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Short Stories

On Writing Around Boulder City
For Arcadia Publishing

by Cheryl Ferrence

In August of 2007 an Arcadia Publishing editor contacted the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum about a second Boulder City book for the Images of America series. Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series celebrates the history of towns across America utilizing historic photographs. In 2000, Mimi Garat Rodden wrote the first book in the series, Boulder City Nevada. The message was given to Dennis McBride, who suggested to me that I pursue the project.

After reading about the project, I decided to write a proposal for the benefit of the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association. Although I had never worked on a project like this, my interest in the history of the Boulder City area, and my fascination with historic photos, prompted me to proceed.

I had read the diaries of John C. Page, who was the office engineer for the Boulder Canyon Project in Boulder City from 1930 to 1935. I saw the names Earl Brothers, Ida Browder, Jim Webb and others, and realized that while the government was building the dam, many other things were happening.

My proposal included the concept of chronicling the history of the Boulder City area from this unique vantage point. Tourism has been discussed recently as something new and I wanted to show that tourism here is not new.

I not only wanted to show Boulder City, but also Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, the Colorado River, the transportation, the Boulder Dam Hotel and the areas outside of Boulder City. The years would span from 1931 until about 1964, with a few images from the future (now). My proposal was accepted.

In the fall of 2007 I began the project. I gathered hundreds of copies of photos from the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum archives. There were many great photos but I couldn’t find the documentation (story). I also found many interesting stories, but I couldn’t find an image to tell the story.

Along the way I met some great people, some by e-mail and some in person. I discovered the Bureau of Reclamation media center and worked with Karen Cowan. She was able to provide prints of the images I chose from the Bureau web site. Many of the prints in the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum photograph collection are “owned “ by another entity. I needed to get permission to use the images for my book. Everyone was helpful and when they learned that I was working on the book to benefit the non-profit Boulder City Museum and Historical Association, they waived the fees. I had heard that sometimes it was difficult to receive permission from the Union Pacific Railroad Museum. I contacted John Bromley and sent him some copies of the images I intended to use. As it turned out, he grew up in Boulder City. He was friends with several acquaintances of mine. As a freshman at UNR he was a roommate of our mutual friend Skip Smale.

I also learned some new skills in writing the book. I needed to submit between 180 and 240 images. I could send prints or have the prints scanned. I purchased a scanner that was recommended by my editor and scanned each print to their specifications. I was very proud when Hannah Carney, my editor, told me that normally at least five photographs would have to be rescanned, but all of mine were good. She said that she normally takes more than five hours to check the images, but it took her less than one hour to check mine. Later, the printer suggested that I replace one photograph because the print was blurry. I am proud that this sixty something lady could learn that process. Now if I can just figure out how to use my cell phone!
In researching my book, I came across photographs by Bill Belknap. I had heard of him, and Gene Segerblom had also mentioned the Belknaps. After Bill Belknap passed away his children, Buzz and Loie, donated his works to the Cline Library at Northern Arizona University. I ordered several of the prints and paid a small charge, but the usage fee was waived. In researching the Colorado River, I learned about Georgie White and her “River Rats”, and that for a time, she met her rafters at the Boulder Dam Hotel.

Although the process of writing my book was very time consuming, I enjoyed every moment. Several family members and friends were of help in researching.

I dedicated the book to four wonderful women. Marie Sullivan, Lola Frazier, Nellie Softchin and Julia Kaighn. I believe it was Marty Rihel that began calling them the Eighties Ladies when the “baby”, Nellie, turned 80. Marty was serving as treasurer of the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association and I was serving as president. We could not even imagine the Museum without them. I still have some images to research and some stories to tell.

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