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Transcript of interview with Clifford Kemple by Paul Wilkins, April 4, 1976




On April 4, 1976, Paul Wilkins interviewed former miner Clifford Kemple (born September 28th, 1909 in Salt Lake City, Utah) in his home in Las Vegas, Nevada. The two discuss Kemple’s early life in Goodsprings, Nevada and Las Vegas, Nevada. Kemple also talks about changes that he has noticed in Las Vegas more broadly.

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Kemple, Clifford Interview, 1976 April 4. OH-01007. [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 Clifford Kemple i An Interview with Clifford Kemple An Oral History Conducted by Paul Wilkins 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 Clifford Kemple ii © Ralph Roske Oral History Project on Early Las Vegas University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 2019 UNLV University Libraries Clifford Kemple 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 Clifford Kemple iv Abstract On April 4, 1976, Paul Wilkins interviewed former miner Clifford Kemple (born September 28th, 1909 in Salt Lake City, Utah) in his home in Las Vegas, Nevada. The two discuss Kemple’s early life in Goodsprings, Nevada and Las Vegas, Nevada. Kemple also talks about changes that he has noticed in Las Vegas more broadly. UNLV University Libraries Clifford Kemple 1 My name is Paul Wilkins and I’m interviewing Clifford Kemple for the Oral Interview Project for Doctor Roske. Clifford, what’s your address? My address is 4636 Pennwood, Las Vegas. And your telephone number? Telephone: 876-6471. And how old are you? I’m now sixty-six years old. Were you born in Southern Nevada? No, I’m not. I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. When did you come to Southern Nevada? Both my parents brought me here in 1912. My father had the job as mining foreman for the Yellow Pine Mining Company in Goodsprings. Were you educated in Southern Nevada? Well, partially yes. I went through the eighth grade in Goodsprings, but later in California. What was school like in Goodsprings, when you were going to school there? Well, Goodsprings was a small school, a two-room school with a kind of, recreational hall there, a community hall, in addition to it, and we had two teachers. One teacher taught grades one through four and the other teacher taught grades five through eight. Do you remember your teachers’ names? I can tell you my last teacher’s name—went through the eighth grade with. Her name was Florence (Unintelligible) UNLV University Libraries Clifford Kemple 2 I see. Clifford, I know you’re retired now, but could you tell me what your occupations were? Well, I started out working as truck driver and what have you. Working around the mines with odd jobs and finally, around the mines, you have to learn to do a little bit of everything. Carpenter work and black smith work— Mining? Running hoist compressors, a little bit of everything. Clifford, could you tell us a little bit about Goodsprings? What it was like when you arrived there in 1912? Well, yes. The first thing I do, I’ll probably tell you a little bit about how Goodsprings acquired its name. In the early days, there was a nice, free flowing spring with trees around it. It’s located in the desert. A prospector by the name of Joseph Good, he owned the springs, or camped there frequently, and it became known as Goodsprings. In later years, the wells were dug around there, the springs all dried up. At the time I arrived in Goodsprings, it was around I think 1912, for several years afterwards, the Yellow Pine was one of the main producers in the community. And the town was booming. Yellow Pine purchased the Narrow Gaze Railroad from a mine near Searchlight and moved it to Goodsprings and had several ore cars and steam locomotives and they laid about twelve miles of track from the mine, above Goodsprings down to the main line at Jean. This time, the railroad from Los Angeles to Salt Lake was not owned by the Union Pacific. At that time, it was called LANSL, which means the Los Angeles to Salt Lake. Do you remember any of the prominent men that lived in Goodsprings? Yes, I remember fairly well two of the main businessmen of (Unintelligible). One was George A. Fayle and he was a partner with Sam Yount and both owned two nice stores. One at Jaden and UNLV University Libraries Clifford Kemple 3 one at Goodsprings. A short time later, I think it was about 1916, Mr. Fayle built a real nice, modern, two story hotel. It was this hotel where Clark Gable stayed when he came here after the crash of the Carole Lombard plane. It was quite interesting to look at the old register of the hotel and see the names of well-known people like Gary Cooper, Henry Ford, President Harding. It’s too bad that this old hotel with all its records was destroyed by a fire a few years ago. Clifford, would you tell us about what you did in Goodsprings? What your life was like there? Why yes, I can tell you a little about that. I, for a while, in the 1920s, I drove all the way up from Jean to Goodsprings and made supplies for the stores and this and that. And the times I worked in the garage for a Mr. Jack Frederickson, has—he had a truck line hauling ore, and I did a little mechanical work. I see. What about, I understand that you leased some mines there? Yes, I leased several of the mines. Roothill, the Salton Mine, the Anchor Mine. I think Anchor Mine, one of the main operations though, we were there about three years I think. Would you tell us the date that you drove this mail stage, and also the dates that you