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Transcript of interview with Floyd Jenne by Ping Lee, March 10, 1981






On March 10, 1981, Floyd Jenne (born June 6th, 1915 in Ogden, Utah) was interviewed by Ping Lee at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The interview covers Mr. Lee’s life as a police officer in Boulder City, Nevada. Mr. Lee also recalls going to school in McGill, Nevada and Ely, Nevada and working in Boulder City and Las Vegas, Nevada.

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Jenne, Floyd Interview, 1981 March 10. OH-00945. [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 Floyd Jenne i An Interview with Floyd Jenne An Oral History Conducted by Ping Lee 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 Floyd Jenne ii © Ralph Roske Oral History Project on Early Las Vegas University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 2019 UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 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 Floyd Jenne iv Abstract On March 10, 1981, Floyd Jenne (born June 6th, 1915 in Ogden, Utah) was interviewed by Ping Lee at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The interview covers Mr. Lee’s life as a police officer in Boulder City, Nevada. Mr. Lee also recalls going to school in McGill, Nevada and Ely, Nevada and working in Boulder City and Las Vegas, Nevada. UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 5 This is Ping Lee on March 10th, 1981, in the Chemistry building in University of Nevada Las Vegas, and I’m talking to Mr. Floyd Jenne, who was born in Utah and came to Nevada. Okay, and he would like to talk of his experience in Boulder City and Southern Nevada. Well, I came to Boulder City, August 1st, 1939. I was employed by the Bureau of Reclamation as a Reclamation Ranger. That was just a fancy name for police officer. We policed Boulder City, and the area around Boulder, or is now known, Hoover Dam. We worked halfway to Kingman, Arizona, halfway to Searchlight, and halfway to Las Vegas. The reason for this expanded area, there was only one state highway patrol car for the whole southern end of the state. The sheriff’s office consisted of just a few men. We were all deputized as Deputy Sheriff’s in Clark County, Nevada and Mohave County, Arizona. At that time, there was no town of Henderson. Henderson was not started until about 1940 or ‘41 as a plant to make magnesium. It was operated by Basic Magnesium Corporation, an Ohio company. At that time, Boulder City was about two to three thousand people. It was classed as a withdrawn area under the code current jurisdiction of Clark County, Nevada and the Department of Interior. Originally, it was thought to be an exclusive jurisdiction area, but in the mid-thirties, Clark County Assessor, a man by the name of DeVinney, filed suits so that he could levy taxes on the property of Six Companies Incorporated, who were the prime contractors in building the dam. The town that’s in the early model was under the Bureau of Reclamation was managed by a city manager. The first one I knew was Mr. Sims Ely who, as I understood, had been City Manager almost from the start. Sims decided whether we took people into court or whether he took them into his office, and read the riot act to them. I’ve had several people tell me they UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 6 would much rather go into court and pay a fine than have Sims Ely get on them. He also within limits determined what rent could be charged for houses that were rented. He was able to do this because all of the land was controlled by the Bureau of Reclamation. People that owned the houses merely had a lease on the lot. And there was a clause in the lease that allowed Ely to make such decisions, probably by stretching a little bit. But no one ever questioned his authority. He was kept on two years beyond mandatory retirement age, by Executive Order. He retired about 1941, I believe. He was—his position was taken over then, by (unintelligible), who had been City Engineer. (Unintelligible) stayed in this position until just before Boulder City was incorporated. When a city manager was hired for the transition of the period. This man was Mr. Harold Corbin who stayed on until the city was incorporated. The close of the new city took over—started business January 4, 1960. The—working as a police officer during this period, was a lot different than it would be today. We were allowed a fair amount of leeway in whether we file charges or used other methods, such as, taking car keys away from people who were under the influence, and not letting them have the keys until they were sober, such as that. The town was very quiet in that regulations had been laid down that everything except one service station would be closed at eleven o’clock at night. Usually there wasn’t even a service station. A little later on, when they started building Henderson. The rules were relaxed a little bit that one and sometimes two cafes would be open most of the night. In the earlier years in Boulder City, the high school students came to Las Vegas by bus. About 