Saturday, June 03, 2023

Reno and Las Vegas

Let's return to Reno, Nevada! We've been there a few times before - if you're feeling frisky, check out a post HERE, and another one HERE. As you can see, Reno's slogan tells us that it is "The Biggest Little City in the World". Rejected slogans: "The Coldest Hot City in the World" and "Reno: It's not Oxnard". 

Harold's Club was arguable the most famous of all the casinos in Reno. Harold's Club casino was established in 1935 by Harold S. Smith Sr. and his brother, Raymond A. Smith. Soon afterwards, their father, Raymond I. ("Pappy") Smith was appointed general manager and became the public face of the casino. The casino expanded by buying adjacent Virginia Street properties. Harold's Club constructed a seven-story building as part of the casino, but never had a hotel on the property. Pappy Smith developed a marketing campaign that made the casino famous, using more than two thousand billboards across the United States advertising "Harold's Club or Bust", often written on a Conestoga wagon. It closed forever in 1995, and was torn down in 1999.

Here's a better look (scrounged from the Internet) at that mural that graced the front:

Meanwhile, over in Las Vegas, Binion's Gambling Hall had one-armed bandits practically on the sidewalk to tempt passers-by to test their luck. I would use my psychic powers to hit a jackpot every time. Sure, the pit bosses would give me the eyeball, but they can't prove a thing! "I've been watching that guy with the pulsating veins on his forehead, and I think he's up to something". 

Well, as I am writing this post, I thought that this next photo was another Vegas view. But we can see that it is Harrah's Casino; there's one in Las Vegas, but it wasn't built until the 1970s, so this must be the Reno location, built in 1955. Apparently, scenes from the legendary film 40 Pounds of Trouble were filmed here. Hey kid, why not catch a stage show with some scantily-clad showgirls!


Nanook said...

Damn; I guess I'm a bit too early, as I was hoping to see the New Christy Minstrels. Sigh.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

I wonder if Don Conn was related to Didi Conn, who starred in one of the greatest musical's of all time. Or maybe he was related to Comic Conn. Whaa-waaaah!

I want to have my picture taken with the World's Largest Slot Machine, at Harrah's!

Nanook said...

@ TM!-
I'm less interested in Didi Conn and more interested in a 1981 booking at the Nugget Hotel/Casino - "Reno Area's Finest" - that was headlining with Don Conn Orchestra and Bertha & Tina The World's Most Amazing Performing Elephants-!

TokyoMagic! said...

Nanook.....Bertha & Tina? I guess Teensy and Weensy were already taken?

JB said...

Yay, another Oxnard joke. They never get old. ;-)

That's a really nice picture of the RENO sign. Crisp & clear & colorful.

I'm trying to read those 3D letters across the top of the Harolds building: "Dedicated In All Humility To Those Who [something]". What, they couldn't get the New Christy Minstrels? [haha, Nanook was thinking the same thing]

Hmmm, letters atop the mural again. Still can't quite make 'em out: "...Those Who Blazed The Trail"? I guess that makes sense... sorta; an homage to the pioneers who headed out west.

I love those old-style mechanical slot machines; with the three windows displaying cherries and other fruits and produce, "7", "Jackpot", etc.. Nowadays, it's really hard to find a machine like that, they're almost all video slots, with numerous windows and a dozen paylines. Not as much fun, says I. TRE. I haven't actually wasted any of my money on them for at least 18 years.
Nice to know that you have a system for winning, Major. Better do something about those pulsating veins though.

In the last photo, I think the lady on the left has a bowling ball in her purse.

Tokyo!, or related to Danbury Conn.

Thanks for the Saturday photos, Major.

K. Martinez said...

Francis Brunn the German juggler and the Steiner Brothers, a Canadian tap-dancing trio. Only the best for Harold's Club. Apparently one of the Steiner brothers (Ron) was a Mouseketeer on the original Mickey Mouse Club.

Nice pics! Thanks, Major.

Sunday Night said...

