann Culver An Oral History Conducted by Stephen R. Johnson 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 Mary Ann Culver ii © Ralph Roske Oral History Project on Early Las Vegas University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 2018 UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver iii 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 Mary Ann Culver iv Abstract On March 22, 1981, Stephen R. Johnson interviewed his friend, food and beverage cashier, Mary Ann Culver, (born on November 2nd, 1913, in Walton, Indiana) in her home in Las Vegas, Nevada. This interview covers the Union in the 1950s, entertainers, showrooms, strikes, and organized crime. During the interview Mary also discusses Elvis, shows at the Thunderbird, ownership of the Thunderbird, weather, the local bus system, traffic, and Howard Hughes. UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 1 Okay, Mary Ann, where are you from? Where am I from? Uh-huh. From Indiana. You’re originally from Indiana? Originally. That’s—that’s where you were born? Born. What part of Indiana? Walton. Walton? Yes. Where is that near? Well, it’s near Elkhart or it’s closer to Logan’s Park. Uh-huh. Mm-hmm. How big a town is it? It’s a county seat. It’s just a small place. Small town. Yes. Population is what? Now I wouldn’t know now. I haven’t been there since I was a child. Uh-huh. When you were living there what was—how big a town was it then? UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 2 Not very big. (Laughs) Right. About five thousand or something? Yes, about a thousand somewhere there. Is that where—you were born there, did you grow up there also? No. No. We moved from—we moved from Indiana when I was about two and a half years old and we moved to Memphis, Tennessee and I was raised in the south. Uh-huh. In Memphis. And all my schooling was in Notes, Tennessee and Mayor Vicksburg, Mississippi. Uh-huh. Mm-hmm. That’s interesting. I’m from Mississippi, also. On—are you familiar with the Gulf Coast of Mississippi? Hmm? I’m from down around Biloxi, Mississippi, myself. Oh are you? Yes. You are? I moved down here a couple of years ago from Biloxi. But how long did you live in Memphis? Oh, till I was about thirteen. Thirteen? And then you moved to Vicksburg? Yes. Uh-huh. And how long were you in Vicksburg? UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 3 All through my high school. Uh-huh. And then where did you move? Then, let’s see, I went back to Indiana. (Laughs) Uh-huh. And from there I went to Canada and down to the west coast to Portland, Oregon. To Portland? Mm-hmm. Uh-huh. And where was it you met your husband? In Portland. You met him (unintelligible) He’s a Seattle, boy. Uh-huh. And how old were you at that time? Well, I was pretty young. Uh-huh, and you got married and then stayed in Portland or? No. We went up to Alaska. Alaska? We were up there for seven years. Uh-huh. In Anchorage. And then what brought you to—you came to Las Vegas after that? Well, no. I went back to Indiana. Back to Indiana again for while? Mm-hmm. Nine years. Then came to Las Vegas. UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 4 What brought you to Las Vegas? I had friends here from Indiana. And what you were communicating with them and they said, “Come on out to Las Vegas”? Yes. And, “Come on out to Las Vegas.” And I said, “Next year, next year.” So I finally came, now they’re all back there and I’m the only one here. (Laughs) Oh my goodness! So you moved out here, what year was that? Fifty-four. You moved out here in 1954? Mm-hmm. Did you, did you know you were going to have a job before you came or did you just come out? No, I just came on my two weeks’ vacation. (Laughs) Oh, you came out here on a two weeks’ vacation and looked around and— No. I checked in with the Union. They told me to go ahead and take my vacation and they’d have a job for me when my vacation ended. Uh-huh. And they did. They sent me to the Sands. So this was 1954 and they had a union back then? Oh yes. Al Bramlet was the head of it then. Is that right? Mm-hmm. Oh my goodness! Ah this was the what, Culinary Union? Culinary Union. UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 5 Just as it is right now, huh? See I transferred the South Bend Locale to here. Oh you were in the Culinary Union in South Bend? Yes, yes. We had a strong union in South Bend. Ah, it was the same thing? Culinary Union? Same. Just a different branch. Yes. Huh. And that’s what brought