Harolds Club ~ Leo's Bar
236 North Virginia Street
1935 - 1995
Harold's
Photo from the Mark Englebretson Collection



Harolds Club


Jim Dermody
Grade 2

Bill Miller
Grade 2

Bill Miller
Grade 2

Norm Guerero
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Pam Goertler
Grade 2

Michael Richter
Grade 2

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Richard & Bev Siri
Grade 2

Jim Bothwell
Grade 2

Frank Lonteen
Grade 3

Richard & Bev Siri
Grade 1

Mark Englebretson
Grade 2

Richard & Bev Siri
Grade 1

Richard & Bev Siri
Grade 1

Louie Eliopoulos
Grade 2



Leo's Bar


Chris Krauss
Grade 4
Leo Schwarz opened the first bar in Harold's in 1941, and was the first bar manager at Harold's Club so it's very possibly that the first bar that was opened was called "Leo's Bar" and that he had ash trays made that would publicize both the bar and Harold's Club. The bars were owned separately by Raymond I. Smith (Pappy) and he gave monetary rewards and bonuses to his early day bar personnel. That is what makes me think that Leo was trying to generate more business for his bar (which would in turn increase his bonus) that was located in the north east section of Harold's Club.
According to Dwayne Kling

Harold Smith Sr. borrowed $500 from his father, Raymond I. "Pappy" Smith, to start Harolds Club on February 23, 1935. Coincidentally, that date was Harold Smith's twenty-fifth birthday. Harold and his brother, Raymond A. Smith, opened the doors with only themselves and their wives as employees. The club opened with a single penny roulette game. It was an eight-foot wheel-sometimes called a flasher wheel-mounted vertically on the wall in front of a large mirror, and it had forty-three layouts. In a short time, the wheel became busy enough to require six clerks to sell chips and service the layouts. The club also opened with two slot machines-one nickel and one dime machine.

The Nevada State Journal of June 30, 1935-in what is believed to be the first ad for Harolds Club-carried the following copy: "Harolds Club, 236 North Virginia Street. Open at twelve noon. There is a big surprise in store for you."

Shortly after the "store," as Harold liked to call his club, opened, the two men's father, Raymond I., came to work for them as general manager. The "store" was only 25 feet wide and 150 feet deep.

In the fall of 1935, a 21 game was added, and shortly after that a Klondike game, fan-tan, craps, and a red-dog game. Gross receipts for the first year were $25,000, but the operation lost $2,000. By 1938, Harolds Club had eight employees on the payroll; by 1939 there were almost forty people on the payroll.

In May 1938 Harolds Club introduced mouse roulette to Reno. Contrary to common belief, mouse roulette was not popular, and it was not offered for long. An article in the Nevada State Journal of May 15, 1938, tells of the short-lived gambling experiment but fails to mention Harolds Club. Evidently daunted by the failure of mouse roulette, Pappy Smith waited almost twenty-five years before he "hired" more mice. On April 18, 1962-to celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday (he actually was born on April 30, 1887)-he introduced "mice dice." This experiment was also short-lived, but it garnered untold thousands of dollars' worth of advertising, and that of course was what Pappy was looking for.

In May 1938 Harolds Club tried its first racehorse keno game. The first keno game didn't succeed, but the owners soon tried again. In September 1940 they leased out the racehorse keno game and the horserace book to Fred Beck. Pappy had known Beck since they had both operated games of chance on the boardwalk in San Francisco. He asked Beck to lease the game as a favor to him, and when Beck hesitated, Pappy loaned him $2,500 to get started. Beck also had a lease for pan and poker games during his long association with the Smith family. The association proved to be beneficial for both parties. For many years after Fred Beck's death, his widow, Jessie Howard Beck, continued to operate the keno game in Harolds Club. In fact, she kept the keno game until she was forced out when Harolds Club was purchased by the Summa Corporation in 1970.

Harolds Club continued to grow at a rapid pace, and by 1941 the club advertised that it never closed and featured "games of every description." Jim Hunter was named the graveyard-shift manager, while Raymond A. Smith ran the day shift and Harold Smith Sr. was in charge of the swing shift. Also in 1941 Harolds Club leased the property next door and increased its gaming to twenty-six slot machines, four craps tables, one pan game, one big-six wheel, one poker game, two roulette games, and five 21 games.

On the Fourth of July, the club opened its first bar. It took over the Rex Club at the corner of Douglas Alley and Lincoln Alley and extended its "hole-in-the-wall" to form an L. Leo Schwarz was hired as the first bar manager. Pappy Smith was the owner of the first bar, and he maintained separate ownership of all the bars through the years. Sometimes the separation of the bar and the gaming caused hard feelings between the Smiths, especially when Harold announced that drinks were on the house. The added space, gaming devices, and facilities required a staff of eighty employees.

