Boulder City Magazine is a monthly publication full of information about Boulder City and Southern Nevada. Boulder City Magazine features the Boulder City Home Guide, a real estate guide to Boulder City and Southern Nevada.

Boulder City History
by Laura Hutton, Museum Coordinator
Boulder City Hoover Dam Museum

Life in the Ragtown

During the summer of 1931, families that came to this area lived in tents along the river in an encampment that became known as Ragtown. The heat was unbearable that summer with temperatures hitting the 120+ degree mark. One method 31ers used to cool down was to wrap themselves in wet sheets. As the water in the sheets evaporated, the air around them cooled, as did their bodies. For some, it was the only way to get sleep.

Since the men who worked on the dam worked night shifts as well as day shifts,  some of the men slept during the heat of the day. With the excessive temperatures, the sheets dried quickly. In some cases, it was the children’s responsibility to keep the sheets dampened while their fathers slept. While the men slept, children were expected to keep quiet. This too was a difficult task.

Families helped each other meet their needs. One family was known to gather the children in the afternoons in the tents that were in their area. This family was fortunate enough to have two tents and was able to create a shaded area between them. Here in the shade, the children would be read stories and served lemonade. The ice truck would come daily and although the cost of a few lemons, ice and sugar was a financial hardship to the family, the sacrifice was minimal to allow the workmen around them their much needed sleep.

With few belongings, children found entertainment with the most simplistic “toys.” Using sticks and stones, the children created games of tic-tac-toe and a modified version of hopscotch. According to Jim Godbey, a boy of only 4 at the time, he remembers using the stones in ways that also got him in trouble, as throwing stones was strictly prohibited.

Although the critters around them could be entertaining, they could also be dangerous. Scorpions and tarantulas were not welcomed visitors. Invited or not, they found their way into the living areas of the families. To prevent them from getting in to the cribs of babies, coffee cans were filled with water and put under the legs of the cribs to prevent access to the babies.

It was the creative thinking of Boulder City settlers that helped them to survive the hardships that the desert dished out to them on a daily basis.

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