Gambling, entertainment and gourmet dining will remain Las Vegas’ big draws when Nevada reopens. But southern Nevada has so much more to offer. History buffs and military veterans are all encouraged to take detours and discover a side of town that most don’t even know existed.
As Las Vegas grew into the 1950s, it showed its roots in the Old West. Hotel workers tended to wear 10 gallon hats and cowboy boots as part of their Western outfits. But somewhere along the way, the city lost its reflective Roy Rogers and Rex Bell vibe. Too bad, some will say.
Rogers has released films with titles such as “Under Nevada Skies”. And cowboy actor Rex Bell later became the owner of a local ranch and was elected lieutenant governor of Nevada. Plus, he was married to silent movie star Clara Bow.
Today, tourists can still play cowboy while helping veterans. Sydney Knott, manager of the non-profit Horses4Heroes ranch and stables, said, “I like to call our ranch a YMCA with horses. It is that place where you can go with your family and have fun with the horses.
Fees are reduced for veterans and their families, heroes with descriptive names. Go to https://horses4heroes.org for more details and directions.
One of the nation’s finest veterans memorials, the Nevada State Veterans’ Memorial in Las Vegas, features statues of American soldiers from the War of Independence to current conflicts in the Middle East. A bronze dedication depicts three modern soldiers saving a wounded comrade. Women and ethnic minorities are also depicted with images wearing correct war clothes. Plan to invest half a day to see the entire site at the Grant Sawyer Building Square, 555 E. Washington Ave. Free entry. It is open during opening hours and there is ample free parking.
Local veterans unknowingly play a role in sustaining the mid-century commercial architecture. For those veterans who need a little help, Las Vegas stands ready and willing to help with its support at Veterans Village nonprofit locations across town. Veterans Village number 4 is a transitional and permanent accommodation residence for veterans. Specifically, the main building in the village is a former Travelodge motel.
Many older hotels and motels have a Mid-Century style that baby boomers and others find familiar. Children in the back seats of their parents’ Oldsmobile, Mercury, or Plymouth cars often looked at local motels through car windows. And this is where families often stayed during their vacations. Neon signs, billboards promoting free color television, and small pools of blue water were all the rage.
Today, Arnold Stalk, director of the Veterans’ Village, was able to save many buildings from the wrecking ball to house the Veterans. He said the location “… is part of our privately-made blueprint to end homelessness.”
For a historic exterior view of the recent past that has been transformed into modern use, see how Stalk’s tourist accommodation evolved into a veteran’s hideaway at 1150 S. Las Vegas Blvd
Chuck N. Baker is a Purple Heart Vietnam War veteran and host of “That’s America to Me” every Sunday at 7 am on 97.1-FM.