Page 28 Henderson Home News and Boulder City News Thursday, February 25, 1988
Nevada Historical Society's'This was Nevada'series ^
Free lunch on the Comstock
by PhilUp I. Earl . to lay *off employees, a measure which in turn affected merchants Mrs. Mathews estimated that the cash outlay, averaged $15 a day,
Nevada Historical Society Publicist/ they dealt with. but subscriptions brought no more than $^10. On May 25, a group
In the late winter and early spring of 1877, the mines of Nevada's Mine superintendents in operations which somehow managed to of amateur thespians put on a benefit for the soup ktichen at National
Comstock Lode entered upon a borasca phase. Production had peaked stay open first discharged single men, then married men without Guard Hall. The militia unit's band played that night, the actors per-
in the fall of 1876, but the Pacific Stock Exchange in San Francisco childen. Some unmarried men voluntarily gave their jobs to friends formed an oho and several skits and a full stage production of "Com-
did not reflect the beginnings of hard times until the Consohdated with families, while others simply took their last pay and bought a ing Man" was offered. Attendance was poor because of a lack of publi-
Virginia faUed to pay its monthly dividend of $1,080,000 in January, ticket on the first train out of town. Those who remained hoping for city, however, and the women realized only $11 for their efforts.
1877. The stock in other mines took a dive in subsequent months and a mining revival soon found themselves starving on the streets, beg- On May 26, Mrs. Mathews decided to close down, but learned that
thirty-five of them shut down, throwing hundreds of miners and mill ging a meal here and there or contemplating a venture into crime. the London Restaurant had just gone out of business. The owner
hands out of work. Businessmen dependent upon the mens' trade began Businessmen and artisans were daily inundated by dozens of men brought over three hundred pounds of bread and corned beef that
seeking work, and citizens venturing downtown found themselves con- afternoon, so she remained in business another four days. During the
stantly pestered by men trying to get together enough money to eat last days, she and Mrs. Beck put up lunches for about a hundred men
on. City police began arresting the men as vagrants, filling the jail leaving town to seek work elsewhere.
to the point that the justice of the peace could sentence no new of- On May 30, they divided up what food was left, distributed it Jp
fenders without letting others go. City expenses for boarding the men a half-dozen poor families and closed up shop. According to her calcula-
cut into allocated revenues, so the cityfathers put their fourteen poUce tions, they had taken in $176 in cash and spent $243.80, they
officers on half-pay. When they threatened to quit, they were reminded themselves making up the $67.80 deficit. Mrs. Beck's husband of-
that there were dozens of men willing to replace them. fered his shop to any other group which mi^t be interested in carry-
As the depression persisted, the number of burglaries and late-night ing on the relief work, but none came forward, so he removed the
assaults increased. There were also several suicides by men out of stove, benches and tables and resumed his carpentry business.
work. Many Virginians gave Up going out in the evening, and rumors
were soon circulating that plans were afoot to put the town to the
torch. The members of the Virginia Relief Committee were expending ^^^^^^^^^^'t^^^^^'t^^'t^'t^C'et^'Ctct^^
an average of $1,700 a month to feed, clothe and shelter some seventy-
five families, but they were down to $117 in their accounts by the
end of April. Several donations amounting to $2,085 from wealthier LAS VEGAS BOAT HARBOR'S
citizens got them through the month of May, but it soon, became evi-
dent that something more must be done.
Among those Virginians who felt that they could wait no longer
was Mrs. Mary M. Mathews, a widowed operator of a B Street lodging
ON THE WATER
house. Noting a Dayton hog farmer carting loaves of stale bread out
of the back of a restaurant one day, it occured to her that much edible
food was being wasted. She thus conceived the idea of starting a soup
house. Discussing the matter with Mrs. Rachel Beck, the wif^ of a
local furniture maker, they decided to give it a try.
Mr. Beck had an unused shop at 23 North B Street which he offered
to allow them to use, so they rounded up stoves, benches and tables
and began to solicit restaurants for unused meat, bread and vegetables.
Other merchants saved vegetables and a few gave them all their broken
packages of pepper, tea, soda, spices and other grocery items. The
VEGAS WASH • LAKE MEAD
town's butchers also kicked in, bringing over all their meat scraps, See the new 1988's
soup bones, stale hash and cuts of meat they could not sell, and the
operators of a local dairy furnished several gallons of milk daily.
in the water.
Housewives all over town donated dishes, tableware, pots and pans,
and a few volunteered to assist in the preparation of meals. The soup
house opened on May 5 with a sign over the front door reading "Free
lunch for the poor." Twenty'inen were fed that first day and more
Mary McNeil Mathews, a widowed Virginia City lodging came when word of the free meals got out, sixty men showing for
house keeper who fed the podr and unemployed in Virginia breakfast on May 14 and a hundred on hand for dinner.
City in 1877. Nevada Historical Society iIlu8tratioii By that time, Mrs. Mathews had worked out a subscription system
to raise money, merchants buying a number of meal tickets at twenty-
Nevadans flock to state's community colleges five cents each and passing them out to men on the street who hit
them up. This system pleased those Virginians who believed that some
Because 1988 marks the 20th anniversary of the.estabhshment of men were using the money they raised on the streets for hquor. Those
communitj colleges in Nevada. University of Nevada System men who were obviously intoxicated were turned away by Mrs.
