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Transcript of interview with Richard Caldwell by Lloyd Henderson, March 06, 1980






Las Vegas history 1953-1980. Migration to Las Vegas from Louisiana. Personal history: family, occupation(s), and education. Westside. Development of race relations in Las Vegas. Residential segregation. Discrimination of blacks: no better than the South. Inequality of employment opportunities. Development of the Strip. Black entertainers.

Digital ID



Richard Caldwell oral history interview, 1980 March 06. OH-00321. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada


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UNLV University Libraries Richard Caldwell i An Interview with Richard Caldwell An Oral History Conducted by Lloyd Henderson Ralph Roske Oral History Project on Early Las Vegas Special Collections Oral History Research Center University Libraries University of Nevada, Las Vegas UNLV University Libraries Richard Caldwell ii © Ralph Roske Oral History Project on Early Las Vegas University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 2017 UNLV University Libraries Richard Caldwell 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 Richard Caldwell iv Abstract Lloyd Henderson interviews Richard Caldwell (b. 1935 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana) about his experience moving to and living in Las Vegas, Nevada. Caldwell discusses his family and his education in business administration before describing the various occupations he has held, including ironwork and casino management. He also talks about his hobbies, his affiliation with clubs and organizations, and the places he has travelled to. Caldwell later talks about the changes in Las Vegas, including racial issues, prejudice, and segregation. UNLV University Libraries Richard Caldwell 1 [Tape begins midsentence] in 4925 Iowa Avenue in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mr. Caldwell, what was the place and the date of your birth? Well, I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1935 in General Hospital. My mother and father lived on Harding Boulevard in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I went to Southern University. (Unintelligible) How many members have you had in your family? Members of my family was four: me, two brothers, and a sister. Sister’s name’s Tina, brother’s name Avery, and my other brother’s name is Floyd. Floyd now works at—electric company, rewiring pipes and electricity, power for light buildings. My sister owns a beautician parlor in Inglewood, California, and my little brother, Avery, he’s just starting off now. He’s going to school at UCLA. Can you tell me a little something about your family’s history? My family history? Well, my mother lived on a farm back off in the South. She had thirteen brothers, all right now—most of ‘em had kids, [they’re] grown. My father, he had a big family, too; he lived in the South. He had five sisters and six brothers. We all-we’re really a close family now. Then, everybody’s doing all right. Can you tell me about your ethnic ancestry? Well, my great, great-grandfather was a white man, and my third grandmother, she was mixed with Indian, so I have white and Indian in my blood, and that’s it right there. Can you tell me a little bit about your education? I went to Southern University four years, got a degree in business, then I went to UCLA for two more years, got my master’s degree. Now I’m off in business administration. Okay, can I have your places and your residences you travelled—places you lived in your life? UNLV University Libraries Richard Caldwell 2 Well, I lived in Louisiana, California, and out here in Las Vegas. That’s the only places you’ve lived? Yes, that’s the only places I’ve lived in my life. And how about places you travelled? Oh, I travelled all over the United States: Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, been to Hawaii, I plan to go to New York and overseas later on in the future. How about your occupational history? Occupational history? The first job I ever had, I was a shoeshine boy, you know, shining shoes. Then I had, older I got, I got into ironworking; I was welding for a company. Now I’m in business administration up at the Holiday Casino under Dan Fox and Bill Morris, and that’s all my occupation conventions now. Yes, how about any awards and honors that you have received in schooling or any other type of activity? Well, I was the captain of my high school football team; I made a lotta honors in that—student body president in high school, honor roll in college, and a lotta other little detail, you know, I better not talk about. Oh, you don’t want to talk about the details then? No detail. Okay, how about a little history in illnesses in the family? Illnesses? Well, my grandmother got high blood pressure. My father got high blood pressure, too—a little sugar diabetes. I went to the doctor, got my checkup this year, I got a little high blood pressure—gotta stop eating that pork and all that other stuff. Otherwise, everybody else doing