Inside the Gate   Boulder City
City Design - Inside the Gate - Incorporation - The DocumentaryKNPB-TVPBS Online  

Strike poster
  • Inside the Gate
  • Sims Ely
  • Town Life
  • Family Life
  • Boulder City Home
  • Sims Ely

    Following a labor strike in August 1931, the Bureau of Reclamation and the contractor for the Hoover Dam Project, Six Companies, increased security around Boulder City. A gate was erected through which all persons had to pass. Those without written permission from a contractor or from the government were turned away.

    Dennis McBride:
    The gate to Boulder City And they would search the cars - some people they wouldn't search, they knew you and those people often took advantage of being well known - they would smuggle the bottles in the baby's blankets and under the seats and they just wave you through. But someone that they didn't know or who was there for the first time or who just looked a little suspicious they would stop and they would search. And if they found liquor they'd not only confiscate the liquor, they'd confiscate the car. And they had a holding pen, a fenced holding pen where you sat until you got sober. And you may or may not get your car back or your job.

    Sims Ely In October 1931, the government hired Sims Ely to run Boulder City. Ely was a tough-minded, no-nonsense man who ran a very tight ship. He ruled Boulder City as he saw fit, enforcing the government's rules and regulations. Opinions about Ely varied depending upon how you saw him.

    Here are three opinions of Sims Ely:

    Pat Lappin:
    He was a small, kind of dried up person. He was in his 60s or 70s when he came here to govern the town. He was sure he was right. Always he was sure he was right. Some people hated him with a passion.

    Frank Carroll:
    Frank Crowe brought him in to run the town. They needed a city administrator and someone who could keep everybody in line and act as kind of a city judge and keep the employees straight and operate the town as they needed somebody who could control things. He was sort of a mayor without the title, he was also a judge. He was in charge of the police department.

    Floyd Jenne:
    There was no doubt Sims was (the) boss. He decided whether we took them to court or he'd handle it. He couldn't fine them. He couldn't put 'em in jail. But he could kick them out of town for a week, two weeks, 30 days, whatever. And he exercised that authority and actually it was better for the people involved because if we put the man in jail he'd have lost his job. His family would have lost the house, had to move out. By telling the guy to get out of town, his family kept the house but he had to move to Vegas, find a place to live, back and forth, and so on. I've had people say "Take me before the judge, I don't want to talk to Sims.

    With Ely firmly in charge Boulder City may have been the safest place in the country. Crime was almost nonexistent. Anyone found guilty of a crime could lose his job, and that meant the loss of his home and his right to stay in town. Banishment from the safe, comfortable life under the protective government umbrella was a chilling prospect.
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