My parents and I once lived in Las Vegas for about two months, the summer before I started high school, so I guess I can claim Vegas as one of my home towns.
My half-brother, Mac, who is fourteen years older than I am, was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas when his tour ended, and he never left. The summer between 7th and 8th grades, my parents decided to take a long family vacation from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas to visit my brother and his wife Pat.
Las Vegas was a real eye-opener to a kid from staid old Pittsburgh. I'd never seen so many neon signs in my life, and my brother treated us to a couple of shows on the Strip. I was underage, but allowed in the showroom. We went to the old Desert Inn and saw Flower Drum Song, starring the legendary Jack Soo and another time Frankie Laine, one of my parents's favorite singers. The vacation was a lot of fun. We took side trips to Death Valley (in the summer - what were we thinking?) and to Anaheim to visit Disneyland. The Little Church of the West, the wedding chapel where Mac and Pat were married is still here, though the location has moved several times.
After a couple of weeks, we returned to Pittsburgh, but when school ended the next June, we moved west to Las Vegas. By then my brother and Pat had adopted my nephew Steve and it was fun to see them again and meet the little guy for the first time. (He's well over six feet tall now.) In the evening we'd drive down Charleston Boulevard and the Strip to stare at the lights. Steve's favorite was Howdy Pardner, a huge sign depicting a cowboy that didn't just blink at you, it talked to you.
My dad loved the desert, but my mom and I hated the extreme heat. Dad had been stationed in Utah for a time when he was in the Army during World War II, and he fell in love with the blue skies and wide open spaces. Who could blame him? At the time, Pittsburgh was shrouded in coal soot.
Shortly after arriving in Vegas, we drove into California to visit with a friend of my dad's who had moved to Azusa, a town outside Los Angeles. The weather was typical for June in Southern California: overcast. What we call June gloom. My mom and I were just happy to be cooler, but dad missed the sunshine. On the way back to Vegas, he casually said, "I don't think California is so great. We'll stay in Vegas." My mom and I looked at each other and we both burst into tears. Dad cussed for a few minutes, then agreed that we'd give California another try. We returned a few weeks later to warm, sunny weather, and the decision was made to move to Azusa. It was a decision we never regretted, though we made frequent trips over the years to visit Mac and his family. Of late, the visits have been few and far between. Luckily, he's more likely to visit me in California.
My Town Monday is the brilliant brain child of writer/blogger Travis Erwin. Thanks, Travis! Go to his blog to read his latest post and find links to the other participants.
Desert picture: © Maxfx | Dreamstime.com