There’s a wonderful and unusual Nevada, far from lights and long nights in Las Vegas.
A Nevada made of desert, natural parks, of small towns with a vintage taste, saloons, ghost towns and stories of the “old Hollywood” to listen to.
Like the Pioneers Saloon one, in the Goodsprings mining town, half an hour by car far from Las Vegas.
Goodsprings in Nevada – today little over then a ghost town in the middle of nothing in Clark County, in a definitely far off location.
The original housing cluster was born in 1860 around an underground water spring – after this a part of Goodsprings name – which guaranteed a cultivable land in the middle of the desert for a certain period.
Few years after, some metals and precious stones were found by the first pioneers and the following discovery of gold, silver and zinc mines turned this small town into a lively miners’ center – in the “boom” years, Goodsprings boasted a number of people higher than the rising Las Vegas one – favoring the building of private houses, hotels, saloons and even brothels to (quotation by a vintage newspaper) “cheer the miners in their free time!”
Some of these buildings gained a proper fame, raised over time by the deeds of poker players, shooters and even actors of the old Hollywood. Like for example the old school of the town (still working), the Fayle Hotel – unfortunately lost during a fire in the 1960s – the Mercantile General and the famous Pioneer Saloon.
Built in 1913 by the wealthy businessman George Fayle – owner of the hotel with the same name – the Pioneer Saloon is in all respects one of the last authentic saloons of that time still working.
It was used as movie set in many hollywoodian movies, it welcomed, entertained – since the first years of activity the girls of the near brothel lured their customers right here – and quench on its bars hundreds of thousands of customers. Besides having witnessed cruel shootings – among them that one started by a rigged poker aces which caused the death of the “cheater” Paul Coski.
The bullet holes can be still seen in one of the walls, together with the frames containing the newspapers article (July 3rd, 1915) reporting what occurred and the Las Vegas coroner’s report.
In the near General Store – another historical building – it is possible to buy gadgets, brochures and maps relating to Goodsprings and the new Pioneers Saloon for few dollars.
Besides a series of tales about the whirlwind and tragic love story between Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, occurred right inside the Pioneer Saloon.
They fell madly in love after having met at a party, both committed in a relationship. After he divorced they got married secretly escaping in Kingman, Arizona, during a Clark Gable’s break from the “Gone with the Wind” filming.
They went living in a ranch in San Fernando Valley and when the Second World War broke up they offered both themselves as testimonials for the fund raising to support economically the victims’ family.
On January 16, 1942 Carol got involved in a plane accident on the Potosi Mountain, near Las Vegas, while she was trying to reach her husband coming back from a fund raising event. Clark Gable waited even three days sit at the table at the Pioneer Saloon for news about the expedition left to recover the plane. And there, where Carol and he were used to stop often, he got the news of his beloved wife’s death.
The pain for the loss of Carol and the memory of her commitment supporting the US military forces during the Second World War, pushed him to leave Hollywood and join the Air Force as volunteer. He took part into even 5 missions to Europe before coming back to the US as war hero.
When he died in 1960 he asked to be buried next to her – they rest one next to the other at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles – finally together forever!
Today at the Pioneer Saloon that table – the number 13 precisely – where Clark waited even three days for news about his wife still exists, as well as the wall behind it, rich in relics (a piece of the crashed plane’s propeller included), photos and pieces of newspapers dedicated to the two actors and to their immortal love.
Goodsprings is located 60km far from Las Vegas taking I 15 Southwards and detouring then on the right at Jean on NV 161.
The tour needs a couple of hours’ maximum.
My tip is to stop for lunch at the Pioneer Saloon and ask the owners (always very kind and well friendly to tell the old stories of the place, where it seems the ghost of the “cheater” Paul Coski often manifests) for a short guided tour, then reach the near General Store and so have a tour in the town – that in a small part is still inhabited, despite it is considered a ghost town in all respects by now.
On the Pioneer Saloon official website, you can find every info about opening schedules, night events and menus updated according to the season you travel, besides a series of videos and further news about the Saloon, its stories and the “old” Goodsprings.