From November 1941 to December 1942 Harolds Club carried on an intense advertising campaign, running 3-by-5-inch advertisements almost daily. The ads had some variation in verbiage but always this line: "Complete Line of Amusements-We Never Close-The Friendly Club." By the end of 1942, Harolds Club had grown to include 140 employees and was offering $500 limits on its table games.

In the late 1930s Harolds Club defied precedent by introducing female dealers to the gaming business. The first women working in the club were members of the Smith family, but by the early 1940s and during World War II, nine employees out of every ten were women.

In September 1941 the Washoe County Commissioners and the districts attorney's office warned clubs that they would no longer be permitted to use female dealers at gaming tables located near the windows and doorways of their clubs. Local residents had allegedly complained that Virginia Street had come to look like a "Hollywood carnival." At a hearing in the commissioners' office, Harold Smith said that he had introduced female dealers in Reno to give his club "added refinement." He further stated that "my idea has always been that as long as gambling in Nevada is open, it should be open for everyone to see." He said that he had started a $25,000 advertising campaign to place signs throughout the nation advertising his club and Reno.

Dorothy Smith (wife of Harold Smith Sr.) and Dora Mae Pigeon Smith (first wife of Raymond I. Smith, and Harold's mother) were the first female dealers in Harolds Club. They saw the long hours that Harold, his brother Raymond A., and Harold's father, Raymond I., were working, and they came to the club to give them breaks. Male dealers from the Palace Club and the Bank Club came in to play at their tables and gave them tips on becoming better dealers. Soon they were as skilled at dealing craps, roulette, and 21 as anyone in town. As business grew, they taught other women to deal and then retired, although they still took over the tables in emergencies.

It is uncertain who was the first non-family female dealer in Harolds Club, but it is almost certain that it was either Ruby Nash, who had worked with Pappy on the boardwalk in San Francisco and is said to be the person who gave Raymond I. Smith the nickname "Pappy"; Ruth Linderman, a tall, Junoesque redhead, also called Lindy Ray or "Big Ruth," who came to Reno from San Francisco with Smith in 1935; or Elsie Young. Mrs. Young and her husband, Grover, who also worked at the club, had also come to Reno in 1935 with Pappy Smith and had worked with him on the boardwalk in San Francisco.

Other early female dealers include Mabel Chastain, who was married to Pappy in 1938 and whose sister, Jessie Howard Brown Beck, was the first female dice dealer in Harolds Club and one of the first female supervisors; Ethel Blake, who had worked with Pappy in San Francisco; Mildred Holland, who came to Reno from Montana; Paula Motley, who was an experienced poker dealer from Texas when she was hired at Harolds Club; Doris Rose, who was Ruby Nash's daughter; Rae Scurlock, said to be as good a dice dealer as any man in Reno; Aileen Murphy, who later became a pit supervisor; Diamond Lil Brooks, another talented dice dealer; and Ruth Fuller, who also became a pit supervisor during the war years.

During World War II, when the shortage of male dealers hit its peak in 1943, Harolds Club ran the following want-ad on August 3 and continued the ad daily for several weeks: "Help wanted: Harolds Club wants lady clerks, between the age of 21 and 35, capable of learning to deal games. Many of our present dealers who started this way are now earning $60 a week. Men please do not apply." The ad was changed on November 2 to read, "Many of our dealers are making $90 a week" and "Please, no men except disabled veterans of this war, need apply."

In August 1943 Pappy Smith married a roulette dealer, Iola Hutchins, and in June 1944 they became the parents of twins, George and Betty.

On Christmas Day 1943 Harolds Club took out a full-page ad in the Nevada State Journal to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and to mention that its payroll was then over $12,000 a week.

The club continued to grow during the war years. In March 1945, a hearing held in the state legislature regarding a 10-percent tax on gross gaming revenue recorded that Harolds Club had at that time twenty-one table games and thirty-eight slot machines. By year's end, they were licensed for twenty-eight table games and fifty-four slots. This was the first year the original forty-three-layout flasher wheel was not licensed.

In May 1947 Harolds Club expanded again-this time to the north, taking over the property formerly leased to the Giant Shop and Harrah's Bingo at 242 North Virginia Street. On June 12, 1948, the Smiths opened their Covered Wagon Room, which boasted the first escalator in Nevada and featured thousands of dollars' worth of colored glass, animated wall maps, whiskey waterfalls, and copies of western art. An electric-eye counting device clocked 3,365 people up the motorized stairs during the first two hours of operation-and then the rate increased. The escalator had been rated to handle 3,000 people per hour, but there were several twenty-minute periods when the stairs exceeded capacity with two people riding on each step.