Chancellor Mark H. Diiwson has asked citizens to join in celebrating Mathews, but some walked back and'forth outside untl she considered
the month of February a.s "'Nevada Community College Month." them acceptable. One, however, continued to bother her, returning
The acknowledgment of the services Nevada's four community col- a half dozen times and asking "Am I sober enough yet?" until she
leges provide to the state comes m conjunction with a national effort admitted him.
to celebrate the achievements of the institutions and their students. The women were feeding whole families by mid-May, wives, children
•'Our four community colleges will join more than 1,200 other com- and all coming to eat, and they were also sending out pails of soup,
munity, technical, and junior colleges throughout the United States platters of meat and loaves of bread to the homes of those who could
m celebrating National Community College Month during February," not bring themselves to appear in pubhc. Whatever was left at the
Dawson said end of the day was given to the Chinese and the Indians who hung
"More than four million Americans enrolled in community college aroimd outside at meal time.
classes last year, representing 431 percent of all undergraduate
students and 55 jaercent of all first-time freshmen in the United States.
Of these students, nearly 29,000 students are enrolled in the univer-
.sity system s community colleges; Clark County, Northern Nevada,
Meadows, and Western JJevada."
The numbers of Nevadans choosing to pursue higher education in
community colleges ia growing at a phenomenal rate, Dawson said.
"Our abUity to provide diverse programs and specialized services
makes community colleges an affordable option for everyone." MANPOWER*
Dawson said the role of community colleges has expanded in the
last 50 years to keep up with the nation's changing needs. In this •LIGHT FACTORY WORK
time, the number of community, technical and junior collies has grown
from 553 in 1937 to 1,222 in 1987. •HEAVY INDUSTRIAL
'Because we are community-based, we are responsible to meet the • SECRETARIES • TYPISTS
needs of specific gerjgraphic areas," explamed Dawson. Through educa-
|F0/? INTERESTING TEMPORARY ASSIGNMENTS IN
tional partnerships with local business and industry, and Nevada's
THE HENDERSON AND BOULDER CITY AREAS
pubUc schools, we are working to keep up with the changing (educa-
tional and technical demands of our residents and provide them with MANPOWER TEMPORARY SERVICES
ijje education they need to succeed." 30-A Water St. HENDERSON, NEVADA
:• The community colleges' abiUty to respond quickly to change and
CALL FOR AN APPOINTMENT 565-5554
initiate progranis to m^^t the needs of business and individuals has
given these institutions the opportunity to broaden their educational
"We literally have something for everyone at our community col-
leges," said Dawson. "We offer high-quality programs, including
associate in arts degrees, certificates of achievement, the first two HENDERSON DISTRICT PUBUC LIBRARY
years of a bachelor's degree, career education, and personal enrich- INVITATION TO BID
. ment classes BID NO. 88-1
"()ur programs are attracting a broad cross-section of rural and ur-
ban Nevadans. Men and women, young and old, attend classes during NEW JAMES I. QIB80N LIBRARY FOR THE:
day and evening hours Our 28,785 students include women return- HENDERSON DISTRICT PUBLIC LIBRARY
ing to school after raising their famiUes recent high school graduates,
employees interested in upgrading their job skills, retired adults, and
THIS PROJECT PROVIDES FOR THE CONSTRUCTION
OF A 15.500 SQUARE FOOT. SINGLE-STORY UBRARY.
SUMS SnJMmt y
pers<Mi8 preparing for a second career, Dawson said.
"We are proud pf our students and our service to Nevadans, and ESTIMATED COST: $1,350,000.00
invite them to join with us in celebrating Community College Month." PREBID CONFERENCE: 10 A.M., MARCH 1,1968. in th« ALL PRICED TO
City of H«nd«rson Conferenc* Room at 243 Wator
Air Force agrees to upgrade test site road StrMt, HaiKtoraon. Navada 89015. LAS VEGAS BOAT HARBOR'S
U. S. Senator Chic Hecht (R^NV) he said, "with the result that we Bida wlU be recaivad at tha Handarson DIatrict Public
announced recently that the Air will have a new, widened road bed Library, 55 South Watar Straat, Hendaraon, Novada
Forcj' has agreed to his request with drainage culverts and a new, 89015, on March 18,1988. Blda muat ba tinfM-atampad
that the road connecting the wider gravel surface." at 3:00 p.m. or bafora. blda timo-atampad at 3:01 or
Caliente area with the Nevada A total of $4-4 millimi has been aftar will ba ratumad to tha biddar.
Test Side be upgraded and allocated for the project. Ptana and apaclflcatlona ara availabia at tha Hand«r-
widened to allow safer and eaaier aon Distrfct Public Library, 55 South Watar Straat, 4635 BOULDER HWY
access for residents of the area Hecht said the Air Force has
who work at the test site. agreed to allocate funds for the
Handaraon, Novada 89015. for tha aum of 160.00 for
aach aat of plana and 115.00 for oach aat of apacHica-
Hecht said he was happy that
the Air Force had agreed to im-
prove the road.
They're going to completely
project as part of the mitigation
for the Groom Mountain Land
withdrawal which he said be
hopes Congress will approve
tkma (rafundaMa), thara wHI ba a $15.00 charga for
piana and $10.00 charga for apoclflcationa H mailad
(naHhor mailing charga la rvfundaMa).
i MARINA 565-9111
of the National Park Service
rebuild all 42 OOHIM from the town before the end of the current con- HENDERSON DISTRICT PUBUC UBRARY
of RadMl to Test Site Gate 700," gressional aeasioa. HENDERSON. NEVADA i.>>33y^^^^^-^-^^^^^^^-\^-^-^yAY^-^-=^-^YA>