History of Hazel Johnson Christensen


Christmas Eve Adventure

We didn’t have a car before Adele was born.  Then we bought an old truck, a Dodge.  I think we paid $35 for it.  We wanted to get our own wood around Mil­ford.  Christmas Eve was on a Sunday that year.  We went for a ride in our new car.  My father was there for Christmas, but he didn’t want to go, and he stayed home.

We rode for a ways out across town.  The roads were washed out and not too good.  We picked up two logs that we found.  Don and Vern were sitting in the back, and we had the other three kids in the front with us.  All at once we came to a place where the road dipped down, and we couldn’t make it back up.

We walked about two miles, but then I couldn’t walk any further.  I’d had my tonsils out about two months before that, and Paul was just a baby.  So Don and Vern pulled sagebrush, and we built a little fire.  Joy ran into town on the Scout pace.  He would walk and then run.  He took one of the garage men out and they got us.  The next day he went out and got the truck. 

When we got home, Father was worried because we had been gone so long.  I said, “I was in hopes you would call someone to come and get us.”

“I didn’t even know you had a phone,” he replied.  “Then I heard it ring a couple of times, but I couldn’t figure out where it was.”  It was the first time he had been in that house, and the phone was stuck off in the dining room corner.


Las Vegas

We got a chance to go to Las Vegas because the jeweler down there who was the time inspector, Mr. Davis, used to take the men out and drink with them.  They had to hold a freight train in Kelso twenty-four hours once because the crew was drunk.  They could only work sixteen hours, and then they had to wait to sleep.  Mr. Owens knew Joy didn’t drink so he hired him.

We moved to Las Vegas in 1939.  It has been good to us.  When we first got there, the only house we could find to rent was on Bonneville.  It had one pretty good-sized bedroom with two double beds in it, and another bedroom with one bed.  The kitchen had a table so small it was hard for us all to get around the table to eat.  There were eight of us then.  It had a small living room with a couch that made out into a bed, and we put the girls on it.

We only lived there three or four months.  Joy was inspecting watches between Caliente and Yermo.  One week of the month he went out on the motor car.  While we were in that first house, he had been out on the motor car, and he didn’t come home by dark.  I was worried, but then the watchmaker came to the house.  He told us, “They had an accident, but he isn’t  hurt and will be in shortly.”

They were on a motor car and saw a signal that a train was coming.  The motor man said, “Help me get this off.”

Joy replied, “No, I’m jumping off right now.”  They both jumped off just as a big double header came up.

Then we moved into Bar­num’s house.  It had three bedrooms.  We lived there until we bought the store.  It had an apartment back of it.  It had one big bedroom and a kitchen and a living room.  Then they had built a porch affair and glassed it in.  There was just room for our bed and dresser and to walk around them.  Anne and Adele opened a couch in the living room and slept on that.  Then we bought bunk beds and put the four boys in the bedroom.  It was smaller than Barnum’s house, but we didn’t have to pay rent other than what we paid on the store.

I wonder if it was good for the kids to live downtown like that.  Paul and Adele weren’t in school, and they didn’t have very much space to play.  Paul told me he enjoyed living there.  There was a place at the back between the stores with a space for cars.  We would drive our car partway in there and from the front of the car to the front of the building was where we would unload our dishes and things for the store.  The boys, Carl and Paul, would play there in the boxes.

Adele mostly played out in the street in the front of the store.  I think she knew every bum in Las Vegas.  It wasn’t common to have an apartment with a business, but I worked in the store and could keep my eye on them.  It worked out and didn’t seem to hurt them.  We lived in the store about three or four years.

We moved again during the war.  It was 1942 when the boys went to war.  Don was in the Infantry and fought the last six months of the war at the front.  Vern was in the Navy in the Pacific.  Later Carl did his military duty in the Air Force in Texas, and Paul was in the Air Force as a pilot.  He was in the SAC [Strategic Air Command] in Mountain Home, Idaho.

We lived in a house on Ninth Street during the war.  We lived there about four years.  We had saved our money.  We had to buy war bonds, and then our business boomed like hotcakes when the war started.  We sold everything we could buy-no refrigerators, but a lot of radios.

The year Anne went to college, we moved into the house on Seventh Street.  It was a very nice home.  Then in 1958 we started the houses on Lacy Lane.  We were at 706 and the four boys built houses on the same street.  Later two of them moved to different houses, but they are still in Las Vegas and close to us.

We went to the watch inspectors’ conventions every year from Las Vegas.  They paid our way.  That’s the only time I rode on a pass.  We went to Los Angeles twice, to Chicago once and to San Francisco.  We left the kids with Donna Leavitt once. They lived out in Paradise Valley.

We left them alone when we went to Chicago.  Adele was one or two years old.  We were in the house on North Seventh and Sister Barnum lived out in a little cottage back of the house.  She said she would watch out for them too.  When we got back, she reported, “Don took very good care of Adele.  He never left her alone at all.”  We were only gone about four days.  Don did the cooking too.  He was always one to look after the kids.  I never worried about him.

Don helped in the store too.  Vern had a paper route on the west side.  I used to worry about him because he was so late coming home some nights.  He delivered the evening paper, the Review Journal.  When he quit the route, he worked in the office as a mailer.  He fixed the ones to be mailed out.  Carl had a route too, when he was young.

When we first came to Las Vegas, there was no crime to speak of.  You very seldom saw anyone drunk on the street.  They hustled them right off.  We didn’t lock our doors at home.  I remember when they built the first hotel on the Strip, the El Rancho.  There wasn’t anything out there except the Red Rooster when we moved here.  I don’t know when the mob element ever came in.   We weren’t aware of it.


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