1941, possibly ‘42, they built a high school in Boulder City. Do you remember the name of the high school? It was just Boulder City High School. UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 7 Boulder City High School? Okay. And it was located across the street from the old city office building. The current city office buildings in Boulder City are the old grade school and the high school. Well, the high school, my mistake, the high school is a recreation building now. Mm-hmm. So, do you remember how many students were there, at that time? I don’t know. Probably, oh, 150 to 200 would be my guess, and that’s probably high. Mm-hmm. Are there any elementary schools in Boulder City, at that time? At that time, yes, it was an elementary school. And for a while at—we had not only the elementary school building, but the basement of two or three churches, and the old American Legion Hall, were also used for schools. Is it the first church in the Boulder City? (Unintelligible) I’m not sure whether it was Grace Community Church or St. Andrews, but I think it was Grace Community Church was the first one. Okay. It was there when I got there. I see. But when I hit Boulder City, there was the Grace Community Church, a Catholic Church, Episcopal Church, and Mormon Church. There may have been other groups that met in homes or other places but they didn’t have a building of their own. UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 8 I see. Then, what changes have you noticed in (Unintelligible) Boulder City, since you first arrived in Boulder City? Oh, there’s naturally a lot more people. It isn’t—well, in the earlier days, people thought nothing of leaving their doors unlocked. And the—there was a different relationship between the police or reclamation rangers than there are now. Just as an example, I remember getting a call from one lady that had set a pot of beans on the stove to cook, and she got to Kingman, and couldn’t remember whether she had turned the gas off under her beans or not. Mm-hmm. She called the police station and asked us if we would go down and make sure she had turned the gas off. And that—that type of a request wasn’t uncommon. Yes. But— And also, what changes have you noticed in police? I really don’t know, because I haven’t been in close contact with the police department, since I left as a chief. I was chief there for about the last ten years. Oh. And I left just before they incorporated the city, and went to work for the Bureau of Mines, as a understudy for the administrative officer’s position. So, I—I really don’t know just what’s going on now. Also can you talk about something about the police you know? UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 9 No. I don’t quite understand what it is you want on that. We—there wasn’t much crime in, well, anywhere here in Southern Nevada, at that time. Just as an example, it—it wasn’t uncommon to see a man come out of one of the gambling establishments on Fremont Street. (Laughs) With a bag of money over each shoulder, and on the way to the bank. Mm-hmm. If he saw a friend, he’d set the money down on the sidewalk, and they would stand there and talk. And as far as I know, there were no security guards. If they were, they were plain clothes, and unnoticeable. But I don’t—I don’t think there was any. Today, of course, that’s— just wouldn’t be done at all. For probably two reasons: one he’d have considerably more money, but he wouldn’t be apt to be going down the street, with a couple of bags of money over his shoulders, without some kind of security protection with him. Also, what kind of, you know, people’s attitudes toward the police officer at that time? You know, at the thirties and forties. Oh, probably not a great deal of difference than it is now. All through the west, in the earlier days, police represented a certain amount of restriction, and the early Western people resented—well, maybe I shouldn’t say resented, but they felt that your rights stopped where their nose started and their rights stopped where your nose started. In other words, as long as you didn’t bother anyone, well, it was no one’s business. And basically that’s about the way police operated, anyway. Was—unless it was something that infringed on the peace and quietude of the area or on somebody’s rights, we didn’t take any particular action on it. Even at times when there was a little bit too much noise, all that we would do is tell ‘em to knock it off, they were UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 10 bothering their neighbors. But, even such as that, right at the time, people would—wondered where we got the authority to do that. They didn’t question it, but they—there was a certain amount of resentment, I guess you would say. Is there any casino in Boulder City? No. When Boulder City was incorporated there was a clause in the charter that specified there would be no hard liquor sold or gambling, unless such action was approved by referendum vote of the citizens of Boulder City. For several years, they introduced, at every election, a referendum to allow hard liquor. It finally passed. I don’t remember what year, but