|Boulder City History
by Dennis McBride
Violent tragedies in Boulder City often have odd associations or strange postscripts that leave interesting questions behind. One such tragedy was the death on October 30, 1947 of Boulder City businessmen Dick Likens and Ersel Telford in an air crash at Railroad Pass.
Dick Likens had come to Boulder City in the late 1930s to run the Reservation Grill restaurant, then had become a civilian flight instructor for the Army Air Force when the war broke out. Ersel Telford came to Boulder City with his family in 1941 when they bought the Green Hut Cafétoday’s Coffee Cupand the Recreation Tavern.
Likens and Telford worked together at the new O. P. Skaggs grocery store in Boulder City which opened at 508 Nevada Way on September 27, 1947. Telford was part owner and Likens managed the meat and cold storage departments. On the morning of October 30 the two men boarded a Cessna 120 at the Boulder Airport to fly into Las Vegas on business. Likens and Telford were gone most of the day, then flew back to Boulder City through Railroad Pass around 3:30 that afternoon.
What happened then was witnessed by several people in the Pass. Part of a wing fell off the Cessna and the plane drifted nearly 3,000 feet before plunging into the ground across from Railroad Pass Casino. Witness Art Klinger, first on the site, claimed that bits and pieces of the plane fell from the sky for ten minutes after the fuselage hit the ground and burned. Likens and Telford were killed instantly. Cause of the crash was determined to be structural failure.
Now the odd postscript. Reynaldo Castelar had met Ersel Telford in the Green Hut Café when Ersel’s father, Gil, owned it. The two had worked together for several months and remained friends. In September 1947 Castelar returned to his home in San Salvador to stay with his brother, Alfredo. The brothers were amateur spiritualists who conducted séances; spirits communicated with them by picking out letters on a small table similar to a ouija board. It was at one of these séances that the brothers received the series of letters ERESLTELFRDO. Since the brothers spoke Spanish, they thought the first four letters of the series were the Spanish phrase, “You are.” The rest of the letters made no senseuntil Castelar returned to Boulder City in June 1948 and learned his friend Ersel Telford had been killed. Now the series of spirit letters made sense: rearrange two of them and they spelled “Ersel Telford.” Castelar was convinced his friend Telford had tried to reach him from beyond the grave.
“How was I to imagine then,” Castelar wrote, “that he was already a discarnate spirit, free from all human attachments, and still thinking of his friends, no matter where they were?” Few in Boulder City believed Castelar or listened to his ruminations on soul and spirit. But in a letter to the Boulder City News, he wrote, “[I know] that I own something immortal that does not have shape, something that will live far beyond the final judgment, if there is one. And I also know that I will shake hands again with my friend Ersel Telford.”
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