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VIDEO VAULT | Remembering a Las Vegas that no longer exists

Cinerama Tear Down.jpg

Long-timers often have fond memories of growing up in Las Vegas, while more recent transplants sometimes want to find out what then missed.

A presentation at the Clark County Library Thursday night might be of interest to both groups. It has the simple—but descriptive—title "Places That Aren't There Anymore."

“They were places that as time has passed have become iconic nuggets of Las Vegas history,” explains Nevada State Museum Director Dennis McBride. “For this reason or that reason.”

McBride is leading the discussion, along with longtime friend and Las Vegas historian Lynn Zook. The pair have photographs and memories of places like the Charleston Plaza, the city's first indoor mall.

“Well, not only was it an important place to Lynn and I when we were kids, but it would also begin the decline of downtown Las Vegas as the shopping center of the city,” says McBride. “Some of the businesses moved into the Charleston Plaza Mall. Then just three years later, the Boulevard Mall opened.”

One such business that changed locations was J.C. Penney on Fremont, which News 3 visited when the doors were closing in 1982.

“The town has certainly grown and Penney's has grown,” said Penney's manager Walter Martin at the time. “So you might say we've grown up together.”

“And it was a very important place to shop in the 1950's and 60's,” notes McBride. “But after it moved out and downtown began declining, other businesses later moved into it, so it became the Emergency Arts Building.”

Retail was certainly an important part of growing up in Las Vegas, but of course entertainment was top of mind for kids.

‘What resonates most with me is the Cinerama Dome,” says McBride, breaking into a smile. “The Cinerama Theater.”

The striking dome architecture on Paradise just north of Flamingo, which opened in 1965, boasted the widest screen in town, the best sound system and the occasional gimmick.

"Sensurround," remembers McBride. "The movie 'Earthquake.' They showed it, they premiered it in Las Vegas at the Cinerama. And under seats throughout the theater there were these machines, these boxes. When the earthquake came on in the movie...it would shake your seat! The whole thing shook!"

A News 3 camera recorded a different type of shaking in 1985, as heavy equipment was used to demolish the structure.

Restaurants were also an important part of social life. Classic eateries included Wimpy’s hamburger stand, which existed at a couple of downtown locations before setting up shop on Las Vegas Boulevard North in the 1960's.

Anyone who ever ate at the Alpine Village Inn has fond memories of the experience. Like Wimpy's, it had a nomadic history, this time finding a final home on Paradise across from the Las Vegas Hilton (now the Westgate).

“Well, I think of good food down here,” one person told News 3 as some of the restaurant’s property was auctioned off after its 1997 closure. “A good place to eat. Enjoyable.”

"Sad to see it go?" asked a reporter.

"Yes, I am. Real sad."

The Green Shack on lower Fremont was also a hot spot to eat for decades. It began as a stop for Boulder Dam workers traveling to and from Las Vegas during the Depression. News 3 caught up with owner Jim McCormick in 1994.

"There really isn't any tradition in this town to speak of," observed McCormick from the restaurant’s lounge area. "And somebody's got to do it."

The Green Shack closed its doors for good in 1999. The sign can be found in the Neon Museum today.

These businesses and others spark many memories for McBride and Zook.

"We have stories to tell that are our personal experiences in these places. And that brings back some life to these places that aren't here anymore," says McBride. "What if your history then turns into general history for the community?"

"Places That Aren't There Anymore" is Thursday, June 7, at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Clark County Library on Flamingo Road just east of Maryland Parkway.

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