Boulder City Magazine is a monthly publication full of information about Boulder City and Southern Nevada. Boulder City Magazine features the Boulder City Home Guide, a real estate guide to Boulder City and Southern Nevada.

Cover Story
Preserving Our Past To Education The Future
by Patty Sullivan

In 2007, a group of dedicated citizens launched an initiative to preserve local history utilizing a variety of teaching methods, many of which are focused on the arts. One might ask, how does one of the country’s most historical engineering accomplishments relate to art? Aren’t you talking apples and oranges? It’s true that the intricate construction applications, the tens of thousands of mathematical formulas used, the volumes of engineering and architectural drawings, and absolute genius in problem solving may not be realized in the forefront of each and every performance, but the essence of the hardships people endured and the pride they took in their accomplishments is palatable in the storytelling, and quite entertaining.

With the following narrative, I bring to you from the memories of civil engineer John J. Meursinge, Hoover Dam worker from May 1931 – May 1935, a bit of humor in the midst of a desolate desert environment.

“In May 1931, I left my wife Catherine, two little boys, the dog, the cat and the 1926 Chevrolet tour car in Larkspur, Marine County, California. The train took me to Las Vegas, Nevada; a bus drove me over a washboard road to a brand new town named Boulder City. The ‘City’ consisted of two permanent buildings, an office building and a dormitory for the engineers and other personnel of the U.S. Reclamation Service. The Six Companies, Inc. had built another office building and dormitory, semi-permanent structures for the construction period only. Most of the 200 men employed at the time were housed in tents; so were the kitchen, mess hall, pool room and first aid station.

"Anyway, we survived, but we were bored by the lack of recreation. The monotony of life was hard to bear. This all changed at the time Danny arrived. He stayed with us for less than 24 hours, but his antics changed the atmosphere of frustration. Danny was a sales engineer who was promoting a brand new product called home refrigerators. The new city, far away from ice supplies, had to be surveyed for future sales prospects.

"Danny was a city boy, ill at ease in the blazing Nevada desert; so in the evening we invited him to join us in a game of bridge. Now just picture three barefooted young engineers in shorts and one experienced salesman in a blue suit, with the proper crease in his pants, polished shoes, white shirt, and a jacket he hated to take off. His opinion about us could be read on his face. He compared us to the wild men of Borneo. Nevertheless we played an amiable game of cards until… Danny had to go to the restroom. We told Danny this city has no running water and the doors of the restrooms are nailed shut. There was a little outhouse about a hundred feet beyond the dormitory that we used. When Danny was ready to leave the room, somebody warned: ‘Danny it is pitch dark outside do not sit on a scorpion.’ Danny understood, unfortunately. A few minutes later we heard a terrific explosion and all of us ran outside. Our outhouse was ablaze. Danny was standing outside, pulling up his pants. All of us immediately understood what had happened. Danny had struck a match to check for scorpions. Not knowing that human excrement is highly explosive in the blazing desert, he had dropped the burning match into the hole. Fortunately our city boy was not hurt.

"Many years later I met Danny again at an engineer’s convention. He was still the same old Danny. He still wore a blue suit and he was still promoting the sale of home refrigerators. ‘Danny do you still remember Boulder City?’ ‘Yes, John. Every time I get together with a few other engineers, somebody will pop the explosive question.’

"Now there most certainly is a scientific lesson to be learned from this experience, not to mention the sheer entertainment value. Imagine my surprise when I received a copy of John Meursinge’s memories and right on the first page under the heading of his memories it states ‘Fellow and Life Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ and don’t you know, the American Society of Civil Engineers is one of our biggest supporters.”

Please join us for the 2009 31’ers Reunion Luncheon and Educational Outreach Showcase of the Boulder Canyon Project Act on October 10th at the Community College of Southern Nevada. The event starts at 10 am for visiting 31’ers families, viewing static displays and mini-presentations. Lunch is served at noon and our highlighted presentations start at 1 p.m. Guests who prepay by October 5, 2009 are guaranteed lunch. To attend this event, please visit for a registration brochure or stop by the Boulder City Hoover Dam Museum.

We’re planning for an antique crane, antique cars, professional level props designed by local resident Robby Berkheimer, professional level monologues and samplings of the educational outreach.

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