me out here, and that’s what got me a job. (Laughs) And what, what were you doing in, what type of culinary work were you doing in South Bend? Well, Anchorage is really where I was. Mm-hmm. Near South Bend. I was hostess in a nine story hotel. I had charge of a big dining room. I had a big (unintelligible) shop So you—when you transferred out here what type of work did you go into? Well, I told ‘em I—I told ‘em what I could do and they said, “Well, You won’t have any trouble getting a job.” So they told me they have a checkers job for me in the showroom at the Sands. I said, “I’ll take it.” (Laughs) So you went to work right away in the Sands? Right away. In the showroom? UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 6 Mm-hmm. At that time this was 1954? That’s when they had all the big stars there. That’s when they had the—what was it the Rat Pack, they used to call it? Sinatra, (Unintelligible)—what? The Rat Pack or something like that? What Sinatra and who else? Oh yes. Sammy Davis, Dean Martin, they had Nat King Cole, Red Skelton, Lena Horne, all the greats, Peggy Levi, and mmm, the old Jerry Lewis. We had ‘em all. Jerry Lewis, what, were Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis together at that time? When I first went there, yes. And did they perform a nightclub act together? Mm-hmm. The two of ‘em? Yes. In fifty—’55, I think it was. Uh-huh. Yes. Did you see their show? Mm-hmm. Tell me a little bit about their show. Oh, it was great. I was comped to that show. (Laughs) That was at the Sands? Yes. Yes. My niece and—had a niece that was here from Canada. That’s the only show they wanted to see, she and her girlfriend. So I asked ‘em if I could get a reservation. And they said, UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 7 “Well, we were told not to comp any of the help during the show.” I said, “I don’t want to be comped.” I said, “They just want to see the show.” So they said, “Alright, come on in.” And they comped us and (Laughs) we were almost right on the stage, where we could reach out and touch Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. (Laughs) Oh. So you had real good seats, huh? Yes. Would you say that was one of the better shows you’ve ever seen? Oh yes. It was great. While you were working, were you, did you, were you able to see a lot of the other shows too? Some of the other people you mentioned? Oh yes. We did. We could see all of them. In fact, after we’d close the showroom at night, any new show that was coming on, they always rehearsed the night before. So we used to put up our work, turn in our money, and go sit down and watch them, you know, go through their routine, you see. Uh-huh. All the show people would, you know, that weren’t gonna be in the show. So the checkers, we’d always go sit down and watch them go through their rehearsals, you know. Uh-huh. That was more fun really than the real show. Oh. I bet. How many shows a night did they have, back then? Two. Two shows? Yes, dinner and a drinking show. UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 8 A dinner show and a cocktail show? And a cocktail show, yes. Similar to what it is now? Mm-hmm. Well, how much did it cost back then? Well, now, that’s something. That’s a real, real (Laughs) question. They—at the time I came here they didn’t have state tax yet. Mm-hmm. All we had was a cabaret tax. Ten percent, that was all, and there was no minimums. They would just charge for what they drank and that was all. What about the dinner show? How much was the charge on that? Now the dinner show, they had to be different prices, same thing, just ten percent. Cabaret tax and that was it. Was it as expensive as it is now, like say right now, at Caesars Palace it costs $30 to $40 to see a show? Oh no. How much was a dinner show back then? Let’s say, 1955? Well, you could, depend on how much you drank, or so forth, your drinks were extras. You could get out for $20 easy. Mm-hmm. But with anything you wanted to drink because the meals were not high then. The menus were not high. Uh-huh. What—did they have their choice of how many different entrees? UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 9 Oh yes. Several different entrees? Mm-hmm. Yes. See like the dinner shows right now, they, what? You could only get a couple of different—? Oh they had many more choices, many more. So it was more like going into a regular restaurant? Oh yes. They’d have about oh I’d say ten or twelve different items on their