leased these mines out? Oh, I think it was about 1926 or ’27 when I was hauling on my own and driving states. As far as leasing goes, I was leasing off and on between 1932 and 1950 at several different mines. I’m interested in the way you worked these mines. What it was like, and how you did your work. Could you tell us a little bit about that? Well, sometimes, when we didn’t have access to a compressor or a jack hammer, we had to do our drilling by hand. We drilled these holes in the rock with a piece of drill steel and a four pound hammer, and drill several holes, load ‘em with dynamite, to blast and break the rock UNLV University Libraries Clifford Kemple 4 loose. At other times, when we had a compressor available, we’d do our drilling with a jack-hammer. That was a lot easier and a lot faster. How did you get your ore down from the mine down to the smelter? Well, from Anchor Mine, we had an aerial tramway. It was a long, two long cables—one from the mine and down to the road where the truck could come in. It was a gravity tramway. And we’d load a bucket on top with heavy ore, and it would pull a light bucket up with any supply we had to take up on the mine. It sounds like the work that you did was pretty hard then. Well, it was, but I enjoyed it. Were there other people, other men leasing out mines in Goodsprings, too? There were a few, but not too many. Approximately, how many mines were in Goodsprings that were productive? Well, there was quite a number of ‘em. I wouldn’t be able to guess how many there was, but there were quite a number of ‘em during the boom times there. And that was the main occupation in Goodsprings, wasn’t it? Yes, that was about all there was. There was mining— So eventually, the mining died out. Why’s that? Well, there’s the—our bodies gave out. Why, they shut down and it’d take money to find new ones, you know? And then the (unintelligible) market had a lot to do with that too. The price you could get for the ores. I see. Could you tell us a little about the Anchor Mine and where you process the ore? Yes, I could tell you a little bit about that too. Myself and a couple of other men got a lease on this Anchor Mine, its pretty well up on the top of the hill. And we did quite a little development UNLV University Libraries Clifford Kemple 5 work and before we found any ore worth mining, when they finally hit a good little bunch of ore, it looked pretty good, but it was too low grade to ship to the smelter, so we built a small mill—it was a concentration mill, at the foot of the hill. And the ore wasn’t high enough grade to ship directly to the smelter. We would run it through the mill and it’s concentration process and bring it’s grade up where it could be shipped to the smelter. Now this, mining this ore, blast out of the rock, and send it down it’s aerial tramway, and there the truck will pick it up, it’s high grade up, and take the railroad to Jean. And anything that’s too low-grade, that could run through the mill and make concentrates out of it, and ship that to the smelter. Could you tell us a little bit about how they process the ore? Yes I can. This ore had to be crushed, oh about down to a half inch and run through a screen and make sure that nothing is too big. It was run through a machine that we called a jig. This machine, it had a screen on it, and there was water sloshing through this screen where the ore was, and the heavy ore, lead, would settle at the bottom, and the top which would be the waste, would go off and be discarded. Now the fines came out of bottom of this machine, and it went over what they call a concentration table. It was kind of—it looked like table, only it had a shaking action to it, which separated the high grade metals from the wasted rock. The high grade was drawn off into a separate compartment, and was taken to trucks and shipped to a smelter. Clifford, I would be interested in knowing about what your life was like, what your everyday living was like in Goodsprings, without—well, say, like without refrigeration or electricity back in the 1920s? Well, a few of the company houses had electricity, it just depended if you were lucky enough to live in a company house. But if you didn’t live in a company house, you had to use an old UNLV University Libraries Clifford Kemple 6 kerosene lantern or a Coleman Gas Lantern for your lighting, which, the gas lantern wasn’t so bad, but oh, the kerosene lamp was kind of dim. I guess it was kind of hard to see at night with the kerosene lamp? (Laughs) Yes, it really was. Before, well, we didn’t have any electricity, you know, we didn’t have modern refrigerator in those days either. And we didn’t have any old types of ice boxes because we couldn’t get ice. So, we made what we called, an old desert cooler, to keep our food in. This was in a wooden frame, kind of a box-like frame, covered with burlap sacks, and had the shelves for the unit, and these—we put them in a shady place if you could find one, and keep your sacks wet, which would keep our food half-way cool and keep it from spoiling. In other words, evaporation of the water and these burlap sacks would have a cooling effect. What types of food did you store in this homemade refrigerator? I know you didn’t have fresh meat or milk or—? Well, we did get a little fresh meat, but most of the while, from the store, we couldn’t keep it. We used mainly canned meats and we didn’t have fresh milk very often, we used canned milk. And a few fresh vegetables, things like that, we kept in there. So you couldn’t run to the store and get a carton of milk and an orange juice and things like