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Cover Story

31ers Luncheon and Educational Outreach Showcase

By Josie Kachnic



The pioneers of Boulder City experienced extreme hardships as they inhabited the shores of the Colorado River in hopes of landing a job on Boulder Dam, the largest construction site in the country. They left all of the amenities available in that time period in order to feed their families. Explaining that historical reality to a child is difficult. How do you teach a seven year-old about what it’s like to fetch water from a river? How do you engage a modern child in games that require no batteries or internet access? That’s exactly what the 31ers Educational Outreach efforts have brought to today’s children.

As a teacher at Andrew J. Mitchell Elementary, I was recruited with a handful of other teachers to help integrate the history of Boulder City into the first and second grade curriculum. The idea was so exciting, because I realized how vital it was to preserve this huge piece of our town and country’s history. We began to write short skits allowing the children to bring to life the colorful stories of Boulder City during the Great Depression. The best part was taking the skits back to the annual 31ers Luncheon and sharing the children’s participation in local history with the few surviving 31ers and other attendees. Having the children experience the stories was amazing, but the really fun part was that the skits and attending the luncheon arbitrarily affected the parents as well. After watching the skits, one dad stayed through the entire day just to hear more, and vowed it would be an annual event for him.

In addition to the skits, we collaborated on activities with the Boulder City Parks and Recreation
Department’s Recreation Program Coordinator Patty Sullivan and Museum Manager Laura Hutton that would develop a true understanding of the hardships and fun associated with living in Ragtown at the side of the river while your dad worked away at one of the greatest civil engineering feats of the century. It was determined that a living museum, now called the 31ers Room, would be the answer. In the 31ers Room, the children experience drawing and carrying buckets of water, washing clothes on a washboard and hanging the clothes on an old fashioned clothesline. Some of the children have never seen a clothesline and are quite intrigued. They are also able to see a string of handmade clothespin dolls clipped to the clothesline. They listen to impersonations of characters of the past, hearing firsthand accounts of early life in Boulder City. With the help of many volunteers, the field trips come together in a meaningful way that leaves each child wanting more.

Tom Godby, Ila Clemens-Daveys, and Laura Kelly Smith
Godby family members in 31ers Room.
Photo by David Sharp

For the last couple of years in the spring, 31er Educational Outreach volunteers and some of the original “children” of 1931 have come to share funny stories and procreate more of the heirloom hollyhocks first brought to Boulder City by Grandma Pickett.  Grandma Pickett brought all sorts of plant clippings and seedlings with her as she moved her children from Arkansas to the barren lands of the desert where her husband was newly employed. While she was able to grow many of the plants, the hollyhocks proved to be the heartiest of all. Each year she shared her treasure trove of plants and seeds with the other wives. Still today, on the original streets of Boulder City, hollyhocks bloom with their lovely glory. In keeping the tradition alive, the first graders are given seedlings from these original plants to bring home as Mother’s Day gifts. As the community continues to grow, we hope the tradition of sharing whatever we have with our neighbors continues, just as the tradition of sharing was so prevalent in Boulder City during the Great Depression.

Max Roy as Robert Parker
Photo by David Sharp

This year’s 31ers second grade skit is based on the life of Boulder Dam Project Property Manager Robert Parker. The information for the skit was derived from a 1986 interview by local historian, Dennis McBride. Second Grade Teacher Tim Roy wrote this year’s skit and will be instrumental in organizing the children’s practices that take place before the start of their school day. Each child who is invited to be in the skit is also invited to attend the 31ers Luncheon, along with a guest and their teacher.

Originally, this event was a venue for former dam workers and their families to relive the stories of Boulder City’s beginning. Eighty years later, the event focuses on engaging our children and the community at large in the rich folklore of Boulder City’s beginnings. Everyone is invited to the 31ers Luncheon and Educational Outreach Showcase that will take place on October 12th at the Boulder Dam Hotel and Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum. The event starts at 10:00am with a hospitality area in the Boulder Dam Hotel lobby. Guest are served lunch between 10:45am and 12:15pm. From 12:15pm until 1:00pm, the children’s performances will take place, which includes the second grade skits and a musical performance organized by the Boulder City Parks and Recreation Department’s Rising Stars instructors, Lisa Morris and Kara Larsen. Dr. Peter Huntoon will provide a historical presentation and discussion from 1:00pm until 2:00pm in the museum’s Segerblom Theatre. The event fee is $20.00 per attendee.

This event is brought to the public through the collaborative efforts of the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum and sponsored in part by the City of Boulder City.  Please visit the museum at 1305 Arizona Street or call (702)294-1988 for reservations.




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