menu every night. Mm-hmm. What was the best show you’d say you ever saw back then? There? Yes. Oh. (Laughs) Between Frank Sinatra and when they put on their nightclub act when they were making Oceans 11. Oh, that’s right. They made that movie out here. They—they filmed that at the Sands? Mm-hmm. And the whole month they were making that movie, they played two shows a night, and no two shows were alike. They adlibbed all through. They just had a three-ring circus. It was really one of the best shows you ever saw. (Unintelligible)? You never knew what they were gonna do from one show to the next. People would go again and again while we’re wondering what we’re going to do for the next show, now. They just had a circus. They really did. Who was it Frank Sinatra and—? And Joey Bishop, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lafford, Jack Lacy, and who did I skip? UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 10 There were six of them—oh, Sammy Davis. Mm-hmm. There were six of ‘em. That must have been some show. Ah, who owned the Sands, back then? At that time? Jack Entratter. Is he still in the business? No. Mr. Entratter died in the ‘70s. Uh-huh. Mm-hmm. So how many years did you work at the Sands? Seven. You worked there what until 19—? Sixty-one. Nineteen Sixty One, is when you left the Sands? That’s when I went to the Thunderbird. Oh, you moved over to the Thunderbird, then? Mm-hmm. I went to the showroom, then. Uh-huh. How come you left the Sands? Transportation problems. (Laughs) Uh-huh. Where were you living back then? Well, I was living not too far from the Sahara on Cleveland, just off of Cleveland. And that’s why I went to the Thunderbird ‘cause I had no transportation, I could always walk. I had an awful time getting to work at night at the Sands. UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 11 Uh-huh. See the buses weren’t running for three weeks and the cab drivers went on strike (unintelligible) just no transportation. Uh-huh. So I could always get a ride home. And somebody’d say I’ll pick you up and they’d never show up. (Laughs) They forget—you know. Uh-huh. So I said I’ll just go where I can walk. You mentioned a strike, a bus driver strike. Yes, they had a bus driver strike at that time. Maybe you could tell me a little bit about your experience of strikes through the years. How—you mentioned that the culinary union was in effect back when you moved here in 1954. How many times have you been in a strike? Well, let’s see—two that I remember. Two times? What years was that? Mm. Let’s see, one of them was in the sixties. And of course, the other one was through the seventies—about ’74, I think. Seventy-four? Mm-hmm. At first it only lasted a few days, I think like over a weekend. (Laughs) Uh-huh. It started like on a Wednesday night and it ended Sunday night. Everybody went back to work Monday. But the other one lasted, oh, I guess like two weeks, three weeks or so. UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 12 Uh-huh. How did that turn out? Do you think that you wound up better off than before the strike? Well, frankly, I don’t know. (Laughs) Yes, they say a lot of times by the time you go back to work you lose out on— Course, they paid us. They paid us for picketing. Uh-huh. That last time. We got fifty dollars a week, (unintelligible) help some. The International paid for it. You got paid for picketing, you’re saying? Picketing, yes. Did you—you carried a sign and picketed, did you? Which one was this in? Did you picket during both strikes? Or just the one in the seventies? No. The time I went to pick—same, I was due to picket the other one it was ended. (Laughs) Uh-huh. It was only over the weekend. See, they assigned us certain times to picket, you see. I could only picket four hours a day, you know, once a week or something like that. But this last strike, we had to picket every day for four hours. We’d picket for twenty minutes and then we’d take twenty off or something like that, you know, and then twenty more and then twenty off. And you say Al Bramlett was the head of the culinary—? Mm-hmm. Yes. What do you think of Al Bramlett? Or what did you think of Al Bramlett? Well, he did an awful lot for the workers I’ll tell you that. Uh-huh. UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 13 He really did. He built it up as a very strong union, one of the strongest in the country. So your opinion of him then is that he was a good leader? He did a lot for the