Sunday - 18 February 2018: How and why I decided to come to Las Vegas
The year is 1961. The place is 350 GC&P Rd, Oglebay Park, Wheeling West Virginia. Here resides a family of 8: George H. Breiding, husband of Jane Rector Breiding and their 6 offspring: Joan, Susan, Sutton, Michael, Wayne and William.
Michael Alfred Francis Breiding 1961
Although 350 GC&P Rd was not far from then bustling downtown Wheeling as kids we only "went to town" two or three times a years. Our domain was not one of busy shops and streets but that of the woods and fields that surrounded our house and the creek in which in the summer we chased water skippers and did battle with giant crawdads. In the winter it was taking dares to walk on the thin ice or marveling at the moving water below the swirled crust of ice.
The only neighbors close by were the Beaver Family: Fred and Emily and one young child about my age and an older boy who was in his late teens. We seldom visited them. Our only playmates were each other. We did not mingle with other kids except when at school. And this mingling was confined to school as it was what seemed like a world away from 350 GC&P road.
My father who was raised Catholic insisted his children go to a Catholic school. This is where it gets convoluted. The nearest Catholic church and school to us was St Michael's in the Woodsdale neighborhood. But, there was no school bus route from our house on GC&P road to St Michael's so we ended up going to Corpus Christi Catholic School in Warwood which was about a 7 mile bus ride.
7 miles. That does no sound like very far. But considering the number of stops the bus made it took a little while to get to Corpus Christi.
One of the stops the school bus made both coming from and going to was the now closed Warwood High School. This is where the "big kids" went to school. At that age I saw the "big kids" as adults and adults as old people.
The high school guys were always a bit rowdy on the bus. They sometimes said and did things I did not understand. Most of those things are now lost in a fog. But one school bus experience still stands out as if it had happened yesterday.
Here is how I remember it. The Big Kid asks me: "Hey kid, have you ever seen a picture of a naked lady?" I am sure I uttered and nervous but curious "No". Big Kid then takes out his wallet and produces what looks like a wallet photo which were so common at that time. He shows it to me. This is what I saw.
As you can imagine the above photo had quite an impact on me. A lifelong impact. Although only about 7 years old I was quite fascinated by this now famous photo of "Marilyn Monroe on Red Velvet" shot by Tom Kelly in 1949 and to this day I surround myself with images of "naked ladies". I cannot imagine my life with out them.
OK. What has all this got to do with Las Vegas? And how would a little kid from West Virginia hear about Las Vegas for the first time? Enter the Reasbeck family.
My dad had a sister by the name of Martha. Martha married Russ Reasbeck. They lived at 495 National Rd right next to Grandma Breiding at 487. Occasionally we would visit Grandma Breiding, Uncle Russ and Aunt Martha.
I remember clearly sitting at the top of the steps shown above and watching the traffic go by on busy US 40 - The National Road. At that young age sitting up there felt like I was perched up high above the rest of the world. Very different from our wooded and sheltered place on GC&P road. I loved it.
Uncle Russ and Aunt Martha had 5 children. Mark is the only one I have clear memories of. Mark was really into cars. I remember one time while visiting he had a fold out sheet of paper which had numerous color photos of many kinds of cars. With this is hand he would refer to the sheet and call out the makes and models of the various cars that whizzed up and down the National Road. I was amazed by this. To me, at that age, (around 6) a car was a car. I did not know they all had names!
Another memory I have of Mark was Uncle Russ taking him and my oldest brother Sutton to the stock car races. I had no clue what the stock car races were but they were all excited about going and I was jealous of my brother and mad I could not go with them.
Well, we still have not yet talked about what all this has to do with Las Vegas have we and how as a little boy I first heard the name of that town.
For a more thorough account here is what my cousin Mark recently emailed me (edited for clarity).
My dad’s sister, Ginny, and Husband , Howard Werner moved to Las Vegas in 1946. He was an IRS Agent. By the time we (the Reasbeck Family) moved there in 1959 he owned a restaurant on the strip called Louigi’s. (Rat Pack hangout)
There were opportunities in construction for my dad (my uncle Russ) so the decision was made to move there and dad would work construction. But mom (my Aunt Martha) told us that we moved because every winter my brother Tim would be hospitalized with pneumonia.
We flew to Las Vegas on a Tri-Star Constellation and almost bought the farm over the midwest. The plane was all over the sky with turbulence. People crying , screaming , not good for your first airplane ride.
Source: Mark Reasbeck, pers.comm., 17 February 2018
After that event I would occasionally hear the name "Las Vegas" spoken at home by my parents or references made to Uncle Russ and Aunt Martha. But, after they moved I never saw any of them again.
Back row - Howard Werner, Martha, Amy, Ginny Werner
Front row - Me (Mark) , Tim, Tina
Dad took the picture. This was my birthday , April 17, 1960 which was also Easter Sunday.
The picture was taken at the Desert Inn Golf Course and they had an Easter Egg Hunt for the “Country Club Members”.
Uncle Howard, on left, helped me “Cheat” to find the Golden Egg, by telling me if I was hot or cold. He practically had to stick it in my hand...duh!
Obviously, my brother Larry is not in the pix, he was born in 65.
Source: Mark Reasbeck, pers.comm., 17 February 2018
So, there you have it - my introduction to Las Vegas. I was to hear and see much more about "Vegas" as the years went by. Now nearly 60 years later I was starting to hear about Las Vegas again.
But it had nothing to do with gambling, fabulous stage shows, celebrities or exotic looking women. These were new and surprising associations which I had never thought would be connected with my ideas of what Vegas was supposed to be.
Yes, it was the "Great Outdoors" that I was now hearing about from my Tucson hiking buddies not gambling and scantily clad women. Names like "Red Rock Canyon" and "Valley of Fire" and mentions of fabulous hiking and amazing scenery. After hearing about this I was finally getting interested in actually visiting Las Vegas. After all "Hiking is my Life" !
And so a trip was planned. I would rent a place for a couple of days on my own and then Betsy and our friends Donna and Ashok would arrive two day later. We would stay a total of five nights.
On this trip I would be hiking director. Ashok and Donna the social directors. Now we will see what we shall see ...