Boulder City Magazine® August 2007 Issue
|Boulder City History
by Dennis McBride,
Boulder City Museum & Historical Association
Henry and Ocie Bradley
Henry Bradley and his wife, Ocie, were the first African-American residents of Boulder City. They came to town in 1936 to work for aviator Glover Ruckstell, who had just established Grand Canyon Airlines in Boulder City. How Henry and Ocie managed to live in Boulder City at a time when black people were not allowed is simple, as the late Bill Belknap recalls: Henry and Ocie “belonged” to Ruckstell. Ruckstell’s company, Grand Canyon-Boulder Dam Tours, Inc. (GCBDT), had controlling interest in the Boulder Dam Hotel and several other tourist concessions in the new Boulder Dam Recreational Area and his business promised to bring plenty of money to town. Against that promise of lucrative investment, Boulder City’s racist authorities could hardly keep Henry and Ocie out if Ruckstell wanted them in.
Henry drove a black Cadillac limousine for GCBDT, chauffeuring tourists out to Death Valley, up to Pearce Ferry or out to the Lost City, and he brought travelers in to the Boulder Dam Hotel from the airport. Henry wore a tailored uniform local children thought made him look like a military general. Kids would often find Henry polishing the Cadillac over at the hotel and he always had treats of candy and small toys for them. In the late 1930s when TWA began landing at the Boulder City Airport, Henry’s wife, Ocie, was in charge of the box lunches stewardesses served the passengers.
In 1937 Ruckstell built a new terminal at the airport and moved the little frame terminal up to 620 Arizona Street for Henry and Ocie. They lived there several years until a fire drove them out. That was when Henry, according to the Las Vegas Evening Review-Journal, became the “first colored man” to own a home in Boulder City. Henry and Ocie built the house at 759 Avenue K which, in 1939, was “in a section of the community not adjacent to other homes in the town.”
Boulder City Magazine®
|During the war Henry worked as manager of the bar in the Hualapai Lodge, later known as the Lake Mead Lodge, where he invented the MacArthur cocktail.
Henry and Ocie left Boulder City in late 1946 for Los Angeles where they operated a hamburger stand on 35th Street. Henry died on May 20, 1947. Ocie’s fate, however, has been lost in time.
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