worker? Yes. He left his wages up there. Let’s see he was murdered, wasn’t he? Mm-hmm. What was the reason for that, do you know? That was a sad case. I don’t know. He mixed up with this—see this, what’s this man’s name? He and his son, did it. They’re serving time now in Carson City. This guy tried for years to unionize the dealers see—and he wanted Al Bramlett to help him, you see. So many of the dealers talked to me, they said they didn’t like this guy. They said, we would go with the culinary for the Teamsters but not that guy, we don’t trust him. So yes, he’s—so I don’t know if he was—he was kind of a goon. (Laughs) Uh-huh. Anyway, Al Bramlett never got mixed up with him. What year was that he was murdered? Mm. Do you remember? About three years ago, something like that. Yes. I thought it was fairly recent. Yes. Seventy-eight, I think. It was seventy-eight. Let’s say, when you first moved here, back 1954, what was the town like? Was it different than it is now? Oh, actually, earlier it was a good town. UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 14 It was a good town back then? There was no crime or anything like that. You didn’t worry about anybody. A lady could go downtown, any hour of the night or early morning, nobody would molest her or bother her. There’s a (unintelligible) gambler, or whatever, nobody would bother you. You didn’t have to worry about pickpockets or robbery and all that stuff. It just was, I don’t know people were honest. You didn’t have to worry about being afraid to leave your house or whether anything’s going to be stolen or what. You just didn’t worry about those things. People were more honest then. In fact, we didn’t have any crimes to speak of. Could go out and just leave your house unlocked, huh? Back then. As I said at the time, there was less crime in the state of Nevada than any place in the nation. Uh-huh. Including Las Vegas. When did you notice—? Now we came in like third. I know. It’s terrible. Ooh. When did you notice a change starting to take place, as far as—? Well— Crime goes? Just kind of gradually and gradually, you know. I guess with more people moving in. UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 15 Yes. More people came in. More people came in. And I think—I know at Christmas time people used to say get your shopping done at least a month before Christmas before they all come up from Watts and Los Angeles to rip everybody off with the Christmas shopping. (Laughs) (Laughs) oh! Yes. They think, oh those people got money. We go up and rip ‘em off, you know. Yes. Coming from Los Angeles. I’m even afraid to go Downtown by myself in the daytime anymore. I know, it’s terrible. Mm-hmm. It’s terrible. It really is. Well, what was the casinos that were here when you moved here and what were the main—there weren’t as many as they are now? No, uh-uh. They just—? Oh, you mean Downtown or up, the Strip? Well, what were the ones on the Strip? Let’s talk about the Strip first. Well, the ones on the Strip. The three busy ones was Sands, Desert Inn and Sahara, those three. They used to do, oh business. Mm-hmm. Their used to be a saying, well, if they’re not busy at the Desert Inn, the Sands, or the Sahara, nobody’s got it (unintelligible) Were there any other ones, you mentioned, was the T-Bird there then? Oh yes. What year was it built? UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 16 T-Bird? Yes. Was it—it was there when you moved here in 1954? Oh yes. Yes, the Thunderbird’s the first hotel built here. Well, what were the major hotels Downtown at that time? (Laughs) Tell you the truth, they didn’t have any until they built the Fremont. Uh-huh. Fremont and The Mint. Well, they had a little—the Horseshoe was on the corner, they had a little, a few rooms upstairs. Then there was another little hotel, really that was it—wasn’t any places to stay Downtown, tell you the truth. Till they’ve, now they’ve begin to build all these hotels Downtown. Mm-hmm. To, you know, take care of people. But honestly, I think it was a better town then. We didn’t have coupons or nothing like that. People came here having money probably didn’t come. It just seemed like everybody came here had money. I don’t know where they all came from but they came. Oh, so they client, clientele that came to the casinos then were a lot different than they are now? Oh yes. They were just people that came on their own, they weren’t with the junkets or anything like that. They didn’t have those then. Uh-huh. You