In the early 70s my dad took me to visit Harrah's car collection which was the world's largest collection of historic automobiles. Hundreds and hundreds of beautifully restored cars. That's an afternoon I'll always remember. At the time the collection was in Sparks Nevada


Growing up I loved the diecast MATCHBOX MODELS OF YESTERYEAR … ( they were no EXINWEST though !) on each package back and in the catalogs was a artists rendition of the automobile in its setting of the period and a historical description with Information on where the prototype was photographed and measured by the matchbox designers …. And almost all the American automobiles were credited to THE HARRAHS COLLECTION. The HARRAHS collection also provided most of the background automobiles in the 1965 movie THE GREAT RACE.

Bu said...

I think I've told my Harrah's stories before, so won't regale them....40 pounds was shot at Harrah's in Tahoe....I remember going through Reno...but not really stopping to smell any roses..or cactus...or anything...Reno is where you fly into to drive up the mountain to Tahoe. Worlds Largest ?...I've seen larger. The camera caught that moment. Sorry: couldn't really resist. The guys in the red coats look like when valets are told to wear red for movie premieres and celebrity things. I have a lot of red coats for some reason. I would like to see the Harrahs collection, and although I am not a motor head, I do like old cars. "Fruits of the Slot Machines"...why were they fruits? I need to look it up. Also: they were very cartoony kind of candy wrappers. ...Going to the Googles. The Steiner Bros were dancers AND wrestlers. I was asked once long ago...or not so long ago... if I was Scott Steiner...I think I took it as a compliment (?) No...I am not. I am also not Steve Austin: both the bionic man and wrestler. When you are bald and have a goatee, everyone thinks you are somebody else. Reno: the biggest smallest town ever. I want to know who came up with that brilliant marketing term AND icon arch. Back to Google...enjoy Saturday. Thanks Major.

JG said...

Oh boy, Harold’s Club! Dad took us there to dinner on one of our trips through the desert. The front was exactly like this picture. My parents were non-drinkers and non-gamblers, but Dad had a slightly wild streak and loved to push the envelope, he liked a fancy restaurant. I remember the restaurant was upstairs and we rode an escalator up past the casino. Everyone was anxious that I should not be exposed to the slot machines. Mom bragged about it later and her church lady circle was scandalized “how could he drag his family to that den of iniquity!”. Dad just smiled.

I also remember the Worlds Largest Slot Machine, to Kid Me it must have been 10 feet tall. I think there was a stool so shorter gamblers could reach the One Arm of the Bandit. It cost a dollar to play. The security guard came to scold me for standing too close being fascinated.

One thing these photos don’t convey is the noise and cigarette smoke. These places were LOUD, voices, music, alarm bells for jackpots, the sound of the machinery, buzzing neon tubes. I can hear it now in my head and my forehead veins are bulging.

Have to confess, I never understood this form of gambling. There’s a nice casino close to our home, we went once (yes, for the restaurant, I am my father’s son) and there seemed miles of these gadgets with folks just dropping coins in them. Doesn’t seem all that fun to me, but whatever, I guess. We had a nice meal, never went back.

Thanks Major, these photos really touched a chord. I’ll be thinking about my Dad all day today.


Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I wondered about the difference between the Christy Minstels and the NEW Christy Minstrels. Sure, I could look it up, but that would require effort.

TokyoMagic!, well, OK, now I expended a little effort. Wikipedia was no help for Don & Didi Conn. She many have been created in a petri dish.

Nanook, elephants are amazing creatures on their own, but… not sure that’s what I’d want to see if I was seeing a show at a casino. Like I said, scantily clad showgirls! That’s what I’m there for.

TokyoMagic! What about Itsy and Bitsy?

JB, I feel a little guilty about making fun of Oxnard. But only a little. And reading a little bit ahead, yes, the words that are a little harder to read are “Those Who Blazed the Trail”. I’m sure all those Native Americans were thrilled to see the settlers show up on their land. I would be! Somehow video slots seem like they would be much easier to manipulate (on the part of the casino) so that very few people would win. On my only trip to Vegas, I observed older folks who would plant themselves in front of a slot machine and press a button, seemingly for hours at a time. Some fun!

