Boulder City is a city rich with history and that is clear in the monuments.
I love the statue of children playing outside of city hall in remembrance of when the building was first built it was the town’s school. That is until Andrew J. Mitchell, the school principal, helped the kids collect their books and marched them in parade-style to the newly built elementary building on Avenue B that now bears his name.
The town is covered with monuments to the early builders of the dam. One of my personal favorites is the statue of Alabam, ever there with his broom handle covered with toilet paper, ready to provide the workers with something we have all come to realize is more valuable than we ever imagined pre-COVID-19.
Our monuments are part of who we are, some tell history, some are simply masterpieces of art, but monuments are made by people and they are not perfect. There is a debate raging about monuments and it can be a complex issue. An issue Boulder City and our greatest monument has struggled with before.
We all realize that building Hoover Dam was no walk in the park. It was hot, stressful, muscle-aching work. But the builders of the dam had ways to find enjoyment in life and one of them was the joy brought by the shortest helper onsite. A little black dog with a white patch, would go down each day to the work site with the men carrying his lunch, a bag that was provided to him by the Anderson Mess Hall. He was the most popular personality on the construction site. But unfortunately near the end of construction he was run over. The men gave him a proper burial and gravesite at the dam. To this day there is a monument that sits over his grave. But the monument has changed over time because the name of the dog was a short version of the ‘n’ word. The name was removed and replaced with calling him simply the mascot.
Now, I understand why the offensive name was removed. But what part of the history of Hoover does it erase, an offensive part? Yes. But isn’t it an important part to remember and learn from? Jobs to build Hoover Dam were highly sought after. Men came from all over the country, which was in the middle of segregation and Jim Crow laws, and while this was not the South many of the same views and policies prevailed, even on a federal work site. Of the first 1,000 men who were hired to work onsite, none were African American. Under political pressure, the Six Companies hired 24 black men. They were not allowed to live in Boulder City, they took a segregated bus to the site and only worked in the Arizona gravel pits, the hottest and most difficult work. They were also forced to drink from separate water buckets onsite. The naming of the mascot gives a little insight to thought processes that we may be, at times, too eager to erase.
I am not saying that monuments should never be removed or altered. What I am saying is that if we in Boulder City, are going to consider removing any monuments, I hope we take the decision seriously, discuss and allow a civil open debate on it, and that we ensure the important, even offensive, historical elements are documented so they won’t be lost to time. Then we can make an informed decision about what’s best for our city, not a rash one made in moments of passion that we may live to regret.
Preston G. Wright is a writer and resident of Boulder City. He loves food, politics, raising chickens and spending time with his wife and family. You can find him under Preston Wright on Facebook.