say it was a better—? They were just people that came with some money, like to come gamble that was it. Uh. A lot of them came from California or—? UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 17 Oh yes, most of them. Mm-hmm. Oh yes. Practically all of them came from Los Angeles. Uh-huh. From there. What do you think of gambling? I gave it up long ago. (Laughs) Did you used to do some gambling? Oh yes. (Laughs) What’d you like to play? Nickel slot machines with my limit. (Laughs) Oh you played a lot of nickel slot machines, did you? Of course. (Laughs) It was crazy to go any further. (Laughs) You can get hurt on nickels too, you know. Yes. You sure can. Doesn’t take many to lose a bunch. And it was all of a sudden I lost my desire and I had no desire to gamble. So you haven’t gambled at all in how many years? Since I’ve retired. (Laughs) (Laughs) Do you think—? Well, I was getting away from it, then, you know what I mean. I was getting tired of it. I said, “I can’t beat this.” I said, “I might as well quit.” Uh-huh. So I just stayed away from it. What do you think of gambling in general? You think it’s—? A lot of people say it’s bad because people get hooked on it and lose their money. UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 18 Well, so many people get hurt, you know. They haven’t got sense enough to quit, you know, when they’re ahead and they just keep thinking it’s gonna go on and on. And then next thing you know they’re just like that. Mm-hmm. That’s when it’s bad. Yes. It’s a worst disease than alcoholism or anything. Mm-hmm. But years ago people used to come here and gamble. Some poor devil loses all of his money and he hasn’t got—doesn’t got any money to get back to California or enough to buy gas or eat. (Laughs) And the hotels used to—these big hotels on the Strip, well, Downtown they did that, too. They’d feed the guy and they’d give him enough money to buy gas and eat on the way and get home. They were good that way. Mm-hmm. Now they just cut your credit off and (unintelligible) woohoo. (Laughs) (Laughs) Well, they were different people altogether. While you were at the Sands the different entertainers, did you ever meet any of them? Who? Any of the entertainers? Oh yes. Actually meet and talk to the—any of ‘em? Mm-hmm. UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 19 Ah, who for instance? They used to come through the—Frank Sinatra used to come through the kitchen all the time. He’d wander through. He’d always stop at the check stand and say to this girl, “Well, how are you kid? How we doing?” You know, he was very friendly. What do you think of this—the controversy over, that they had recently about, when he was getting his license about, his connection with organized crime? Yes. He finally got it. He sure did. Did you feel personally that he was—ever had any shady connections? No. I don’t think so. I think he knew some people but I mean, there was never anything shady about him here. I mean you know, I mean, you know, he was strictly entertaining and that was it. Mm-hmm. He wasn’t harboring any criminals or anything like that. Probably he might have known some back in New Jersey, you know, but— Uh-huh and what do you think about—you think there’s any truth to the fact that some of the casinos out here are tied with organized crime? Well, that’s what they’ve been telling me, ever since I’ve been here. (Laughs) In fact, I worked at the Sands for five years before somebody told me we working for (Unintelligible). I said, “What!?” I said, “Well, you gotta be crazy.” They said, “Well, where have you been?” I said, “I don’t know.” I said, “Well, if they are, they’re the nicest gangsters I ever met.” (Laughs) (Laughs) I said, “They sure treat their help fine.” (Laughs) There you go. Well, I still say all had connections somewhere but where they came here— UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 20 Uh-huh. Course Bugsy Siegel we know. (Laughs) He was the head of murder and crime, really—(Laughs) Uh-huh. Started at the Flamingo Hotel. (Laughs) He opened the Flamingo? Yes. Yes. It seems like I heard something about that. Yes. What year was that? Mm-hmm. 1945, something like that. Uh-huh. So that was—that was a while before you moved here. Wait a minute. Yes. (Unintelligible) That was ten years before you moved here. Mm-hmm. Was he still here when, in 1954, ’55? Not when I came. No. He was—I think he was shot before I came here. Mm-hmm. He got shot down in Los Angeles. But he built the Flamingo. So the Flamingo was here back then. Mm-hmm. I guess it wasn’t the Hilton then, it was just the Flamingo, right? Yes. UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 21 It was strictly the Flamingo then? Uh-huh. Yes. But since they had stock orders to the (unintelligible) you know. Would you say there was any difference working in the showrooms in 1955 as opposed to 197—what year did you retire? 