Back When the Good Times Rolled

A historical exhibit at the Boulevard mall is sure to shake loose memories of vintage suburbia

In the mid-1960s, when Las Vegas was still optimistic about its future, Irwin Molasky broke ground for a mall on Maryland Parkway. On April 29, 1966, a time capsule was buried in the concrete outside the mall entrance. A plaque was placed with the following inscription:




ON APRIL 29, 2066


I love that last line. You can almost hear Morgan Freeman talking. Given that I’ll be pushing 100 when the capsule opens, I’ll just have to imagine what might be in there. That’s fine: I’m happy to dream my way into the storylines of Las Vegas in its martini-mixing heyday.

So give a nod to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for its photo exhibit, A Place in Paradise, which opens July 29 in the Boulevard mall. The exhibit features more than two dozen archival photographs of Paradise Palms, the historic midcentury-modern housing development that neighbors the mall and echoes its spirit of airy optimism.

Brought to life in the early 1960s by Molasky and Merv Adelson, Paradise Palms was once the heart of high-end domestic civility. Johnny Carson had a place there. So did Debbie Reynolds, Bobby Darin, Dionne Warwick and many others. Now the neighborhood at the corner of Maryland Parkway and Desert Inn Road is a decade into a renaissance, as young professionals have moved into its classic “cocktail houses”—houses literally built for pool parties.

It’s a heartening development: Nothing makes neighborhood history shine more than when residents take an active interest. The Boulevard—which opened in 1968—deserves that kind of love, too. For the generation that grew up here in the 1970s and ’80s—I’m one of them—the Boulevard was the place to be.

The exhibit is an occasion to revisit the golden age of Maryland Parkway, and of the Boulevard itself. For longtime Las Vegans, it’s personal: Clay Heximer, a important figure in the Paradise Palms renaissance, recalls lunches with his great-grandmother at the Harvest House, a country-style diner with windows that looked out on the mall’s sleek charcoal-gray concourse. Local musician Ginger Bruner discovered her inner aesthete as a grade-schooler when she gazed at the multi-tiered fountains that rose in ever diminishing circles toward a domed skylight.

As for me, well, I used to spend my time at the Woolworth’s, where the aisles more closely resembled a rummage sale than a proper store. It was there that I accidently knocked over a barrel of $5 pork-pie hats and developed my lifelong fondness for Runyonesque lids.

So for that I’m grateful. That’s right, I’m grateful for a suburban shopping mall. Now, that’s vintage Vegas.