fine. It’s just that high blood pressure and diabetes in the family. UNLV University Libraries Richard Caldwell 3 How about property (unintelligible) achievements? Well, me myself, now, I own a house on Iowa Avenue, and I really don’t have no property, but my mother and father have lots of property. They got about a 149, 160-something acres in Louisiana farmland. So my relatives [are] out there working that now, and I get to check on them every harvest season and all that. But I plan on more, buy a little land out here in Las Vegas, since it’s good property (unintelligible). Okay, sir, how about your special skills and interest? Special skills? Well, special skills I’ve got is, I’m a good artist, I can paint. Well, other things—interests are swim, ice skate, Playboy Bunny Club—gotta card to that, the playgirls—and marijuana—no, I’m just kidding, I’m just kidding. Is that it, sir? Yes, that’s it. Okay, (unintelligible) a church membership? Oh, I belong to St. Eugene Church; I’m a Catholic. I don’t go to church that often, but I say my prayers. I’m not really one of those church boy persons, but I’m not the kind of guy to break the law and, you know, I look out for the fellow man. But I do go to church once in a while. Well, how about memberships or activities in any other type of organizations? Well, I was in Boys Scouts up in (unintelligible), YMCA. I’m off in health spas now; I’m in the health spa club organization, Jack LaLanne—got a membership. That’s what I’m thinking about opening up when I get a little more money: a health spa to keep my body in shape. That’s it right there. You got any key points in life? UNLV University Libraries Richard Caldwell 4 Key points? Key points in life is when I came here to Las Vegas and found a job working. I was doing iron welding and all that, and then I talked to my good friend, Mr. Fox, and he helped me out at the Holiday, and then I started off from the top, and now Mr. Morris, he’s a good friend of mine, and now I established so much that I wanted to do. That’s one of the key points in my life, that I’m all by myself now and no wife and kids, but I’m independent of myself. And later in life, I will try to have a family. I gotta (unintelligible) a little money now. So you’re a bachelor right now? Oh yeah, I’m a bachelor. Match came up in my mine, but I really don’t think about getting married now. How about your motivation, aspirations, and goals? My goals is to open up my own big business, have a big house, have a family, wife, family life that I love, people that love me, kids, own a yacht someday, private jets, you know, (unintelligible) people hope for, but I think I should be able to get some of it. Okay, sir, how about a description and information in the status of (unintelligible) behaviors of the various communities that you know, like the change you’ve seen in the communities that you can (unintelligible) changes and actions and how people act around compared to where you live now and where you have lived before? Well, out here in Las Vegas, I see that, racial-wise, the people is really not good together. ‘Cause I still hear, as they call, the Westside where the Blacks stead, and over there by UNLV, it’s like mostly White area. But I don’t understand why more Blacks don’t stay over there, and why they have the Blacks over here on this side of town—I just don’t understand that myself. But I’ve been living out here for twenty-seven years, and I failed to see what’s wrong, but I think it’s UNLV University Libraries Richard Caldwell 5 really a racial problem here in the state. I think Las Vegas is more a money state than it is a social state in the society in helping out regular people. Okay, that completes this part of my interview (unintelligible) value some of these questions that I’ve asked you. Thank you. [Tape cuts out] Yes, in Chicago—exactly when did you arrive in Las Vegas? Well, I arrived in Las Vegas March, 1953, around that time. What occupations did you acquire at this time? Well, when I came here, I worked as a loading man in the back of the casinos: Frontier, then Caesars, couple other casinos loading— Just loading products in the—? Products, foods, (unintelligible). Yes, can you give me a view of somewhat to how you built up your occupation to now? Oh, well, like they all say, you start from the bottom and your work to the top—well, I was a good worker, and I came to the Holiday Casino, and I started working real hard. Most people, they knew me, they liked (unintelligible). Then I started going around the casinos to see the tables and stuff, and I asked one of the managers, “Could I learn how to be a dealer?” So they told me, I went to dealer school, I learned how to deal, so then I became a dealer. And then I became good at that when I asked whether I could get another job. So now, what I am now, I’m the pit man, you know, I patrol all the crap tables and stuff in the casino now. I’m administrative, business administrative, I’m the head man. I sign stuff and cosign, I got people working under me now. Can you describe exactly what you do? UNLV University Libraries