several years back. Mm-hmm. So hard liquor is legal but there is no legal gambling in city limits of Boulder City. I see. So do you find any elemental changes in Boulder City? Oh. Like more buildings? Or any change of buildings? Construction? Yes, the population is getting up, I don’t remember, eight, ten thousand people now. Mm-hmm. So that it has expanded considerably. And there’s, well, when I first hit Boulder, most of the people that hit there, were people that had come for construction on the dam and then stayed on in an operating capacity. So they had been there several years. But the town was quite stable as far as the population was concerned. There would be a few new people come in, and a few older UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 11 ones leave. But you could go down the street and know everyone that you—everyone you saw, you knew who they were, probably where they worked. Mm-hmm. What kind of a car they drove. Today, I see more people that I don’t know than that I do. Of course, working in Vegas, I don’t get around very much during the day, when— Yes. People are there, either. Mm-hmm. Also, can you talking something about the way this, Las Vegas? Well, when I first came down here, of course, there weren’t any big clubs. Probably the most popular place to eat was The Green Hut, or The Green Shack, which is on Boulder Highway. There was the old 91 Club out on the LA Highway, but most of your gambling was on Fremont Street. There wasn’t, till after World War II, that there was any big move towards the Strip. So that means originally, then, gambling is start on Fremont? Yes. Downtown? Yes. That was the area now. It wasn’t all gambling then. For example, in the first block on Fremont just off of Main— Mm-hmm. On the north side, was a Sears Roebuck store. It was about the middle of the block. It wasn’t very big. It had, oh, I would imagine, probably fifty, sixty feet of frontage but fairly deep. Then UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 12 they moved up, built a new store on the corner of Fremont and Sixth, across from the present El Cortez hotel, where the phone company offices are. In the time, I wondered why they had moved clear out of town to the new store. And on the corner of Fifth and Fremont, there would have been the north east corner. Most of that block was taken up with a Wimpy’s drive-in hamburger stand, which gives you some idea, that there wasn’t too much in the way of business on Fremont, at that time. Well, let’s see, there’s the old Boulder Club. I don’t remember the names of the other—Southside Juniors, several others, in there. And also do you remember which casino is the first in the Strip? And of the Strip time. No, I don’t. El Rancho Vegas, I believe. But I’m not sure. Also, you know, I would like to ask you why you come to Southern Nevada? Well, that was pretty simple. I had taken civil service exam for Park Ranger. The Bureau of Reclamation offered me a job, and in 1939 jobs were scarce, and you didn’t argue very much about moving, if you could afford to make the move. Mm-hmm. So I came down here to do the work. And your family came with you? Well— Are you married at the time? I wasn’t married when I took the job. But, I got married three days before I came down here. We had—Barb and I had planned on getting married a couple weeks, well to get—we were going to UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 13 get married in the middle of August. But when this job showed up, I knew that there would be no chance of getting off in the middle of August to get married. So we just got married the twenty-seventh of July, and that was it. Kind a hurried things up a little bit. Mm-hmm. Also, do you—you have come from the McGill, Nevada, right? Well, yes. Mm-hmm. I had been raised in McGill. Raised in McGill. For a year before I came down here, I worked for the old division of (Unintelligible) up in Elko County as a foreman of three seat camp. Can you mention some of your experiences in McGill? Well, I guess it was quite a bit different from what you would run into today. In that, there wasn’t very much traffic in the way of automobiles. We played out in the streets. And at—at night it wasn’t unusual. There would be a streetlight in the middle of the intersection, and we would use that light post as a home base for Run Sheep Run or Hide and Seek, various games of that time. And you might not see a car in the whole evening. It was also, well, the general attitude of the people in McGill, was that they took care of their own problems. Anybody that went through law with anything except oh, rape or murder, or some such thing as that, was considered different than the other people were, kind of looked down on. If a couple of neighbors disagreed, they would go out in the back alley and settle it. UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 14 As far as prohibition was concerned, the general attitude was that that was the federal law. Nevada never had a prohibition law. So they just—the whole theory was let the (Unintelligible) enforce the prohibition law. As a result, there wasn’t a great deal of