The Covered Wagon Room featured the Silver Dollar Bar, an elaborate curved bar with an orange plastic railing and 2,141 silver dollars set flush in the clear plastic top of the bar. Lights shone upward through the top and left the dollars in sharp relief. The coins proved to be a temptation to more than one gambler down on his luck, but they were set in so securely that none was ever lost.

On the opening night there was a waterfall of Old Forrester whiskey streaming down the rocks and splashing into a pool surrounded by rustic scenery. A short time later, water had to be substituted for the whiskey because the fumes became so powerful that it was unpleasant to be in the bar area. To the left of the bar was a large colored map of Nevada with incidents from pioneer history painted at various locations around the state. All major highways were shown, and they would repeatedly light up, a red streak gliding out the highway from Reno, stopping at the site of each incident. Farther left of the bar, two of the largest full-color photo transparencies in the world featured views of Lake Tahoe on sheets of plastic more than twelve feet wide and reaching from floor to ceiling. They were illuminated from behind to replicate the full cycle of the day. Automatically the lighting changed from dawn to noon, to afternoon, then a storm came up with clouds and a sudden shower. Lightning flashed, then the storm cleared away into a magnificent colored sunset. Evening came with moonlight beaming on the lake. The cycle repeated itself on a continual basis.

Carpeting on the floor had been specially created with a covered-wagon design, and other artwork from Harolds Club highway signs was woven into the fabric.

The cost of the Covered Wagon Room was not made public, but it was estimated to have run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. The carpeting alone cost $45,000, and the club had ordered two sets-one as a spare.

In August 1948, about two months after the opening of the Covered Wagon Room, the Smiths announced that they now had five hundred people on their payroll. They had 210 slot machines, and in the previous week they had paid 10,707 jackpots.

In January 1949 the club announced another huge expansion program. The Virginia Hotel, located at 240 North Virginia Street, was to be demolished to allow for a $200,000 expansion of the second floor at Harolds Club. This expansion became known as the Roaring Camp Room and was filled with western memorabilia, most of which came from Raymond Stagg's Roaring Camp located on Lake Street and purchased by Raymond I. Smith in 1949. The collection included hundreds of firearms, including flintlock muskets, dueling pistols, Civil War weapons, Winchester rifles, Colt revolvers, Gatling guns, a fourteenth-century Chinese cannon, prairie schooners, Concord stages, other types of pioneer transportation, and amusement devices, including cards, dice, faro, and mechanical orchestras, along with phonographs, letters, documents, posters, newspapers, and other items relating to early Nevada.

Harolds Club established special family viewing hours so children could see and learn about early pioneer days in the West. The exhibit attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers and remained on display in the Roaring Camp Room through the 1960s. After Harolds Club was sold, the collection was neglected, and finally, in May 1994, it was sold at auction by the Butterfield and Butterfield Auction Company in San Francisco, and the once-famous collection was no more.

Also in 1949, the Smith family commissioned Theodore McFall to create a mural thirty-five feet high and seventy-five feet wide to commemorate Nevada pioneers and settlers. The mural, which spread over the Virginia Street entrance, was made of 220 separate porcelain mosaic panels and was said to be the largest such project ever undertaken. It cost $60,000, took four months to complete, and became a widely photographed Reno landmark. The words above the mural read, "Dedicated in All Humility to Those Who Blazed the Trail."

By 1950 the club had doubled in size and was operating 531 slot machines, forty-six table games, chuck-a-luck, and keno. In December 1950, the Smiths purchased one of Reno's oldest business properties, the Ritz Hotel at 8 East Commercial Row, for approximately $135,000. A few months later, in February 1951, growth continued when the Smiths purchased a building at 232 North Virginia for $200,000. This was the former location of one of Reno's first bingo parlors, and the Reno Club still held a long-term lease on the property. It wasn't until 1954 that Harolds Club was able to expand into the new property.

In July 1952 Harolds Club reported that 19,136 people had passed through its electric-eye counting device on July 4. Two months later, the management reported that over Labor Day weekend, on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, 44,206 people had passed through the doors.

There were many reasons for the continued growth and success of Harolds Club, but none was so important as Pappy Smith's decision to advertise his business. No one had ever done that before. Gaming's first advertising campaign was launched by Harolds Club in the 1940s, and soon there were outdoor billboards as far away as the North Pole. Harolds Club eventually had more than 2,300 billboards around the United States and at selected locations throughout the world. Most of the billboards featured cartoon characters headed for Harolds Club by various comical means, including holding on to the tail of a bear and fording a river on a raft. The message was simple, "Harolds Club or Bust."

