I’ve Heard Old-Timers Mention a Place Called Pittman. Where and What Was It?

You’ll know Pittman as that quaint 4×4-gun-store-bait-and-tackle-boat-shop speed trap along Boulder Highway, roughly between Gibson and Warm Springs roads. Actually, that’s probably more as I remember it: Before the expansion of the Las Vegas Beltway, driving through Pittman was part of the hours-long process of getting to Lake Mead. Where else could one pull over to fill up the tank, buy a fishing license and score a cold six-pack and a tub of nightcrawlers from the same cooler?

Roadside attractions included Frankie Carr’s Swanky Club, as well as the string of pre-“gentlemen’s club” topless dives that lured many a returning fisherman—notably, the Centerfold Lounge and the Look Inn, whose plywood sign sported O’s that looked like eyeballs.

What is Hooterville?

Many people snobbishly refer to Pittman as “Hooterville,” a bastardization of “Hooverville”—the Depression-era name for tent cities like the one that sprung up in Pittman, near the Basic Magnesium plant, in the early 1940s.

After the WWII dust settled and most of BMI’s 14,000 workers skipped town, the Henderson Township was almost lost to a 1947 federal sale as war surplus. Thanks to the efforts of Nevada’s then-governor Vail Pittman and the Legislature—which gave the state the authority and ability to purchase and administer the BMI plant—Henderson was saved.

Now look: It’s all green and fancy! (Well, not all of it; there’s Pittman, for instance.) No more titty bars, no more Henderson Cloud, no more Swanky Club. But all of Henderson is still a speed trap.

What do you think of Clark County spending half a million dollars to expand the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign parking lot?

I’m not a fan of the parking lot—it sort of cheapens the sign—but I understand its necessity. And while I should respond with something like “Dag-burned government waste!” to maintain my old-Vegas street cred, with the advent of social media and instant global photo sharing, that sign is one of our city’s most powerful PR devices. So $500,000 is a cheap buy-in to triple the number of cars that can park there. My only demand: Make the lot accessible to those inbound to Vegas, instead of only those on their way out.