Building the Dam Story

At the end, if there is success, one wonders how. Through this wonder one discovers the story. This blog is dedicated to that discovery.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Black Canyon

This picture was taken before the turn of the 20th century. It reveals the darkness of this canyon, rock that reaches to the sky, the river subdued.

It is Black Canyon not Boulder Canyon where the final dam project was set. It is the highest section of the El Dorado mountains, yet a narrow passageway for the river itself. It is unique for it's precambrian mineral composite. It was virtually unknown until the dam was to be built.

The men working on this dam were told the Colorado River was wild. They believing it to be a river needing to be tamed. Yet when the workers stood on the shores here in Black Canyon did they feel the wildness of this river? Were they immersed in the relationship of rock against water, water against rock? Did those 5,000 workers question what they were doing? Were they really only here for a wage of four dollars a day? Did anybody stop to wonder, here in Black Canyon, not only the magnitude of the place but the smallness of their very being?

Guy Lombardo, Kate Smith, "RIVER STAY 'WAY FROM MY DOOR" (1931)

Bandleader and musician, Guy Lombardo and singer, Kate Smith were very popular in the early 30s. The song, 'River Stay 'Way from Me' is timely.

At the dam site, radio broadcasts weren't heard much until the men moved into the dormitories in Boulder City in '32. However, this might have been just the tune to play at the first dance celebrating the start of the dam in July of 1931.

...What is music to a culture but an expression of its hope and an acceptance of what can change in the blink of an eye as well as over time...

Guy Lombardo, Kate Smith "TOO LATE" (1931)

Picture yourself, after months of mucking on the roadbed, the groundbreaking for the dam begins. For this honor you've been invited to the American Legion for a dance. Here, women and girls from Las Vegas and the soon to be built town of Boulder City arrive, as well as those from Ragtown that may have temporary residence but nonetheless share in the excitement.

Men smoke cigars outside the hall, women sip fruit punch, cool and delicious. It's late spring, 1931, and the music of Guy Lombardo, with the lilting voice of Kate Smith play on the gramophone, as if made for this night. Yes there are some things that are "Too Late" but there's an amazing amount of work ahead that nobody knows just how dramatic it will be. And above it all, regained hope fills the air.

Time is money 1931 Buick

Frank Crowe, the chief engineer of the dam, drove only a Buick, a big, bold, beautiful, Buick. When you saw Crowe's Buick parked in front of Anderson's mess hall, it meant that you would be in for a speech about increasing the speed in which you worked.

Thus, even hood ornaments tell a story about the people that drove these cars. Time is money, and money is beauty.