The first signs were erected in California, but eventually they could be seen in forty-five other states. More than five hundred signs were located in California alone, while the smallest showings, two billboards each, were in Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Only four states-Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Massachusetts-had none at all. It was said that a motorist in the United States was never farther than eight hours' drive away from a Harolds Club sign.

The advertising campaign was not restricted to roadways in the United States. Military personnel stationed abroad wrote requesting signs for their military posts, and soon "Harolds Club or Bust" signs were found all over the world.

Most of the signs had to be dismantled in 1965 when the Federal Highway Beautification Act became effective.

In 1946 Pappy Smith made another major marketing move when he hired one of Reno's first advertising specialists, Thomas C. Wilson, to create a new advertising campaign for Harolds Club. Wilson's campaign began with a series of newspaper advertisements that depicted forgotten incidents in early-day Nevada history. During the early 1950s, the sums spent annually to publicize Harolds Club were said to exceed the advertising budgets of all other casinos combined. That heavy investment made Harolds Club the best-known gambling resort in Nevada during the 1950s. It was also the largest casino. In July 1951 Harolds Club was licensed for ten craps games, ten roulette games, twenty-eight 21 games, and 616 slot machines.

Harolds Club and the Smith family contributed generously to many local churches, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, hospitals, day-care centers, and other charitable causes. By far the most notable and costly benefactions were the celebrated Harolds Club Scholarships, which were established shortly after the end of World War II. Through the scholarships, graduates of some forty Nevada high schools-one each year from the larger schools, one in alternate years from the smaller schools-were annually awarded grants-in-aid that financed full four-year courses at the University of Nevada. The scholarships totaled $4,000 each and were paid in installments of $250 at the beginning of each quarter throughout the holder's college career. The scholarships, which cost the club $160,000 a year, were a blessing to hundreds of students who would not otherwise have been able to obtain a college education. During the time the scholarship program was in operation, 250 graduates benefited, and the total cost to Harolds Club was $1 million.

Another practice unique to Harolds Club was what was called the "Once Only Book." That book (which actually became a card file) contained the names and addresses of players who had gone broke at Harolds Club and had had money lent to them. The purpose of "the book" was to make sure that no one had to leave Harolds Club with empty pockets. If a player lost all his money, he could approach one of the Smiths or a floor boss and request a loan to help him get home. If he repaid the loan, he could borrow again; if the loan was not repaid, the player was never eligible for another. (Like many rules at Harolds Club, this rule was bent quite frequently. If a regular longtime customer lost his money and hadn't repaid his previous loan, he could almost always get more money.)

In the 1950s a new rule came into being. Anyone was eligible for a maximum loan of $50 a year, whether or not the previous year's loan had been repaid. Needless to say, the main desk where the money was doled out was very busy during the first few days of each new year. The loan was meant to help losers get home, but it was not uncommon for the customer to take the loan to a neighboring casino and attempt to "run it up."

Many customers played in Harolds Club because of the "Once Only Book." They enjoyed the comfort of knowing that as long as they kept their credit current, they could never go broke in Harolds Club.

Harolds Club continued success led to more expansion. In October 1953 the Smiths announced that they would soon begin construction of a "seven or eight story addition." Construction began in 1954-the same year that Harolds Club opened its "pigeon hole" parking garage, located to the north of the club, just across the railroad tracks and west of Virginia Street. The facility utilized a forklift mechanism that raised a car up to a space, unloaded it in that space, then returned to ground level.

In 1955 Harolds Club opened its first restaurant, located on the third floor. Also in 1955 the seventh floor was opened. Initially, the seventh floor had no entertainment, but it offered high-limit gaming and a bar that featured a tiny model-railroad train that the bartender sometimes used to deliver drinks to the patrons. The train station was modeled after the train station in Pappy's hometown of Vergennes, Vermont.

Big-name entertainment was introduced in the new seventh-floor showroom on June 19, 1957. The opening acts were Betty Reilly and the Jodimars. One month later, Helen Forrest, a well-known female vocalist who performed with big bands such as Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, opened as the second act to appear in the Fun Room, as the showroom was called.

In November 1947 two young medical students from the University of Chicago gained national fame and publicity when they won $8,000 playing roulette in Reno. Albert Hibbs and Roy Walford started playing at the Palace Club with a $300 bankroll. By spelling each other in eight-hour shifts, they played for forty straight hours and were $6,000 ahead when the Palace Club decided to change the roulette wheel. The young men then moved across the alley to Harolds Club.

After the move to Harolds Club, they clocked the wheel for seven days before they began playing. Daily news bulletins went out over the national wiring systems reporting their winnings, and they were featured in Billy Rose's column. They were also featured in Life magazine's "Picture of the Week." After sixty hours of play, they had won $7,000 from Harolds Club, to make them $13,000 winners.