Richard Caldwell 6 Oh, I just walk around in the suits, look nice, and just check the tables, check the people that’s working: the dealers my other workers and seeing nobody cheats, nobody gives us no trouble, you know, (unintelligible) money flows, right? Make sure the people keep gambling, keep everybody happy. Yes, can you also explain the growth and the change in the city? Oh, the (unintelligible) and the change of the city? You know, the buildings here. Oh, building-wise? Well, Las Vegas—the Strip has come a long way. Caesars Palace has gotten bigger, the MGM got bigger—all the casinos getting bigger and bigger. I heard there’s a new order on the news with 2,000 more rooms. You run out of rooms for all these casinos—more and more people [are] coming. You know Las Vegas is the number one tourist spot in the nation. And the city’s gonna get bigger and bigger. Yes, can you (unintelligible) like a motel and how it looked before and (unintelligible) now and the size of it? Well, down on Fremont, buildings has really never changed—they look the same. That used to be Old Las Vegas, but all the other buildings now are modern, big buildings, like Caesars; it’s probably the biggest one on the Strip now. Most of the casinos and hotels [are] in the middle. They just built around it, made it more luxury—more rooms, swimming pools, all that fancy stuff, getting more people to come out here, golf courses. Las Vegas is really growing. It’s gonna be a big, big city in times to come. And the Strip is the most beautiful place you can come down to see at night. But it’s getting modern, catching up with the space age. Well, yes, can you tell me how the (unintelligible) people itself has changed this town? UNLV University Libraries Richard Caldwell 7 It hasn’t changed a lot, but it has changed, ‘cause I remember long back, but Blacks couldn’t really get good jobs out here, you know, discrimination. Black actors who sang in the casinos couldn’t get good rooms. I’ve just seen now, I’m still on north side of town, but as they call it, the Westside, Blacks still over there, and over there where the college, where you stay at, son, it’s more Whites, but it really hasn’t changed—there’s a lotta prejudiced people out here, but they really don’t show it, but they really are. And I feel that it’s gonna have to change, ‘cause we are moving up. And I feel that more and more, we will get to the top, and society will have to change, and I feel that it hasn’t been no big change yet; we’re still getting discriminated against. Not that much, but it’s undercover. Undercover? Can you give me some type of example? Well, it’s really, like, right now, I’m the only Black man that’s really working the pits, ‘cause I know (unintelligible) people around the casinos and the crap tables and (unintelligible), and I know people upstairs, but you really don’t see Black men working in high position jobs off in the casino, but it’s (unintelligible). And a lotta the Black actors, they’re still not getting the right treatment as white actors do. They’re not getting paid as much. When you say (unintelligible) mistreated (unintelligible)? Yes, very mistreated; very mistreated. They’re still not treating them right the way they should be, like class, ‘cause you know the Black performance is just like the White performance. I feel they should get all the recommendations and (unintelligible) just as the White ones do, like Lola Falana. Since I’ve been out here, I’ve seen all of ‘em: Lola Falana, Sister Sledge, Redd Fox, Bill Cosby—Bill Cosby’s (unintelligible) good show. You know Sammy, he’s all the way around; he performs at Caesars. I feel that the Black performance is really coming along and making Las Vegas the way it is together. UNLV University Libraries Richard Caldwell 8 Yes, Mr. Caldwell, do you remember the types of segregation that they had during this time of segregation in Las Vegas. Yes, there was lots of segregation against Blacks as you well know—lots of segregation all over the place. It was no different from the South in all (unintelligible). They used to not let Blacks go in the casinos; they let ‘em sometimes have decent rooms, gave ‘em low-class rooms. Sometimes you walked around the wrong part of town, you might get jumped on—you know how that it is. We really been discriminated a lot, but time is changing, we’re gonna change. I remember we never had any Black radio stations out here; they have a few now, but they all go off early. And most of the time, you don’t want listen to that, as they call it, ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ and (unintelligible) music, but we’re getting there. Our days will come. So, this concludes my interview. I’d like to thank you for helping me out on this project. Well, anytime, ‘cause I’m not too older than you; you know, I’m a very proud man of my culture and nature, and I would like to discuss it—I might like to come down to your Nevada History class and sit down and listen to the lectures, see where your teacher’s coming from. I’m sure Mr. Roske would appreciate that. Thank you, sir. Okay, thank you.