K. Martinez, I guess these were the days when variety shows were popular, so folks would expect things like jugglers and tap-dancers. Sounds pretty dull to me!

Sunday Night, I love seeing a good car collection. I wonder what happened to all those antique autos? Presumably they were sold off, one by one.

Mike Cozart, while I had some Matchbox cars, I was all about Hot Wheels. Although I do love my VW vans in their original Lesney boxes. Admittedly I didn’t know much about actual old cars, so I didn’t have an appreciation for those tiny reproductions of classic autos. I liked the shiny, crazy fantasy cars from Mattel. Interesting that “The Harrahs Collection” actually got credit on the Matchbox packaging.

Bu, my family once went to Lake Tahoe for a few days, it’s the only time I’ve been in that part of the world. We barely set foot in Reno, though, we were there more for the lake and for “family stuff”. I’ve mentioned how I was disappointed to learn that the Ponderosa Ranch had closed mere months before, I wish I’d had a chance to see that. Whoa, dancers AND wrestlers. And dentists? Also, I’d love to know who people think you are. I run into people who always think I went to their high school.

JG, now I want to know if Harold’s Club was as fancy as your dad expected it to be? I had many preconceived notions about Las Vegas, and I guess I was not wealthy enough to see the things that would have blown my mind. And like your dad, I am not a gambler. I do drink, but sparingly. No more than two bottles a day, tops. I don’t know about Reno, but in Vegas you can’t walk into any business without there being at least a few slot machines, even the airport. And yes, the weird constant aural assault that one experiences is very odd. Of course you get used to it, but I’ve always wondered if it lulls some people into a sort of hypnotized stupor?

Nanook said...

This post is certainly bringing out more than the usual references to "veins". It isn't secretly 'Circulatory System Day', is it-?

You're not kidding about how entertainment has changed since the days of variety shows, jugglers and tap-dancers. Poor Aram Khachaturyan - composer of the Sabre Dance - a staple back in 'those days'.

@ JG-
Thanks for sharing those memories. I think the only thing missing [in spite of all the cigarette smoke, alcohol, and perfume(s)] are the smells used in cleaning chemicals, etc., back then - many of which were proprietary to a specific hotel/motel chain.

Those smells coupled with 'energy usage be damned HVAC', provide some of the greatest memories of that time period. It's hard to forget the feeling of walking into a hotel lobby in the dead of winter, feeling as if the staff had set the furniture on fire, as the air felt so intensely warm, it could easily revive anyone on the verge of dying from frostbite. Or conversely, on a 100° plus summer day, walking into that same lobby and feeling as though you had died and gone to heaven, as the air temperature was easily into the upper 60's AND the air was dry-!

Melissa said...

Dig those color-coordinated guys at Harrah's. Bunch of Cornell students, maybe?

I've probably told this story before, but one time I had to get an emergency prescription filled in Las Vegas, and there were slot machines in the pharmacy.

JB said...

Wouldn't it be ironic if the prescription was for gambling addiction. :-D

Anonymous said...

Reno...all those "Harold's or Bust" signs along the highway...WAY before the interstates...all I could envision was getting to the air conditioned hotels and motels there. Hard to describe to those who never knew the old "455" air conditioned autos out there in the desert. Meaning...4 windows down at 55 mph...irrespective of the heat. And those canvas water bags perched in front of the radiators just in case the car would overheat along the way.

I have a fully restored 10 cent 'one armed bandit' from the 40s here at home and have yet to hit the jackpot. Tells you my luck and my reasoning to stay away from the casinos...other than to observe. KS

JG said...

@KS, we never set out on any trip further than 50 miles without a canvas water bag. Dad continued this right up through the 70’s, always had water in the car thermos even after. We were laughing the other day how we never think about our car overheating anymore when 50 years ago, that’s all we thought about in the mountains.

@Nanook, glad to help out.