Their system, which consisted of betting the number nine with various amounts of money, started to fail when they reached $13,000. They lost steadily the last sixteen hours they played, betting $19 on each spin of the wheel. They finally cashed in, having won a total of $8,000 between the Palace Club and Harolds Club. Harold Smith advised the young men that "his club would let them win a million dollars if their system would do it," but he suggested they quit while they were still ahead of the game.

Ten years later, a similar incident occurred. On June 1, 1956, after recording every winning number on a roulette table for several days, two young men began betting nickel chips. Originally the two men did all the betting, but after a short time they added two more men to their group, and later others joined to make a group of seven. At least one member of the group was at the wheel twenty-four hours each day until the wheel was taken out seven weeks later. The size of the bets increased as their winnings increased, and ultimately they were betting as much as $25 on each of eight numbers. At the conclusion of their play on July 24, 1956, the group was said to have won a total of $96,000.

An interesting sidelight was that one of the gamblers, Bruce Jones, became romantically involved with one of the roulette dealers, and the two were later married.

After the wheel was taken out and examined, it was determined that some of the frets (the small metal divisions separating the numbered slots into which the ball falls) were loose. It is very probable that this irregularity caused certain numbers to come up more frequently than they should have. A similar situation had occurred at another casino a few months earlier, so the Smiths were aware of what could happen when frets were loose. Some people wondered if the wily Smith family, always looking for a way to publicize their club, weren't aware that there was an irregularity on the wheel and allowed the game to go on nonetheless, figuring that $96,000 was a small price to pay for the amount of publicity that the club had enjoyed.

In January 1960 Harolds Club opened Room 25, commemorating the casino's twenty-fifth anniversary. The room, formerly known as the Music Room because of the many mechanical music devices exhibited there, also was opened to celebrate the 8th Olympic Winter Games being held at Squaw Valley. Room 25 featured the internationally popular game of baccarat-Harolds Club was the first casino in Reno to offer baccarat.

In March 1956 it had been announced that Harolds Club had been sold to the Morgan and Agostini Corporation of San Francisco, headed by Jules Agostini. The sale never materialized, and in August 1957 Harolds Club was awarded $500,000 from Agostini when the sale fell through. A similar situation arose in December 1960, when daily reports and rumors surfaced about the sale of Harolds Club to Oliver Kahle and Ben Jaffe. For about ten days there were denials one day and affirmations the next. Finally, on January 1, 1961, Raymond I. Smith announced that the sale was off. The club was to have been sold to a group of Seattle investors for a reported $17 million, and the gaming was to have been leased to Kahle and Jaffe, but the group failed to meet the December 30, 1960, deadline for a deposit. Pappy Smith stated that he was glad the deal was off and that the club would not be sold in the future unless the sale included a lease-back agreement so that the Smiths could continue to control the gambling.

In June 1962 the Smiths did sell their property and buildings for $16 million to a New York investment firm, the Webbel Corporation, but then they leased back the casino. The corporate structure was changed, and the following ownership percentages were announced: Raymond I. Smith, from 33 percent to 48 percent; Raymond A. Smith, from 33 percent to 4 percent; and Harold Smith, from 33 percent to 48 percent.

On December 9, 1964, Harolds Club purchased the Colony Club, which was located at 254 North Virginia Street. The following March, a $300,000 remodeling project was started to convert the Colony Club into the latest part of Harolds Club's continual expansion. Opening day for the addition was July 1, 1965. Named the Arch Lounge, it contained gaming and lounge entertainment on the main floor and executive offices on the second floor. The bar area was decorated in dark English oak with melon-colored trim and was backed by a picture of the Reno arch. The opening-day entertainment was furnished by vocalist Johnny Prophet, banjo player Freddy Morgan, and pianist Freddy Henshaw. The relief group was known as the Winners and featured Cork Proctor. The addition was licensed for sixty-three slot machines, one craps game, one roulette game, three 21 games, and one keno game.

On May 24, 1967, the driving force behind Harolds Club, Raymond I. "Pappy" Smith-who had started as the general manager of the club and later became an owner as well as the general manager-died of cancer in St. Mary's Hospital. He was eighty years old. At the time of his death, Harolds Club was the largest casino in Nevada.

Smith's funeral was held on May 27, 1967, but his passing went unnoticed by the thousands of tourists who crowded into Harolds Club. The club remained open during that Memorial Day Saturday while five hundred persons gathered at Reno's largest Catholic church to pay their last respects. Mourners represented every walk of life, from congressmen to cleaning women, and many Harolds Club employees were there dressed in their western-style uniforms. The graveyard-shift floor managers worked overtime so that the day-shift floor managers could attend the funeral. Active pallbearers included longtime employees Chuck Webster, Roy Powers, Lee Crawford, Tom Frias, Russell Nerase, Robert Klaich, and Jim Hunter.