enforcement on it. There was—a lot of people made their own wine, beer. There were a few stills out in the hills that bootleggers set up. There wasn’t any formal recreation set up, but by that I mean playgrounds. That’s just before we had moved to McGill, they had set up a, what they called a community league. McGill was owned by a copper company, so there was only one industry there that could pretty well control things. But everyone that worked for the company was voluntary. But everyone signed up for a deduction of twenty five cents a payday, we got paid twice a month. And that money went into what we called the Community League Fund, which was used to take young people on outings up the, in the mountains, or up to the canyons. Normally, we would get, oh, two or three day trips, and one trip where we would be out two nights and three days. They would take the boys one time, and the girls the next. Everything was furnished except for bedding, they had people at front that cooked the food, such as that. Community League also underwrote the cost of several town teams for playing basketball. There was a party Halloween time for the young people to keep them from getting into vandalism problems. Were there many young people at that time? Oh, there was in the grade school, there’d be one room of each grade, with anywhere from twenty to thirty students in the grade. Only one high school in McGill? UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 15 There wasn’t a high school in McGill. The high school was in Ely. That was for the—most of the county. There was a high school in Lund which took care of that section of the county and then one in Ely for the rest of it. Mm-hmm. And they paid, they furnished us transportation from McGill to Ely, and students who lived beyond the transportation area, were either given a travel allowance or an allowance towards paying board and room in Ely. Oh. So you were educated in McGill or Ely? Well, I went through grade school in McGill, and then four years of high school in Ely. There was about 400 students in the high school, when I was going. So it was a big high school, 400 students, at that time? Well, at that time, it was probably one of the bigger ones in the state, yes. So usually what the young people, you know, activities? Whatever they could dig up themselves. (Laughs) Yes. That’s what I was getting at when I said that at night we would play games under the streetlights. Mm-hmm. What kind of games you guys play, at that time? Well, we played— What’s the popular ones? UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 16 Hide and Seek, Run Sheep Run, well, there was Kick the Can. (Laughs) Then there was another game. I’ve forgotten what we called it. But (Unintelligible) What was that? Well, that was, if you had say, five players, there would be four who would dig a little hole in the ground, and the four holes and the one in the middle would be the fifth. And one, you’d have the can, and each one had the stick, the idea was to get to whoever was “it”, had to get the can into that hole in the middle, and as he would get close, why, somebody would take their stick out of a hole, and hit his can, and then invariably someone else would put their stick in the hole that he had vacated and he would just kind of bask it upside down to find a place to land it. Quite often the person that was “it” would see a chance to get their stick into an empty hole, and then somebody else “it”, and of course you get the can away. Mm-hmm. And have to bring it back. Woah. Winter— This is the games you play? Mm-hmm. Wintertime we’d play—when there was snow, we’d play Fox and Geese and sleigh ride. Mm-hmm. UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 17 Such at that. Since you were working in the university thirteen years? Yes. I’ve been here thirteen years. Do you see any changes, you know, among students, you know, from your time of students, here? I don’t think there is a great deal of difference in the students themselves. There’s a big increase in the numbers. For example, classes, that when I first came here, we would teach once a semester with one section, sometimes just once a year, we are now running four to five sections, and teaching it every semester. And there are also summer school classes. (Tape one ends) And the variety of classes has increased. Of course the size of the campus has increased, considerably, too. Mm-hmm. Yes. I’ve lost track of how many buildings have gone up, but a considerable amount here. Oh. Yes, okay. And do you have any church activities Mr. Jenne? Yes. I belong to the Mormon or LDS Church. I have done all my life. Mm-hmm. They have a, oh, quite a variety of programs for the young people, to keep them occupied. I haven’t been too much involved in it of late years, but—except as to attend. They sponsor a scout troop and shows such as that, for young people, to keep them out of problems. UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 18 So you go to church when you were very young? Part of the time. When I was young I— (Laughs) I went part of the time. Part of the time I didn’t. Uh-huh. It just depended on