|Las Vegas Boulevard-circa late 60's|
Back in the sixties, before Las Vegas became a mecca for meetings and conventions, the Strip resembled a ghost town during the first two weeks of December. It was between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many gamblers had already spent their discretionary income (and more) on upcoming holiday travel and gift purchases, which left the hotels deserted (no pun intended) and desperate to fill vacant rooms.
The city's population had blossomed from 64,000 to 125,000 during the sixties (little compared to today's population of more than 680,000 and Clark County's total over 2 million). Although development was bustling, there was still much more to complete. As I mentioned in my memoir: while walking the strip, it was common to see sagebrush from the barren desert areas between casinos, blowing across Las Vegas Boulevard.
The casinos needed customers who, if nothing else, enabled them to keep their employees working and pay their electric bills (all those flashing neon signs aren't cheap!) So, who would visit this place during this lull in visitor traffic? How about folks, mostly single, who have decent discretionary income, and easy, cheap (if not free) access to Las Vegas by air. Oh, how about airline personnel-from all over the world?
|Complimentary Souvenir Chips|
From this idea was born the Annual World Airlines Christmas Party at the Sahara Hotel. These 'parties' began in 1957, with rooms costing only $8 per night. Upon checking in, each airline employee was given a little bag of free and highly discounted goodies. Cocktail parties were hosted by different airlines. One could start drinking Bloody Marys at an Alaska Airlines party at 9:00am. Bonanza Airlines may throw a cocktail party after lunch, and the large international carriers took turns hosting an evening cocktail gala. The Christmas party lasted 2 weeks, to accommodate crazy airline work schedules. Although most (myself included) could not last more than 2 nights of non-stop partying.
I heard from 'good sources' that well-connected airline reservation supervisors in attendance were provided with 'special favors' from hotel concierges who often called upon them to oversell last-minute seats for their high-rollers. Yes, those airline parties of the sixties actually reflected the fun times of job security, no computer monitors of employee performance, and the general positive enthusiasm about working for an airline. That enthusiasm naturally carried over to the passengers we served. I'm so pleased to have attended the 1968 party. Those times may be behind me, but the memories aren't.