Business at Harolds Club continued as usual, and on December 23, 1967, Harolds Club introduced two five-dollar slot machines, the first in the state. Harolds' slot department had converted two one-dollar machines to the new denomination. Governor Paul Laxalt, Mayor Roy Bankofier, and Gaming Control Board chairman Frank Johnson were among the fifty invited guests at the introduction "party," which was hosted by longtime Harolds Club employee James Hunter, the director of public relations.

A headline story in the Nevada State Journal of May 17, 1970, reported that Howard Hughes had purchased Harolds Club, subject to the Gaming Commission's approval. No sale price was announced, but $11 million was the estimated price. The Gaming Commission approved the deal on June 19, 1970.

On June 11 Jessie Beck was notified that because of the sale to the Hughes Corporation, her lease on the keno game would be terminated on June 30. The Beck Corporation had operated the keno and pan games for almost thirty years. Fred Beck had opened the keno game in 1940, and Jessie assumed control after Beck's death early in 1954.

Edith Grishman, credit manager and a licensed staff member for twenty-nine years, was also terminated. Dan Orlich, casino manager, continued in that position during the interim period.

As the Hughes Corporation became more familiar with the new operation, it made several changes in personnel and in many of the procedures and policies that had been so successful for so many years. Shift managers Chuck Webster, Steve Derrivan, and Don McDonnell were among the first longtime employees to leave the club. The Hughes Corporation brought some new gaming supervisors into Harolds Club, including Richard Balkanny, Paul Paxton, Jay Corn, and others, bet several longtime employees, including Al Lazzarone, Glen Botorff, Jerry Sicka, Bob Donnelly, Stan Gazutis, and Clarence "Cous" Couslouskie, stayed in the organization and soon became top-level executives in the new management structure.

For the first time in the history of the club, the tables were arranged into pits, supervisors' wives were terminated from employment at the club, and dealers were forced to pool their tips instead of keeping their own. The Hughes Corporation believed that by not allowing husbands and wives to work together, they would eliminate the possibility of collusion and/or favoritism.

The site of the former children's theater was turned into a children's amusement arcade. This in-casino movie theater had been in operation since the early 1950s and was visited by more than sixty thousand children annually, with highs of three thousand a week in summer months. The theater showed mostly old westerns and children's films, and customers of Harolds Club were encouraged to leave their children there, free of charge, while they were playing in the casino. It was an ideal situation for parents with younger children because it gave them a chance to enjoy Harolds Club and not worry about their children's whereabouts. This was the first attempt by a casino to provide entertainment for children and make the casino a suitable destination for the entire family.

The seventh-floor Fun Room was closed on January 3, 1971, and reopened in February as a prime-rib dinner house. The Fun Room had opened in June 1957 and had featured some of the leading names in the entertainment business, including Louis Armstrong, Harry James, Petula Clark, Brenda Lee, and Trini Lopez, to name just a few. Jackie DeShannon, who headlined from December 16 to January 2, was the last act to appear in the Fun Room. The Arch Lounge was also closed temporarily for remodeling.

In 1970, Jack Pieper, then fifty-two, was appointed manager of Harolds Club, and in June Dan Orlich and Bob Klaich resigned for "personal reasons." Orlich and Klaich had combined careers of thirty-two years at Harolds Club. Orlich had been casino manager, among other job titles, for many years, and Klaich had been longtime comptroller of the club.

In June 1972 the Howard Hughes Corporation announced that Jack Pieper was being transferred to the Frontier Club in Las Vegas and that J. C. Jordan, a casino executive and a former co-owner of the North Shore Club, would become general manager of Harolds Club. In August 1973 Jordan named Phil Griffith controller. Griffith, a twenty-eight-year-old former senior accountant with Haskins and Sells, had been in Las Vegas since 1970, coming from Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from Wichita State in 1967 with a degree in business administration. Griffith would later be named secretary-treasurer of Harolds Club (in 1975), and in February 1979, when J.C. Jordan retired, he was named president.

In May 1977 Harolds Club executives announced plans for a three-story expansion of their property on the northeast end of the casino and asked the City Council for air rights over Douglas Alley. They planned to spend $10 million to acquire property on Commercial Row between Virginia Street and the site of the Palace Club, and $10 million more for construction. Plans also included a makeover for the seventh-floor Prime Rib Room, which was closed on Saturday, November 4, 1978, at midnight. It would reopen in May 1979 and be known as the Presidential Dining Car.

