My Dad was raised on a farm – one of ten kids. He liked a good project. So when my husband and I bought our first home in Los Angeles, he and my brothers piled in the car and came down to paint it. They easily moved from room to room with the rollers and the paint brushes. At one point – my brother, Steve, pulled me aside and asked why Jim, my husband, wasn’t painting. I said – He’s our food and beer runner. He said –Yea – but why isn’t he painting? I walked him through it – Jim didn’t know how – his family actually called the painter – he’s just not from a project family – like ours. He went back to work. It’s true though – I have “project” in my DNA which may be why I was so excited to dig into Michael Hiltzik’s account of a massive one – the building of Hoover Dam. He started, in Colossus, with the first blip of an idea about such a dam. He moved through the fight to get the federal government to back it and then outlined, step by step, what it took to build it – a huge force of workers, some driven leaders and lots of cement. For me – what with my love of people getting together to do things – his story was deeply satisfying.
You can read about Hoover Dam all you want but you’ll never really understand it until you see it. You won’t grasp its enormity until you walk across that man-made mountain of rock. You won’t understand what a tough job the thousands of workers had until you stand in the desert heat for just a few minutes and feel yourself on the verge of bursting into flames. But Colossus doesn’t just take you to the dam, you’ll go to the town that grew up in the desert to support all those workers – Boulder City. You’ll stay in a hotel where the first hordes of dam admiring tourists stayed and you’ll see the movie theater which played movies ’round the clock to give workers a cool place to go. You’ll float around the lake that sprung up once the dam wall went up. But Colossus will also dip you into Las Vegas – no not the Las Vegas you know – the historic one – where the very first casinos grew up and where dam workers went to blow off steam, drink and gamble.
Michael Hiltzik is quite the journalist. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer – he won the prize for a book about the music industry in LA. He does not have a website but you can learn a lot about him on this page.
Colossus Points of Interest