logo Re-View the subject photograph... logo "Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas"

From within the pages of the Las Vegas Review Journal

Excerpt from the "Sunrise View,"

dated Wednesday, June 29, 2005.

"The Woman Who Crafted Our Image"

My parents came to Las Vegas in 1905, 100 years ago. They drove a horse and buggy over a wheel-rutted, dirt highway until they reached the edge of a mesa and looked down on the Las Vegas Valley. That's where they would stay.

My father took on the management of Well's Ranch in Overton. But at the first Clark County election, he was elected to the post of assessor—the county's first. Son in 1923, in order to cut my father's commute, we moved to Las Vegas. My mom remained in Overton for another two weeks to see my sister graduate from high school. But she had to leave the graduation exercises because I was about to be born.

We first lived in a house on South 3rd Street, next-door to a family that made beer. They had fights, those neighbors, and the gunshots bothered my mother. So we moved to North 4th Street near the main post office, which is now being converted to a museum. In the 1930s we built the first two story residence in Las Vegas. It was at 7th and Mesquite streets, and it was a beautiful home.

I attended the old 5th Street Grammar School. We had a fire at that school, and afterwards we were housed in tents. It was so hot in those tents that I used to slide around in my chair from perspiration, and my arms would stick to the papers on my desk. I attended the new Las Vegas High School on South 7th, down the street from our home. Recently, I helped to restore the Senior Squares on the pavement in front of that school.

In 1942 I went to Los Angeles Art Center, a commercial art school, where I did ads for the Los Angeles theaters. When I came home, I did newspaper ads for the hotels. My sister's husband, Berkeley L. Bunker, became a U.S. Senator, and I did re-election ads for him.

I soon went into sign design and in 1959 with the help of the salesman Ted Rogich, we designed the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign which still stands today on the Strip's median, south of the Tropicana hotel.

Because of the popularity of that sign, I have been interviewed by writers and reporters from all over the world. Especially since the launch of the Centennial Celebration, I have done interviews for magazines, newspapers and television in England, Germany, Italy, Australia, New York City and Chicago.

Betty Whitehead Willis ~ Las Vegas
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