1976? Nineteen seventy-six. What were some of the differences between—that took place in that fifteen years? Well, each hotel, more or less has their own system, you know. They’re all pretty much on the same principal but each one has a little different system, little different than someone else, you know. But if you know one you know all of them. You can just skip right in and do any of it. Now the Sands had a different system than any. Uh-huh. Mm-hmm. How was it different? Well, the checkers wrote everything on the checks. They wrote everything on the checks. They rang, priced it, racked it, and towed it and the waiters and waitresses never laid their hands on one of those checks, until they’re ready to collect the money; checkers did it all. This was a lot of work for us. Uh-huh. But it was a foolproof system. We knew where every check was and we were sure everything got on that check ‘cause we had to check it as it went out, you know. Course it took about five girls working, to do it, you know. But it saved the hotel money. Uh-huh. Were the cash registers different then than they are now? Oh yes. Mm-hmm. We had to total everything by hand. UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 22 You didn’t have an electronic—? Mm-mm. No. So it took quite a lot more time. First one I saw was at the Thunderbird. First electronic cash register? When I went there, the Thunderbird was ahead of all of them. And they had had---they had two of ‘em. One for the showroom and one for the coffee shop and they paid for themselves in a year’s time. Mm-hmm. And in fact, I was telling someone at the Sands about ‘em. I said, “You shouldn’t tempt me to some of those machines, especially for the showroom.” I said, “Those do everything but cook and wash the dishes.” I said, “They’re wonderful.” I said, “They had two at the Thunderbird, they’ve been paid for in years’ time.” And I said, “They’re wonderful.” Uh-huh. I said, “You don’t have to total, they total themselves.” And I said. “It’s easy as A-B-C.” I said, “It’s a great save.” ‘Cause you don’t make mistakes unless you crunch the wrong key at first. (Laughs) Right. (Laughs) So? So they finally got ‘em. I think they got ‘em in all the hotels now but Thunderbird had ‘em first. In fact, that little old Thunderbird had a lot of things first, you know that? No. I’m not real familiar with the Thunderbird. UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 23 I was very surprised when I went there; at the food they served at the Thunderbird—in the showroom and the other place. They served everything gourmet. Ooh. They’ve got some food there. Even in the showroom at the Thunderbird? Every place there. Huh? What year was it that—? (Tape ends) (Tape begins midsentence) Oh, they fight? They fight over the celery? Yes. One of them says, “Get away! This is mine.” Usually I put one in each but they like to stay up on this end where the light is, so I put a very big piece in there, you know, and they eat those leaves like it’s going out of style. They’re certainly pretty birds. How long have you had them? Oh, it was a year ago Christmas. I got ‘em for Christmas, over a year ago. Is it a male and a female? They both talk. They’re both males. Oh they’re both males? And they both talk, you say? They both talk. That’s why I keep the music going. They learn to talk with it. They know they’re names. The little green one here is named Nicky, the little blue one is Smitty, and the little green one, he say, “Gimme kiss, Smitty.” (Laughs) The little blue one says, “Nicky, Nicky, gimme a kiss.” Huh. They know which is which. So let’s say, you left the Sands in 1961? UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 24 Yes. And move over to the Thunderbird? What type of entertainment did they have at the Thunderbird? Oh. They had the ice collies. They had real good mixed collies and they usually had a singing star, you know, some special acts, and they had some special acts with their singing. But I tell you where they really had their good entertainment was in the Thunderbird Lounge. They