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VIDEO VAULT | The early history of the famous Las Vegas streets

5th Street Liquor Sign Today Neon Museum.jpg

When newspaper clippings appear in the Video Vault, they usually come from either the Clark County Library or the Cahlan Research Library at the Nevada State Museum in the Las Vegas Springs Preserve.

There were actually three Cahlans who were all important to Las Vegas journalism in the middle part of the last century. Al Cahlan was in charge of Las Vegas Review-Journal operations from 1926 until 1960. He brought in his brother John, who became Managing Editor. Florence Lee Jones joined the family when she married John, who was her boss at the time. She went on to become a columnist and local historian into the early 1980s.

News 3 caught up to Florence Lee Jones Cahlan in 1984. Reporter Marla Martin started by asking about the road which had been known as both Highway 91 and 5th Street.

"This street was renamed many years ago to become Las Vegas Boulevard South and North," explained Cahlan. "That was on the theory that it ties Las Vegas downtown into the Strip area."

Channel 3 video from 1984 illustrated this point by showing the 5th Street Liquor store with its eye-catching sign on Las Vegas Boulevard. Today that sign has been restored and adds a historical touch to an RTC bus shelter on Casino Center Boulevard at Garces Avenue.

Cahlan knew the 5th Street era well. She had started reporting for the Review Journal under her maiden name in the mid-1930s. A relationship with her boss was kept secret until she married him and took his last name as her own in 1940. In the newspaper, however, she continued to use the byline Florence Lee Jones.

By the time News-3 sat down with her decades later, Cahlan had also become a prominent local historian, often called upon by younger journalists.

"The main street they named for John C. Fremont," Cahlan told Marla Martin. "The great explorer and mapmaker of the west, who was in Las Vegas in 1844."

Cahlan also remembered that the neighborhood south of Rancho Circle was developed by a man who loved to ride horses in Red Rock Canyon. Hence the street names Pinto and Palomino. She also talked about one of the Strip's first really odd streetside installations.

"Someone in public relations decided that they needed some kind of desert symbol, and for years they had this huge concrete camel that stood out in front of the place," said Cahlan with a smile. "That was the symbol of the Sahara Hotel."

Florence Lee Jones Cahlan's memories are minimal in the Channel 3 archives, but an extensive biography of her can be found online in the Online Nevada Encyclopedia.

Florence passed away in 1985. Her husband John died in 1987 and brother-in-law Al had preceded them both in 1968.

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