that? Well, at times, you could get the milk, but you never got any orange juice. (Laughs) Oh, I see. Now for a time, I lived at Yellow Pine, that’s four miles west of Goodsprings, and we didn’t have any power at all up there. And we couldn’t even get any fresh milk up there, so we kind of lucked out. After a while, we moved back into Goodsprings to settle, and it was a little better that way because there was a store there. UNLV University Libraries Clifford Kemple 7 How many stores did they have? Just one store? Well, for a time, they had one, and the other time they had two. How about, like, stores where they had clothing stores? Did they have any clothing stores in town? Yes, Will Beckley had a two story clothing department store on the main street of Goodsprings for years but that’s all been torn down. What about banking? Where’d you do your banking? Or did you? There was no banking there at all. No banks? No. I had another question for you. I was reading in the newspaper recently that they had wild burros around Goodsprings in that area, and I know that they’ve been gathering them up lately. Did you have any experiences when you lived in Goodsprings? Yes, in some of the mines, that were out of the way, and didn’t have any area or tramway, or any other way to where a truck could get it, they used to pack it down on the backs of burros. This burros they had, it had a pack saddle, and they had four or five gallon cans with the tops cut out, and they would load as much as the burro could carry in these four cans, put it on the pack saddle, and pack it down to the hill where the trucks could get it. I was wondering if you could tell us about the modes of transportation that you had in your work, and also in your daily life. What kind of transportation did you use? Well, in 1912, when we first came into Goodsprings, we came in on the LANSL railroad into Jean, and from there, we rode to Goodsprings on an old wagon drawn—a horse-drawn wagon. It was called a stage, they used to call ‘em for (unintelligible) supplies at that time, it was 1912, UNLV University Libraries Clifford Kemple 8 and that’s my first memory of coming into Goodsprings, in that old wagon. And another thing that comes to mind, is the way they had to haul in some of the ores from the mines to the railroad. They used to have, there weren’t many cars around then, or trucks, but I think they did have one truck sold, and they also hauled some of the ores with an ore steam tractor. And this tractor pulled, either two or three wagons. I remember that pretty well, and the wagons were loaded with ore, and he’d go out to these out of the way mines. He’d load the wagon (unintelligible) up with ore and pull ‘em onto the railroad with his old steam tractor. What were the roads like in Goodsprings and in the Las Vegas area then? Well, the roads were pretty poor at that time. The road to Las Vegas, it wasn’t paved by any means, it was just dirt road, with kind of chuck holes, and it’d take quite a little while to drive from Goodsprings to Las Vegas— About how long did it take? Well, it’d take an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half to come to Goodsprings, Las Vegas at that time, due to the roads and the cars were rather slow. Not very dependable either. What year are we talking about in? Oh, we’re talking in the twenties right now. Ah, I see. And so there were just very few cars, and the roads were—? Well, there were quite a few cars, but you might pass only two or three cars all the way from Goodsprings to Las Vegas. Ah, I’d see. And at what addresses have you lived in, in Southern Nevada? Well, I lived in Goodsprings until—from 1912 until 1941. At that time, why, the mining was pretty well done and so I found work in Las Vegas and moved to Las Vegas. At that time I rented a house from (Unintelligible), it’s down 209 South Fourth Street. I think Nevada State UNLV University Libraries Clifford Kemple 9 Bank stands at that location right now. And I lived there for, oh, a few months. And when they built the Huntridge sub-division, I bought one of those houses in Huntridge and moved into there. What was the Huntidge area like in those days? Well, apparently, it was nothing, just a mass of desert. Mostly sand hills, mesquite, and there were a few rabbits and quail around, that’d come up on our front yard there when we first moved in there. And at that time, Charleston, between Fifth Street and Second and Fremont, was just a, more or less of a cow trail. It was just a couple of (unintelligible). Now what year was that the you moved into the Huntridge area? I moved into the Huntridge of June of 1942. Now how long did you live in the Huntridge area? We lived in the Huntridge area until 1963. At that time, we moved into the West end of town on Pennwood, bought a new home up there, and have been living there ever since. Clifford, were you married in Las Vegas, or Southern Nevada? Yes, I was married in Las Vegas in 1930. When and where were you married? Well, I was married by an old friend of my father’s. A Judge William Orr. We married in his home, just between—it was on Fifth Street, between Fremont and Ogden. That would be North Fifth Street. Clifford, I was wondering if you could tell us a little about some of the spectacular events that you saw in Las Vegas in the 1920s and thirties? Well, I can tell you a little bit about the start of the airmail route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas and Salt Lake. They originally started out with a small Douglas by-plane. These planes UNLV University Libraries Clifford Kemple 10 weren’t very fast, but they