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April 24, 2014

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Boulder City:

History to come alive at 31ers reunion

Image

Mona Shield Payne

From left, Barb Morris, Katherine Kirk and Peggy Durfey prepare to play the role of Erma Godbey at ages 80, 20 and 50, respectively. The trio will perform in a production showcasing Godbey’s life while she lived in Boulder City. The group is scheduled to perform in October for the annual 31ers Reunion and will continue with tours of local schools.

Click to enlarge photo

Lee Tilman, the last known Hoover Dam worker in Boulder City, died in 2007.

The history of Boulder City will come alive at the 54th annual 31ers Reunion Luncheon later this year. The October luncheon will include historical monologues, skits, research presentations and videos highlighting the city’s history.

Organizers describe the program as an educational showcase and hope to expand it beyond the luncheon into the curriculum of local schools, as well as bringing it to other community events.

The annual event is scheduled for Oct. 10 at the College of Southern Nevada building, 700 Wyoming St., to honor the city and the people who helped to build Hoover Dam, starting in 1931.

The term 31er originally referred to the people who arrived in Boulder City that year. But as time has passed, the meaning has expanded to include family members of the original 31ers and those who have lived in Boulder City for at least 31 years.

Art Lynch is helping run the theater aspect of the luncheon. He is an adjunct instructor at the College of Southern Nevada, an acting teacher and a member of the Screen Actors Guild. His wife, Laura, a social worker at Boulder City Hospital, is writing the scripts.

Actors performing monologues will be dressed in period costumes and will use props to convey the life dam workers lived in the 1930s.

Laura Lynch said she volunteered because she is naturally curious and enjoys hearing people talk and tell stories. She’s already written two monologues and plans to write more for the luncheon. It takes about five days to complete a script, she said.

At last year’s luncheon, Sherri Gersten performed a monologue written by Laura Lynch based on the oral history of Erma Godbey, whose family built one of the first privately owned homes in Boulder City.

The monologue was about what it was like for Godbey to make Boulder City a home for her family when the federal government, which founded the town, was predicting it would fold up in 1935 after the Hoover Dam was completed.

Patty Sullivan is Godbey’s granddaughter. She’s also recreation program coordinator and facilitator for the luncheon.

Sullivan said the monologues will bring a sense of authenticity to the program, especially when they are based on real-life memoirs.

“It’s not something that’s generic,” she said. “It’s very personalized.”

The monologue about Sullivan’s grandmother will likely be performed at the event, and Sullivan’s daughter, Tricia, will have a part in the production.

By retelling stories, looking at old photographs and, in general, celebrating Boulder City’s past, she said, the town’s history will be preserved.

“By recognizing your history and how you got where you are, as an individual you grow deep roots,” she said. “You understand why certain decisions are made; you understand why the city is laid out a certain way, what this park means and why it’s important, and why we’re remembering these people.”

After reading an excerpt based on the writings of Frank Crowe, a civil engineer who moved to town to work on the dam, Sullivan leaned back in her chair and smiled. She described a lengthy passage in which a “city boy,” out of his element, arrives in Boulder City. A humorous situation involving a match and an outhouse ensues.

“That’s something word-for-word that someone wrote from their own memory,” she said. “When we can work from that kind of authentic material and we can have that much fun with it and be able to laugh, I think that’s really cool.”

Sullivan said she has been preparing for the luncheon since the last one ended.

Art Lynch said the monologues create a living history to connect people who are not yet 31ers with the city’s past.

An important part of history, he said, shouldn’t be lost, especially because the hard times that hit the original 31ers are beginning to mirror the present day.

So far, five volunteers have signed up to perform, he said.

“They’re bringing human presence,” he said. “Plus, people react more to entertainment, to flesh and blood. It brings a reality to it.”

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