In the Footsteps (Part 10)

Thanksgiving Dinner in France

Late on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we overpacked our suitcases and headed out on the highway. Five hours later, we had checked into our Las Vegas hotel and were in search of the food you can find at the wee hours in the city that really does never sleep. On Monday, we made our now-annual visit to the Atomic Testing Museum on Flamingo Road.

The Bellagio’s Dancing Fountains

We’ve written about this museum before HERE. This time, the museum boasted a special exhibit called “Building Atomic Vegas” that fits perfectly with our ongoing series “In the Footsteps.” This week, we’ll walk you through some of the highlights of that exhibit by sharing some of our photos.

Building Atomic Vegas, Atomic Testing Museum
Casino Owner Benny Binion (1904-1989) greets visitors.
Here’s a Las Vegas postcard featuring the Desert Inn, with a nuclear test blast rising in the background.
The museum’s permanent exhibit displays an array of pop culture memorabilia. Here’s that Atomic Fireball you may know from childhood and a book called Our Friend the Atom, which was also the name a Disney film.
Perhaps the most striking item in the “Building Atomic Vegas” exhibit is this mannequin. She was used in civil defense tests at Yucca Flats in 1953.
The mannequin’s injuries, the scrapes and the dislocated arm, were sustained in a nuclear test blast.
Las Vegas High Schoolers of the 1950s and early 1960s had nuclear blast drills and cheered their teams with atomic pom-poms.
Many Las Vegas residents were issued dog tags for identification, in the event of an atomic bomb attack.
Soldiers sent into ground zero after a nuclear test blast were issued masks. Films we’ve seen also show soldiers being brushed off with brooms after being exposed to radioactive fallout at ground zero.
Far from the Nevada Test Site, which was renamed the Nevada National Security Site last year, the name “atomic” was popular in the 1950s. Here’s a snapshot of New York phone book listings from 1950.
In 1957, a beauty contest led to the naming of Miss Atomic Bomb.
The Stardust Casino opened on July 2, 1958. What is a nuclear blast but a harnessing of the star’s energy? The Stardust closed on November 1, 2006, and was demolished the following March.
This Apollo spacesuit is part of the “Building Atomic Vegas” exhibit because Apollo 11 astronauts trained in their spacesuits at the Nevada Test Site in 1965, a prelude to walking on the Moon.
Read the notes in pencil on this atomic blast preparation pamphlet. It was at the Nevada Proving Ground (the name changed to NTS at the end of 1954) for Shot Simon on April 25, 1953.
President John F. Kennedy visited the Nevada Test Site on December 8, 1962. Here’s a rare photo of him with half of Lofty Ambitions.
Liberace played Las Vegas during its atomic era. At Wisconsinite, Mr/ Showmanship died in 1987. His Las Vegas museum closed permanently on October 17 of last year.
Yes, this suit is the one Evel Knievel wore in his ill-fated attempt to jump the Caesar’s Palace fountains on his motorcycle on New Year’s Eve 1967. He suffered multiple fractures and remained in a coma for 29 days after the accident.
Near the end of the exhibit, after Evel Knievel and Liberace, is this Mk/B53 Gravity Bomb casing, on loan from the United States Air Force. This shell for a bunker-buster thermonuclear weapon is a reminder of the foundation of “Building Atomic Vegas.”

The exhibit “Building Atomic Vegas” runs through January 5, 2012. For the video of the press preview for this exhibit, click HERE. If you’re in Las Vegas this Friday, December 9, check out the lecture on “Salvador Dali and Nuclear Art.”

5 thoughts on “In the Footsteps (Part 10)

  1. No thats not the suit. The evel knievel suit you have listed as evels is not his, its his son robbys. look on the sleeve its a RK not a EK. There is even a pic of Robby right next to the suit. Evel did not adopt the stars and stripes until the 70’s. 🙂

    1. Thanks for this info. Now, we’ll need to go back to check whether we made a mistake, whether the exhibit mislabeled the suit, or what. The exhibit is no longer up at this museum, but we’ll try to pin down the info.

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