Saturday, April 14, 2018

80 Pounds of Silver

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80 Pounds of Silver
80 Pounds of Silver

'Dear Geno,' a member writes. 'My girl friend and I live in a small town in Texas. It;s b-o-r-i-n-g. Nothing exciting ever happens around here. We are both high school graduates and we are thinking of moving to Las Vegas and getting a job in a casino. What do you think of our plans?' Deborah S., Tyler, Texas.

It must be wonderful to be young and full of dreams.

Like Deborah and her friend, I grew up in a small town and I agree things were boring. I even went to work for a gambling casino in Laughlin, NV. I was a change attendant for Don Laughlin's Riverside Casino.

Back in those days you didn't win slips of paper that you could exchange for money at the cashier's cage. When you won money from a slot machine, you collected silver dollars, quarters, half dollars, dimes and nickels.

To keep the customers supplied with cash, casino owners hired change attendants who walked around the casino wearing a vest that carried coins to make change. The coins in my vest weighed about 80 pounds and I can assure you that is a lot of weight to be carrying around for eight hours, five days a week.

After seven days on the job, my feet hurt so bad I could barely get out of bed. I liked Don Laughlin. He was a self-made millionaire and he was popular with his employees. But I staggered out of bed, dressed, went to his office and resigned.

'What's the matter?,' Laughlin said, smiling. 'This casino life too exciting for you?' He understood, paid me my wages, and we remained friends.

Working for a casino isn't a bad idea for Deborah and her friend. There are many good paying jobs in a casino and if a person is not addicted to gambling, it could be a good career choice. Try it for six months or a year. It just might work for you.

Laughlin grew up in a small town in the midwest. He was an enterprising youngster who went into the slot machine business when he was still in high school. He was earning about $500 a week buying and selling slot machines to hunting lodges in his geographic area when his principal found out about his business.

The principal called him into his office and issued an ultimatum: either give up the slot machine business or leave the school. Since Laughlin was earning more than twice what the principal was being paid, he dropped out of school.

Laughlin ran a small casino in Las Vegas before he decided to turn Laughlin into a casino resort community. He bought a run down motel, installed a dozen slot machines and two gambling tables, and the Riverside was born.

Over the years, Laughlin expanded the number of rooms and built an airport across the Colorado River in Bullhead City, AZ. When the State of Nevada dragged its feet in constructing a bridge over the Colorado, Laughlin dismissed them and built the bridge at his own expense. His efforts paid off handsomely.

Now in his late 80s, Laughlin lives in a penthouse suite in the Riverside. He drives expensive cars, owns an extensive antique car collection that he keeps in Laughlin, and flies a helicopter.

I still smile when I remember the story of the bus boy who worked for the Riverside. One night after work he got drunk and stole one of Laughlin's Cadillacs. He planned to run off to Mexico with a cute cocktail waitress he had met.

When he learned of the theft, Laughlin was outraged. He called the Sheriff's Department and filed a complaint. He told the deputies he wanted his Cadillac back even if they had to shoot the offending bus boy to get it.

Deputies intercepted the stolen car and arrested the bus boy. Laughlin ended up forgiving him and even hired him back after he was released from jail.

I haven't been to Laughlin for a while but I love the area. There's a ghost town in Arizona called Oatman that lies in the scenic mountains just north of Bullhead City. It's about 23 miles from Laughlin and it's definitely worth a visit.

Oatman is populated with miners, retirees, poker players and eccentric folks who enjoy their lifestyle. The streets are filled with wandering wild burros that came from the prospectors who mined silver and gold in the area. You can feed them, but don't try to ride them. They're wild and you could end up with some serious injuries.

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