You didn’t think the construction workers of Hoover Dam kept silent all day long, merely listening to the blast of dynamite or call of the Vermilion Flycatcher bird, did you? No way! They shared stories, gossip, history, and poems-fiction, creative works and information from every corner of the world. One of the most interesting aspects of their communication are the words that were brought to the construction and developed there by those dam workers.
I’ve picked a few of my favorites from the January 31, 1934 Las Vegas Review-Journal article, “Boulder Dam Builders Have a Language All Their Own, and How They Talk It.” Double-Ugly is a truck driver, Whoopee is a Ford pickup, Juicer is an electrician, Glory hole is the territory between the two cofferdams and the two canyon walls, Joe McGee is a makeshift tool of any kind, used on the job, and Banjo is just an ordinary shovel.
In addition to making up their own words, the workers were quite creative song-writers as well. “Behold Our Dam (B-oulder Dam),” written by Eugene B. Ousley in 1935, incorporates several dozen words of worker slang in a catchy rhyme, which also includes a stanza about the “Key” included after the song, which includes over 100 inventive words and phrases.
If you made it out to our Annual 31ers Luncheon last October, you may have heard Terri Marie, a Boulder City local singer and songwriter debut her song, “Raising Hoover Dam,” which tells the story of the construction of Hoover Dam to a fun beat.