@Major, I barely remember Harold’s, but I’m guessing it met expectations. Dad liked fancy places occasionally. About this same time we had dinner at the Starlight Roof in the Sir Francis Drake hotel, that was very fancy indeed.

We went to Las Vegas several times in that era. It was sunny and warm in the winter when it was foggy and cold at home, and we visited places in the desert mostly, Valley of Fire, etc. Dad chuckled about gamblers subsidizing our vacation with cheap rooms and buffet dinners. Usually we stayed in basic motels and coffee shops, but once we stayed at the Aladdin, which was pretty fancy. We couldn’t attend a dinner show because I was underage, but we watched the afternoon rehearsal, Steve Allen playing piano and some dancers (not scantily clad). I might have been 8 or 9.

Mrs G family lived outside Reno for a few years in her youth, and her parents were very clear on how the “house advantage” worked. No gamblers in her family either.


DBenson said...

Old enough to think of that as the NEW Biggest-Little-City sign. The previous model was an industrial-looking deal and my older brother had a decal of it on his bedroom door. He had maybe half a dozen travel-themed decals, the type meant for bumpers and would never come off a door or wall.

Recall when my parents gave us four kids some money to get comic books while they played keno in a casino coffee shop. We found drug stores and the like, but none of them had comics so we went back empty-handed. For years thereafter, I would state with conviction that Reno was cool with gambling and divorces but didn't allow comic books.

Song lyric from "Shuffle Off to Buffalo":
"When she knows as much as we know she'll be on the train to Reno while he still has dough.
Whoa, oh oh!
She'll give him the shuffle. Shuffle off to Buffalo ..."

Melissa said...

They used to call divorce "getting Reno-vated."

TokyoMagic! said...

Melissa, I remember my first time to Vegas, I was a little surprised to see two slot machines in the waiting area of a Denny's restaurant.

KS, my aunt and uncle had an antique store for a while and they collected antique mechanical machines and games. They had a vintage slot machine that took nickels. As a kid, there was something mesmerizing about pulling that handle and hearing the clicking of the tumblers (barrels?) on the antique machine, and then having a few nickels drop if you got a certain combination. They always had a huge glass jar of nickels next to the machine, for anyone who wanted to play it. They had it for years, and then one Christmas day, my brother was playing it and it finally hit the jackpot. I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing those aren't a true game of "chance" and that somehow the machines are set to only pay out the jackpot every "so many" tries. My aunt and uncle said nobody had won a jackpot in all those years that they had had the machine. Fortunately, as I got older, I did not become addicted to gambling! Personally, I think the newer video machines are really boring! And like Major said, it seems like it would be so much easier to "rig" them.

DBenson, "When she knows as much as we know she'll be on the train to Reno...."
I didn't realize that was one of the lyrics in that song. In the 1939 film, "The Women", several of the characters say the line about being "On the train to Reno," multiple times, while they are actually on a train to Reno to get their divorces. Now I know where the writers got the line!

Anonymous said...

TokyoMagic! ... I'm with you on liking the old style slot machines SO much better. In talking with a few 'experts' with the now antique machines, I learned that the house could put an insert into one of the teeth of a gear such that a jackpot would be skipped on that particular drum. And then I saw a demonstration. Imagine doing that today! I do not have such insets in my machine...and yep... even though I have the key to the machine, I have yet to hit a jackpot. One time when it was being repaired, I asked the mechanic if it DID pay off and he demonstrated that it could. So much for my luck! I think the jackpot is $ dimes of course. KS

TokyoMagic! said...

KS, now I'm curious as to the payout on my aunt and uncle's machine. It seemed like an awful lot of coins came out when it hit the jackpot, but then again, it was only nickels. It probably wasn't that much when all of them were added up. Their old machine had such a great sound to it. It wasn't only the sound of the "arm" being pulled and the tumblers stopping. Each tumbler had a sound as it was slowing down. Each one made sort of a "clickety-click, clickety-click, clickety-click, clunk." The "clunk" being the tumbler finally stopping. It really was sort of mesmerizing. It really is a wonder that I didn't grow up to have an addiction to slot machines!