Loaded question! It’s hard (or is that easy?) to hate the suburbs in a city built almost entirely of them. But there are fewer anti-’burb natives than natives who became ultra-defensive of old Vegas in the face of 20 years of negativity.
It’s easy to see how that happened: Many transplants were lured by affordable but far-flung developments (I have a friend with a newish Vegas house that’s so far away that I swear it’s in California). These newcomers found themselves surrounded primarily by other newcomers—and isolated from old-timers. So they never really got to know us. Plus, the pre-recession possibility that one could score a shiny new “move-up” house every five years contributed to a snobbish attitude toward older neighborhoods. Where else but a boomtown would one refer to an existing home as “used”?
But with the boom now bust for several years, folks are looking more closely at “used” homes and established parts of town, and attitudes are shifting. And when they move in next door, we’ll just smile and say, “Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas!”
Before the car lots, there was a seasonal Christmas tree lot on Sahara Avenue west of Rainbow Boulevard. I heard that the tall pole from which they would string lights was the finish line of an old racetrack. True?
Oh, the old “top of Sahara” … How many dazed and confused nights did high-school students spend there, fumbling in the pitch black desert?
It’s a nice Vegas mythology, but off by a few miles. The Stardust International Raceway was farther south, on a chunk of what was then desert bordered by Flamingo, Tropicana, Rainbow and Buffalo. The fast, flat 3-mile paved course was built by the Stardust for the reasons casinos do most things: to attract publicity and cater to gamblers. That worked from 1965-69, especially during November’s annual Stardust Grand Prix, which attracted a stellar cast of drivers (including Carroll Shelby, who still has local connections), but faded quickly when the Parvin-Dohrmann Corp. bought the resort.
The track closed in 1970 after Pardee Homes purchased the dirt to develop Spring Valley. Video gamers, however, can experience this piece of arcane Vegas history via a downloadable GTR2 track.
As for the pole, it disappeared with the dirt lot when the auto dealerships were built. Was it from the Raceway? That remains unknown.