On February 15, 1979, the four-story, $20-million expansion opened to the public. The addition, which made ample use of brick and oak, was aimed at accentuating the "good old days" at the turn of the century.

The longtime favorite bar in Harolds Club, the Silver Dollar, was closed in September 1980. Opened originally as a bar in 1948, the area had been enlarged into a lounge in 1964. A small, intimate area, it was a gathering place for Harolds Club employees, neighboring casino employees, and quite frequently, Harold Smith Sr. and Harold Smith Jr. Big-name entertainers like Herb Jeffries, Sonny King, and Helen Forrest often appeared there, but more often it was the Winners, Freddy Henshaw, or the Rudy Rodarte Trio.

In 1985, the year that Harolds Club celebrated its fiftieth birthday, Harold Smith Sr. died. In contrast to his carousing early years, Smith had spent much of his final decade in solitude. During the casino's Smith era, Pappy was the tough-minded, shrewd genius who carefully planned the club's growth and eagerly promoted Reno through the "Harolds Club or Bust" billboard campaign, and he was most often given all the credit for the success of Harolds Club. Harold Sr., who became better known for drinking, gambling, and cavorting around the casino, was seldom given the credit he deserved, although he was the most knowledgeable family member when it came to operating, protecting, and managing the table games. But his father's death had a profound effect on Harold Sr. Shortly after he sold the club to the Hughes Corporation in 1971, he was quoted as saying, "My Pappy and I were partners, and when I lost my Daddy, I couldn't run Harolds Club."

By its fiftieth year of operation, the club had expanded to 1,525 slot machines, sixty-one table games, three keno counters, two restaurants, five bars, and over 1,500 employees.

Three years later, on June 1, 1988, Harolds Club was taken over by the Lincoln Management Group. Four members of the Lincoln Group, later known as the Fitzgerald Group, were former executives of Harolds Club.

Harolds Club, when it was owned by the Smith family, was unique in the gaming industry. The employees were treated like family, and it was common for employees to spend their entire career at the club. Twenty-, thirty-, and even forty-year employees were not unusual. To list all the longtime employees would be impossible, but a partial list of floor managers would include Jim Wilbur, Norman Maushardt, Joe Speicher, Dale Roper, Bill Parga, Cornel Fagetan, Dave Cable, Bob Donnelly, Jerry Sicka, Dean Rittenmeyer, Keith Jones, Walt Robinson, Connie Paris, Joe Fontaine, Harry Burke, Clark Brown, Steve Derrivan, Tom Davis, Larry Semenza, Bob Dodson, Al Lazzarone, Skip Vinson, Jim Rogers, Jack Shaver, Dutch Vandervort, Chuck Clifford, and George Wilson. Shift managers Chuck Webster, Darl Voss, and Don McDonnell also worked twenty-five or more years at Harolds Club. Executives Dan Orlich, Jim Hunter, Bob Klaich also worked many years for Harolds Club.

Longtime dealers were even more numerous than floor managers, and the list could be endless. Nevertheless, the following names should be mentioned: Lou Cardella, Bessie Hoyt, Annie (Lund) Delaplane, Esther DeRosa, Agnes Skillen, Liz Depathy, Mary Casey, Patti Cable, Jean Peterson, Betty Sayers, Anne Marie Bamberger, Lucille Vinson, Jean (Roper) Poland, Cleo Chiatovich, Marion Markowitz, Louise Jones, Lois Bates, Jean Pinkerton, Jean Sales, Marj Voss, Winona Webster, Jo Schellin, Betty Harling, Mary Kalinski, Claire Vandervort, Rosalie Beasley, Ruth Cantrell, Betty Downs, Fran Sheehan, Ronnie O'Bryan, Florence Signalness, Ruby Collins, Midge Hogan, Arline Harper, and Edna Corban.

There were other employees who never worked in the gaming part of Harolds Club but who contributed heavily to the success of the operation. Included in that list, not necessarily in the order of their importance, were the following:

Edith Grishman, who came to work in 1939 and stayed until terminated by the Summa Corporation in 1970. She was the credit manager and was instrumental in the development of a central credit system for first the Reno casinos and eventually all Nevada casinos.

Roy Powers, who was in charge of the publicity department from 1958 to 1973. He was the promoter of such events as the Reno Air Races, and he helped to create images of Reno that brought tens of thousands of tourists to town.

Guy Lent, whom Pappy considered a financial genius, came to work in 1944 and stayed with the Smiths until his death in 1964. Pappy considered Lent his right-hand man when it came to finances.

Russ Nerase, who was hired as a bartender in 1944. He soon became bar manager and stayed with Harolds Club for over twenty-five years.