have better entertainment in the lounge then they have in the big showroom. Uh-huh. Nat King Cole used to sing there. Oh, in—this, in the lounge? For the lounge show? For the lounge. Many people get their start in that lounge at the Thunderbird? Mm-hmm. Mm. Elvis Presley used to come in there. Just sit and watch the entertainment. ‘Cause this is good entertainment at the Thunderbird and the lounge. You see the entertainment director figured, they wanted the people in the casino, you see. So of course the big lounge, you know, would draw the people there, they’d go to tables. Uh-huh. That was smart. Yes. They don’t do that anymore. They did. They had wonderful entertainment at the Thunderbird. Uh-huh. In the lounge? UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 25 Better than they did in the showroom. Who were some of the other—? Hmm? Who were some of the other people that were in the lounge? Some of the other people there? Some of the other big name entertainers that you might remember? Oh gosh we had T Gardens Orchestra, they used to play till, I think it was like, you could go down there and dance at six o’clock in the morning, you know, at the Thunderbird. There’d be more people at the Thunderbird playing the tables in the wee hours of the morning than any hotel on the strip. All the people that worked in the hotels used to go down to the Thunderbird and gamble and go there and dance and go out and gamble. Uh-huh. Yes. It was a favorite place to go to. You say you saw Elvis Presley come there and watch the show? He used to come in. That’s before he became the big superstar. Ah, what year was that? Mm, in the early sixties. Mm-hmm. He used to just come in with his black leather jacket on and his boots, come by himself, just sit down and he liked to watch the entertainment you know ‘cause it was the jazziest lounge in town, you know. They had real good entertainment. He just liked to watch. He’d have a cup of coffee, that’s all. Uh-huh. UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 26 He didn’t drink. He hardly every drank. He’d just have a cup of coffee and watch the entertainment and that was it. We’d say, “There’s Elvis Presley.” Nobody’d bother him. A lot different than what it came to be when he got real famous. Yes. Mm-hmm. He had all those bodyguards and let’s see, when did he first start playing Las Vegas? What year? Let’s see, he played at the old—the old New Frontier (Laughs), the first New Frontier that was built. Where the other one is now? Uh-huh. That’s the third one they’ve had. The second one they built, they called it the New Frontier. They had the old partner with the Old Frontier and Elvis played just like a co-star to some big star or something; played his guitar and shook his knees, nobody paid any attention. Never dreamed that he was gonna be one of the biggest superstars in the business. Uh-huh. He was just a kid then, he was something like 19, you know, young star, young, used to ride his motorcycle up and down the Strip. (Laughs) Did you ever go and see his show? Mm-hmm. Terrific. So the show, you were working as a food checker in the Thunderbird? How long did they have the ice follies for? Oh, they ran continuous and every, like every three months they changed the acts and they’d change the scenery and the routine. They had some real good ice shows there. And they’d bring UNLV University Libraries Mary Ann Culver 27 in a new—a new singer, you know like, oh, every time they’d change the show, you know. Like once a month they bring in a new singer. When did the ice follies, when did they stop having them? Well, when Mary Hicks died, these men that built the Thunderbird—Joe Wells took it over. And Joe Wells closed the showroom, remodeled it completely and he got flower drums on there. Oh, was that a show. That ran for a solid year, twice a day to a packed house. That was the best show in town. And that went for a year? Solid year. Two shows a day. Every day but Saturday. No difference. Uh-huh. In fact, they even opened up the balcony, so they could seat two hundred more, for the second show. They used to pack—to make the showroom bigger they used to get like, well, they’ve had as high as eight hundred and fifty in there, you know. But for the dinner shows, they didn’t use the upstairs, ‘cause was too much walking for the waiters, you know what I mean, with those heavy trays and all that. Uh-huh. But for the drinking show absolutely. Those trays didn’t weigh so much, you know. And th