how I felt. You— My mother wanted me to go church but she knew I was bullheaded enough, that if I said, I didn’t want to go, that there was no use in sending me, because I’d just upset everything. So you went to church when you were in McGill? Part of the time, yes. Uh huh. How many churches are there in McGill? You remember? Well, there was a Methodist, Episcopal Church. There was a Catholic Church, and there was a Mormon Church. I believe that was all. Oh. There was also a Greek Orthodox Church, and others. So, uh-huh. What kind of church activities at that time did you do? Oh, the Mormon Church was really the only one I was overly familiar with. But they used to have Friday night dances for the young people. Usually the music was furnished by members of UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 19 the church, probably an accordion and a violin, maybe a set of drums, just whatever they could round up. For the young people? Yes, it was for young people. Uh-huh. The older people would go, too. But it was—it was aimed basically at the younger people. Then of course, it was the—well, even in those days they sponsored a scout troop, which I belonged to. And there would be parties, such as that. And how about the church activities in Boulder City? Well, just about the same. Just about the same, huh? Yes. But I don’t think the emphasis has changed very much from what it was then as, oh, a little more sophisticated, they’ll have movies, where we would put on plays, well, they still would put on plays here, where members of the church will act out the parts. Okay. Do you remember any important events that occurred in Southern Nevada? Like something— Just paydays. That was important. (Laughs) That’s important? Yes. (Laughs) UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 20 Such as a past election or something about famous people? Business people, marriages, or anything? Oh, in the earlier days here, there were—a lot of people who came through, movie people and so forth. But we saw so many of them, we didn’t pay much attention to ‘em. I remember one of those movie stars by the name, well, his stage name, was Boris Karloff. Yes. And probably the first high school play that was put on in Boulder City, when the curtain came up, there was a man sitting there reading a paper, and he dropped the paper, just lowered it, and he was Boris Karloff. He had agreed to make a personal appearance to get people to come to the show, or play. He just took a bow and that was about all there was to it. But he was a man that preferred to stay out of the limelight, anyway. He was around here for several weeks and he just stayed back, and didn’t attract any more attention than he could help. (Laughs) He asked people not to— Did you see him? Oh yes. Yes, he spent a lot of time down on the dam when I was working down there. Mm-hmm. And—say there were a lot of them who used to come around. Normally, no great thought was given to it. I see. So, this is the only one you can remember, of all the movie stars (unintelligible)? Oh, there were quite a few of ‘em, but— UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 21 But this one interest you the most? Well, the— (Laughs) Probably the reason stuck in the mind was he—his appearance at this first school play, that the high school put on in Boulder City. And he took part, well, he made an appearance there. But, oh, Wallace Berry used to come up here fishing and (Unintelligible). I don’t remember the lady’s name now but she played the aunt in The Hardy Family, owned the Traveler’s Motel here in Vegas. Golly, I don’t know, there’s lots of ‘em. Also, do you active in politics? Just vote. Just vote? You don’t belong to any party? Oh.Yes, I belong to the—I am registered as a Democrat. Democrat Party? But that—that doesn’t mean that I— (Laughs) Vote a straight ticket. I—I vote the way I feel like. Oh. Okay. Go ahead. (Laughs) UNLV University Libraries Floyd Jenne 22 You asked if I remembered anything about the above ground atomic tests. Originally, the atomic tests were all above ground explosions and some of them were even set off during the daylight hours. And they had a plane with a red tail that would fly around and warn all the planes out of the area. And then most of the shots, though, were put off in the early morning hours before dawn. And when they would go off, the whole area, even here in Las Vegas, Boulder City, would be lighted up just like a bright magnesium fire, just a glaring white light. I’ve talked to people that—from Reno that said they could even see the reflections in Reno at the time. Mm-hmm. And it would take about—as I recall it, about seven or eight minutes for the concussion to get from the test to Boulder City. And that would be just like an earthquake. It’d shake everything up and I’d say there was about an elapse of seven or eight minutes before that would hit. It’d be far enough that sometimes people didn’t connect the flash with the later concussion, and they would wonder what had happened. But people around here didn’t give it any—any particular thought, or weren’t concerned about the aboveground testing. (Audio ends)