hauled a little mail anyways, maybe one passenger. They put the mail on the seat in back of the passenger, and kind of crowded I guess. I was living in Goodsprings at that time, and I used to come over to Las Vegas and watch the planes land. At that time, Las Vegas Air Field was north of town, not where Nellis Air Base is now. They had quite a celebration as far as of the air mail service between Los Angeles and Salt Lake. I used to come into Goodsprings quite a lot, and watched the planes come in. And I got half acquainted with several of the pilots. I think they had four pilots that started out the air mail route. The names of—I can remember three of them anyways—Jimmy James, Fred Kelley, Murray Graham. Murray Graham, later on crashed his plane up on the mountain between Saint George of Cedar City and he was there a big part of the winter before they found the wreckage. Can you remember any other spectacular events such as the 1942 crash of Carole Lombard’s plane? Yes, I remember quite a little about the Carole Lombard plane. At that time, I was working in Boulder City and on the way out there, that morning, was listening to the radio, and heard about the plane crash on Potosi Mountain. I didn’t think too much about it at that time, but on the weekend, I decided to go up and take a look out at it. I went out to Goodsprings and tried to get up to the mountain on that side of the mountain, there was a pretty good trail up there, but the army had a blockade out there, and wouldn’t let anybody go out. So I still wasn’t discouraged, I turned around, and faced the east side of the mountain, and in the area of the Ninety-Nine Mine. And went up the mountain from that side. There was no trail out there at that time, there was no trail at all. But it was kind of rough going to, there was a little snow on the ground. But we finally made it up the hill, and we got up to the top with eighteen inches and two feet of snow there at the plane crash when we finally found it. And this plane hit right on a sheer wall of rock UNLV University Libraries Clifford Kemple 11 and it sure just about disintegrated when it hit. The plane hit just below the peak of the Potosi mountain and if he’d been flying a few hundred feet farther south, he would’ve clear gone over the pass and wouldn’t have crashed. Were, or are you active in politics? No, I’m interested, but not active. Any important recreational activity for you or your family? No, we don’t gamble. What other kinds of recreation do you seek? Well, I like to—hunting, I don’t do too much of it. I like fishing, but I don’t do too much of it. I’m going to get at it now that I’m retired. I like sight seeing, my car, anything like that. Do you remember anything about the early above-ground atomic tests? Yes, I remember when they started the tests here, I think it was about 1951. I remember, we used to—they had the blasts at night, or early in the morning. We used to get up and go out some spot for out of town, where we would see a big bright flash. You would see it real well—it’d just light up the sky like daylight momentarily. And sometime after a large explosion, you could feel a slight gust of wind several minutes after the blast. It would take quite a few minutes before it could get here. Clifford, what changes have you noticed in Southern Nevada since you first arrived? I know you arrived here in 1912 and have lived here ever since, so I imagine you’ve seen quite a few. Well, I noticed quite a few changes. I can remember when there was only one bank in Las Vegas, that was a First State Bank, and that was located on the corner of First and Fremont. And UNLV University Libraries Clifford Kemple 12 in addition to that, along Fremont Street, from Third Street East—there was a lot of residential homes. What about air pollution? Have you noticed any change in air pollution in the last few years? Well, there’s a big change of that. In those days, we didn’t have any. During the 1930s, the early 1930s, when Boulder Dam was being built, did that have an effect upon the economy of Las Vegas? Yes, it sure did. Before they started Boulder Dam, Las Vegas, I imagine, was about thirty-five hundred, something like that. And it boomed for quite a while, the population rose considerably. And after the dam was built, it didn’t do anything, it just gross leveled off until, I think along 1941 or 1942 when they built the Basic Magnesium Plant in Henderson. At that time, there was no town where Henderson is now, and they built the whole town to take care of the Plant. And they also built the Las Vegas Army Airfield that was out where Nellis is now. Did the railroad have an effect economically upon Las Vegas? It did until the time they removed the railroad shops from Las Vegas. That’s when they put the diesel locomotives into service. I see. Clifford, do you remember anything about the Old Ranch? Formerly known as he Stewart Ranch, now known as the Mormon Fort? Yes, I used to go up there once in a while. Not very often. But I remember the Old Fort out there and the large fig trees that they had out there. IT was supposed to be the largest one in the state of Nevada. And not too much other than that. Can you describe any individual who worked or was at the Old Ranch? No, I don’t believe I can. UNLV University Libraries Clifford Kemple 13 I see. Would you be willing to participate in a longer interview if requested? Yes, I would be willing to help any time, any way possible. Okay, thank you for your help on this project, and in the interest of Southern Nevada. This has been Paul Wilkins interviewing Clifford Kemple. Thank you.