And Elsie Clifford, who was hired in 1943 as the "pay-roll lady" and remained in that department for over twenty-five years. Mrs. Clifford in later years was also in charge of the club's group insurance.

Also working in the offices upstairs were Esther Marino, hired in 1945, and Mercedes Hoover. Both women worked as secretaries and receptionists, as well as performed other duties required in the twenty-four-hour-a-day operation. They were invaluable to the Smiths because of their loyalty and integrity. Dave Reichmann and Diane Tucker were two of the early restaurant managers. Their joint efforts were instrumental in the success of the Harolds Club restaurant that opened in 1955.

In a special job category of longtime employees was La Verl Kimpton. Kimpton went to work at Harolds Club in 1953 and was soon assigned to the "catwalk" (the over-head area in old casinos where men crawled on narrow boards or beams, watching casino activities through one-way mirrors and reporting cheating and unusual behavior to owners and/or bosses). Kimpton worked on the catwalk at Harolds Club for almost twenty years. He later worked as a pit supervisor at the Silver Spur, the Onslow Hotel, the Riverside, and other area casinos.

Twice-annual reunions of former Harolds Club employees are still held, and the turnouts are large. An organization known as the Harolds Club Pioneers meets monthly, and along with planning "fun events," members contribute time and money to worthwhile causes in the Reno-Sparks area. No other casino has ever seen groups of former employees continue to maintain organized contact and friendships, or to participate as an organization in civic activities.

Another example of the loyalty that was developed at Harolds Club reflects the customer base that was built when the Smiths owned the club. During the Forties, Fifties, and Sixties, there were tens of thousands of customers who never went to another casino when they were in Reno. Harolds Club employees knew about their customers' families, their illnesses, their children and grandchildren, and often the customers felt like they were part of the employees' families.

Another unique part of Harolds Club was that dealers were assigned to a specific table, sometimes for years at a time. Many customers had a favorite dealer, and when they came to the club they usually knew right where to find that dealer.

Customers also felt like they knew the Smith family. Pappy especially endeared himself to hundreds of thousands of customers as he wandered through the club wearing his wrinkled slacks, a white shirt, an Indian-bead tie, and red suspenders, and doubling customers' bets or dealing them what he called "the poor bastard's hand" at the 21 table (referring to the unlucky customer as a "poor bastard" to lose. He would even hit twenty and go broke just to ensure a winning hand for the customer.

It was also Pappy's custom to introduce his dealers to the players at their table. He was a great believer in memory association, but sometimes it failed him. A favorite story of many old Renoites concerns two Harolds Club dice dealers named Barbara Maxwell and Dwayne Kling. When Pappy came by the table to introduce them, he associated Kling with cling peaches and Maxwell with Maxwell House coffee. The next time he came by to introduce them, the following occurred: "Ladies and gentlemen, I would like you to meet Dwayne Bartlett and Barbara Sanborn." Bartlett, of course, being bartlett pears-instead of peaches-and Sanborn from Chase and Sanborn coffee-instead of Maxwell House.

Harold Sr. was often very visible and audible. He even rode his horse, Bobby Sox, into the club on occasion. Quite frequently, he would get on the club's loudspeaker system to make announcements or sometimes just to talk to customers and employees.

In the early days of gaming, club owners were allowed to gamble in their own clubs, and both Harold Sr. and Harold Jr. won and lost sizable amounts of money on occasion. Harold Sr. often gambled with younger, newer dealers so he could observe their abilities and determine whether they were going to become good dealers or to see if they were progressing well enough to be moved to higher-limit tables.

It has often been said that Harolds Club (when operated by the Smith family) was unique and that there never had been and never would be another casino like it. Truer words have never been spoken.

On December 6, 1994, Phil Griffith, president and chief executive officer of the Fitzgerald Gaming Corporation, then owner of Harolds Club, announced that the corporation had entered into an agreement to sell the casino to a New Jersey gaming company called Gamma International Ltd. Griffith explained that "we acquired Harold Club…with the intent of turning the 55 year old casino into Reno's premier hotel-casino. However, with the tightening of the financial markets, we have been unable to obtain the capital required to build hotel rooms." On March 31, 1995, Harolds Club was closed, and sixty-nine employees were put out of work. The previous December, when the sale was announced, there was a workforce of over four hundred people.

The purchasing firm, American Gaming and Entertainment Ltd. Of Atlantic City, paid $8.9 million for the property and announced plans to spend $15 to $20 million to transform the exterior and interior of Harolds Club to an Australian theme. The club was to be known as Harolds Club Down Under. The planned sale was called off early in 1996, and the property remains closed..



According to Dwayne Kling