Thursday, March 17, 2011

Vegas Places: Holy Moly, I Know That House!

When you’ve lived in Las Vegas all your life, you get accustomed to seeing the city on TV, in magazines, or online. But it’s one thing to see the Strip on television or in print, and another to see a home that you remember almost as well as the one in which you grew up--or a house that's just a few blocks from where you once lived.

If you watch "Pawn Stars," you’re familiar with Rick Dale of Rick’s Restorations. Back in the days when the northwest side of town was still horse country, I lived just a few blocks from his home/business. I drove by his place every day. In those days, he would leave a few vintage Coke machines outside to advertise his services.

At that time, our neighborhood was far on the outskirts of town. When I gave people directions, I would tell them, “Keep driving until you think you’re lost. Then keep going.” Today, of course, the area has a mess of homes, a mega-church, and a freeway. And Rick’s place is still out there.

The first time my husband and I saw Rick on a Pawn Stars episode, it took us just a few seconds to recognize the house. It was kind of strange, but fun, like knowing a secret no one else does—although I’m sure everyone in that neighborhood knows who he is now.

But I got my biggest, "Holy moly, I know that house!" in the pages of Las Vegas Weekly.

The magazine's February 24 issue featured an article about a house ("Mid-Century Manor" by Sarah Feldberg) with loads of pictures--which at first I didn't recognize. Then I read the article's first sentence, which said that the house had been owned by both Jackie Gaughan and Doyle Brunson... and I took another look at those pictures. Holy moly, indeed.

Back in the 1970s, when I knew the Brunsons (I was friends with their daughters during our middle school and high school years), the house looked a lot different. But I recognized the spiral staircase, the distinctive front door, and the lava wall. I spent a lot of time in that house. Looking at the magazine's pictures felt like a twisted time warp, or maybe a short journey to a parallel universe.

My own old childhood home isn't likely to show up in any media, unless it's on an episode of "Cops." I drove by the place about a month ago; time has not been kind to it. The houses in that old downtown neighborhood are a patchwork of the restored, the neglected, and the downright scary. The cars parked on the front lawn of my old place definitely put it in the last category.

Here's what the house I grew up in looked like, back in its prime. The first picture below was taken sometime in the 1960s (crazily enough, those awnings are still on the house). The second picture was taken in the backyard in the early 70s, at about the time I knew the Brunson family. That's me and our dachshunds in front of my family's beloved fig tree. The dogs and tree are gone, but the girl is still kicking.

Picture of vintage Las Vegas postcard courtesy of Mark Holloway

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